5 Reasons Worship Lyrics Matter

This song to me is like cheese-puffs; I’ll never get tired of it. In a short chorus, Kintzel has presented the gospel and the loving attributes of the Father while directing all attention toward heaven. I asked Justin his thoughts on the fact that many lyrics today are not thoroughly considered before being published. His answer was awesome:

There is something so powerful and pure about hundreds or even thousands of people from all walks of life coming together in one place and singing the same words with one voice as one body to The Lord. I think when song lyrics don’t reflect the profound nature of what congregational worship truly is, we ignore some very important things to think about when deciding what the body should be singing. I’m not one who opposes new stuff or old stuff by any means. I appreciate and love “Oceans” just as I appreciate and adore “It Is Well” and believe there is a very important place for both. Style, preference or time period isn’t what I’m referring to … it’s content. There are many songs, beautifully written, that don’t really mean a lot to the average Christian, and I think as worship leaders, we just need to hack through the thick forest of culture and figure out what those are. Sometimes, very catchy but shallow songs will be accepted into Christian culture and will be sung passionately, but we just have to remember that our job as worship leaders is not to lead what’s cool and popular that will garner a response, but what is true, solid and will garner a response based upon the fact that some dots were connected in people’s heads and the passion they feel is not toward the music they are singing but toward the truth they are singing. When you can get a beautifully written song with beautifully true lyrics, we as humans who appreciate art and truth can grab a hold of it. Some songs are impacting culture in a very significant way but aren’t really saying much as a whole. Some can still be used though, if carefully, strategically and thoughtfully done, and so that’s where this gets tricky. Some of the “easier” songs can be used to lead to more deep content in a worship set. I think some of it comes down to very careful and balanced discernment and conviction from the person who is shepherding the ministry.

When asked about his method of writing, his response was inspiring … and humorous:

The method I usually use is, I first get in bed and try to fall asleep with no thought about music in my head whatsoever. Then, as I try to fall asleep, annoying melodies and thoughts will enter my head. I will then pull back the covers, get out of bed, walk into the other room so as not to wake my already sleeping/early-to-bed wife, and record what little melody or junk my head is coming up with. The next day or so, I’ll polish what I came up with and either expound upon it myself or send it to some very talented song-writer buddies of mine to toy with. We’ll throw some things back and forth, maybe do a “Skype-write” until we’re finished! That’s the technical side. The spiritual side is, I don’t finish a worship song unless I can actually picture in my mind people singing this song and believing what it says while they sing it. That’s kind of my bottom line. I want lyrics to grab people, shake them, and say, “HEY! What you’re singing is TRUE!!!! Do you believe it?” and with passionate worship to Jesus, they answer yes.

The lyrics, the leader and the congregation should all point toward the Father. When the lyrics don’t, then the singers cannot.

Emotionalism Is Not Worship

One song that I have a problem with is “God’s Great Dance Floor.” While boasting lyrics of prodigal restoration, the verses and chorus are a great display of God’s love for those who have fallen away and returned. But the bridge often serves as an invitation to dance all over the place for fun and not in accordance with a worshipping heart. It’s a reasonable assumption considering that 99 percent of the congregation only dances for that part of the song. I’m not saying the lyrics are bad at the bridge, but I would have left them out considering the primarily emotional response from the audience as opposed to a praising one. If we’re honest, most students who dance to that song are doing so because it’s fun—not to worship. I realize that there’s worship in the Bible in forms of dancing. But they danced because, for example, they were just freed from the clutches of an angry Egyptian mob ready to kill them all … not because a song told them to.

When our worship is strictly emotional then congregants have no problem leaving the session and partaking in a slanderous gossip session. A humble obedient heart of worship will convict one in their sin and will expose the love of the Father to bring them to restoration.

Neither Is Legalism

A common dispute is that modern praise songs have too much “I, Me, We” and not enough “You, God, Jesus.” The claim is that when I, Me and We are used so much, it makes the song about us. I beg to differ—to an extent. When the “Me” is “create in me a clean heart,” then the song is still about Jesus because when we ask God to create in us a pure heart, we are recognizing our depravity, his atoning sacrifice and the beauty of grace. It’s straight from the scriptures, which in context was also worship. If “I, Me, We” causes a brother or sister to be grumpy, then the issue lies with their heart. If “I, We, Me” causes them to sit and sulk during a worship service, then they have missed the humble approach to worship that is prefaced in the song.

If we ever get to a point of aggravation where we cannot simply opt out of singing to pray, but instead we angrily attack the lyrics and supposed intents of the author/singer … then we’ve come to a point where pride has claimed the victor and we must repent of such hostility.

Can a song be about us? Sure, if it means us responding in adoration to the glory of the Father.

in everything we do, in everything we say, in every moment of our lives, may we live to glorify our Lord.   

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jreid@churchleaders.com'
Hi, my name is John and I love coffee. There are few things in life that I feel merit precise orchestration with no room for error, coffee is one of them. My life belongs to Jesus. I graduated from Biola University in Spring ’13 with a BA in political science and am currently a graduate student at Liberty University. I am content finding a local coffee shop and writing or reading for hours. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, Eric Metaxas, John Bunyan and A.W. Tozer. I served in the Marines. Ooh-rah! Connect with John on Facebook (/johnreidblogs).