Many people have the idea that contemporary worship music is of value only to the Church, a coded language to the living God. In fact, as renowned worship songwriter ANDY PARK explains here, worship songs can have a profound ministry in teaching the saved and evangelising the unsaved.
Another hat you wear in worship leading is that of the teacher. By singing songs filled with the Word of God, you have the privilege of holding the pen as God writes his word on the tablets of your church's heart. You equip the church by dispensing, proclaiming and preaching the Word of God through music and other symbolic and artistic forms.
Paul emphasizes praying and singing with the mind and with the spirit (1 Cor 14:15). In worship, we gain understanding and give thanks by using our intellect. We speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We pass on truth from one generation to the next through our songs (Ps 78:4-5).
As the church receives teaching through the songs it sings, the congregation's minds are being exercised along with their emotions. The way to our hearts is not just by a heightened experience of the Spirit connecting with our emotions. God reaches our hearts through our minds. "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is" (Rom 12:2 NLT).
The only way lasting change comes about is through changing people's minds. People make lifestyle choices based on careful consideration of the ideas presented to them. Together with the teachers and preachers, you function as one of the main outlets for God's truth in public meetings.
A survey taken in churches in the United States showed that people forget 80 percent of sermons they hear within three days after hearing them. Even the best of the sermon illustrations are usually forgotten. What do people remember? The songs! The words of songs stick in our heads because of the memorable melodies, rhymes and rhythms attached to them. Just as orthodox Jews bind phylacteries containing God's Word to their heads, the power of music binds the Word of God to our minds. So make sure you're giving them sound teaching in the songs you choose!
The New Testament hymns, which are woven into the fabric of the Gospels and Epistles and Revelation, teach many basic doctrines. Here are some highlights: the divinity and incarnation of Christ (Jn 1:1-18; Col 1:15-20; 1 Tim 3:16); Christ as the promised Messiah (Lk 1:68-79; 2:10-14); the sacrifice of Christ, which justifies us (1 Pet 2:22-25; 3:18-22; Heb 12:22- 24); God's mercy (Lk 1:46-55, 68-69); the humility of Jesus (Phil 2:6-11); our call to humility (1 Pet 5:5-9; Jas 4:6-10); the nature of love (1 Cor 13:1-13); God's unshakable love for us (Rom 8:35-39); and God's faithfulness (Rom 16:25-27; 1 Pet 5:10-11). Some examples of New Testament hymns of praise can be found in Luke 19:38; Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:17; and Revelation 4:11; 5:12-13; 12:10-12; 15:3-5; and 19:1-9.
The song "Jude Doxology", which declares God's ability to keep us from stumbling, is taken from Jude 24 and 25:
And now all glory to him, who alone is God
Who saves us through his son, Jesus Christ our Lord
For he is able to keep us from falling away
He brings us into his presence with love and joy.
All power, authority, all splendor and majesty
Are his from the beginning and evermore, and evermore!
The rich theological depth of these hymns sends us a clear message - teaching is an important part of singing hymns. In assembling song sets, we are proclaiming the truth about God's identity and our own identity as his heirs, servants and reconcilers of lost people.
In our culture, the value of the artistic is marginalized. Musicians aren't taken as seriously as teachers, doctors or professors. But the most predominant literary genres in the Bible are poetry, songs, stories and letters addressing specific situations in churches. There isn't a lot of didactic teaching in the Bible. In fact Jesus spoke in parables much of the time. This highlights the power of communicating through artistic literary forms.
In studying the great hymn writers of church history, from the early church, through the Reformation and in modern times, you find leading teachers and theologians using music as a teaching tool. Beginning with the early church fathers - Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Clement of Alexandria, Saint Gregory Nazianzus, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Ambrose and Saint Gregory the Great - church leaders have penned songs of worship as a means of instructing their followers in basic Christian doctrine and devotion.
WE TELL THE STORY OF JESUS
Worship leading is a celebration of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Robert Webber describes the centrality of Christ in early church worship: "The Christ that was celebrated in worship was Christ the Creator, Christ the Incarnate one, Christ the inaugurator of the kingdom, Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended, Christ coming again to renew and restore the universe."
The story of Jesus remains constant and the message is timeless and relevant for all people of all cultures. But in post-modern society, the story is needed more than ever.