Q: I worship in a multigenerational church and have the responsibility of choosing the music that we sing each Sunday. I am struggling with the idea that we should be more aware of the community at large when choosing music so we can draw them in. Most of the music that would cater to the larger community I would call "Christian Lite."

I am trying to maintain a balance between the traditional, the contemporary, and-as our Pastor calls it-cutting-edge music. I have been listening to some of the cutting-edge music and have found it to be lacking scripturally and spiritually. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can maintain a proper balance so that we don't neglect the community or our congregation?

A: First, it's important to realize that the songs we sing during meetings of the gathered church (usually on Sunday morning) are primarily for the building up of the church, not for reaching out to the community. Biblical content should never take second place to commerciality or popular appeal, or even to a well-intentioned desire for evangelism. If our lyrics are regularly directed at non-believers or the unchurched, we deprive our churches of songs that could help them grow in their knowledge of God and biblical truth.

Congregational worship is formative. It shapes our thoughts about God, ourselves, and others. Therefore it should be packed with content, meaning, and a diversity of themes centered around the cross, the ultimate expression of God's character. Shallow, subjective worship songs tend to produce shallow, subjective Christians. Worship in spirit and truth is meant to do more than give us good feelings or an uplifting "worship experience." It is meant to define and inform our understanding of God and our relationship to Him.

Second, make sure that people understand that the primary focus in corporate worship is what we're singing (the lyrics), not how we're singing it (the musical style). It's the Word of Christ that is to dwell in us richly, not the music of Christians. Now, does God sometimes use music to get His word into us? Yes, quite often. And, are some types of music better than others for complementing the words we're singing? Sure. But we must always be mindful of priorities. This can be done by directing people's attention to specific truths during the worship, or even devoting a message or more to the topic of worship.

Third, it's not wrong to use songs that people in our community relate to stylistically or culturally. Neither is it "more spiritual" to use styles that are inaccessible or foreign to guests. The best approach is to use a diversity of styles that reflect an appreciation and knowledge of your church, your community, and those who have gone before us.

Finally, don't give up your search for contemporary songs with content. Stuart Townend has written some brilliant songs (How Deep the Father's Love for Us, Beautiful Savior), as well as Matt Redman and Graham Kendrick. The writers I'm privileged to work with through Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mark Altrogge and Steve & Vikki Cook, have consistently produced songs that combine theological depth and contemporary expression. I've also found the Stoneleigh/Newsongs (or Newsongs/The Event) songbooks very helpful. They can be obtained through www.goldusa.com.

Of course all these ideas should be worked out under the oversight of your pastor. He is ultimately responsible for the direction of your corporate worship.

I pray that in time you will find that a congregation passionately committed to knowing, loving, and serving God is the best evangelistic tool any church could ever have.

 

Recommended Resources from Bob:

The Call of the Christian Musician Video by Bob Kauflin. This video was recorded on August 8, 2002, during a main-session message that Bob gave at the third annual A Passion for the Glory of God worship conference, held in Gaithersburg, MD.  Christian musicians are a diverse group. But amidst the diversity, one thing is held in common-we are Christians first and musicians second. In this message, Bob teaches that, whatever the context, the call of the Christian musician is to faithfully make music that reflects a grateful servant's response to the gospel.  Downloadable outline and three-minute preview video here. Available in both DVD (with bonus footage) and VHS.

 

Bob Kauflin is Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries