When contemporary worship popularized in the 90’s people were writing what later was jokingly called, “Prom songs to Jesus.”
Many of them said something along the lines of, “I want to know you/love you/worship you/sit with you/dance with you/hold you/breathe you in/have coffee with you/touch you/stroke your beard/feel your heart/wash your feet/walk with you/etc.”
I don’t think it was all bad, but it’s fair to say—to some degree—substance was lacking.
Especially in contrast to the great hymns that had 6 verses of jam-packed theology. Not all hymns are great either, but at least most of them were trying to say something.
Bob Kauflin, author of Worship Matters, and the godfather of worship, says, “The job of the worship leader is to put the Gospel on people’s lips and pray it makes its way into their hearts.”
It’s fair to ask, “Are we doing that? Really, intentionally, excellently, doing that?”
Or are we picking songs because they are “cool” or “have a sweet lead line”?
I don’t know how many songs your church sings on a Sunday, likely somewhere between 4 and 6.
3 is too few, 7 too many… in my opinion. 8 is literally the worst, for everyone. (I heard people die when this happens.)
So, we have 4-6 songs a week to gather as a church, lift our voices together, and praise a God who is infinitely worthy of our songs and lives. We should care deeply what those 4-6 songs are, what they say, and what job they do.
At Resonate we think every song has a job. If it doesn’t do its job, it’s fired.
The song's job is to communicate something, invite us into something, engage our minds and our hearts and draw us into a truth about a God that stirs our affection and engages our attention.
Our head and heart must both be engaged in worship. Our attention and our affection.
I rarely lift my hands in worship because I’m moved by the music. I always lift my hands when I’m moved by a truth. When I can agree with or affirm a Gospel lyric that glorifies God and stirs me, I’m all in lift a hand—a shout—a clap—a glass—a whatever.
“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” - Before The Throne of God (v.2)
“Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. He to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” - Come Thou Fount (v.2)
“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul.” - It Is Well With My Soul (v.4)
"Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade; To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky." - The Love of God (v.4)
The Holy Spirit likes those lyrics. They’re pure Gospel. They’re hand-raising, attention-grabbing, affection-stirring, straight Gospel. I’ll toast to that. I’ll worship to that. I’m desperate for those truths. We all are.
In light of that, here are 5 songs you need to be singing in your church:
IN CHRIST ALONE:
I know they sound a touch Irish, but did you hear how loud the crowd was singing? So. Loud.
This hymn was written in 2010. It was bold enough to talk about the wrath of God and caused a stir for it:
Last summer the modern hymn “In Christ Alone” made headlines for its lyrical references to the wrath of God and atonement theology. A hymn committee with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) wanted to add the song to their new hymnal, Glory to God, released this fall. But in doing so, the committee requested permission from the song's writers, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, to print an altered version of the hymn's lyrics, changing “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The songwriters rejected the proposed change, and as a result the hymn committee voted to bar the hymn.
I love it. We need to sing the truth. Your people need it. God is glorified by it. The full counsel of God is rarely touched on in songs, but In Christ Alone gets us there.
CENTER MY LIFE:
There are few in the world I respect and trust more than Aaron Ivey and the team at the Austin Stone. These guys produce theologically rich content paired with dynamic music and spirit led leadership. I don’t know if you’ve been in the room when Aaron leads worship but he’s uniquely anointed to usher us into God’s presence. If you’re a worship leader and don’t know about the Austin Stone, do yourself a favor and follow them and do everything they do.
GOOD GOOD FATHER:
Chris Tomlin recently made this song popular, but Housefires wrote an “Identity in Christ” song that crushed me the first time I heard it. Our huddle leader, Scott Kindig, sent us the song a year ago and said maybe you guys will like this. Like it... more like need it. So simple, so impacting. If you’re not using this song, you’re missing out. The Holy Spirit likes this song.
MAN OF SORROWS:
This song merges the feeling of a hymn and the power of a modern anthem. That chorus is so singable and truthful and the bridge is a profound declaration we rarely talk about. “The curse of sin has no hold on me…” Do you believe that? Do your people believe that? They need to!
WHAT MERCY FLOWS:
This is a Resonate song, but in my defense, I didn’t write it. I didn’t even help on it. I simply worship to it. Our team wrote a beautiful melody with rich lyrics.
What mercy flows from up above
That God would send His Son to show His love
That Christ in flesh would dwell to conquer hell
And purchase worthless thieves
To pardon even me
That verse just called us worse than a worthless thief. We are/were: depraved, dust, ashes, mist, and that’s important to be reminded of. It's healthy to be humbled to the ground and to allow Christ to lift you to the heavens.
I hope this helps you in your continued effort to create distractionless, Gospel-rich worship experiences that lead your people to have their head and heart engaged, their attention and their affection stirred, all for God's glory and their good.
Let me know if you have any songs we need to sing! I'd love to hear from you.