“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Colossians 3:16, NIV
We may not think about this way, but according to this verse in Colossians, singing together in worship is one of the ways that we teach and build up one another. So, the two primary things going on when the church is singing together is education and edification. We are learning about God, and building up one another in the faith. This is important to remember that reading is a very recent concept within human history. According to one source, 1960 was the first year that the literate population outnumbered the illiterate population in the world. So, if someone can’t read, how do you get them to retain information? Through song.
Most of the hymns that were written over 150 years ago weren’t simply written because someone felt inspiration hit them one day, and they just had to get it down on paper. They were written out of the necessity to educate local churches which is why some of our most prolific hymn writers have also been pastors.
For Example, William R. Newell, is someone that we might not know by name, but he’s more famously known for a hymn that some of us have probably sang in our lives:
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;At Calvary, William R. Newell
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
Newell was not only a hymn writer, he was a pastor and Bible teacher at the Moody Bible Institute. You can read more about him here.
In our current time most of us can read now. This is good news, but modern hymns and worship songs aren’t written anymore to teach us about God, about the doctrine of the Church, or rich theological truth. Which is why K-Love’s Greatest Hits consist mostly of songs that describe Jesus more like a prom date rather than the Son of God lay waste to His waste to His enemies, and rule and reign for eternity with His bride on the earth.
I would describe most of the music that comes out of the modern Christian music industry  as junk food for the soul. It’s okay in very strict moderation, but overindulgence can lead to a poor theological health. There are better choices out there.
- Instead of Hillsong try Indelible Grace
- Instead of Chris Tomlin try Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music
- Instead of Bethel and Jesus Culture try Keith and Kristyn Getty
Let’s be honest, when you went to church and sang this morning, did you sing mostly about how God makes you feel, or about what God has actually done for you in Christ? Did you sing about God’s justice and holiness as well as His love and mercy? Was Psalm 2 anywhere near your worship set? That’s the one where God’s wrath flares up against those who do not submit to Christ’s lordship.
Was the worship set at your church this morning a biblical reflection of the character of God that feeds the sheep or was it simply a show to entertain the goats among us? You’re either feeding the sheep or entertaining the goats, you will not and cannot do both.
- My wife was a Pre-K teacher for five years and she will tell you that one of the best ways to educate children is through song, and adults are no different. She taught 3 and 4 year-olds who couldn’t spell their own name, but they could spell colors because they sang songs about them.
- As a result of the Christian music industry pushing these wares into the market, most skinny jean and v-neck t-shirt clad ‘worship leaders’ are usually looking at the Christian Top 40 for this Sunday’s worship set instead of seeking out that which would be most educational and edifying for the congregation.