“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, November 14, 2005

Banner of Truth

Like Pyromaniac, I received my BoT in the mail this past weekend (a little late, but I JUST signed up a few weeks ago), and I must admit that for a small magazine, (it comes in at about the size of a 5x8 photo, and 32 pages), it packs a lot more than magazines I recently UNSUBSCRIBED to (and will not name).

I found the first article, entitled "What Characterizes A Spiritual Song?", to be especially good reading. We have been working through the songs that are sung at our church for a long while now, and have been paring down and weeding out songs that simply do not fit as worshipful and/or appropriate. It has been a long process and continues as I write this. We have had to remove some songs that all of us enjoyed singing, but yet, as we examined them they were inappropraite for a Sunday Morning.

I am amazed at how long I attended church, was involved in leadership and even pastored before I actually began to examine the songs with the critical eye of a shepherd. I am not only amazed, but embarrassed by it. There are songs out there that are good songs, as songs go, but that have absolutely nothing to say at all, they are truly the 7-11 songs (the 7 verses sung eleven times), and do not lead the people of a congregation into anything other than some interesting omphaloskepsis.

The BoT article had several points that should be examined when attempting to ascertain whether a song is appropriate or not. The comments after the main point are mine unless otherwise noted:

1. Spiritual Songs Help Us Hear the Word of God More Clearly -- I must admit that I am amazed at how little Scripture is contained in much of the modern worship. It seems that we have been striving for the right 'beat' and 'sound' as opposed to the right MESSAGE! When you have lyrics like the words found in Psalm 103, why do we feel that we need to write something that says the same thing in a watered down way, but with a beat that will get the people 'excited'? I thought it was interesting that the writer stated that some songs are too grand for worship; at first I balked at that, but as I read on, I understood: Some songs are so grand in their presentation that they take away from the message of the words that are to be heard!

2. Spiritual Songs Give Us a Greater Vision of the Glory of God -- Do the songs we sing accurately reflect the greatness of God in His purity, majesty, holiness, and serenity? Many songs that we sing simply do not, rather they elevate the more profance attributes of the creature. Our songs are no more proper than the songs of old that were composed for the pagan gods, assigning them with the same vulgar and profane attributes as the people who sang them.

3. Spiritual Songs Teach a Repentant View of Man's Depravity -- This is almost a completely overlooked aspect of songs sung in the church. Check out the lyrics from a song penned by Luther B. Bridgers in 1910:

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife.
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—sweetest name I know,
fills my ev’ry longing, keeps me singing as I go.

“He Keeps Me Singing” (1910)

There are many more, and I may post some more as time permits, but we rarely speak of our condition in modern songs.

4. Spiritual Songs Encourage Us to Disciplined Godly Living -- The last portin of this point is so well-written that I would like to quote it in full -- "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs are most beautifully equipped to bring the soul to God, to Him who is back of all, above all, before all, first in order of sequence, first in power and glory, utterly pre-eminent, above everything in rank and station, exalted in dignity and honour, the great self-existent One, giving life and form to all things and sustaining moment by moment all he has made; the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit; the one God, and then all things else, whether they be creatures or spirits, thrones and principalities and powers, all exist because of him and for him. 'Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for they pleasure they are and were created'".

5. Spiritual Songs Exhort Us to Be Separated from the World -- In this day and age evangelicalism is running headlong in the opposite direction. The watchword in today's evangelical world is BE OF THE WORLD!


Those are the first five points, I may conclude with the final three points later in the week.

I pray that the church would begin to examine the songs it sings more closely, and evaluate them by criteria a little more heavenly-focused than 'Do we like them?' or 'Do they make us feel good?', or the ever-popular 'Does it attract people?'

Black Sabbath ATTRACTS people, but I am pretty sure than many churches would balk at them playing the main service, opening with War Pigs and finishing up with Iron Man. So, why do we use the criteria cited above? Who are we singing to? Who are we to be pleasing in our singing?

To be continued....


Charles North said...

Thank for that great post bro. As you know, our biggest struggle/issue in Churches of Christ has to do with keeping instruments out - we're strictly acapella. Someone complained a few weeks ago when I played a video in my Wed. class that had background music. Of course, while we may have the form "right," we're guilty of the same thing you point out - we don't filter the actual words theologically. Recently I have started working much closer with the songleaders on the song selections.

Paul said...

Awesome post. I'd like to see your concluding lists of songs that are on and off the approved list. Also, the topic is important for listening outside of worship. There are songs by Sting (Rock Steady, Fragile) that are spritual or bible-based but not appropriate for worship services.

Ray said...

Paul -- I don't have a definitive list, I am working through it... However, I will try and put that together...

I agree; I have been to churches that use secular musicians songs because they have a hint of Biblical wording in them... I do not think that these are appropriate for a worship setting.

Charles -- Yeah, i agree, there are quite a few places where people have the correct form, but they may still need to check their lyrical content...