Asking Tough Worship Music Questions — Denise Ham, Crossway


This is part six of Asking Tough Worship Music Questions, a (hopefully) long-running series of interviews with worship leaders, pastors, and teachers from around the world.

Thank you very much to Denise Ham, Creative Ministries Pastor – training and development, at Crossway, for her time and graciousness in response. 

Question One: Why do we repeat lyrics?

I believe we repeat lyrics because of the emotions we often need to push through for something to really sink in. The words are sung, felt, and revealed to us differently each time we sing them. We are able to think differently as we put emphasis on different parts of the phrase. The Bible also gives us a picture of Heaven. It is filled with the same phrases being sung over and over again – there must be something in that!

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 there are three types of great ‘corporate’ worship songs.

  1. Songs sung about God that remind us all of who He is and what He has done for us. A massive group all encouraging others as we sing truths about our amazing God is so powerful. They are a great way to allow people to focus on God and not on the things on their mind that can be a distraction.
  2. Songs sung to God. Loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength as we draw close to Him, and using the words of the songs to adore Him I believe is what musical worship is all about.
  3. There is a third type of worship song and that is the song that we can use to intercede for others on their behalf. Whether that is about God or to God. Again there is something powerful when we use songs to cry out to God on behalf of others.

Question Three: Why do we sometimes sing sounds, not words, in praise?

Sometimes our hearts cry and spirits want to connect deeply with God that words just cant describe how we feel. I think of a song like “Glorious Ruins” and especially as I use that song to intercede for someone going through the fire – I find myself using the ‘Ohhhhs’ in the bridge as a heart’s cry – similar to tongues coming from deep in my spirit.

Another reason why sounds can be used to praise God is to be reminded that our voice is an instrument. God used instruments throughout scriptures to heal, tear down walls, open up the way for prophesy – the voice is an instrument and God can and does do this again today if we believe

Question Four: Why do we sometimes sing about ourselves – singing about how we react and respond to God?

Singing is a very powerful, emotional way of expressing our heart. When we sing about ourselves it can sometimes be expressed as a step of faith, a moment of truth, a decision to obey. Singing this together can only bring about confidence and encouragement as we declare our decisions, responses, reactions.

Question Five: Should we raise our hands, clap our hands, and dance, when we sing to God?

Absolutely!!!!! I personally have never been able to stand still and sing. However when I read about and understand the words “praise” and “hallelujah” as they were expressed in God’s word, these words mean movement — and very expressive and loud at that. When we are passionate about something there is something in humans that have to express it with our faces, hands, bodies, and movement. Just watch a crowd at a sporting match who are passionate for their team or people at a party who are celebrating life. Just listen and watch someone share a significant event – every part of them comes to life.

This is how I expect people to praise and worship our God.

Question Six: What role should spontaneity in speech and song have in worship?

I believe all worship should be spirit-led, as in the early Church days. There is something beautiful about a church service that has been planned during the week only to be spontaneously taken in another direction because all the leaders were open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. God is constantly speaking. He wants to share His heart with His people. What better time to speak than when a number of us are together to be able to interpret or ‘put legs on’ and apply His word. Unfortunately too many Churches stick to the plan and ‘write God out’!

Question Seven: How theologically and Biblically deep should song lyrics be?

I think it’s very important to sing Bible verses, truths, and theologically correct songs. I would thoroughly recommend this over heresy – however if we are going to worship God with all our heart we should be able to sing responses to God and what we know of His love for us.

An example of some beautiful worship songs introduced around the same time as some of the “Biblically deep hymns” are I Love You Lord and I Lift My Voice and Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus — beautiful songs that are a response rather than theologically correct words.

Image Credit: Baptist Union of Victoria