We Speak Who We Want To Be
I’ve always heard the saying, “Christians don’t tell lies, they sing them.” The context is that some of the songs we sing that have declarations of how we worship and live fall way short of how most of us are living out these statements. However, I disagree with the sentiment. I have always held the view (in worship and all matters in life) that we speak who we want to be and not necessarily who we are.
The Destination Is The Focus
The United States Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting of U.S. currency, teaches that the best way to spot a fake is to study the real bill. The same goes for worship, to identify God’s people, we should declare who we are striving to be and not just where we are in our journey. A few years ago, my family took a road trip from Atlanta to Disney World for vacation. My kids were super excited about the destination. Now we as parents know that we also will have the task of the journey to arrive at the exciting destination. So, while I was trudging along through South Georgia, we never once considered the trip the “Valdosta Trip” because of where we may at the moment be located. It was always the Disney trip.
The destination was the focus.
Not the mind-numbing mile after mile that it takes to get from North Atlanta to Orlando.
While I’m ok with singing a song that contains phrases that might not be entirely true of my current walk with Christ, I do think as worship leaders it is of paramount importance to make sure that you and your team understand what is being said lyrically. It is also extremely important to understand that some of the phrases we use in Christian life, do not automatically translate to an understanding for those who may be visiting our church and “kicking the tires” of Christianity. Some of our most common themes may seem odd to them. For instance, we sing of blood, we sing of death, we sing of destroying enemies, etc. All themes that are anthems we declare may not be understood by everybody.
Understand What You Are Singing
So how do we make sure that what we are singing, especially when introducing new songs to our team and congregation, are understood?
First, I think it is important that we periodically meet with our worship teams to pray through the themes of the songs we are singing.
In worship, I think we far too often have teams that show up on Sunday to sing the songs we’ve selected and not have given any thought to what they are declaring. We as leaders must internalize the lyrics if we expect to be able to actually “lead worship” as we believe we are doing. I heard a very influential pastor here in metro Atlanta say at a preaching conference that if pastors don’t memorize their sermons, then how can they expect the congregation to think what they are saying is important enough for them to take to heart? Fair point. That can easily translate to worship leaders. Now while we don’t always write the songs we are singing; we must take time to consider the lyrics and let them penetrate our souls.
The second thing I think we as worship leaders can do is teach from the stage.
If you are introducing a new song, take some time to explain what you are inviting the congregation to declare. Let them know that you have considered the lyrics and agree with them. Now you need to have advanced conversations with your Pastor as to timing of service, how many songs, etc. if you plan to have a considerable dialogue with the congregation. It doesn’t need to be a seminary lesson, but just a statement or two about what we are about to sing about. During that time try to explain any themes that might be foreign to visitors to your service.
In Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth, he warned them against many struggles that can come up when dealing with a congregation and group of believers. 1 Corinthians 14:15-17 (NIV) says,
15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[a] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
Or as the Message translation puts it,” I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind.” Paul is addressing speaking in tongues and giving an interpretation. While speaking in tongues in a corporate environment is a separate issue, I believe that it is in the same context as the idea of singing lyrics and themes that we as worship leaders and quite frankly worshippers of Jesus don’t fully take to heart is in the same vein of warning.
So, let’s lead well. Let’s submit to our Pastor’s authority on the stage and everything that is said or sung. Let’s be their allies in proclaiming truth from our platform and try to lead our teams and congregations in truth.
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Chris has been a worship leader in Metro Atlanta for two decades. He has played and lead worship for gatherings all over the globe. Chris and his wife Heather live in Atlanta with their two children. He is currently serving Galilee Christian Church as a lead guitarist.