Music in the New Testament Church

8. The ministry of the musician

It is accepted that all who play in the church would wish to play with skill and seek to bring their ability to the highest standard possible. This study will seek to illustrate the relationship between musician, the singer ministry and the singing of the people of God as all blend together in worship of the Lord.

In the earlier study the Tabernacle of David as a picture of the Church set forth the order of worship and made mention of the great ministry of musicians.

(1 Chr 23:5 NIV) Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”

The use of instruments

In many Scriptures musicians are called to use musical instruments in the worship of the Lord. There is no restriction of which instrument may be played. The word psalm is defined as, ” an ode or song of praise accompanied by a harp or musical instrument”. Many kinds of instruments were used to enhance the worship in the Tabernacle of David. Paul exhorts us to sing psalms.

(Psa 150 NIV) Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. [2] Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. [3] Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, [4] praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, [5] praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. [6] Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.
(Isa 38:20 NIV) The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD.
(Eph 5:18-19 NIV) Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. [19] Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
(Col 3:16 NIV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.


There is a strong requirement on the individual who desires to minister on his instrument in the House of the Lord to be skilful. The one who plays is to play with skill.

(Psa 33:3 NIV) Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.
(Ezek 33:32 NIV) Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well,.

Worship is to be decently and in order and the lack of skill can lead to disorder. David played skilfully and with great anointing to drive out the evil spirit from Saul.

(1 Sam 16:17 NIV) So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

The rigorous training of the musician is a great asset to the musical worship and the people of God are greatly encouraged in worship by hearing the beauty and grace of sounds brought forth by talented musicians

(Eccl 9:10 NIV) Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might

Prophetic atmosphere

There are times when the minstrel is to play so that the prophetic can come forth in the midst of the people. This is a time requiring great sensitivity in the Spirit by the musicians. The being aware of the mood, tone and tempo, volume and knowing just what is to be played while being constantly alert to respond to the slightest shift of the spiritual emphasis requires great skill and with it a heart devotion to the wooing of the Holy Spirit.

(2 Ki 3:15 NIV) But now bring me a harpist.” While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha

To know such times and reach out in the music to the members of the church and hear them burst forth into body ministry is a time of joy for the minstrel.


All may prophesy Paul wrote, but sometimes musicians forget this call to spiritual ministry. Those who play should wait on their ministry in all things. As with all who are serious in worship musicians need to spend time before the Lord in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance well before the church meets. God can guide and help in the skills of playing, what to play, and all areas that are part of the musician’s calling.

More particularly there were those in the Tabernacle worship who were to “prophesy with harps” It seems that these would play and the spirit of prophesy would come upon them as they played.

This suggests that those who play should believe God for the touch of the Gift of Prophesy while they play their instruments. This may find expression verbally or in an anthem or worship from one or two instruments.

At such a time other instruments may follow and play under the anointing and a “new” music can burst forth in orchestral praise.

There is a great call upon those who enter into such ministry. Only with clean hands and a pure heart can this worship be offered up to the Lord.

Music and word

The balance that is required between these two expressions is a sensitive one since both speak to the soul and spirit.

If a Word of Prophesy is being given and music is being played how should the musician respond? If music never stops and the anointing for prophesy comes upon a person how should they proceed? Is there ever a space in the music worship for gifts of the Spirit? What is meant by in honour preferring one another? Is the “Program” more important than the individual? Does the music overcome the singing, by loudness, beat or tempo? Many have hearing difficulties and the music can blank out the word for such people. Creating a mood is laudable but not if the Word is not heard.

This is the balance that must be spritually guided. Many times a word from the Lord has been drowned out by music that is more routine than inspired. For the musician, if in doubt be silent.

There is a need to be certain that your playing will not cause any person to fail to hear or to mishear the Word. Even in cases where someone has misplaced the timing and prophecies, be gracious and give them the needed audio space by greatly muting your music or ceasing altogether.

(Exo 14:14 NIV) The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
(Psa 46:10 NIV) “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Music and worship in the Spirit

Again this area of worship has a need for great sensitivity from the musician. Musical instruments, particularly percussion can easily become dominant and submerge both the singer and ones verbalising their praise. Better no music than the music overcoming the young in the spirit who are just venturing into the joy of individual praise.

Always there is a shepherding function built into the ministry of the singer and musician. Their hearts must reach out to the sheep and lift them up and nurture them into the sacrifice of praise and build the attitude of worship in the midst of God’s people.