of the signs of renewal evidenced in congregational
worship is the occurrence of some type of extemporaneous
congregational song. This music is often unaccompanied,
but sometimes it will be accompanied by anything
from a single guitar or piano up to a "full
orchestra", and occasionally a single singer
will be heard lifting their voice in a spontaneous
song. These improvised songs of praise have
often been called "singing in the spirit",
citing St. Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian
church to sing with the spirit as well as with
the mind (1 Cor. 14.15). Since
this passage deals specifically with speaking
and singing in tongues, it can be used to explain
a part of what we experience during these times
of extemporaneous worship, but is not a broad
enough term to encompass all music in our services
which is "improvised" under the anointing
of the Holy Spirit.It is clear from both scripture
and history that there has been a tradition
of ecstatic music within both Jewish and Christian
worship. The spontaneous songs of praise that
we hear springing from the renewed church today
are a part of this ancient tradition.Several
terms have been used to describe this type of
music. In addition to "Singing in the Spirit",
the phrases "Prophetic Song", "New
Song", "Song of the Lord" and
"Free Worship" are popularly used
to label this type of expression. The New Testament
term "Spiritual Song" is not heard
used as often to describe this type of worship,
but I believe it is a good one, since it is
generic enough to encompass singing in the vernacular
as well as tongues, as well as different types
of lyrics (to God, to each other, from God)
and varying performing forces (vocal, instrumental,
solo, group and corporate).In addition, Paul's
use of the phrase "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual
Songs" tells us that the spiritual song
is as much a part of normal, New Testament worship
as our prepared psalms and hymns. If the spiritual
song is to become a regular part of our worship
services, then the same attention needs to be
given to developing it that we give to preparing
our hymns, choruses, canticles and anthems.
There is a great need within our worship for
that which is fresh and spontaneous, and the
spiritual song fills a part of that need. However,
if worship leaders and congregations do not
develop both spiritually and musically in the
spiritual song, this part of the service can
become even more predictable and redundant than
the rest of the service once the novelty of
it's "newness" fades.In order to avoid
getting into a musical and spiritual "rut"
with the spiritual song, it will be helpful
to examine some scriptures that deal with this
type of expression in both the Old and New Testaments.
Spiritual Songs, along with Psalms and Hymns,
are the normal expressions of a congregation
filled with the Spirit and the Word of God.
filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with
psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing
and make music in your heart to the Lord, always
giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians
5.18-20 "Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly as you teach and counsel one another
with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns
and spiritual songs with gratitude in your
hearts to God." Colossians 3.16
Be filled with the Spirit
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
Sing and make music in your heart to the LordSing...with
gratitude in your hearts to God
Speak to one another...Teach and counsel one
Psalms - Greek: PSALMOS - primarily
denoting a striking or twitching with the
fingers (on musical strings); then, a sacred
song, sung to musical accompaniment, a psalm.
Hymns - Greek: HUMNOS - denotes a
song of praise addressed to God
Spiritual Songs - Greek: ODES PNEUMATIKOS
- ODES is the generic word for an
ode or song; PNEUMATIKOS is an expansion
of the word for spirit, PNEUMA, which
primarily denotes the wind; also breath;
then, especially the spirit, which like
the wind is invisible, immaterial and powerful.
taken from Vine's Expository Dictionary of
Old and New Testament Words)F. As is true
with many of the elements of early Christian
worship, the Spiritual Song is a continuation
of a practice that has its roots in Jewish worship.
The Prophetic Tradition in Israel
Anointed music provided an atmosphere for
the ministry of the prophets.
Sam. 10.5 - procession of prophets with
Kings 3:15 - Elisha prophesying
Many of the Old Testament prophecies were
The Levites appointed as musicians in David's
Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple were expected
to prophesy as a normal part of their ministry.
together with the commanders of the army,
set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman
and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying,
accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals."
1 Chron. 25.1
the head Levite was in charge of the singing;
that was his responsibility because he
was skillful at it." 1 Chron 15.22
Hebrew word for "singing" used
here is MASSA which has a three-fold
The lifting of the ark
"Ark of the Covenant" is lifted
up as the prophetic song is sung.
of the Hebrew words translated as "praise"
in our English Bible is TEHILLA.
This word means "Laudations or hymns
of the Spirit". It speaks of a specific
type of "High Praise" where
God is literally "enthroned"
in our midst.
are holy, enthroned on the praises (tehilla)
of Israel" - Ps. 22.3
his gates with thanksgiving and his courts
with praise (tehilla)" - Ps.
is fitting for the upright to praise (tehilla)
him." - Ps. 33.1
will extol the Lord at all times; his
praise (tehilla) will always be
on my lips." - Ps. 31.1
put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of
praise (tehilla) to our God."
- Ps. 40.3
(tehilla) awaits you, O God, in
Zion." - Ps. 65.1
garment of praise (tehilla) instead
of a spirit of despair." - Is.
The Voice of the Lord in the midst of the
As God is enthroned upon the praises of
His church, He is present to speak and to
Lord your God is with you, he is mighty
to save, he will take great delight in
you, he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation
I will sing your praise."
2.12 (quoting Ps. 22.22)
As Jesus begins to sing in the midst of
his church our worship becomes more than
a one way conversation, it is now a dialogue
between the bride and the bridegroom.
in the towns of Judah and the streets
of Jerusalem that are deserted....there
will be heard once more the sounds of
joy and gladness, the voices of bride
and bridegroom, and the voices of
those who bring thank offerings to the
house of the Lord." Jer. 33.10-11
It is God's desire to speak, sing and play
prophetically in his church.. It is up to
us to yield our voices to him and allow
him to speak. This is a ministry in which
we can all have a part.
The Corporate Expression of the Spiritual
The book of Revelation is primarily
a liturgical book, giving us glimpses
of a heavenly worship service in progress.
The worship depicted in Revelation
is under proper leadership
(4.6-11) and corporate to the
degree of "cosmic" proportions
(5.13). A characteristic of this worship
is the "New Song" (5.9,
14.3), described as sounding like
"the voice of many waters".
This "voice of many waters"
is a characteristic sound of God's tabernacle,
and is alluded to in Job 36.27-29 and
Ps. 42.7. Also note from Rev. 14 the
sound of many harpists, not just
one. Ps. 150 gives another picture of
the sound used in worship. That this
sound is under proper leadership is
already established, and is evident
because it is both the expression of
many members but also a unified
all Israel brought up the ark
of the covenant of the lord with
shouts, with the sounding of rams'
horns and trumpets, and the playing
of lyres and harps." 1 Chron.
the offering began, singing to the
Lord began also, accompanied by
trumpets and the instruments of
David king of Israel. The whole
assembly bowed in worship..."
2 Chron. 29.27-28
trumpeters (all 120 of them!) and
singers joined in unison, as with
one voice, to give praise and
thanks to the Lord...Then the temple
filled with a cloud... the
glory of the Lord filled the temple
of God." 2 Chron. 5.13-14
It is God's desire that this "Prophetic
Cloud" would rest upon all who
dwell in Zion (Is. 4.5). When
this "Spirit of Prophecy"
(Rev. 19.10) is present, all
wish that all the Lord's
people were prophets and that the
Lord would put his Spirit on them!"
afterward, I will pour out my Spirit
on all people. Your sons
and daughters will prophesy..."
you can all prophesy in turn..."1
Summary and Practical Considerations
has always been God's desire to dwell
in the midst of his people and to speak
spiritual song in it's many and varied
forms has always been a result of this
communion between God and his saints,
and has been well documented in both
the Old and New Testaments as well as
during church history (see Appendix
1).The spiritual song can be:
Instrumental and/or vocal
In tongues or the vernacular
Solo or congregational
Addressing God, each other, or a "sung
prophecy" from God
leaders, we can help our congregations
to grow in their expression of this liturgical
Providing biblical and practical teaching
on the spiritual song.
Practicing the spiritual song as part
of our own personal devotional lives.
Encouraging our worship leadership
(worship leaders, choir, instrumentalists)
to make the spiritual song a part
of their private worship times as
well as taking time during rehearsals
to practice musical aspects of the
spiritual song and to worship together.
Allow time within the regular Sundayservice
as well as during other times of corporate
worship when the congregation can participate
in the spiritual song.Be willing to
start simply and slowly, and advance
at a pace that allows continued participation
as well as growth. Remember that we
are building for future generations
as well as the present one.
are also specific musical skills that
can be developed by the worship leadership:
Worship Leader/Music Director This
person should have a theological
grasp of and experience in the spiritual
song. He/she should be able to disciple
others in this ministry and provide
leadership of the various musical
forces during worship services.
A sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
is a must! Remember that God is
a God of variety. He is the conductor
of the worship service, but you
must interpret his directions to
the rest of the music team. Various
instrumentalists and singers and
the congregation all have their
part to play in the spiritual song,
and your leadership can either facilitate
total involvement "decently
and in order" or allow something
less than that to occur.
Choir/Soloists Our singers should
not only be full of the Holy Spirit
and able to sing in tongues, but
also need to be full of the Word
of God, possessing a worship vocabulary
that can spring forth to minister
life during the spiritual song.
They should have both a boldness
to step out under the direction
of the Holy Spirit and a submissive
spirit to wait or be quiet when
necessary. It does take greater
musical skill to sing a "solo"
prophecy or spiritual song than
it does to lift up your voice
as part of the "sound of
many waters". Some that are
led to sing such "solo"
spiritual songs may need encouragement
and instruction to improve in
musical areas (rhythmic flow,
intonation, etc.). Great care
must be taken not to "quench
the Spirit" in a meeting
or to stifle a budding prophet,
but it should also be noted that
an authoritative spoken prophecy
is much better than a poorly sung
one. We often unnecesarily cause
others to despise prophecy and
the spiritual song by our unwillingness
to provide loving yet firm correction
and/or instruction when needed.
Instrumentalists There are times
when the spiritual song should be
unacompanied, but in most cases
the proper use of instruments will
greatly aid in the ministry of the
spiritual song. The same skills
necessary to play prepared music
are essential to flow in the spiritual
song. An ability to "play by
ear" is helpful but not necessary.
Simple chord progressions (see Appendix
2) can be learned and memorized
in a variety of keys, and used as
a basis for simple improvisation.
Remember that variety in frequency,
duration, texture, intensity and
timbre are all as important to the
spiritual song as they are to a
prepared piece. If instruments other
than keyboard and guitar are used
they can also hone their improvisational
skills in the context of these chord
progressions and contribute a part
according to their ability. Percussionists
also need to learn to flow in the
variety of musical styles that the
spiritual song can encompass. All
of these skills can and should be
practiced during rehearsals. During
the worship service, all instrumentalists
should be extremely sensitive to
the Holy Spirit, but are ultimately
under the hands of and in submission
to the music director.
we provide space in our services for
the spiritual song we also provide
space for God to manifest himself
in our midst and to do as he chooses
- perhaps to move in areas we hadn't
planned for. Let us press on to worship
him with a renewed zeal, and let the
voice of the Bride and the Bridegroom
be heard in Zion!
tradition of ecstatic singing in the
church during the patristic period
was known as the "Jubilus.
The jubilus eventually was formalized
as part of the liturgy, but still
retained characteristics that gaveit
a "spontaneous" sound
The word Jubilus comes
from the Latin Jubilatio
- loud shouting of whooping
Also called Pneuma - a
song of the spirit, or a song
upon the breath
the term "jubilus" we
understand that which neither
in words nor in syllables nor
letters nor speech is it possible
to express or to comprehend how
much man ought to praise God.
St. Jerome (c. 340-420
is a certain sound of joy without
words...it is the expression
of a mind poured forth in joy...A
man rejoicing in his own exultation,
after certain words which cannot
be understood, bursteth forth
into sounds of exultation without
words, so that it seemeth that
he...filled with excessive joy
cannot express in words the
subject of that joy. St.
contemporary authority writes:
Church and Synagogue, extended
melismatic chant was regarded
as an ecstatic praise of God...Such
a conception places this type
of singing in close proximity
to the glossolaly of the Pauline
age...I venture to put forward
my own conviction that the whole
concept of the pure, wordless,
melismatic jubilation should be
considered the last, jealously
guarded remnant of an organized
musical form of glossolaly. Eric
Werner, The Sacred Bridge (1970)
Formalization in the Liturgy
the fourth century, the jubilus
had become a melismatic prolongation
of the final vowel of the 'Alleluia',
sung before the chanting of the
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