In a day and time where everything is relative, subjective, and nebulous, it is easy to let this secular worldview influence us when the church gathers for corporate worship. So, why do we worship? And how should we worship? If you were to take a poll from the people in the pews, you would get mixed sentiments based on differing understandings of worldview and Scriptural understanding. Some say, “How we worship is up to us.” Others propose, “As long as it is heart-felt and addresses God, it cannot be a bad thing.” Still others offer, “We must feel like worshiping if we are to participate in authentic worship.” Throughout Scripture, however, worship directives and goals are abundantly clear. Briefly put, our worship should accomplish a twofold goal: glorify our God and edify His people.
Ultimately we seek to glorify God. We must be willing to submit everything – desires, preferences, thoughts, actions, etc. – to the truth of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16, James 4:7). Our Lord has consistently detailed in His Word how He desires to be worshiped. Only when we recognize God’s revelation of Truth can we respond in a way that is in line with His will. This obedient response is worship.
Secondly, we must edify our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). This is achieved when focus is taken away from our personal preferences and circumstances and directed towards those with whom we are worshiping. This is not terribly difficult when our focus is turned to a holy God to begin with! However, we are not to simply to give into a menagerie of preferences (1 Corinthians 10:23). Each and every element of a worship service must be once again measured against the Word of God because nothing is better at building up than the Truth that He has given (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
So, if God alone has the prerogative to dictate how we worship Him, how should the gathered, corporate church of God select songs for use in worship? When evaluating music, there are several key components to understand. Melody, harmony, tempo, rhythm, instrumentation, text (if applicable), and associations come to mind in an abbreviated list. For the purposes of our assessment, we will deal with textual components (theology, craftsmanship, and subject), musical components (melody, harmony, tempo, rhythm, etc.), and associative components (association and appropriateness).
Let us take a detailed look into each of these components.
Probably the most discernable way that music communicates is through the text itself. If there are problems within the text, a song is not fit for corporate worship of a Holy God. Let’s break down the components of text…
Right off the bat we know that the theology we proclaim is important whether that be through sermon or song. Theology set to music often overrules theology simply spoken. There is something compelling and memorable about music. Information set to music is more easily recalled (i.e. the alphabet song). Most Christians know more theology than they realize simply because they have been singing in church for years. Holy, Holy, Holy teaches the on the doctrine of the Trinity. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross teaches the pain and triumph of Christ on the Cross. We Believe teaches and affirms foundational beliefs that God’s people have held for centuries.
Poor theology can be easily hidden by a catchy tune or beautiful harmony. Dig deep! Ask yourself, does this song express biblical truth? Where is this truth expressed in Scripture? Is the truth presented complete or does it beg for extensive clarification? We want to be as direct and clear as possible in the theology we teach through any medium!
Craftsmanship speaks to the poetry of the lyrics. Is the truth conveyed clearly? Once the truth is understandable, one can examine the prose for beauty as well. The ebb and flow of language, the construction of sentences, speaks volumes for a song’s message. How you are saying the truth communicates just as much as what you are saying. Does the word choice flow in a pleasing, beautiful way? Word choice can make a song timeless or restricted in use due to colloquialisms/vernaculars and slang.
As words are used to communicate, it is vital that we consider who is the subject of the song. In a day of narcissism and hyper-emotionalism, we often use songs that express to God how He makes us feel. When we do this, we are in a sense exalting ourselves and our feelings over the great and glorious God that is worthy of all our praise. There is nothing wrong with remembering what God has done for us and continues to do for us, but we should make these musical expressions to and about God as we sing His praise, confess our unworthiness, accept His forgiveness, express thanksgiving, or submit to Him. We must remove ourselves from the center of our songs and make sure that God is the focus of our worship instead of ourselves.
Next week we will further discuss the musical and associative components.
Should I say this? Should I do this? Should I post this? Should I __________? (you fill in the blank). I wonder if we ask ourselves this question enough? Often we say things, do things, and yes even post things within the social media universe before we give little to any thought as to whether we should. This “shooting from the hip” mentality has steadily become more and more of an issue within recent years. We have such a sense of freedom when it comes to what we say and do, especially when it comes to what we let fly out there for all to see. After all, we’ve got freedom of speech, right?
As we look back through just the past 30 years or so, it is easy to notice the avenues of expressing oneself have exploded by leaps and bounds. It’s really quite amazing if you think about it. We’ve gone from being able to communicate with one another from home telephones to cellular phones, from snail mail to email and text messaging. In addition, we also now have a tremendous variety of options to express thoughts and emotions with many, many others through internet mediums such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Marco Polo, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, and seemingly countless others. We now have the power to express whatever we want in an instant with just a single click. But, should we?
You see, what we all have to understand is that for all who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, you no longer just speak and represent yourself; but rather you are now a representative of Jesus! The Apostle Paul describes Christians as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). As ambassadors, how are we doing? Are we representing Him well? I truly believe we don’t often consider this truth before we execute our thoughts and emotions. Instead, we regularly cave into our ambitions and “indulge in the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3).
Christian, we say and show a lot of things through various social media platforms that look an awful lot like the world around us, the world that does not have the life giving hope of Jesus. Please hear me, I am not condemning the use of social media. Quite the contrary actually. What I am saying is that we need to be careful about what we are sharing and strongly considering who we are representing.
When dealing with issues revolving around individual freedoms and liberties, Paul provides a fantastic example to follow when writing to the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. Paul writes in verse 23, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” How does this statement apply to what we share and post? Well, I’m glad you asked! Is what we’re floating out there on the internet benefiting others in such a way that it’s pointing our “friends” and “followers” to the God of our salvation? This is exactly the point that Paul is driving home in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. The truth that we need to firmly grasp is that we are to glorify God in whatever we do (1 Corinthians 10:31) and continue to live in a way that points others to Christ through the way we live our lives and through what we share publically “so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).
Christian, we are called to a higher standard of conduct because of who we now represent and who we now belong to. Let us not only ask ourselves the “should I” question. But also ask, “Does this glorify God?” Paul again so nicely sums up this standard of Christian living in Colossians 3:17 when he writes to the believers in Colossae “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Reflect on this last truth; this life we now live is not our own because we have been bought with a price, therefore let us live it out in a fashion that glorifies our awesome God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Grace to you,
Josh Weatherspoon, Minister to Students