Words of Worship – A Look Into Our Songs
Branon Dempsey Posted on March 6, 2008
On one hand, do our words of worship songs produce biblical connections in the hearts and minds of the worshipers? On the other hand, do our words in worship stir confusion and/or obscure Christian doctrine? As seen from the Old Testament days of Amos and David, there exists a concern in the usage of our words in song – what is pleasing or displeasing to God.
How do churches regain accurate and sound Biblical theology, teaching and pathos in their worship songs? How are Christians able to recognize and decipher Biblical accuracy in their songs that honor God? From examining today's rapid-changing society, there are several reasons why sound doctrine and theology are inceptive needs for the present day worship life of the Church. In this age of Pantheism, Nihilism and New Age, progressive worldly philosophies have infiltrated Christian society and have affected our biblical view, even when it comes to worship. As a result, many in the Church have watered-down sermons, songs, drama and film for the sake of being "relevant." It is almost as if we are afraid of using biblical words. When I say Biblical, I do not mean churchy, such as "are you washed in the blood?" where only Christians would understand this statement. A Biblical statement that all could understand may be: He was willing and made me clean. One song that comes to mind is Charlie Hall's "Marvelous Light," (verse 2), "my deepest stains now clean." This song both musically and lyrically is culturally relevant without dumbing down the words of God.
In most cases, we have both old and new songs that are not inherently Biblical or God centered, such as the old Gospel tune "I'll Fly Away." Don't get me wrong, it's a real toe tapper, but Biblically, the song is based more on "when I die," rather than the centricity of God or Christ. As you may be aware, the plethora of Christian-like philosophies is found in the songs we sing during worship. Due to this dilemma, the Christian is influenced by a "pick and choose song-doctrine buffet" in a Christian-secular society. But what kind of words and messages are we really conveying (in three-fold): to a non-believing world, Church and Holy God?
Through the changes of time and culture, a myriad of Christian authors, writers and promoters have evolved. A blurred gap is created in the theology and multiple philosophies of today's contemporary worship/Christian song writing. Worshipers/listeners can either be encouraged or discouraged to worship in context of the song's lyrics. According to the use of Biblical sound doctrine and theology, songwriters have a great potential in fanning the flame in people's hearts for authentic worship. From the songwriter, the spark is ignited by the level of Biblical understanding and spiritual growth. That flame of understanding is conveyed through the words and messages of the songwriter to the listener or worshiper. The fire produced is found when and where the words and Scripture intersect as they communicate and edify Biblical sense.
The danger occurs when inaccurate, misleading or obscured statements are expressed and form a disconnect with God, the worshipper and the Word. So the question is, do we really pay attention to our use of words in worship? Do we care enough about the message we are sending? Have we lost priority between playing the coolest tune or presenting accurate understandings? Time and time again, I have always heard and maybe you as well: we gotta play this song in worship because church______ down the street does it – or – I heard this tune off of a Christian radio station and we must play it!!
Ok, so the songs are cool. But what about the words? Do they derive correct recognition of the Triune and Holy God, do they speak of New Testament grace and mercy or foundations of the Old Testament? If they do, then it's a great song to implement. Ok, the other side may now be saying, yeah, but do songs always have to speak of biblical intellect and God-talk accuracies? My response: yes. Does it mean that we have to find a song that sounds like we're teaching a theology course during worship? No. What it does mean, is that we are the Church and are not ashamed nor do we deny what we believe. Additionally, we should not refuse Christ words of true love, forgiveness, healing, grace and life everlasting to a dying and isolated generation.
A greater look into our words is needed to safe-guard ourselves from "going through the motions." A wonderful book by Dawn Marva, addresses these issues that encourages the Church and asks provoking questions that challenge us to stay biblically authentic while remaining culturally relevant. Check out her book here at Amazon. I remember when I was not as cognizant in lyrical texts when I first began music ministry. As leaders in the church, we have a higher calling to accountability. We have a need to be mindful of our words in worship. This was Amos' disgust of Israel because the people were not taking God and his words seriously. They were merely facilitating hollowed offerings of numbed utterances through meaningless motions, offering unacceptable offerings due to self focus and pride. God had blessed their economy, vineyards and households, but man chose to glorify himself and give God the leftovers.
"Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody
of your stringed instruments."
- A Sermon Woe of Amos; Amos 5:23, KNIV.
Hypocritical religious motions have replaced true worship, creating a false sense of security and a growing callousness to God's hand. How can this inward focus be appealing to the local communities in which we are ministering to? The woes from God spoken through the prophet Amos addressed God's displeasure of Israel's meaningless and unacceptable corporate offerings of worship. How do these lessons of past generations serve as models for today's worship life? They represent reminders of who God is as being holy, and how man is to rightly respond to his holiness. God deserves all of our praise and our words represent and express what we believe about Him. May our words both honor Almighty God as they intuitively edify people.
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