There is a scene in the Brian Henson classic film, Muppet Treasure Island, where Fozzie Bear as Squire Trelawney keeps tossing “The finest brandy laid down but the brothers of Buckfast Abby” out of a window during an argument with Captain Smollett (Kermit) over the presence of alcohol on the ship. eventually a tourist ship rat pops up and berates Fozzie, “Hey will you knock it off with the booze, it’s peeling the paint off of this shuffle board!”
I find this to be an apt approach to the presence of music to fill what would otherwise be silence in a worship service. We should knock it off it’s peeling the consideration off of the content of the sermon.
Mark Dever gave a particularly entertaining and effective critique of this on a recent bonus episode of Pastors Talk. Playing soft music in the background he demonstrated how it can be used to make someone feel more open and relaxed, it toys with the emotions making them pliable and receptive to suggestion. It’s why films have scores, even silent films were given music by an organ in the theater because music has power to move people. The problem is that christians are to be sober minded, not easily swayed, and it is cheating to manipulate peoples emotions to get a desired result.
Worse than that though we are so trained to respond to things when there is music that we don’t know what to do with silence. As you know I just returned from two weeks surrounded by nature and children. Or to put it plainly, for two weeks I was serving as “pastor” for a children’s camp. Every night we had an evening service where I would preach and some songs would be sung. I made it a point to keep the music guy from any “noodling” while I finished my sermons and to leave silence after I extended an invitation. It troubled the young lad mightily but he managed to follow instructions. What was stunning was that after I extended the invitation no one would budge. Then after a good amount of silence. I would let the music guy play a concluding song. As soon as the music started the kids would get up and go to be counseled. Every, night. Even at such an early age these kids were already like Pavlov’s Dog, but spiritual.
We have got to knock it off with the music. Lloyd Jones reminds us that music is to be the handmaiden of worship not its object. In the modern church we have misused and abused music to being an instrument of manipulation rather than one of worship. Music in the service is for God, not for us. It is intoxicating, we need to knock it off already it’s peeling the worship off of this service.