I have loved music all my life. I grew up listening to old school country cause that’s what was on dad’s radio. I added rock, pop, and metal to my likes. I discovered CCM as a new believer and some solid Christ-centred music in my later years. And then I re-discovered country…or new country…and a lot of it sounded like some rock and pop that I had grown up listening to. I guess things went full circle.
I set the bar high when it comes to Sunday morning songs. I want the best, the most singable, and the most theologically accurate songs. I have rediscovered some of the vintage hymns of the faith and have embraced some of the new, good ones.
I remember a lady in a former church who described certain songs as very worshipful. In retrospect, I don’t even know what that means. I have heard, and to my shame have sung, some not-that-great Sunday morning songs that talk about ‘sloppy kisses’ and ‘you’re all I want, you’re all I need’ and ‘I want to touch you, I want to see your face’ and so on. Some Sunday morning songs are no more than what one pastor referred to as ‘Jesus-is-my-prom-date’ songs. How do you know if you have one of these songs? Look at the song and see if you can identify who the song is being sung to….if it’s unclear as to whether you’re singing the song to Jesus or the 16 year old Fifi that you’re crushing on, it’s time to kick that song to the curb!
Just a bit before my time there was a show on TV called ‘American Bandstand’. There was a part of the show where Dick Clark would put two teens on the mic and have them ‘Rate-a-Record’. They scored the song between 35 and 98. When they were asked why they scored the song the way they did, the cliche answer that was often given was ‘it’s got a good beat and you dance to it.’ I would suggest that some well meaning music leaders have picked songs because the songs got a funky beat and you can dance to it and the last question that was asked was: what is the song saying?
I’ve said in the past that some books should have been written on toilet paper and I believe the same thing about some ‘worship songs.’ Worship should be God-exalting and not person-exalting. I want people to know about the God that they’re singing to.
One thing that I learned from one worship leader, if that’s the right term, is a personal practice that he developed. When he bought a new CD (or downloaded a song) he would read through the lyrics before he even got to the music. What his practice was communicating is that the words we sing are foundationally important. We can be sucked into accepting crappy lyrics if we like the music.
Have you ever been singing along to catchy song on the radio and then you realize what you’re singing and it ain’t that good? Or maybe you listened to a song as a teen and then you hear it years later finally realizing what you were singing all through high school wasn’t that great after all. I remember being at a wedding a number of years back and Bonita and I were on the dance floor getting jiggy with it…yes, she makes me look good. And then came a country song of questionable lyrics and we made our way back to our table and sat it out. One friend of ours was up there singing and dancing with her friends and I watched her leave the dance floor, with the song half over, and she sat down beside us with wide eyes and an open mouth. She said, ‘do you know what that song was about?’ I just smiled and nodded and she figured out why we were sitting it out.
There are similar Sunday morning songs that make me cringe. I have found some wonderful God-centred, cross-centred, theologically rich songs from Sovereign Grace Music, the Getty’s, Enfield, Sojourn, and some other artists have some misses and some hits. With so many worship songs out there to chose from, I want to sing the most accurate ones. I’m glad to be a part of a church body that is very careful in the music that it sings.
At a previous church, we would vet the songs that were added to the Sunday morning rotation. As church leaders are to shepherd the flock, this is a good, discerning thing to do. I remember reading an article about the Gettys and every song they wrote was vetted by the elders and some songs didn’t make the cut and they had to adjust the lyrics to make them more biblically accurate.
Someone has said that you can tell a church’s theology by the songs they sing. I think that person was right. In the lyrics we sing we are communicating about the awesome, holy, loving, sovereign God that we have the privilidge to serve. In light of that we need to be cautious that the songs that we use communicate Him most accurately…for His glory and for our good.