Will we create and advocate for epic, melodic and popular musical composition with catchy hooks, or will we let the creative musical element subside and choose songs primarily based on the depth of lyrical content? Is it possible this generation could get fired up about theology as much as we do about crafty melodies? That tension within each of us cultivates and shapes our church communities musically.
A simple reality is embedded into the fabric of mankind: music moves us. Every nation, tribe and tongue has a style of music that’s unique to them and really brings identity to the whole of a people group. In the context of the Church, it is no different; we often find a common ground (spiritually and communally) in the music we sing. Music creates chemistry amongst people like nothing else in creation. Music changes the temperature of a community, and as Christ followers we ought to have the best music and lyrics in the world.
As leaders steering and coaching our communities, the discussion about a biblical approach to worship is imperative. The songs we choose to sing will have lasting effects on the people we influence. The Word of God is rich and full, but when paired with anthems that proclaim it from our mouths in song, it’s often the most effective reinforcement of our theology available to us.
The answer to the question, “What does your weekend set list say about your church?” should have huge implications on the depth of intimacy and theology your community is going after with their lives.
Before we consider what songs we choose, let’s ask a greater question: Why do we sing? The average person who visits a church feels a connection to the music in some way, but is often still unsure of why the church sings.
From everything the Scriptures point to, we are most certainly made in the image of God. If this is true, then music really starts in the heart of God. We repeatedly see in the Scriptures that music is part of the love language of our Creator, and therefore it moves us to sing, as we so blatantly bear His image. At one point, Zephaniah even declares that God will “rejoice over you with singing” (3:17, TNIV). Music is in our Creator’s DNA, and so it is in ours.
Ultimately, the songs we as leaders choose for our communities to sing are vital as we seek to help people walk more plaintively in the way of Jesus. Songs give life to people by allowing them to respond and react to the truth of who God is, what He’s done and what He’s doing.
Pastor Mike Pilavachi of Soul Survivor Watford sets the record straight when he so eloquently defines worship as a response to the revelation of God in our lives. In other words, the songs we sing can only be as loud as the lives we’re living, and we ought to be pushing ourselves and our people to sing loudly in every way!
Covenant, worship and justice should be the major themes of how we anchor our people in song. When choosing songs, it is important for us to look at worship holistically. Virtually, everything we sing should fall under one of these three major themes. Covenant is the way we have access and relationship to God. Worship is our response to God in humbly bowing before Him in response to His goodness and mercy toward us in this covenant relationship. Justice is our commissioning to be the hands and feet of Christ by engaging the less fortunate and bringing hope to the broken.
These themes should serve as the guidepost for the lyrics we’re writing or selecting from our song library for our churches. The way lyrics are expressed creatively and musically may change from community to community, region to region, generation to generation, but the importance of firmly rooted biblical lyrics remain the same. We must move forward as a generation motivated by a biblical interpretation of worship.
What songs are being lifted in your community? Are they songs that speak of this profound covenant we’ve made with Jehovah God through Jesus Christ? Are they songs that cause us to reflect and respond in humble obedience? Are they songs that cry out for the least of these and cause our hearts to break at injustice?
What songs move you? Make your eyes tear up? Motivate you during hard times? Make you want to lie on the floor in total surrender? Make you lift your hands in absolute joy? Center your heart on the way of Jesus? Songs that activate such responses come from lyrics anchored in covenant, worship and justice.
May we be a generation of worship leaders fanning the flame for our songs to press through Coldplay and U2 riffs (although not bad musical choices) into holistic, biblically rooted songs. May we be a generation of worship leaders who pair our lives with the grandiose lyrics we’re singing, so the people we’re leading will align their lives right along with us. May we be deliberate in the depth of the theology we’re teaching our communities through our songs while continuing to create and choose the best music the world has ever heard. May we reclaim the arts for the Kingdom of God, and may our lives sing as loudly as the lyrics we sing.
This article originally appeared in Neue Magazine.