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Sound Theology October 27, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, Leadership, ministry.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The songs you select for your congregation build their theology as much if not more than the sermon they’ll hear. Think about it – they’ll leave humming those catchy melodies far longer than they think about your views on the practicality of having better relationships, why they should give more money to the church, or why they should dress their best and not leave the house in wrinkly clothes. BUT, this isn’t a karaoke bar or feel-good sing-along.

A common problem in worship music is how often the song is written with God in the 3rd person. We’re singing to each other of God, instead of collectively singing to God. This is fine as a call to worship, dismissal from worship, or special music, but when we do this, its like having a conversation about someone who is standing with us, but we don’t acknowledge them, just continue to talk to each other about them, using pronouns he/she and him/her, maybe even using their name every so often. This leads to the theology that God is not with us, so we must sing of him in 3rd person as if he isn’t here. A good example is the Mark Schultz song “He is, He was, He always will be.” Singing to each other of God. Vicky Beeching wrote a comparable, though widely lesser known, song that went “Yesterday, Today, and Forever, You are the same, You never change….and we will trust in You.” Much more worshipful from a collective point of view.

Matthew 6:7-8

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. NIV

While its almost completely unavoidable in modern times, how many of your songs, or melodic prayers, which have God in the 2nd person, fall under this category? Repetitive. Sing a verse, take it back and sing it again. Sing a second verse. Sing a chorus, take it back and sing it again and take it back. Sing a bridge, take it back, sing it again, take it back. Sing the chorus again, take it back and sing it again. Sing the bridge, take it back and sing it again. Whew! That was an ordeal. What about when there’s just one stanza, lets say a chorus, that gets repeated 5 or 6 times? God doesn’t need us to be the broken record. Do your songs teach your flock to pray this way?

Amplified Bible

Psalm 33:3
Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully [on the strings] with a loud and joyful sound.

Psalm 96:1
sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Psalm 98:1
sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have wrought salvation for Him.

Psalm 144:9
I will
sing a new song to You, O God; upon a harp, an instrument of ten strings, will I offer praises to You.

Psalm 149:1
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song, praise Him in the assembly of His saints!

Isaiah 42:10

Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, the islands and coastal regions and the inhabitants of them [sing a song such as has never been heard in the heathen world]!

Right now, every trend-seeking contemporary music worshiper is doing a victory dance. “Take that hymns! We don’t need you, you’re OLD!!!” Some churches go to the extent of committing to use songs that are on the Billboard Christian charts, or on the radio (such as the aforementioned Mark Schultz versus Vicky Beeching selection.) Heck, I had a pastor tell me that every song we used had to have been written in the past 10 years because of the copyright date at the bottom of the screen, and we should do a new song every week because after the 1st week its not new anymore. The Amplified Bible counts 6 references to us singing a new song, all but one come from Psalms. In context they are encouragements from one person to others to sing a new song, mostly, of where you are in your life, where your local church (i.e. the assembly of his saints) is in its life, and of the things He has done for you. Its not so much about nationally known songs, copyright dates, radio hits, generic ditties for the sake of a new song, though there are a couple of references to songs sung by all on Earth. Sing songs that mean something to your congregation. To do that we must fellowship, get to know our flock. What’s new to them? What’s new in their life? Who cares if it is or isn’t on the radio or if another church in town is using or avoiding it? The music is just as much food for them as it is a gift to God, if  they are raised as a culture that believes blessing others is more fulfilling than being blessed. That upbringing relies on the theology they’re taught. Do you, in song selection approach, allow them to stop at “Sing a new song,” or do you contextualize and finish it?

How about the way we teach the flock to give? Some churches, that are still doing offertory during worship services, insist that offertory times be accompanied by slow, solemn music… as if its supposed to be a drag to give anything to God. Its kind of like Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore leading the congregation. Sometimes the solemn approach may be appropriate, but, what if offertory were led by Tigger? Happy, bouncy, excited to give. Jesus said (Matthew 6:24) we can’t serve two masters: there’s God and there’s money. Which do you teach your flock to hold higher, the money they’re giving up or the God they’re giving it to?

Song selection and worship will not reach perfection until… well, until “there is no more night” and “servants see their Master’s face” (Rev 22.) Inability to achieve perfection shouldn’t stop us from trying to get it right.




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