This is part two 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 Zach Morris of Endless Pursuit for his time and graciousness in response.
It is my strong belief that worship is one of the church’s greatest dividing lines – and I genuinely feel that it is so because it is one of the most important aspects of our Christian life, and therefore Satan targets it directly, profusely, and without ceasing. He increases the passion of those who dislike “modern music” and squashes the concerns of those who want reverent and Biblical lyrics. He encourages the ignorant and condemns the wise; He preys on the apathy of the uninclined and enlarges the fear of the passionate few.
Yet, the Bible is undaunted in its call: “Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.” (Psalm 95:1-2)
God’s Scriptures are all we should need to quell human-made fires in the church today, but instead of just one point of view, I wanted to reach out and learn from a number of worship leaders around the world, and have them teach us, through answering a few questions. These questions are intended to be a little blunt and contentious, but do not reflect any one view of what worship can or should be.
Zach Morris is the worship leader at The Connection of Hutto, a church in Hutto Texas, and the lead vocalist of worship band Endless Pursuit, out of Austin, Texas.
Question One: Why do we repeat lyrics?
From my perspective, we repeat certain lyrics that bring us back to the overall point of the song. The lyrics we repeat should remind us of what we’ve said throughout the verses and bridge, and why. I think Psalm 119 and 136 are great examples of this. Psalm 119 is less repetitive in the exact words it uses, but tends to repeat a lot of the same ideas. Kind of like what we’d call a ‘hook’ or ‘chorus’ today. It would state the idea, go into a greater depth, somewhat abandoning the repetitiveness, yet still focusing on the same topic, and then it would come back to the same, core idea again.
Lyrically, Psalm 136 is the more repetitive out of the two, though. But, I think the intent is very much the same. The writer wanted to center the minds of all those listening, reading, etc. onto one topic by a series of repetitive devices, elaborate on the topic, and then repeat.
I think we still implement this in our music today because it’s effective and is a good way to get something to stick with our church. They might forget the message, but there’s a good chance they’ll remember that catchy chorus, along with it’s lyrics, which hopefully reminds them of the message they heard the day they sang it during corporate worship.
Question Two: Who should our songs be directed to? Should they be songs about God, to God, or of God? To God or Jesus? About Jesus?
I believe the songs need to be directed to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think just about every church is guilty of underemphasizing at least one or two of the members of the Trinity.
I think one of the best songs I can give as an example of an intentional emphasis on all three members of the Godhead is the hymn, ‘Doxology’. As far as scripture goes, God describes himself to us as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” That’s enough to tell us that we should be worshipping all three persons of God, though certain topics might focus on one in particular from time-to-time.
Question Three: Why do we sometimes sing sounds, not words, in praise?
I’d firstly say, because we see examples of it throughout scripture. We’re told multiple times to shout to the Lord (Psalm 100:1), etc. I think it’s just something that people do when they’re intently singing about something they care about.
Question Four: Why do we sometimes sing about ourselves – singing about how we react and respond to God?
I’d say we do because there always needs to be a noted response. We can sing about the human condition of sin, how Christ died to redeem his church from their sin, etc. But if we don’t then state which side we, as followers of Christ have taken, our worship is incomplete.
Question Five: Should we raise our hands, clap our hands, and dance, when we sing to God?
Of course. Sure, there’s a time and a place for everything, and Sunday morning at your local Community Church might not be the place to go running the pews, but I think that anything that the Bible describes as an external gesture of worship to the one true God is worth doing when the time and place is right.
Question Six: What role should spontaneity in speech and song have in worship?
I think there’s definitely value to spontaneity in speech during, but I also think there’s a huge value to preparation. I believe that we should plan what we’re going to say when leading our people in worship, but sometimes something comes to our minds while we’re leading and we feel like we should share it; and we should, as long as it’s helpful and further enables our church to worship in spirit and truth. However, I’ve been in services where spontaneity seemed fake or forced, hindering the congregation. So, we should definitely be careful and examine our motives before we say anything spontaneously during worship.
Question Seven: How theologically and Biblically deep should song lyrics be?
I’d have to say that that depends on the topic and the people you’re singing about it with. With theology, you can always go deeper and get more specific or in-depth. The question is: is the depth to this song helping the congregation, or just confusing them? I think that if there’s any doubt as to the theological understanding of the congregation (or of the worship leader), it would be better to go with a song that everyone could understand. After all, we want genuine worship of the heart, mind, and soul; not just confused stares and a hesitant reciting of some lofty bunch of words that no one really understands.