Worship Wars is Pastor Hopson’s current teaching series on Wednesday nights at 6:30 at Poquoson Baptist Church. Join us to learn more about worship and music from a Christian worldview. Click here to listen to the recordings.
The following is part 19 in a series of articles based on the Worship Wars series.
Important Note: Everything you read below is based on key foundational truths established in previous lessons. If anything concerns or confuses you, go back and read the other articles in this series or listen to the recordings.
In the last few articles we discussed the details that should be true of music in the local church. We’ve divided these details into two categories: those details that are essential for church music and those that are important for church music. We discussed what church music must be—essential details that must be true of every song we sing—but now we must discuss what church music should be—those important details that should be true of most of the songs we sing. You and I may disagree over which details are primary and which are secondary, but I hope you’ll agree that each and all of them should be pursued in church music.
Church Music Should Be Christ-Centered
First, church music should be Christ-centered. In other words, church music should highlight the person and work of Christ. Early in His ministry Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for failing to rightly understand the Scripture. In John 5:39 He said this: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.” In other words, generic spirituality or Bible knowledge is not enough if our attention and our affections are not directed to Jesus.
Or consider what Jesus said about the psalms in Luke 24:44. He said this to His disciples: “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Did you catch that? Jesus said that even the Psalms are meant to point to Him! The best songs should explicitly mention who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
Perhaps you’re surprised that this is mentioned as a should and not a must, an important mark of church music but not an essential one. I wrestled with this one, but ultimately I think there are wonderful, true, biblical, Christian, clear, congregational songs that are worth singing even though they don’t explicitly mention Jesus. Here’s an example:
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound) that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease:
I shall possess, within the veil, a life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine;
but God, who called me here below, will be forever mine.
What does this song explicitly tell us about the person or work of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity? Nothing. Now we know that the amazing grace of God is most clearly displayed in the person of Jesus and His work on the cross, but does the song tell us that? No. Hear me, I am not suggesting we don’t sing this song. But I am suggesting that when we do we should make extra effort to explicitly direct our affections to Jesus through Scripture, words shared by the song leader, or by the other songs we sing.
© M. Hopson Boutot, 2017
Image Credit: http://lutheranconfessions.blogspot.com/2016/05/5-signs-worship-wars-are-over.html