The Spiritual Impact of Music in Discipleship and Evangelism

What would happen if something as universally beloved as music was used as a means of both stirring up believers and reaching the lost? Music inspires emotion and provokes thought. It reaches down into a person’s soul, uncovering joys and sorrows. Churchgoers are well aware of the role music plays in worship and drawing nearer to God, but can music also be a means to draw in the lost?

Richard Mauney, a GEM worker in Romania, states: “A healthy worship life of the church will fuel the other aspects of the total church ministry – discipleship, spiritual growth of members, evangelism, missions, social ministries, and fellowship. Attention given to congregational worship can both reflect as well as produce a proper balance in the overall ministry of the church.”

It’s important to note that although music is certainly an expression of worship, it would be wrong to claim that it’s the only form of worship. In fact, our entire lives should be an act of worship! Within a church setting, music is one form of worship that brings praise and glory before God, and the music team’s role is to help lead others into His presence. As we enter into God’s presence, we’ll often receive a boldness in serving Him, which is evident in how we live.

With a passion for music, Germany’s Zachary McKay has used it as an outlet for ministry in his church, and more recently his home, for the last fifteen years. Music is universally familiar and appealing, so it can sometimes become a ministry unexpectedly. “On three separate occasions, my neighbours had told me that my singing was really good – I suppose [my apartment] walls were either thinner than I figured, or I was a bit louder than I thought,” Zachary jokes. After explaining to them that he plays music at his church, his neighbours expressed that they’d never heard church music played like that.

People often create certain expectations of what different genres of music should sound like – especially ‘church’ music. “I think singing more contemporary worship music or a different style than people are used to, creates interest that creates curiosity, and then ultimately leads to people asking questions to learn more about it – not just to enjoy the art, but to get to the heart of it,” Zachary explains.

Aside from these meaningful encounters with his neighbours, Zachary also makes a point to meet regularly with others who are passionate about music for a time of encouragement and training. “We’re creating a space for developing relationships because of the natural camaraderie in the arts and in music,” Zachary says. Between coaching those who come wanting to improve their skills, or those who just need a safe place to do what they love, these jam sessions become a great opportunity to reach others.

“There isn’t necessarily that understanding of being in a holy space,” Zachary says about these jam sessions, “or the song may not be recognizably about Jesus. That, to me, is a fun space to enter, because although nonbelievers may not recognize the subject matter of the music at first, they recognize the emotion behind it.” 

Richard Mauney’s idea that all aspects of ministry are impacted by healthy worship within the church is evident in the unique ways people are choosing to serve missionally. “Evangelism or discipleship doesn’t conform to a strict kind of model,” Zachary explains. “Music can be a form of discipleship and evangelism… I can name four people who came to faith explicitly because of exposure to Christian music, and three of them are now pastors! So, in regard to music and art as mission, if the Holy Spirit is in it, then lives are going to be transformed.”

To those who would love to get started in this type of ministry, Zachary suggests diving right in! “Just immerse yourself in it and trust that God is there and in it with you. If it’s something you really want to do, your actions [should] reflect that, but it’s really about surrounding yourself with people in an environment that will nurture that desire.” Are you someone who enjoys worshipping through music? Have you considered using your gifts to break barriers with the unsaved or uplift local Christians? If so, would you consider stepping out of your comfort zone and playing your music for God where others can join in? Perhaps some may experience new life as they meet the transforming God behind your lyrics!