Sunday, June 12, 2016: How Do We Discern Which Songs Are Most Fitting For Gathered Worship?

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Getting Our Priorities Straight

Recently the data journalism source FiveThirtyEight released an article exploring the lyrical content of Billboard’s top 50 Christian songs from the last five years. Comparing various themes that appear throughout Billboard’s collection (i.e. grace and sin, life and death, etc), the article exposes just how thematically lopsided most worship music has become. The concepts highlighted in the majority of these “worship hits” revealed an aversion to anything sad or negative in favor of peppiness and positive vibes.

It’s no secret that the priority of the Christian music industry is to sell as many records as possible. But what about us? When it comes to musical worship in a biblically-minded local church, what’s our priority? And moreover, how can we maintain that priority as we consider today’s seemingly endless, ever-expanding repertoire of worship music? Should we simply embrace everything that is marketed to us as “Christian music”? Or does it require careful discernment?

You see, something far greater than record sales or musical preference is at stake here. After all, the songs we select for sung-worship have the power to stick with us in a profound way. Through them, we’re teaching and being taught the Gospel, we’re admonishing and being admonished in the faith (see Col. 3:16, quoted above).

In other words, songs help us to “own” what we believe to the degree that it begins to dwell richly in us. Therefore, discipling the church to be a community of obedient, all-of-life worshipers of the living God is the priority of our sung-worship. And it should be our top consideration when determining what we should sing when we gather on the Lord’s Day.

With this priority in mind, let’s consider four key questions to determine which songs are most fitting for LifePoint’s worship gatherings. These are the questions we ask of every song we consider for our sung-worship. As you read them, I pray they’ll help you to understand what we’re looking for in a potential song and why it matters.

(1) Is it distinctly biblical?

A couple of years ago I attended an event with music led by a well-known Christian worship artist. Not once throughout the entire event did this artist sing a lyric that a Mormon or Jewish person couldn’t affirm. This reminded me how necessary it is for the lyrical content of our songs to be distinctly biblical. While a worship song can’t say everything, each song should have a clear message about what makes our Christianity unmistakably Christian. 

(2) Does it maintain a consistent focus on God and the Gospel?

A lot of worship songs these days make me wonder whether we’re worshiping God or worshiping worship. The most unhelpful songs out there are the ones that focus heavily on the actions, feelings and commitments of the worshiper. On the other hand, the church is built up toward greater faithfulness by songs that are focused primarily on the Worshiped—His nature, His character, His words, His actions, His glory.

(3) What purpose(s) will it serve in our gatherings?

As FiveThirtyEight’s research uncovered, we’re prone to neglect certain aspects of the Gospel in our singing. For me, this hit home when we were preparing to begin our recent United series. I searched and searched for a song to focus our minds and hearts upon the theme of Gospel unity that Pastor Lane was going to preach about from 1 Corinthians. But I couldn’t find one. My point? Songs which speak into a unique season of life in our church are invaluable—that is, when you can find them.

(4) Is it singable for the least musical person in our congregation?

The bottom line for Sundays is that everyone should be able to sing and celebrate the Gospel together regardless of vocal ability. And some songs, though intended for gathered worship, fall short in this regard by employing melodies that are too vocally complex for participants who aren’t musically gifted. On the other hand, there are songs that can be sung very naturally by just about anyone. Combining rich biblical truth with an accessible melody, “In Christ Alone” (which we plan to sing this Sunday!) is an excellent example of such a song.

New Testament scholar Gordon Fee once said, “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” Yes and Amen. What we sing truly matters. In fact, it matters far more than the Christian music industry seems to understand. And as a member or regular attender of LifePoint, it’s important for you to have a working understanding of why some songs make it into our song repertoire and others don’t. After all, the church’s discipleship is at stake. That’s what this really comes down to.

Songs for Sunday, June 12, 2016:

God Undefeatable
As performed by Austin Stone Worship

In Christ Alone
As performed by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Speak O Lord
As performed by Keith & Kristyn Getty

O Come to The Altar
As performed by Elevation Worship

Jesus True And Only
As performed by Austin Stone Worship

About Tyler Greene (180 Articles)
Tyler Greene is the Associate Pastor of Worship Ministries for LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO.

2 Comments on Sunday, June 12, 2016: How Do We Discern Which Songs Are Most Fitting For Gathered Worship?

  1. Elizabeth Lombardi // June 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    Excellent word as always, Tyler.


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  1. Sunday, June 26, 2016: New Song Sunday – “Rock Of Ages”

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