There’s No Such Thing As Worship Songs

That blog title was supposed to grab your attention. Did it work?

Let me try to defend this sentence instead: “The term ‘worship song’ is unhelpful.”  There’s TWO types of songs we sing as a gathered church:

  1. Songs sung to the Lord.
  2. Songs sung to each other.

Even some songs that try to do both can usually be divided into subsections that fall into these categories.  Songs that do neither of these things . . . I’m not sure what they’re doing.

The first type of song (a song sung to the Lord) is really a prayer.  Forget about the music (we’ll get to that in a minute) and think about it.  Look at the words: Open The Eyes of My Heart, Blessed Be Your Name . . . PRAYERS.

The second type of song (a song sung to each other) is really an exhortation.  Forget the music and look at those words: All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name, How Firm A Foundation, How Great Is Our God (“sing with me”), Mighty To Save . . . EXHORTATION.

Now, let’s add the music back in.

When a congregation sings a prayer or exhortation, (at least) two wonderful things happen.  The RHYTHM of the song allows the church to pray/exhort with UNITY.  The MELODY of the song allows the congregation to pray/exhort with PASSION.

This perspective gives a lot of clarity to many confusing aspects in “worship world”.  So, I’d like to tease this idea out further over the next week or two.

  • What does this mean for the “Worship Leader”?
  • What sort of spiritual maturity is required of a worship leader or team?
  • What about the male/female worship leader debate?
  • Special music?  Should we do it?
  • What makes a “worship song” “work”?  (That’s a lot of “quote marks”!) What order do “worship songs” work in?
  • Non-Christians on the worship team?

Let’s settle all of this in the next fourteen days.  🙂  Tune in.

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9 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing As Worship Songs

  1. Love the thoughts – can’t wait to read more.

    How does this fit with Paul’s description of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”? I would agree with you that the song in and of itself is not worship and yet clearly the pattern and instruction from scripture is that we should be singing together when we gather as the church.

    I LOVE the tension inherent in this stuff. It keeps it fresh to me and inspires me to dig deeper in to scripture and good advice from others to help clarify my thoughts.

  2. @ Chris:

    I agree. We are to sing, but to only label the category “songs” is unhelpful. To think about a worship song as a “sung prayer” or “sung exhortation” makes a lot of sense. Keep checking in to see how this small semantic change makes a lot of things clear . . .

    @ Greg:
    Glad you’re hear, Greg. Let me know what you think as we keep rolling it out!

  3. I have a hard time losing the word worship in favor of the word prayer. I know this isn’t your point, but when you take that away you take away the overt part of worship, which is to pay reverence, respect, honor, and to show worthiness as a community of believers.

    1. Good thoughts, Keith. I expected no less. It’s a worthy (pun intended) point, but I think there’s so much stuff labeled “worship” that the term has lost a lot of its punch.

      Keep using it and try to redeem it? Try different language? I’m not sure.

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