Christian Music: an updated opinion piece
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. 9 Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness
Michael talking about church music, how uncommon! Well, I have been busy studying the theology of contemporary worship recently and I wanted to share some thoughts with you. I pray that you will find this a blessing and I hope we start to see a radical change amongst young people.
Don’t you just love Psalm 96, it is a Psalm full of praise to the Lord. The Psalmist has such a heart for the people of God to worship the Lord. Yet at the same time, it is a theologically rich Psalm, full of the gospel, of the Word and evangelical. It is complex like every Psalm in its own way and it’s beautiful.
Worship music is not here to fix our feelings. No, it is to feed us scripture, to help us praise the Lord Almighty, to help us memorise truth, help us see the gospel and also is a way in which we can evangelise. Imagine singing
“God all keeping, omnipresent, in the passing days of man First to last, not one forgotten by his strong and steering hand He the Sovereign Lord now praise we, he the fount of Providence On his word we rest unwavering, yes his perfect word shall stand”
When you sing this for example, you are singing Biblical truth! How awesome is that. Rather than singing ‘God is good…whoop, whoop’. You are singing deep amazing truths, which edify you, others around you and stand as a witness to the non-believer! How amazing is that!
It’s not about new or old, but about God-Honouring worship
I have often talked about traditional worship versus contemporary worship, but neither is good. Psalm 96 tells us to sing new songs, as do other passages in the Bible; it is probably true that Paul quoted new hymns in the Bible as he spoke to the churches. New songs are great, but so are the old. They are timeless, they are what our spiritual forefathers sang. They helped them in their journey as they too can help us in our journey. They taught people doctrine, and they were focused on Him and Him alone. So both are great, debate settled? Well no, for me I’ve realised thanks to the Lord that this was never the issue or should have never been the issue. What is important is not new and old, but what is God Honouring. Psalm 96 tells us to sing all the aspects of the Lord, to explore Him, to praise Him and to honour Him.
Our songs must be God-Honouring. That means they must be Christ-centred, biblical, true to the Word, and that which help us grow in Him. Sadly, much of my generation do not seem to honour Him in music, and can be lost in the music of the age, influenced by churches which are not soundly biblical and it hurts me to see.
The Problem in the Modern Church
So what is the current problem? Well it is the self-centred nature of modern worship. Young people are not discerning regarding music and will listen to anything labelled as ‘Christian’ yet it is mainly focused on the self. If you count the number of times ‘I’ appears in a song, it often appears more than ‘God’. The word ‘I’ is not wrong in of itself, but it must be in relation to the Lord.
What is wrong with self-centred worship? Well its idolatry, it’s all about what God does for me. It’s all about how important I am, rather than how awesome HE is. Rather than explore the complex nature of the Lord, we want to sing about our feelings and how great everything is.
Another problem is that the theology is either heretical or just weak. God is Good, God is Love, God is Great. True themes no doubt, but there is no explanation. There is no focus on growth. In fact I argue this is a way that false teaching has gotten into the church. What better way to mislead the saints than in something that has grown into an industry and plays off our self-centred behaviour? A reading into Galatians 1:10 or 2 Peter 2 and you just get a glimpse of the Wolves in Sheep’s clothing. The bible constantly warns us of false teachers, and we must also look to our songs.
So let’s just nail down the problems:
- Worship music is now an industry
- Worship comes from Heretical churches such as Hillsong and Bethel (Prophecy doctrine which can also be seen in the New Apostolic Reformation as well as Prosperity Doctrine)
- We have celebrity artists
- We have self-centred lyrics
- Theology and Doctrine are Missing from our songs
- Music is not God-Honouring
These are hard truths perhaps but it is true. To be frank, I am embarrassed by my generation and I fear for the future of the church.
Just do not get me started on playing music whilst prayer is happening. It all links to what modern worship is all about, and that is emotion building; building up to a high point to get yourself into a spiritual frenzy/moment. The words actually do nothing, it’s the tune, it’s the drum beat, and it’s the changing temp. Now tunes and melodies are vital to a song, of course they are, but the Word must be central to the song and sadly it is not.
Songs which are God Honouring
So what is God-Honouring? Well it’s a congregational-focused worship. Paul says in Ephesians that we must sing to one another! We also need to sing as one people to Him, and not as individuals. Psalm 96 is a congregational based psalm that urges the people to Worship the Living God. That is not saying that there is not a place for the I, but it needs to be in relation to the Word and to the Lord always!
The congregation needs to be gripped with the truth of the Word. It needs to be taught through the songs we sing. Songs which honour God explore His Justice, His Omnipresence, His Love, His Glory, they turn our eyes towards the cross and towards eternity.
Songs which honour God don’t make everything out to be rosy and great. They are real. They are personal. They show sadness, questions, pain, as well as happiness, joyfulness and beauty.
Songs that honour God come from the Word. Not randomly picked verses thrown together as 90% of the music today is, but from what the Word teaches.
Time for action
I really do believe that we are on a clock. I think the church is in a dire situation. Some stay with the old traditional but that does not honour God as we are told to sing New songs. Many sing news songs, but are not discerning. They sing anything and have been led astray as a result. We must sing new songs but we must be discerning with our choices.
We must take a stand. We must fight for what is right. I know what damage the worship wars have done in the past, but this is for God-honouring songs and hymns. It’s about the integrity of our churches, of our theology. It is about future generations. More importantly it’s about getting rid of the wolves, it’s about coming back to what Worship really is about and that is Christ.
I want to see the church grow in faith and theology. I want to see the church love their Lord with a burning passion. I want to see Christians strong in the faith. My heart burns for Christ-centred theologically rich worship. I know that the Lord has made be focus on this for a reason. He wants his Church to honour him once more, and I intend to serve Him in doing do.
This is not about instruments, or about style. It’s about what we sing, it’s about Him and it’s about the Glory of God.