It Matters What We Sing

Last week I had the privilege of interacting with a songwriting class at Liberty University via Skype, thanks to Travis Doucette, who teaches the class. One of the things they were interested in was how I view worship songs in my role as a senior pastor.  Here’s what I said:

Worship songs have a critical teaching component.  Our time of singing together isn’t a warm-up for the preaching.  It’s a time for God’s word to dwell richly in us, as it says in Co 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The word of Christ abides in us as we instruct and exhort one another, and as we sing to the Lord.  As we are worshiping, we are meditating. The lyrics are shaping us, as will the preaching to come.  As we sing of Christ and him crucified, truth sinks deep into our hearts – it dwells in us richly – and transforms us.

Every worship song transmits theology, either good or bad, and theology affects us.

Joshua Harris underscores how critical theology is in Dug Down Deep:

“I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live.  What you believe about God’s nature — what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him — affects every part of your life.”

As a pastor, I’m deeply concerned that we sing doctrinally accurate songs because they affect how we think about God. When folks in our church go through the fire, I want them to think rightly about God – that he is sovereign, loving, wise and good. When Satan accuses them, I want them to remember Christ was condemned in their place.  When they’re tempted to fear, I want them to recall God’s faithfulness.  They’ll learn these things through preaching and study, but they also learn them through the songs we sing.

Obviously, worship songs do more than teach.  They provide us with passionate expressions to our Lord’s revelation of himself. They help us delight in and enjoy him.  But they do teach.  If you’re a pastor or worship leader, be sure to feed your flock doctrinally rich songs.  They’ll be stronger in Christ and enjoy him more deeply.

photo by ramtops

  • Drewe

    Amen. One of the key takeaways from church for many people is the worship – they sing the songs in the car on the way home, maybe even into Monday and the following week!

    I am sure for many people they remember more the songs that were sung than the message that was preached. All the more reason our song choices need to be sound in doctrine!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Great comments Drewe. Tho I would hope folks remember the preaching and apply it, worship songs do have the benefit of being memorable and being sung over and over.

  • @mjtanis

    1 Pet 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

    I read this verse in working through 9Marks of a Healthy Church in SS – on the importance of Biblical Theology and my mind immediately reflected on worship – "that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

    so awesome!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Great verse! Thanks for adding it!

  • Tom

    Great post Mark.

    I was having this kind of discussion after church yesterday morning – one of the songs we sang, I just didn't 'get' what it was about – I didn't understand what the song was about and was talking about how it's important we know what we're singing and why we're singing and to whom we're singing.

    If we're not sure, then our view of God will be confused and unhelpful too. I'm unashamedly a hymn 'geek' and love many (not all hymns are great!) of them – the words are often incredible and help me focus on God and what He has done through Jesus on the cross. I wish more songs nowadays were clearly written and biblically sound.

    Great post, great thoughts.

  • Mark Altrogge

    Hey Tom — "If we're not sure, then our view of God will be confused and unhelpful too" — amen! I completely agree.

  • Elaine

    What a great opportunity the Lord gave you with the Liberty class! What a blessing to influence the next generation of potential pastors and songwriters.

    The Lord has brought many people into our lives who graciously taught us that doctrine matters and that belief has not only influenced us but our children as well. We are thankful for books like Dug Down Deep which convey the importance of sound doctrine in such an approachable way – my Biblical Worldview students loved it and still bring it up in our conversations. We are thankful for the emphais you, Stephen, and other songwriters place on writing doctrinally sound songs and I am reminded to give thanks to the Lord for His kindness and care every time I hear our children singing these songs.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Hi Elaine,

      What a great opportunity and honor it was for me. You too are influencing the next generation in your Biblical Worldview class – that's so great that you do that. Thanks again for your encouragement, Elaine. You are always so encouraging to us – I want to be like you!

  • JackW

    I’m really thankful for people like you, the rest of the Sovereign Grace folks, and the Getty’s for making some of the best worship music both musically and theologically to be found.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thank you so much, Jack. We have been the beneficiary of great leadership and wonderful teaching from so many – it's the kindness of God that I even know about sound doctrine.

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