“Worship begins with theology because our theology should drive our worship.”
When Davey Ermold began serving as the pastor at Blue Ridge Grace Brethren Church in Winchester, Va., in 2018, doctrinally-rich worship was an area he knew he wanted to emphasize. Davey entered into the role with degrees in both Bible and music and a passion for uniting the two.
“Music is a tool that accesses a different part of our brain and thought process,” Davey said. “Words get stuck in a part of our brain that even when we can’t remember other things, we remember music and lyrics. It’s a great learning tool for good theology.”
Blue Ridge is a congregation of around 90 people. When the Ermolds arrived in 2018, the average age was trending older and they were the only young family. The congregation was comfortable with hymns and Gospel songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Davey knew he wanted to help the congregation embrace even more doctrinally-rich music.
“Our place in Christ should be rejoiced in,” Davey said. “Worship might end with us and how we benefit, but needs to begin with and have a primary message of Jesus.”
Davey is the only staff member, and he both leads musical worship and preaches the Word on Sunday mornings. While stylistically their music didn’t change — it’s still a piano and a few vocalists — Davey introduced more Christ-centric lyrics.
“Above all else, the text comes first,” Davey said of how he selects music for Sunday mornings. He explains the songs to the congregation and how the Gospel is presented in the lyrics and why that matters. The congregation has embraced this theology and the music Davey introduces. “When there is a clear Gospel message in a song, it’s hard not to see the benefit of that,” he said.
The other element of music that Davey cares about is the singability of a song for the average attender. “Congregational singing should be congregationally singable,” he said. He is careful to play music in a key in which people can easily join. “When you marry a Gospel-centric text with a singable melody, the people in attendance think it’s worth doing and worth singing.”
Blue Ridge has grown the past four years. The average age is starting to trend younger as there are now several other families with children. “Staying true to the Word and preaching the Word goes a long way in attracting people,” Davey said. In both music and message, the church is “keeping importance on loving people by teaching them the Word.”
Listen to a playlist of music Blue Ridge utilizes here.