“Something like 60% of what you believe, comes from what you sing,” my professor said as my class examined (and ripped to shreds) the 1995 worship hit, “In the Secret,” by Andy Park. This was the first time I realized that I could’ve sang the song in its entirety to my boyfriend, and it wouldn’t have been weird. There was certainly something amiss.
This lesson stuck with me for weeks as I examined my collection of hymnals at home, my worship playlists, and countless chord sheets that littered my room. I was leading worship at a small Baptist church at the time and realized that if I didn’t explicitly express the gospel through the lyrics presented at the service, I failed my congregation. Suddenly, my part time weekend job held much more weight. If the 30-40 worshipers of Kankakee First Baptist Church fell asleep entirely during the sermon, would they leave having heard the message of salvation? (Side note: there was only one who regularly snoozed in church; he would put on sunglasses during the message so we wouldn’t know. We did. Classic.)
Just a couple of years later, I was relieved to have finally found New Albany Presbyterian Church in my search for a fresh start in a new place. This was perhaps the first church I had attended that held convictions as strong as mine when it comes to the lyrics we sing in service. Here at NAPC, our hymns and songs are carefully examined to make sure we sing what is true. We sing scripture itself or scripture-based lyrics as we proclaim truths about God or sing directly to Him. Above all, we make certain that the full Gospel is expressed. There is much more that could be said about worship lyrics, but today, I want to focus on the other aspect that NAPC cares for: blended worship.
“But Lucy, in normal times we have Traditional and Acoustic services! That’s not blended; it’s segregated!” In fact, both of our services are united in our vision of what it means to worship. Now certainly, an organ and choir combo do not exactly sound the same as a guitar and drums led service. There is something to be said for having a preference when it comes to worship music: it’s okay to have one!
Maybe you became a Christian within the last 5-10 years. You’ve never opened a hymnal, or read the KJV. Maybe you’ve wondered, “What in the world is a bulwark?” On the other hand, perhaps you grew up in the church singing only traditional hymns. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to have to learn all of these new songs (there are hundreds of new worship songs published every single week!) without even being able to read the notes in your hymnal. When we cut off either traditional hymns or more contemporary style worship songs, we cut off part of the body of Christ from being included in worship.
“Hymns of Grace,” our new hymnal, contains hundreds of traditional hymns, dating back even to the mid-1500s. It also contains many modern songs that you might hear on the local Christian Radio Station. In our traditional service, we sing both. In our acoustic service, we sing both. If you’re wondering why, it’s simple: if we fail to sing new songs, we can repeat a truth to a point where it becomes monotonous and stale. When we hear truth re-worded and expressed through new melodies, it can cause us to think and worship in new ways to our awesome God!
When we hear truth re-worded and expressed through new melodies, it can cause us to think and worship in new ways to our awesome God!
On the other hand, if Christians have been singing (for example) “A Mighty Fortress,” since it was famously penned by Luther in 1529, and our next generation is the first since then to not sing it, that seems like a pretty arrogant mistake to make!
“But Lucy, we never sing songs from the radio!” “I miss the organ! Hymns just don’t sound the same on guitar!” “All we ever sing is hymns!” “We never sing any hymns!” I have heard these comments on multiple occasions. If you’ve said these things to me, I wholeheartedly appreciate the feedback! There are likely a number of people in the congregation who feel the same way.
I miss the choir and organ too. I will rejoice with you when we are back to two services every Sunday, and I implore you to keep praying with me that that can happen! (Hint: if you volunteer, it could happen sooner rather than later.) If you’ve read this far, you already know I truly value preserving traditional aspects of worship!
If there are songs in particular that I’m not playing but you wish I would, I’m going to challenge you to read the lyrics in their entirety. Is it scripture? Is it scripture based? Is it easy to learn? Is it anecdotal, or objectively true? Does it communicate the Gospel? Once you do this, I would love to hear your suggestions. I may decide it’s a great fit, or I may not, but either way I would love to talk with you about it.
If you want to learn more hymns or more new worship songs, a great place to start is our Spotify account! I make playlists that update every single week. This one is a complete list of every song we have sung before and during worship in 2021, that I will continue to add to as our year progresses. This way, you can be confident and familiar with the songs we sing, and sing out loud to encourage your fellow believers!
Whatever song style you prefer: you’re not wrong. There is no wrong way to praise God for who He is, thank Him for freeing you from sin because Christ took your place, or ask the Holy Spirit to come change your heart and actions! If you worship best accompanied by bagpipes or heavy metal, so be it and praise God! If you want to raise both arms in praise, do it! If you want to close your eyes and stand perfectly still in His presence, go for it! There is no wrong way to express worship if your heart is oriented rightly toward Him.
Worship and Connections Leader