Worship Matters MAY 2021
Thank you, PTC, for your encouragement and feedback on the April “Worship Matters” article.
Another question that we wrestle with as worship leaders is in regard to the words, or lyrics, of the songs we sing. The words we sing to God have the power to teach, to inspire, to move hearts and minds. They are incredibly important, though too often we spend more time considering the music. Sometimes a worship song can have wonderfully biblical lyrics, but a difficult, hard-to-sing melody. The opposite is also sometimes true. If a song is well-loved it is tempting to ignore lyrics that may be confusing, awkward, or wrong theologically. Christians may never all agree on lyrics because we are unique individuals living in a fallen world, and our personalities reflect a wide spectrum. These human traits, such as being analytical, emotional, logical, or creative, influence likes, dislikes, and how we interact with the words in our songs. Still, there are a few distinctions and guidelines that can be helpful. There are probably far more categories that could be used, but here is one way I have thought about the types of lyrics in our worship songs and hymns:
Poetic – These lyrics are full of imagery, metaphor and creativity. Oceans, mountains, wind, and other symbols or figurative language are prominent, and lead the worshipper to awe at the wonders of what God has done and who He is. These tend to be songs of love and devotion.
Didactic – Many great lyrics teach theology, or “the study of God”. We can learn truths about God’s character and His immutability and transcendence, or the sinless Saviour and the doctrines of grace through faith. “In Christ Alone” is a modern hymn example.
Scriptural – These words are straight from God’s Word. What could be better? “I Will Sing of the Mercies”, “Revelation Song”, or “Blessed be Your Name” are a few right from the pages of Scripture.
Anthems – Big picture declarations of what we believe and who God is may be called anthems. Such lyrics state significant, overarching truths. “How Great is Our God” is a good example.
A balance of different types of lyrics is what we strive for as worship leaders. It can seem odd or unbalanced if there is only one type on a Sunday morning. Reading and studying the Bible, listening to wise mentors, and looking carefully at what the words mean are essential to preparing for worship. I have sometimes overlooked the lyrics in a song because I enjoy the song as a whole or it evokes meaningful times for me, but this is something I am working on. By listening to the words as if for the first time, it helps us to consider how they might be received or understood. The context of a line or phrase is also important, and how it fits into the overall song theme. In short, the words we lift up in song should be a truthful reflection of who we are, who God is, and assist us in expressing our praise and adoration to a holy God and wonderful Saviour. – Pam Graham, Worship Coordinator
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 ESV