What I Look for in Worship Music

MusicThe “experts” would probably say that the worship wars are over or at least a non-issue. I would say that things have changed but feelings have not diminished.

What I saw decades ago was the conflict was between hymns and choruses. What has changed is that many contemporary churches would never consider using the choruses of the 80s and 90s.

I still encounter Christians who would be completely happy if every song was a hymn. On the other hand, I recently heard a very successful pastor say in a workshop that churches need to faze all hymns out of their worship selection. Some churches are so cutting edge that they will only use songs that have been written in the last five years.

Having recently returned to pastoral ministry, one of the questions I was asked was my view on worship music. So here it is.

Call me strange, but the date of when a song was written is not an issue for me. I don’t care if the song is from 1886, 1986 or 2016. What I look for are songs that can be used to point people toward Christ and allow people to experience the presence of God.

In terms of hymns, there are some that are difficult to sing, use strange language and seem to drone on. Having said that, I really do enjoy a number of hymns and am particularly partial to Charles Wesley hymns. Some of them are so majestic that I could sing them every week.

Regarding the newest songs, there are some great songs coming out. I especially enjoy the return to writing hymns and the reworking of some of the old hymns.

Probably the least popular today are the choruses that ignited the worship wars. Both traditional and contemporary churches often avoid them. I would suggest that we look at them on their own merit and not based on how we feel about 1980s and 90s worship in general.

Basically, what I look for are some intelligent lyrics that have some kind of theological substance. It does not have to be a dissertation, but there are songs that reflect some deep thought on Christ and what he has done for us. Look at any of Wesley’s hymns or more recently In Christ Alone for examples.

I also look for something that is singable. Especially for men. It does no good if a song has the most orthodox theology, if the congregation cannot sing it, it is pointless.

What role does the writer of the song have? There are some people who want to boycott worship songs based on not liking the song writer, the church or the tradition that a song came out of.

Again that is not an issue for me. I have no intention of worshiping the songwriter. I look at the words of the song and if it is consistent with biblical Christianity, I am good.

So those are my thoughts on worship music. What do you think?

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