J.S. Bach understood the unique character and content of corporate worship. Although Bach wrote of all his music to the glory of God and in a manner of biblical beauty, he also understood the difference between what was liturgically appropriate and what was better left for Zimmerman’s—the local coffee house and pub. There should be a separation between what is acceptable in a Christian concert versus what we sing in corporate worship. The intent is different; therefore, the lyric content, manner of playing and singing, musical arrangements, and delivery should be different as well. Because we have forfeited suitable venues to express art in the culture from a biblical perspective, we have pulled into worship forms and content that ought not be part of corporate worship. There is an appropriate and needed place for songs about personal spiritual journeys, the joys and sorrows of the Christian life, and the communal fellowship of the saints in covenantal life; however, the truth of these artistic expressions does not necessarily commend them to corporate worship where the emphasis is Almighty God and His nature and character.
The beauty of Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig was that it created a venue for people from the town to gather in community and to enjoy the culture of their city. Bach worked diligently to create works of beauty for the coffee house, and that venue enabled him to explore musical, lyrical, and thematic elements that expressed the glories of the Christian life but in a manner that would not have been acceptable in church. Bach wrote musical satire, songs about coffee (a suspect beverage at the time) and domestic life, and instrumental music of great virtuosity—including works for four harpsichords and orchestra. While we seek the integrity of corporate worship, we should also encourage the opportunity for expression of artistic gifts in the covenantal community outside of worship.