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Book Review – Singing and Making Music


Singing and Making Music:  Issues in Church Music Today
Paul S. Jones
P & R Publishing Company, 2006
This past summer, Pastor Brock and I went to the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando.  During the conference they setup a large bookstore and then scheduled large blocks of ‘free time’ during the day when we could browse and fight the temptation of covetousness 🙂
Needless to say, I succumbed to the temptation and bought a few books.  One of those books was Singing and Making Music:  Issues in Church Music Today.  I had never heard of this book, but as I picked it up and perused it, immediately my interest was piqued.  It is a book filled with essays that deal with various theological and practical issues in church music.  It is the kind of book that you can jump in and out of.  Each chapter can stand alone, allowing you the freedom to browse the table of contents and then jump right to the specific issue that you are interested in.
I need to say a word about the author.  Paul S. Jones is the Organist and Music Director at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  Presbyterian church music is very different from GARBC church music.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this.  They have their traditions and we have ours.   It is just helpful to keep in mind that Dr. Jones writes from this perspective. 
There are total of 31 chapters/essays.  Some of the chapters that I enjoyed the most were:
  • Applause:  For Whom Are You Clapping?
  • Leading in Worship as Accompanist
  • Authenticity in Corporate Worship Music
  • Service Music:  What’s It All About?
  • Hymns in Your Church
  • Teaching Children Music at Church
  • Music in the Small Church:  Where Do We Go From Here?
Authenticity in Worship
By far, the chapter that stuck with me long after I finished the book was the chapter on Authenticity in Worship.  This chapter stretched my thinking.  I am still wrestling with some of the arguments made by the author.  Dr. Jones argued that much of what passes for church music today is inauthentic.  “In church music, at times one encounters false performances, fake instruments, and even phony worship.”  He specifically argued against Inauthentic Performance, Inauthentic Instruments, and Inauthentic Worshipers.
  • Inauthentic Performance, wrote Jones, includes the use of prerecorded music and accompaniment tracks.  He argued that this is “like hiring an agency to worship in our stead.” 
  • According to Jones, Inauthentic Instruments are any non-acoustic instruments.  Some examples would include electric guitars, keyboards, electronic organs, etc. 
  • Inauthentic Worshipers include you and me whenever sin reigns in our lives.  We must fight the danger of being an inauthentic worshiper every Sunday. 
Now, before we jump to any quick conclusions, Dr. Jones did admit that, due to financial constraints, his church uses an electronic organ (an inauthentic instrument).  He presented his arguments as a best case scenario which all churches should strive towards.  For example, a church without an accompanist should not just resolve itself to the use of accompaniment tracks.  While it uses accompaniment tracks, it should fervently pray for an accompanist.  It should seek to train someone from within the church to be an accompanist.  It should possibly even consider hiring an accompanist. 
This chapter forced me to evaluate my own beliefs and convictions in regards to corporate church music.  He presented arguments that I have not heard before and am still trying to process.  I was challenged to set my standards and expectations higher instead of looking for the easy or popular path.

I highly recommend this book to you.  It is a book that is easy to read.  I anticipate returning to this book from time to time.  While I don’t agree (and doubt that you will either) with everything the author wrote, the vast majority of what he wrote was helpful and practical.  It is available at Westminster Bookstore or Amazon.