As a music leader of any group of people in a Christian setting there are some important questions to ask before we can determine if a song is really a good fit and they have nothing to do with how great it sounds or how popular it is.
Music leaders or worship team leaders are typically the people who will choose the songs that are performed and lead for the entire congregation. Their work here, simply in this preparation stage in the week leading up to Sunday, is incredibly impactful and yet so often overlooked.
Typically what is expected to happen during the music and singing part of a church service is those of us who already have a restored relationship to God will be connecting with him, resetting our perspective of letting God be more deserving and capable to be the authority over our lives, offering up our thanks and praise to him, feeling the heaviness of his presence, and/or experiencing healing in our soul and spirit. The worship leader actually has a lot of responsibility using music to encourage an environment where this can all happen without disruption or boredom.
But what many Churches don't seem to cater for, coming into the 2020s, is that not everyone who enters through those doors on a Sunday morning are born-again believers. According to the typical church survey we're maybe safe if we say 40-60% of the service attendee's don't actually completely subscribe to our Jesus following cult.
Why? Well, why did they come to Church in the first place?
To be loved by charitable people even if that actually just looks like they're there for the free food? To find friends, considering it's the weekend and there are hopefully some nice people gathered in one place who they can have a chat with? To have their personal needs met because the church should have a reputation for assisting those who are in need; widows, orphans, and foreigners?
What if the answer is: they already know these things about Christian people as they've encountered us in their school, their workplace, at their gym or in the church and realising there's really something different about us, they want to know what it is?
What if people are actually coming to Church to learn about God and understand how they can get right with him?
The answer overwhelmingly is yes, and the unfortunate side of this is that so many churches are so busy making noise with their big light shows, and giving motivational talks, that it doesn't actually seem like they're sharing the gospel. The very thing that we believe will save people from an eternity of making up for their own mistakes in this life. The hope that Jesus, God in human flesh lived a sinless life and then died taking the punishment for the world and resurrected, showing us that if we put our trust in him then we will do the same and through his spirit we can be made a new creation, set free from darkness and the fear of death.
Yes, there is huge importance in the roles of greeting people at the door, helping people find a seat, putting the kettle on, looking after the children, running the visual presentation, singing a nice harmony, and keeping time for everyone from behind the drum kit, but these things don't really hold water unless the message and the music is going to change peoples lives.
So, for this reason, we need to be mindful of our song choices, the songs may be the very thing that teaches a person what they need to understand in their head so that they can give their heart to the Lord. The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). To worship in truth means to understand in one's head who God is and what he has done for us, then from this, we can encounter him in a spiritual way that is appropriate, for God wants to be understood (in this way the 4s can relate).
I recently thought of a new series to write in which I'll analyse the message in the lyrics of worship songs. But I thought I'd share the questions I'll be thinking about as I look at each song.
These questions are important for anyone to ask whether you're choosing songs for your church or to listen to in your own worship time and it's for a biblical reason. We were told: do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4).
I believe this includes testing the songs and their lyrics from every church and songwriter so we can hold up to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
This may very well sound foolish and insulting if you don't believe that there is an enemy who wants to destroy peoples healthy relationship to God and make them believe lies about him, about theirselves, and about everything in between. The truth is the one who is against Yahweh loves to get into the church and attack wherever it is we are weak. He has the whole world twisted to believing in false spirituality and we can't fight against it if the leaders of the church don't know that war is raging, and has been ever since Genesis 11.
Leaders of the worship team across the world are supposed to be assisting to create an environment in the realm of truth, so that people can worship in spirit. So we need to discern if the songs we perform promote anything that is not truth.
Some things that need considering:
1. What is the actual message of the song; what is the moral or morals one is meant to take from it?
2.a. Does it specify who is being worshiped with names like Yahweh, The Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit or God?
2.b. Is the use of "god" ambiguous enough that this song could be sung at a Satanist, New Age, or Freemasons church to praise the god of this world?
3.a. Is it biblical; are there obvious lines of scripture; are there nods to scripture?
3.b. Is the meaning of the scripture kept in its original context; does listening to the song and then reading the passage have a different meaning?
4.a. It is theologically sound?
4.b. Does it make the trinity confusing for someone who doesn't understand the '1 God, 3 persons' element of the Christian faith?
4.c. Does it suggest that man can be equal to God?
5.a. Is it clear on morality; that one must be forgiven for sin?
5.b Does is promote tolerance of sin in the life of someone who would want to be in right relationship with God?
6. Is the metaphor clear OR could someone get the wrong idea about God if they took it literally?
7. If this song was the only explanation of the Christian faith could someone come to salvation through Christ?
8. Does it have any red flags; does it say anything against how one is saved through faith and not by works?
9. Does it truly edify and build up the faith of believers in Jesus?
10. Listen to Holy Spirit; what is he telling you about this song?
I'm not suggesting that these questions are absolute rules to go by, and usually for a worship leader you'll be selecting multiple songs to go together. I just want you to be considerate about the picture that is being painted by the songs you choose.
You have to remember that not everyone reads the bible and the songs people sing in church are sometimes the only way they are exposed to it. This also means that if there is something in a song that is against what the bible would say then they will never know the difference. That is why music team leaders need to filter and discern if a song is really okay for a whole group of people to use together to worship God. We can't always just go with the ones that are our favourite.
Thanks for reading and hopefully this has helped.