Do you ever think about the contents of the songs you sing in church? What do they really say? What do they mean? Would you even know what some of those words mean if they were used in a different context such as a conversation or writing?
Think about this for a bit. If your pastor/preacher/biblical teacher, etc… were to say something you didn’t agree with, or thought he could have said it in a better way, you would probably notice. At least I would hope so. I know I do. But when it comes to the songs we sing, I don’t think a majority of the church population would know if the lyrical contents were theologically correct or not.
As a worship leader I think a lot about the types of songs we sing in the church. No, this hasn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to work at it. Being a guitar player, the first thing that usually catches me are the guitar hooks, then the drum beat and bass line. The last thing I’ve typically caught are the lyrics.
The more I look into this though, the more I’ve come to notice the complexities of what we sing in our songs. There are differences in what the lyrics mean, say, or symbolize.
So I want us to look at four different types of worship songs. No, not by musical style however, the words.
- Songs about God: These songs typically dive into the characteristics of God. Who he is. What he can do. What he has done. I believe that if we jumped into the content of these songs, we would find where a vast majority of our theology about what we think of God comes from. Some examples of songs like this are You, You are God by Gateway Worship and One Thing Remains as recorded by Krisitan Stanfill. No One Like You by the David Crowder Band is another great example here as they all highlight different portions of his attributes.
- Songs to God: Second are songs that we sing to God. In a way, many of them are asking him for something; faith, strength, power, comfort and so on. These songs can teach us what we believe God will do for us. They line out the promises he gives us in the scriptures. They can also be songs that show expressions of thankfulness and gratitude of what he has done for us. Examples of songs like this are Give Me Faith by Elevation Worship, Blessed be Your Name by Matt Redman and Center by Charlie Hall.
- Songs between us (the church): Third are the songs that we sing between us. This is what some worship leaders call horizontal songs. These are the ones that are meant to draw people in such as David Crowder’s Come and Listen. They can be songs that proclaim what we believe to others such as My Savior, My God by Aaron Shust or Not Ashamed by Jeremy Camp. Sometimes they can also be included the Songs about God section, but the major purpose is declaration or encouragement between the church.
- Songs from God: This category is the one that I think we forget about in some places. Being raised baptist we would sometimes hear about a song ‘speaking’ to us, but it wasn’t until I got away from that that I realized these the are songs in which God is speaking directly to us. They are there to remind us about who we are in Christ. Some great examples of this are the hymn Jesus Paid it All and Cody Carne’s song All He Says I Am. Looking at these, God is saying something to us. These two songs articulate that he calls us child, son and daughter, says we are fearless, loved, and set free.
I really could go on and on, choosing hundreds of songs for each category. You may even read this and have some come to mind. Maybe you have found a different classification and I’m ok with that. I don’t claim to be the world’s authority on worship music, just one of its many students.
The point is, do you pay attention to what you are singing in church? If so, do you believe what it is you’re singing? I love to discuss worship songs so if you have one you love or hate let me know and we’ll talk about it. But it can’t be because of the music. Have a why for the lyrics.