Doctrinal Neglect in Worship Songs
Colossians 3:16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” This verse, along with many others tells us that singing plays a crucial role in teaching and learning theology and Scripture. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there are some key points of theology that are being neglected in modern worship songs. In Lavon Gray and Frank Page’s book, Hungry For Worship, they discuss this trend as a “Loss of Theological Distinctiveness.” They note that since we have such a broad selection of song resources (which is fantastic), we are using songs from songwriters of all kinds of theological persuasions (not necessarily a bad thing). They also describe this as a “Theological Melting Pot.” For generations, the use of hymnals have served to teach and train congregations in their core theological beliefs. Denominations would have their own hymnals that were compiled with hymns that taught doctrines that were specific to them. For my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, it was The Broadman Hymnal, and later The Baptist Hymnal. Though my church doesn’t use a hymnal, and I would prefer that we not, we use songs from all kinds of writers (Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Isaac Watts, etc.), I think this is a healthy trend on one hand because we have so many songs to choose from, we have no reason to ever sing junk. But I also think that the theological discernment of worship leaders and pastors should be on full alert. We need to be aware of what we are feeding (or not feeding) our congregation through the songs that we sing. Ask yourself: What doctrines would my people learn if it was solely dependent on the songs that I lead them in? And ask yourself a more sobering question: What doctrines would be lost if it were solely dependent on the songs that I lead them in? Some of the doctrines that I hold firm to, that I see are largely not being written about today are: the doctrine of the Security of the Believer, the Trinity, or the Deity of Christ, just to name a few. I believe that the reason for this shift is when you write songs with the intention of it appealing to as many people as possible, you have to neglect certain doctrines so that you don’t alienate your potential consumers. I have no problem with these songwriters that we are using, and I thank God for them, and I’m grateful that they are able to make a living that way, but we should also be discerning in our song choices. It’s OK to use songs that aren’t on the radio, or the CCLI top 100 (though there are great songs to be found that way). But on the other hand, if we have to use some more obscure artists/songwriters in order to lead our congregations to sing a more well-balanced theological diet, then so be it. My charge to worship leaders is to think like teachers.
What Biblical truths do you want your congregation to know and hold firm to?
What songs are you leading them in that will instill these beliefs in their hearts and minds?