Music is a gift that God has given to enable us to express truths and emotions in a powerful way. Our goal is to use music to glorify God and to serve the church of Jesus Christ. Many resources are available to the church today to assist with music ministry. We have provided information below on some of those that we have found to be the most beneficial in our ministry.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3 ESV. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 ESV.
Music and the Church
Music is a gift from God. It enables us to produce vocal and instrumental expression to assist us in proclaiming the truth of God and His salvation and to give voice to the emotions that spring forth from our hearts in response to that truth. It can strengthen and unify us as we sing together, as one voice, as we declare the greatness and wonder of our Lord Jesus Christ. Music can help us express those things that we often do not want to say out loud. As David, in the Psalms, we can sing with the church and cry out to the God Who hears and knows our every care and anxious thought. It can help us to celebrate and praise God for His mighty power and the works He does on our behalf. Music is a great tool, when used for the glory of God and the building of the church.
However, music cannot replace truth. When music is absent of truth, it is, at best, useful for emotional enjoyment. Music is a gift to be used for emotional enjoyment. Nevertheless, when it comes to music and the church, specifically related to the songs we sing as a congregation, it should always spring forth from the truth of Scripture. Otherwise, we can have great musical performances that produce highly emotional experiences, but produce no lasting impact on the participants. When the emotions die down, you are left with nothing. All that remains is to seek after the next emotional experience.
However, when congregational music is filled with the truth of Scripture, music can be used to teach, reinforce, and give voice to emotions grounded in truth and in response to that truth. There is so much music available to the church today. What we choose to use in our services is a critical decision. A choice does not have to be made between sound doctrine and good music. There are many good songwriters in the church today, clearly devoted to helping the church worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We do not have to settle for songs that have a great tune or beat, but are absent of great content.
We should be selective in the music we use for our congregation. What are we teaching through the songs we select? As worship leaders and musicians, we are held accountable for what we teach through the songs we bring before the congregation. Let us bring songs rich in the content of the Word of God.
Philosophy for Songwriting
Our goal is to write and utilize songs drawing heavily from the Word of God. We pray that these songs are faithful to the truth of Scripture and that they will help others to trust in God and grow in Him. Our hope is that they would be used to draw others into the Word and to dwell richly in Christ.
There is so much music available to us today. A lot of Christian music is not written to be sung congregationally. There is nothing wrong with that. In addition, Christian songwriters have freedom to write lyrics that are not detectably Christian or biblical. As long as they are not presenting unbiblical or immoral content, they are free to use their gifts in whatever manner God leads them. Regarding styles and complexity of music, songwriters should be able to write and express their creativity with their God-given talents
However, when it comes to songs that we use in our churches for the purpose of singing together as a congregation, there should be a different approach to songwriting. Singing together as a large group brings many variables that are not present when performing music solo or with a music group. We do not claim to be experts on songwriting, but we think this is where some groups and writers could do better in serving the church.
Some of the music that is supposedly written and produced for worship today is very difficult to sing well congregationally. It has very irregular tempos, beats, and phrasings. If there is more than one verse, the verses do not have matching meter or rhythm. While this is not always necessary, great variances between verses can make songs very hard to learn, remember, follow, or sing together as group. On the other hand, this is where many of the old hymns excel and why people remember them. It is because they are consistent in rhythm and meter and easier to recall
In addition, the melody range of many “worship” songs is so great that it is difficult to make it “singable” for a large group. If it is too high and you lower the key, then it gets pushed too low in the other direction. Most people cannot sing really high and really low. If you want songs that everyone in the congregation can sing and will want to sing for a long time, write them within an accessible range. Again, think of many of the great hymns that people have held onto through the years. Look at how they are written.
The most important aspect is the content of the song. It is crucial to make sure that congregational songs are biblically sound and grounded in the Word of God. We need to sing the truth. We need to sing it together and sing it to each other. We need to use good theology and clearly reflect the truth that God has revealed to us in His Word. If phrases are fuzzy or unclear, they should not be used. Our corporate singing times are not the times for singing about the obscure or abstract musings of a songwriter. Those songs have their purpose and place, if they are not unbiblical, but that place is not in our congregational singing time. The message needs to be clear and doctrinally sound. We believe that we will be held accountable for what is taught through the songs we write and bring to the church to sing. Let’s make sure that we are diligent to use songs with content that is biblical and will enrich the congregation as they worship with their minds and emotions – worship that is in Spirit and in Truth.
Resources for Music and Songwriting
The following resources include sites where congregational worship music can be reviewed and downloaded. Some are free, while others include annual license fees or per song charges. In addition, links have been included to some training seminars on songwriting which could be beneficial.
- Sovereign Grace Music
- CCLI SongSelect
- CCLI SongSearch
- Getty Music
- Write About Jesus
- Becoming a Better Songwriter (Sovereign Grace site)
- Thoughts on Songwriting: Keith and Kristyn Getty, Part 1 (Sovereign Grace site)
- Thoughts on Songwriting: Keith and Kristyn Getty, Part 2 (Sovereign Grace site)
- Choosing Songs Wisely (Bob Kauflin)