WORSHIP SCRUTINIZED TO A FAULT
If I may speak plainly, there is a trend in modern worship that troubles me. Let me begin by first saying that many songs heard in today’s church are doctrinally messy. They shouldn’t be given a pass just because they’re catchy or popular. That aside, it’s the other extreme I wish to address in this writing. It seems many worship leaders are so worried about doctrinally off songs, even those heaven-sent are left on the chopping block. To put it bluntly, worship songs are scrutinized to a fault. Those rich in doctrine get an easy pass while expressions of adoration or celebration are all too often viewed with suspicion.
The problem is, the means used for testing a song’s integrity is flawed. It is more of a legalistic approach, much like the one used to “guard” the Sabbath in ancient Bible times. Countless hedges (all manmade) were secured around the Sabbath, making slip-ups impossible. Jesus and the twelve ignored these silly rules which earned them the reputation as Sabbath-breakers. It’s both ironic and sad that those who sought to protect the Rest Day sucked the rest right out of it by adding one taxing restriction after the next. I see the same thing happening with today’s worship. Those who seek to guard worship with their many restrictions do more to subtract from the worship experience than add to it.
As already mentioned, the means used to test worship songs for biblical accuracy is flawed. While the claim is that lyrics are filtered through scripture, the process itself lacks integrity. To use an example, suppose a worship song includes the phrase, “I worship God from the bottom of my heart.” Well, that expression is never used in the Bible, so on the chopping block it goes. But this is a misuse of scripture. While the expression may not be found in scripture, the idea is clearly taught. Many expressions never used in the Bible help us understand foundational doctrines of the faith. You’ll never find the term “Trinity” in scripture, yet the triune nature of God is clearly taught. Nor can I find where it says God is omnipotent, yet the Bible clearly teaches He is all powerful.
Those serious about Bible study use the inductive approach which includes: observation, interpretation and application. Can worshippers be observed in the Bible? Yes! David is a great example. Did he worship from the bottom of his heart? Absolutely! How does this apply to me, how I worship and the worship songs I sing (or approve)? These are the things to consider if scripture is to be used as a filter. This inductive approach allows for songs rich in theology, but also welcomes worship that includes adoration, celebration, appreciation along with testimonials of God’s goodness. These are all very biblical; examples abound throughout God’s Word.
My challenge to worship leaders is this: do your due diligence to ensure songs don’t contradict scripture, but do it properly. Don’t hold every song that’s new or popular as suspect. God still breathes through new artists and the music they write.
Theology matters, but not every song needs to be a lesson in theology. Welcome songs that express love, affection and thanksgiving towards God that are in harmony with scripture, even if expressed in language not found in scripture. I find it interesting that The Church of Christ doesn’t allow instruments in worship services because they aren’t mentioned in New Testament scripture. Well, baptismals aren’t mentioned either and they do have those. Personally, I’m okay with instruments and baptismals in the church. Just because they aren’t mentioned in scripture does not mean they are condemned by scripture. The idioms of today are not found in the Bible, yet God can be glorified in any language.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, let’s keep the worship in worship. Let us not deny the music God breathes and speaks through today. Rigidness hinders worship. Lose the hedges. Let the people of God sing unto God from the bottom of their hearts.