The musical distinctives of Eden Baptist Church are intended to guide us toward corporate worship that magnifies the splendor of God. We do not intend for these distinctives to function as the final word on music, art, worship, or culture. Furthermore, we do not believe that every Christian church is bound to our application of these principles. Rather, we seek to be governed by Scripturally-rooted distinctives that provide steerage for the local assembly here at Eden.
God created us in his image to exult in the greatness and goodness of his triune being. The Creator endows his creatures with the capacity to make music and redeems his people to appropriate this gift for his glory. Jesus died that his church might sing! In corporate response to this grace, we calibrate our musical expressions to magnify the splendor of God’s character, the wonder of his works, and the hope of his promises to us in union with Christ. The outpouring of our corporate praise in worship is reserved for God alone and the music we employ in this service is regulated accordingly. As holy affections for God and his truth are essential to authentic worship, we strive to sing with Spirit-filled zeal and reverent joy in the Lord. To depend on a favored style of music, method of musical performance or atmosphere to generate worship is idolatrous. True worship emits from regenerate hearts that treasure Jesus above all else and we purpose to sing in a manner that befits such singular devotion to our Lord.
We cannot worship God on his terms and sing falsehood. We purpose, then, to sing texts that declare the apostolic faith entrusted to us, avoiding lyrics that are not clearly rooted in written revelation. We also strive to nurture the assembly on robust, biblical theology in song. Not every text must brim with rich, doctrinal formulations. Outbursts of simple praise are appropriate. Yet our conviction that the Bible is God’s inerrant, life-giving, life-transforming word fuels a vigilance to assure that the songs we sing systematically indoctrinate God’s people in truth. As the Bible regulates our worship and supplies the content of our preaching, Scripture is also the standard by which all lyrics are measured. As the words we sing have a formative influence upon us, we purpose to avoid trite, sentimental, or ambiguous texts. We emphasize lyrics that edify our knowledge of God, encourage us to revel in his blessings, and equip us to endure suffering, persecution, and death.
As ambassadors of God’s kingdom, creativity is a vital means by which we exercise dominion on earth to God’s glory. This broader mission commends fresh musical expressions. The vibrant church is never content with mere musical preservation, but is anxious to sing new spiritual songs. On the other hand, we purpose to avoid the self-absorption that discards God’s work among his singing people in eras past. It is not practical to preserve Christian music from every era, style, or world-culture; yet we pursue historical rootedness by integrating songs into our worship that have stood the test of time among the redeemed. While pursuing contemporary creativity and historical conservation, we do not believe it is in our reach to tap the music of heaven, nor that this admission justifies the calibration of church music to whatever fashions are in vogue. Against these extremes, we strive to practice a patient, calculated, rolling contextualization that employs musical expressions sufficiently intelligible to our community, yet remains balanced by a distinctive and conscious resistance to the inroads of consumerism, immediacy, novelty, celebrity, and amusement that so consistently profane Christian worship. We recognize our incapacity as creatures to know all that God thinks about music, while striving to harmonize our musical expressions with all that he has revealed about himself in general and special revelation.
While we sing ultimately to God, we also sing to one another and for one another’s edification. This endeavor is complicated by the reality that the singing church comprises members of diverse musical backgrounds and interests, dispersed across multiple generations. Facing such diversity, we reject the popular innovation that segregates congregations by musical preference in separate services. Universal agreement on musical selections in corporate worship awaits another world. But we purpose to defer to one another in love as we labor to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). In selfless regard for one another, we strive to unite the church musically under the leadership of our spiritual shepherds. The vibrant church never gathers as individuals seeking satisfaction of their autonomous determinations of how God must be experienced musically. We gather to worship as Christ’s body—a body in which each member consciously and selflessly serves the corporate good.
The singing church is the cosmic display of Christ’s redemptive conquest and the voices of the saints are the ultimate instrument of praise. This realization orients us against spotlighting the performance of musicians in the assembly. While gifted musicians play a vital leadership role, their labors should encourage, not compete with, the congregation’s call to praise God and edify one another in song. Accordingly, our aim is for instrumentation to accompany the singing church, not overwhelm or marginalize congregational participation. Our aim is for vocal leaders to serve the congregation, not showcase their talents. With dedicated preparation and humble skill, our musical leaders and instrumentalists assist the singing church and seek to direct all praise to God.