It might sound like a bit of self promotion for a worship leader to tell you that Congregational worship is a big deal! Today I want to focus on one particular part of worship that I have been thinking on lately.
What we sing in church really matters. I don’t just mean that what we sing is good theology and doctrine, though that is obviously vital. In this post I want to explore some of the important things to remember in choosing and writing worship songs.
Worship music within a church has a huge influence on people. Whilst the teaching of the bible is vital to our health as a church it is also true that come Monday morning you are more likely to find people singing the latest worship song over repeating the words from the sermon. When you take poetic words and put them to music they somehow grow in influence. A catchy melody takes a phrase further and wider than most witty teaching remarks. So with that as introduction you can see how choosing and writing worship songs is important.
Today I don’t want to touch so much on the theology of what we sing, but rather the perspective we bring to times of cooperate worship. It is quite possible to sing perfectly biblical and theologically robust songs that do not stir faith in people. One important aspect of our times of gathering together as a body is to encourage one another in our faith.
We can choose or write songs that focus on our complete inability or we can use or write songs that talk about his complete ability. One produces faith, the other produces weak Christians. There is a place for admission of guilt and our failure as believers and to acknowledge the challenges we face in life. I would suggest that that place is not as part of our Sunday worship set list.
It is not about living in denial but it is about thinking about the consequences of what we sing. Consistently singing of God’s greatness and his complete ability to have close relationship with us despite our failings creates an expectation. An expectation that God will overcome challenges in our lives and that he is bigger than anything we might face. A focus on what God has done will always produce faith that God will continue to do great things.
We become what we sing. So we had best think about what it is we are singing. I saw a great example of this recently when I was at a worship seminar at Bethel Church. Jenn Johnson was speaking about writing her song “God I look to You”, a great song. When she first came up with the idea she had the verse and sung “God I look to You, I am overwhelmed”. She felt God challenge her to make the positive declaration not the negative. It was true that she was feeling overwhelmed as she wrote the song and yet she had to think about what people would be singing. Words are powerful. So she felt challenged by God to change it to “God I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed”. A very simple change and yet it is the difference between creating an expectation that life will be overwhelming vs. knowing that by looking to God we won’t be overwhelmed, He is more than able.
So my challenge to us as worship leaders and song writers is to think about what we sing. No matter how true it might be is it producing faith or unbelief in our congregation? Are we focussed on the problems or the solution? Let’s have faith that sings.