This is part seven of Asking Tough Worship Music Questions, a (hopefully) long-running series of interviews with worship leaders, pastors, and teachers from around the world.
Question One: Why do we repeat lyrics?
Lyrics are a vehicle for connection. If you think about global travel today, we have airplanes that transport hundreds globally in hours. Because of this genius expression of creativity many people are able to access different parts of the world simply by boarding the right plane. Smaller the plane, fewer people are able to access the end location.
In the same way, repetitive lyrics and/or strong reoccurring themes, accompanied by the correct melodic structure, provide our congregation OR congregations with an access point to the destination of encounter. The less people have to think/concentrate on the complexities of what’s being sung, the greater their ability to focus their attention and heart on the One we wrote the song for.
Question Two: Who should our songs be directed to? Should they be song about God, to God, or of God? To God or Jesus? About Jesus?
I believe all of these are correct. The songs can be about or to Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. The question is not ‘Is this correct’, the question is ‘What is required for God to be praised today?’. The bible talks about Jesus only doing what the Father is doing. I like to position my heart this way when writing and even selecting songs for Sunday. As God reveals what He’s doing it affects the way I outwork writing or select a song for Sunday Worship.
Question Three: Why do we sometimes sing sounds, not words, in praise?
Haha, I’m not sure. Because we’re free. Because expression isn’t limited to words. My children don’t greet me like this when I get home ‘Ah, Father dearest, did thou exegete God’s word to the fullest in preparations today?’ When my kids were toddlers, they would greet me at the door with their affection, with laughter, with kisses and cuddles… Not necessary King James language but I could definitely sense their love, need, and want for me in that moment.
Question Four: Why do we sometimes sing about ourselves – singing about how we react and respond to God?
Lyrics are a vehicle for connection. They both evoke and convey. Relationship is a conversation. Who He is in our lives is one important facet of Worship. To lyrically emphasise how Gods Divinity has affected our Humanity may lead someone to revelation of His Character. Let’s use Amazing Grace as an example. There is emphasis on Gods attribute/Character (amazing grace how sweet the sound) and also our humanity (that saved a wretch like me). I believe that this is ‘In Spirit and in Truth’ worship. Raising God up in our condition. Any wonder the song has outlasted centuries. It reveals who He is.
Question Five: Should we raise our hands, clap our hands, and dance, when we sing to God?
Absolutely. The bible is clear about how God is to be praised. It supersedes all preference. The bible says this about praise:
Psalm 47 — O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph
Psalm 149:3 — Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
I believe our generation need to be made aware that God has a way that He wants to be praised. Not what suits us, not what appeals to our personality type. It’s what He wants. It’s how He likes to be worshipped. Our flesh cannot bring God worship. The bible is clear that we are to bring God worship in Spirit and in Truth. Perhaps by saying ‘I’m being me by not clapping and singing, Gods in my thoughts’ you are appealing to the flesh nature and not the spirit man. The Lord wants to be praised and worshipped with our heart filled response. I’ve used my children a lot in this article but … ???
Question Six: What role should spontaneity in speech and song have in worship?
Again, things come down to relationship, what the Lord is doing, and also the capabilities of those leading/playing worship. If the band is unable to handle spontaneity then surely that’s a distraction. However, should the band be capable, I say it simply becomes a part of your worship leading arsenal. I believe a whole service of spontaneity isn’t wrong, however if the goal of church is to lead people to Jesus (both to salvation and encounter) then there should be some structure which facilitates opportunity for the commission to be outworked.
An example: I love coffee. It’s a huge part of my life. Coffee is best served in a cup. If you pour it out onto the table it can still be licked off the bench top but it isn’t the way we enjoy it most. A cup provides simple structure to enjoy something fantastic. Likewise, song structure, service structure should have the same aim.
The final word on the subject is, ‘It’s Gods church, It’s Gods service. Whatever He wants to do is what we should do’.
Question Seven: How theologically and Biblically deep should song lyrics be?
What God loved about David was that he was a man after his own heart. Our worship, our relationship with Him, is all a heart thing.
I am passionate about this matter. I love theology and I love the simplistic notion of a real relationship with God. We see this demonstrated so well in the Psalms, and for centuries these words have provided us with insight into Gods character, His love for our humanity, and are a demonstration of complete dependence on Him.
In regards to being deep, poetic and theologically/doctrinally sound, I believe that songs are designed for Gods glory and His people. What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain. If people can’t engage God, if they are focused on content/music/melody/doctrine more than a heart connection, then I would say you’ve found a distraction, not a reason to worship.
The purpose of writing Praise and Worship for Church is two-fold. It’s always primarily about Gods glory. but it’s also to serve His people by giving them a vehicle for encounter. Our songs should never compromise on any of these values.
At no time are we excused from good doctrine or correct theology. The Word and a correct expression is important but so is relationship. Get this combination right and you’re onto something fantastic.