Whether you’re choosing the worship music for next week’s service, or for a sing-a-long in your car, the worship music we choose to listen to, and worship with, is important. The Bible tells us so many times how important it is to consider the things that we consume.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”Philippians 4:8
It’s easy to see how things live TV shows, books, podcasts, etc. may go against these virtues and be challenged to forego them; but that is another discussion. Something we may not consider against these values is the worship music we listen to. We assume because it is labelled as “Christian”, or as “worship” music, then surely it must be good, and pure, and true. So, we do not feel the need to look deeper.
But the worship leaders that we have in the world today are all human. They themselves are not perfect people, they are not without sin. They can write worship music that, purposefully or not, promotes the idea of a God that is not biblical. So, how can we be sure we are finding good, biblical, true, worship music?
Read the lyrics
Always a good place to start. Heard a groovy new worship song on Spotify, or at church, or got a recommendation from a friend. It’s so easy to simply google the lyrics – have a read, is this what you thought the song was saying? I’m honestly useless at understanding the words of a song for at least the first 5 times I listen to it, unless I’ve read the lyrics myself.
Check the theology
As you read the lyrics, consider, do the words of this song line up with what I have read in Scripture? What does this song say about who God is? Does this echo what scripture says about God? What does this song say about who I am? Does this echo what scripture says?
This is super important, because if we are singing to, or about a God that is not the God of scripture, then we are worshipping another God. We are worshipping a God of our own imagination, an idol of own creation, not the one true God of the Bible.
Get recommendations from wise Christians
Who are the mature, biblical, wise Christians in your life? Seek them out and ask them for some ideas to get you started – what worship music do they enjoy listening to? In the past, I have taken ideas from my youth leaders and worship band leaders especially and found these to be really helpful. I also look at music that has been recommended by good, Christian “influencers”/bloggers who I trust to only give solid, biblical recommendations, such as this Spotify playlist from Nicole Mason (Saved X Grace Ministries).
Hymns and older worship music is great too!
It’s easy to push away the hymns and song books as old and boring (and honestly, some of them really are). But have a look through, have a listen. The classics are classics for a reason, and often they are far more rooted in scripture than more modern songs.
Our understanding is important
The way we think about, and sing, a song is also important. For example, let’s take the song ‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury. Super, super popular, very catchy, very sing-able. But this song has sparked some controversy for calling God’s love “reckless”. And I can see why. If we take the dictionary definition of reckless, it means: heedless of danger or the consequences of one’s actions; rash or impetuous. Now, biblically, God’s love is anything but reckless. Our God is all knowing, outside of time, he is perfectly planned and knows exactly the consequences of his actions. So, how can we call his love reckless? However, I think for many people singing this song, we understand the message of this song to be that God’s love looks reckless from our understanding because we cannot possibly fathom all the things that he knows, so to us the idea of giving up your only son to die on a cross would look quite reckless. For this reason, I think that people most definitely can sing this song in true and biblical worship, but personally I would not recommend using in within a public or church context that is likely to involve new Christians or non-Christians as it teaches an incorrect idea of who God is to those who do not have the full context (because, yes, the songs we sing are a form of teaching as they share information about who God is).
Dear God, thank you for music. Thank you for the wonderful musical skills that you have gifted to so many people in our world. Help them to use these gifts to bring glory to you in whatever ways that they are able to. We pray for all of the worship leaders, song-writers and musicians within your family, that they will look to you and your word for guidance. Help us to find good, true, pure worship songs to praise you through. Amen.
I love finding new worship music, so please do let me know your favourite worship songs in the comments! I’ll get us started with a few of my favourites: CityAlight, Chris Tomlin, Rend Collective, Matt Redman. I also share some of my favourite songs each “Worship Wednesday” over on Facebook – so come and find us over there!