The Christian worship music scene has become more and more populated over the last few years. With some of the more contemporary songs, it has become difficult to reconcile their message with the Bible. The adverse effects of poorly structured worship songs do not just impact the body of Christ but also unbelievers who are on the outside looking in. How must we evaluate the lyrics of the songs we sing to ensure they maintain biblical integrity?
Worship over time
Over the years, worship music has changed in various ways. The style of music coming from the church has evolved from a focus on hymns to a more contemporary style. There has been an introduction of new genres, new instruments, and new expressions of worship. The most notable difference, however, is their lyrical content. The songs we have today are less wordy and catchier, making them easier to remember. However, in some cases, these songs are also less accurate when relaying theological truths. For the most part, yes, worship songs are still about God, but it seems as though poetic licence is held in higher regard than the Bible.
There are worship songs that leave you guessing what the writer meant and make it difficult to reconcile their description of God with the God we see in Scripture. The lack of clarity and consistency can make worship a perplexing experience.
Worship is for God
Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well presents us with the type of worship God requires (John 4:19-24). We are to worship from our hearts and with full consideration of God’s words in the Bible about both His character and His actions. Our emotions should respond to what we have understood in our minds about what He has revealed about Himself. The use of poetry and imagery is an integral part of any song. However, the priority for the believer is to use their words to rightly proclaim the nature of God.
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.John 4:23-24
It has been argued that if we understand what the writer was attempting to relay, then it should be okay that the lyrics are slightly ambiguous. That would be an acceptable stance if these songs were merely for our pleasure, but they are not. Worship is for God, so we should desire to give Him our best. This means avoiding compromising lyrics at all costs.
Our worship is at its best when it is shaped by who God has objectively revealed Himself in the Bible. Worship lyrics must reflect a firm grasp and understanding of the nature of God; otherwise, we risk offering a sacrifice that is not pleasing or acceptable to Him.
The problem with ambiguous lyrics
Aside from directly affecting our worship, ambiguous lyrics leave us with a warped view of who God is. We can walk away from a worship set believing God’s love is “reckless”. Yet the reality is, God’s love in saving us was carefully thought out and executed from the beginning of time. When writers, intending to share how they felt about God, fail to give proper attention to the appropriateness of the lyrics used, they misrepresent God and paint a false picture in the mind of the Church.
In an age where Christian music is becoming more and more evangelical, the unbeliever is also adversely affected by lyrics that inaccurately and ambiguously present God’s nature. These lyrics are almost synonymous with the act of speaking in tongues in a corporate gathering (1 Corinthians 14). An established believer may be able to make inferences from a song that enables them to understand God rightly, but the unbeliever can only take these songs at face value. Suppose songs, to be poetic, lose the integrity of sound doctrine. In that case, we rob unbelievers of the opportunity to know who God is through our songs.
Listen intently and write faithfully
Do we then conclude that hymns are good and contemporary Christian music is bad? No! We must practice active listening when choosing the worship songs we sing. We shouldn’t just be drawn by a nice beat or a catchy hook. We need songs that stand upon the word of God, clearly and rightly describing His nature.
This generation has often neglected hymns, but they are an excellent source of biblical truths. There is also a world beyond mainstream Christian media. There may be a brother or sister in your community that has released a single might surprise you. There are songs outside of the spotlight that are not only well composed but also rich in biblical truth. Be diligent and make the effort to seek out these songs.
To the songwriters in the church, your songs are to aid the body of Christ offer up worship to God. Your songs inform people of who God is. They are more than expressions of your heart, they are the very words we use to exalt God. So, when you write, be faithful to scripture and do not compromise.
“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
The songs we sing must be deeply rooted in God’s word. To truly magnify God and give Him the worship He deserves we need to pay close attention to the lyrics we sing. It’s not good enough to have “nearly there” lyrics, the songs we sing must hit the mark every single time.