Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.
The confessional Lutheran Church has always welcomed the use of a variety of instruments as an important and specifically festive way of expressing the celebrative aspects of joyful worship. Luther as a reformer of the Catholic church encouraged musicians to "let their singing and playing to the praise of the Father of all grace sound forth with joy from their pipe organs and whatever other beloved musical instruments there are."
A rich treasury of instrumental music used in Lutheran worship developed during the Reformation. This music includes instrumental selections intended for preludes, postludes and interludes, both choral-based (textual) and compositions for organ and one or more solo instruments. Additionally, more difficult large- and small-scale concertato works for small numbers of instruments and voices became a worship style norm during the reformation era. Recently, more deliberate attention has been given to the solo and concerted works for small numbers of instruments with organ, or in concert with voices, that can be performed by instrumentalists of modest ability.
Instruments can play an important role in corporate worship. They provide leadership for us to sing our faith, helping us to more fully and clearly express the changing moods of corporate Lutheran Worship, from the leanness and sparseness of seasons like Advent and Lent to the more exuberant character of the Easter and Christmas seasons. However, as musical instruments lead our worship they must always work to enhance the textual mood of the season and support the role of the organ as the primary leader of song in our worship. Their role of leadership is best affected not from the front and facing the congregation, but from the side or rear of the congregation. This enhances and supports the congregation rather than competes with it. Furthermore, their presence at the side or rear of the sanctuary removes their "performance" nature and transfers their role to one of support in the divine service.
Instruments can help foster communion with God and the assembled body during the worship service and can serve as an extension of the human voice in sounding the liturgy and attendant music. Additionally they fully proclaim the joy in the human Christian heart by sharing the gift of God, His music. Instruments and voices in union work to proclaim the message of the day. However, the scheduling and use of such instruments must always be done with careful planning.
The use of instruments and the scheduling of choral activities within a Lutheran congregation work best for the congregation when the parish musician(s) and pastor(s) work closely and carefully together. Regular planning sessions are an important part of the preparation for corporate worship. Although the pastor is always the leader in the spiritual guidance of the congregation, the two parties must meet often to exchange ideas and discuss plans for future services. It is only when God's servants work together toward the common goal of having living, vital music in the divine service that it can be accomplished. Each participant, pastor, and music director, plays their own distinctive role, yet each role must compliment and reinforce the other.
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer, Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.