Songwriting – The Musician’s Sermon

Do you think the lyrics in church music are important? How accurate should the lyrics be? How much artistic license should be allowed?

recent discussion on my Facebook Page about a line in a song that has been bugging me prompted much of this post.

At the last Calvary Chapel Worship Leader’s Conference  I went to in 2008 I took a songwriting class from Brenton Brown. This is what I remember from that sesson.

Every song is a sermon.

The chorus is the thesis statement.

All of the verses should support that thesis.

In the list of spiritual gifts the one that is most applicable to the worship leader and church songwriter is teaching.

Songs are powerful storytellers and have always been used to communicate and teach precepts like we see in The Book of Psalms. But songs also communicate testimonies of triumph and praise like the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18) or Deborah (Judges 5).

Every believer is called to be a Berean – a person who searches the scriptures to verify the accuracy of the sermon.

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 

It’s true that we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). Music is emotional and I’ll be the first to admit it. However, we are still required to rightly divide the word.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

We shouldn’t be so emotionally attached to a song or a songwriter to the point where the theological implications of any song’s lyrics can’t be objectively discussed.

Discussion among believers is a good thing. In fact, one of the reasons I started the Hymn-Theology series is to explore the Biblical backup to stanzas of our beloved hymns.

As songwriters, we want our worship songs to be prophetic. Prophesy, both didactic and predictive, is speaking forth God’s word to God’s people. It follows that the act of speaking for God is teaching.

As worship leaders, we choose songs. Are we responsible for the theological content?Since lyrics teach, it seems obvious that our choice of songs is a form of teaching. Therefore, songwriters are de facto theologians, and worship leaders echo those messages.

Read the lyrics of the songs you choose next week.  Forget the melody and put them in order.  What story are they telling? What precepts are they teaching?

The church is listening.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

Further Study:  I encourage you to look up the following verses from which the text is based.

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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