Good worship songs 2

There seem to be a lot of bloggers commenting on the paucity of good worship songs at present; consider John Stackhouse's harsh comments about Chris Tomlin, Ben Myerson hymn writers and Steve Holmesirenic tour of some lowlights from previous generations. I’m sure that there are positive contributions to be made to the debate but in the meantime here are some random thoughts about elements that are important to whatever songs / hymns we use in worship.

 

Transcendence: Some people draw a distinction between singing words to or about God on the one hand and the experience of singing songs as a vehicle for a felt experience of God (and the criteria upon which much modern worship music is judged is its perceived ability to facilitate the later). Whilst emotional experiences are subjective being moved by music is not bad. At its best worship points us beyond ourselves; our confession that Jesus is Lord and that God is ‘abba’ is evidence of the Spirit drawing us to participate in the worship of the triune God.

 

Creativity: Worship styles are reflective of our culture and history. Since these are elements of what it means to be created as human beings we should not view them negatively. Yet worship is also about us offering our best, not because worship is fundamentally about what we do for God (it isn’t) but because we believe that giving the best of our artistic, creative and intellectual endeavours is honouring to the God who is worthy of our praise. Worship is of course about what God does in us through the Spirit enabling us to participate in Christ’s worship of the Father. At its best worship evidences the creativity of the Spirit, changing us in the process.

 

Body of Christ: Whatever the early church did in worship (and let’s face it the evidence is that they didn’t sing much) the Scriptures encourages us to recognise our locatedness within the body of Christ. In Christ, we who are many form one body, we are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit, and our worship gatherings should both recognise the body of the Lord and seek to edify and build up the Church. At its best all church worship is Eucharistic.

 

Glory: The content of our worship gatherings should be God. In declaring our faith in God we are declaring the virtues of God’s character and, in particular, the faithfulness of Christ; in confession we recognise our own sin as falling short of God’s glory; in prayer we ask God to show aspects of his character as the one who loves and reconciles, brings healing and justice, recognising both God’s freedom and eschatological anticipation. In preaching we seek to set forth God’s self revelation as witnessed by the Scriptures, trusting that the Spirit will make this God's word to us. At its best worship is about the glory of God.

 

So what use might these thoughts be as we wrestle with the practicalities and limitations of preparing worship in a local church context? As a minimum they suggest a check list for every song/hymn we might choose:

  1. Is what this song/hymn says about God actually true and would it make sense to most people singing it? (The list of lines which are either gross distortions of God’s nature, sheer drivel or which make no sense is so long examples are superfluous).
  2. Is this song something the congregation can sing as a corporate expression of worship or is it essentially a performance by the music group with some congregational involvement? (If so, don’t sing it corporately, why not get the music group or choir to sing it like an anthem).
  3. What function does this song/hymn have in worship? If corporate worship has a structure and flow then the selection of a particular song isn’t based on it being a favourite but on the contribution it makes to the service.
  4. How does using this song/hymn bring glory to God?

 

4 thoughts on “Good worship songs 2

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  1. Body of Christ and Creativity are the two most needed factor on a worship songs. Creativity in terms of uniqueness of the song itself. Body of Christ as the song should be all about God and his words

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  2. “not because worship is fundamentally about what we do for God (it isn’t) but because we believe that giving the best of our artistic, creative and intellectual endeavours is honouring to the God who is worthy of our praise. Worship is of course about what God does in us through the Spirit enabling us to participate in Christ’s worship of the Father. At its best worship evidences the creativity of the Spirit, changing us in the process.”

    I’m sorry Neil, but as I read your post I could not continue after reading this section of the paragraph on Creativity.

    First of all, Whoa!!! Worship is ALL about giving everything to God, because he deserves it. That is it. Worship has nothing to do with us. At all. Zip. ALL FOR HIM.
    The reason I’m stressing this point so much is that it is the fundamental point of worship. As soon as we start to expect or even desire something happening to us in worship, it ceases to become so. We are then looking for our own gratification, and putting our own needs before that of the Most High.
    Don’t get me wrong, God can quite often change us and do some amazing things during times of worship, but that is very much secondary to the purpose.

    “but because we believe that giving the best of our artistic, creative and intellectual endeavours is honouring to the God who is worthy of our praise.”

    Yes, worship is all about giving everything to God. Period. however, He is worthy of far more than we could ever give Him, we just have to try and present our pathetic excuse for an offering before Him (and as soon as you start thinking that your worship is enough, something that I myself am guilty of, is the point at which you think of yourself better than your creator).

    “Worship is of course about what God does in us through the Spirit enabling us to participate in Christ’s worship of the Father.”

    Not at all. Worship is about glorifying God, that’s it. Yes, we need much help to even get close to giving Him the glory that He deserves, and thankfully, he mercifully facilitates that, however, that is not the point of worship, it is not at all what it is about.

    “At its best worship evidences the creativity of the Spirit, changing us in the process.”

    No, no, no, no, no.
    At its best, worship glorifies God, and leaves us unchanged. That is all that worship is for. Worship is not the price you pay to receive something, it is the gift you give expecting nothing in return.
    As soon as you reach this point in understanding worship, being able to worship ceases to be about how you feel during worship, whether you like the songs that are being sung, even whether you know the songs that are being sung, but is ALL about giving God the glory no matter what is happening, and recognizing that whatever the circumstances, He is bigger than it.
    Recieving something after worship is merely the grace of God being poured out as a result of his nature. Much like at christmas. You do not give a gift expecting to recieve, but out of love.
    The fact that we experience God moving so powerfully in us during worship is merely because at that moment we become closer to Him because we are worshipping (much like when we are praying), so he actually gets the opportunity to change us, because for once we are listening to him.

    You have quite probably heard people say “I didn’t get anything out of that worship session”, or “That worship didn’t do anything for me”
    Well guess what?
    That’s because it’s not for you.

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  3. Hi Matt, I’m normally reluctant to respond to comments on my blog but a couple of thoughts maybe in order:
    1. The essence of the Christian life is that we have access to the Father, through Christ by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). It is only by the Spirit that we can acknowledge Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:1) and call God “Abba” (Romans 8:15). Thus Paul rightly notes that as Christians we worship by the Spirit of God (Philippians 3:3). This is why a focus on the etymology of worship isn’t wholly helpful. Worship is the way of being for those who have been raised up with Christ and who are seated with him in heavenly realms.
    2. The reason this is possible is due to the mediation of Christ (Hebrews 8:2, 10:1 etc). Because we were unable to worship God adequately ourselves, Christ does so for us. If this were not so we would be in the same position now as the people of Israel in the OT, where we would be making offerings (rather than Christ’s once for all) and where our enthusiasm, effort and energy were the basis of what was offered.

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