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Book Review: Sing for Joy

10 July, 2013

I’m reviewing the Interactive Bible Study book “Sing for Joy” , for Matthias Media.

The book contains six studies that should be able to be completed in an hour, if preparation is done. For the purpose of this review I worked through the studies with Mark (hubby). The study assumes that participants are going be using the ESV.

On the whole, the study is aimed towards people who have a certain attitude towards church music, or come with a specific set of beliefs that are popular in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. It aims to address these misconceptions Biblically and present a Biblical view of music and how it fits into the life of a church. If you happen not to be one of these people who fall under this category, there is still wisdom to be gleaned from this study guide.

Study 1: What is church and why do we sing there?

This study, and the whole study guide, is meant to be an overview of what the Bible says on the topic of singing, rather than a complete, comprehensive look at every applicable passage. I felt there was a good balance between Old and New Testament passages. There were a few questions, however, where we struggled to find the answer, and there are no notes for leaders included. It wasn’t that we didn’t know the answer, or didn’t understand the topic, but there were a few times when we felt that the passage read didn’t directly relate, or answer, the following questions. There was also one question in particular that we felt was poorly worded, as we weren’t certain what the question was asking (from a few options).

In the end, the first study helped me to appreciate the music team at our service even more.

Study 2: Praise Be To God

In the second study, we read different songs from the Bible. We looked at who they were addressed to, who sang them, and what the purpose of these songs was (were they thanking God, teaching Israel, rejoicing in being rescued etc). This section of the study took a long time and I think it was too long to be studying in a group setting. I’m all for reading long passages of the Bible, but there were many passages over 30 verses long, and questions to answer about each of them, plus further study questions also. I can’t fathom a study group getting through the study in an hour.

One of the later questions, I felt, took a verse out of context which then had a different meaning when looked at in the context of the wider passage.

On the whole, it was a good, enjoyable study, especially done with only two of us. It has made me think about the songs we sing at church more, and come to my own conclusions as to what we should sing about in church and also why certain songs have stood the test of time.

Study 3: True Worship

The third study started off with an anecdote about a church culture that I have been quite familiar with in the past – the common assumption that “praise” music was fast, upbeat music that makes you want to clap, and “worship” music was slower music that made you want to raise your hands.

The study then made a brief overview of what worship looked like in the Old Testament, before running through some Greek words that are translated as “worship” in the New Testament. We also looked at how Jesus fulfilled all the sacrifices and offerings required by the Old Testament.

There was one sentence in the summary at the end of the study that I thought was wrong, and wrong enough to be worth mentioning – “Therefore, everything we do is an offering of worship.” I disagree as I am sure our sin is not an offering of worship. Our whole lives and everything we do SHOULD be an offering of worship, but they are not, because we are sinful.

On the whole, it was a good study, that created some good discussion.

Study 4: The Function of Church Music

We actually completed the fourth study across two weeks because we were a bit short for time, but the study was separated into two parts, with discussion about implications in the middle and at the end.

Ultimately, we felt that this study was really let down by poor wording. One passage could be interpreted to mean that it’s inappropriate for us to sing to God in private. Other questions would have been improved by the omission of the word “ultimate” as the ultimate goal for every part of our lives is to bring glory to God. Which is not the answer the question was looking for.

So far, I really feel that the study was written AGAINST a certain denominational group, rather than FOR people to learn – and that bias impacts the whole study book (thus far).

Study 5: The Gift of Musicians
This and the final study are targeted towards people who serve in church music teams, but there it is still beneficial for everyone to learn about these things.

This study looked at the different issues surrounding who should play music in a church service, who has authority over the song choices, and how to decide if someone is an appropriate addition to a church music team. The study had fewer sections of prose, and fewer Bible readings but a lot of questions and, specifically, case-study style questions to help the readers apply the principles to real-world situations.

Study 6: Music and Lyrics
The final study looked at the music and lyrics of songs and how they can work together to make a great song that is edifying for the church.

Two songs, one hymn and one modern church song, had their lyrics written out in full, with Bible passages written next to them, that corresponded to the words and themes in each portion of the songs. We also discussed whether there are parts of Scripture that are more suited to singing ina corporate setting, and why. The study also discusses the tone that the music brings and how it can emphasise or detract from the lyrics and ultimate message.

It took us far longer than anticipated but we finally finished the study!

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