We’ve seen in the last few posts that God is pleased with many kinds of worship and music as long as He is glorified and worshipped in “spirit and in truth”. It is obvious that actual music, as in types of foods enjoyed, art, outdoor scenery, clothing, movies, books, or other activities, is very diverse and that there is no right or wrong kind of music! The primary goal is that the worshipper be brought into the presence of God through the words and beautiful melodies of the songs, some learned and even some spontaneous, all of which should glorify our great God and Creator of the Universe! As we brought out in a past post, praising God in song, word, dance, shouting, lifting of hands, on the instruments, and even bowing before Him in silence, are all very scriptural ways to worship! One way not mentioned is “being a spectator”!
Colossians 3:16 has long been one of my “theme” scriptures as a musician and teacher of music. It reads: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (KJV) I also love Psalm 33:3, particularly as a pianist: “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (ESV) I Corinthians 14:26 puts it this way, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” (NIV) It is apparent that God’s plan for the Church was for each of us to participate in some way, not just sit as spectators while a small group does all of the “worshipping”. If we are not entering in, we may as well stay home! According to the above verses, we are to teach and admonish one another in the Body of Christ collectively with particular emphasis on “each of you” doing something. What then, you may ask, is the difference between a “psalm”, a “hymn” and a “spiritual song”?
I believe that psalms can be read or sung; they include David’s beautiful poetic praise to the Lord in the Old Testament and other scripture specifically set to music as total praise and adoration to the Lord! They are totally scriptural in that we are singing or speaking forth nothing but the Word of God. This is, in essence, our “confession of faith” or confession of the Word in a particular situation, which builds us up in our spirits and increases our faith in God for particular situations in our lives. Hymns, by contrast, may include scripture and can in essence present the whole Gospel message in a single anthem or song. However, they may also include some words of testimony and adoration coming from the composer’s pen that are not necessarily the exact words of scripture as are the psalms, although they contain the essence of the thought. Both of these are very scriptural and should be employed in our worship services! Spiritual songs may contain words of joyous testimony, words about our daily experiences in our Christian walk, upbeat utterances of praise or spontaneous praises to God not even written down on paper!
Here are three good ideas or criteria of what a song should include if it is to be considered for a worship team to sing. I was recently visiting with a pastor of a large church and he said these are the guidelines he gives his worship leaders:
1. Is the song meaningful, in that it glorifies God? Does this song bring Him glory in its words, musically and throughout its emphasis, reinforcing the teachings of Scripture and not contradicting what we believe to be true according to the Word of God?
2. Is it singable? Many songs being sung in churches today are totally “unsingable” for the average congregation. They are not pitched right and because of this some people do not know which octave they should sing the melody in! Many are too high or too low because they have been transcribed from the music of a band with very high-voiced males, which is not the range of the average singer. Sometimes the songs are very “wordy” and hard to learn; they are not in correct meter and thus, though they may sound good on an album, totally “unsingable” by the average amateur musician, who may not even read notes.
3. Is it memorable? Is the song one that sticks in your mind during the week and easy to remember? Studies have shown that songs containing simple, repetitive phrases and “musical hooks” are much more easily retained than complex musical patterns containing hard-to-remember phrases. Songs should contain rhyming words, meter and rhythm to be considered a strong, singable song. People worship more fully when they do not have to concentrate so deliberately on struggling with or learning the song, but just lose themselves in the essence and spirit of it! Once a new song is introduced, it should be sung and re-sung regularly until the congregation becomes familiar with it.
These are just a few thoughts on what makes a good song and what God has in mind for our worship experience, based on His Word. Obviously, if we enter into His Presence in worship, we will be abundantly blessed!