The Truth is a Friend of Mine
I've been called many things in my life- hyper, silly, unruly even. But one of the greatest things that I have been dubbed is- Lyric Police. Oh yeah, I am tenacious when it comes to portraying truth in lyrics especially when used in a congregational setting. As a church we are called to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and worship leaders specifically have a great responsibility and privilege of making sure that lyrics are biblically sound. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and He calls us His friends (John 15:14. 15). This makes the Truth our friend, and when we come to that revelation we will take great care in proclaiming only the Truth.
When approaching new songs to introduce into your music ministry use the following Lyric Litmus Test, to help you determine the Truth-ability of a song.
1. Does it celebrate the finished work of Jesus?
There are so many songs out there that have a "Me Focus", and it breaks my heart to have believers singing songs that essentially say, Jesus You're sacrifice was not enough to cleanse me once and for all, so here I am asking for forgiveness again...and again. It's as if we are trying to crucify Christ all over again hoping that just one more time will be enough. Those condemning thoughts are crippling to believers and can impart misconceptions into our spirits. Instead, find lyrics that proclaim what Christ has accomplished for us through the cross and that magnify what He has done and not what we are facing.
2. Does it ask God to do something that He has already done?
Sometime ago, a few of my teen worship leaders brought me a song for consideration. We listened to it and it contained great chord progressions, and a solid melody but the words repeated over and over begged God for His mercy and grace to be poured out on a penitent people. Are His mercies not new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)? Didn't grace and truth come by Jesus Christ (John 1:17)? God has freely given us ALL things and there is no need to keep asking God to give us things that He has already provided for us.
'Truth can overide aesthetic lapses, but aesthetic lapses cannot cancel out truth. Untruth, no matter how beautifully stated, remains untruth. Beauty cannot redeem it.' -Harold M. Best
3. Can the congregation sing the truth of it wholeheartedly?
As a songwriter I could write a song that says I would sell everything and move to China, and it would be the truth for me. But I cannot present the song to the church and expect the congregation to sing it. We must tell the truth so that others can sing it too. This may seem a bit picky but again the Truth is a friend of ours and our words are very powerful.
4. If it is pulled directly from the Bible is it being sung in context?
Always check the context of any verses to make sure that their interpretation is valid within that context and that their meaning when placed into the song has not been changed. Joel 2:9 and 15 speak of a mighty army of God rushing upon the city and blowing a trumpet in Zion. Sounds pretty exciting, eh? But in fact, when you look at their context the army is rushing upon the city to carry out God's judgment upon the sinful nation of Israel. The context makes it not exactly something to get excited about... Look at who the speaker is in the passage and who the audience is as well. And always look for the redemptive Christ message in what you set.
My prayer is that you would be drawn into worship of our great and glorious Savior, praising Him in spirit and in truth. To all songwriters and worship leaders- may the tenor of your lyrics match the tenor of the heart of God as you lead people in worship and ultimately bring heaven to earth.
BIG HUGS! You are deeply loved!!
If you are desiring to learn more about writing songs for worship I highly recommend finding Amanda Fergusson's book "Songs of Heaven" published by Hillsong Church Ltd. It's INCREDIBLE!