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We meet for worship at 214 Spencer Street NE. Directions.
Service begins Sundays at 10:00AM.

good worship music

Often when we think of the Psalms we think of personal and private prayer, not public worship. They are often intimate and emotional, and we tend to not think of those things as suitable for public singing. Take, for example, one of David’s Psalms:

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

Psalm 6:6–7 ESV

Not exactly the sort of thing we talk about with close friends, let alone sing together in public! Yet the Psalms were worship songs—public worship songs, sung as part of temple worship. A popular criticism of modern worship songs is the tendency of the writers to use the first-person singular. For example, last Sunday we sang the Matt Redman song “Once Again”:

Once again
I look upon the cross
Where You died
I’m humbled by Your mercy
And I’m broken inside
Once again I thank You
Once again I pour out my life

The song is about our individual, personal experience of being reminded of God’s mercy and grace. Critics have argued that “true” worship music should be in second-person singular, that is, they should be sung to God about God. According to these critics Israel Houghton’s song “You Are Good” is the only way to worship:

Lord You are good
And Your mercy endureth forever
Lord You are good
And Your mercy endureth forever

At the most, some say, worship songs should be from a collective perspective, such as Bob Kauflin’s song “Glory Awaits”:

We are longing for Christ’s appearing
It won’t be long, It won’t be long
Tears will vanish when we see Him
It won’t be long, It won’t be long

The idea is that this is corporate worship. It is about what we, the gathered assembly, do. These critics denounce any personal expressions in worship—at least in worship music. The difficulty with these critiques comes when one reads the Psalms. Consider Psalm 119:

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Psalm 119:10–16 ESV

Notice how many times the psalmist refers to himself and what he will do in response to God’s goodness. I seek you. I have stored up your word. I declare all your rules. I delight in your testimonies. I will meditate. I will delight in your statutes.

The Psalms were written for public, corporate worship. Yes, many were intimate and personal prayers. Many reveal the author’s private thoughts and fears and struggles. Many were written in the first-person singular. Still, they were written for public worship by God’s people. What is remarkable about the Psalms and the corporate worship of God is how experiential they are.

In his letter to the Colossians the apostle Paul instructed them in a specific way.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3:16 ESV

If we only read this it would seem that worship music merely describes propositional truth: God is like this and he is like that and he does these other things. There are many worship songs that do this. If we read this instruction in context, however, a different sense begins to emerge. Worship music must include teaching and admonishment as it points us to the Lord, but consider the context. In just chapter 3 of Colossians Paul tells the church there to pursue heavenly things (vv. 1–4)—to live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. He tells them to put to death whatever belongs to the earthly kingdom, things like immorality and impurity and anger and wrath and such (vv. 5–10). He emphasizes that in the church ethnic distinctions (Greek and Jew) and religious background (circumcised and uncircumcised) and cultural expression (barbarian and Scythian) and socio-economic distinctions (slave and free) do not and cannot divide the church for Christ is in all (v. 11). He tells them instead of division to put on things like compassionate hearts and kindness and humility and patience and if they have difficulty with one another, to forgive as the Lord has forgiven them (v. 12–13). They must live in community in love as the peace of Christ permeates their very being as they are one body (v. 14–15).

It is at this point that he tells them to teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs! Why? Because these psalms and hymns and spiritual songs relate directly to their experience of life in Christ together! The rest of the chapter gives more instructions for life together, thus emphasizing the corporate experience of God.

It is clear, then, that worship music is necessarily experiential. Yes, it proclaims great and wonderful things about God, but it also speaks of our response to his goodness and our responsibility to respond to him in love, not only for him, but for one another. This is why it is an act of worship for us to sing songs like Nic’s song “One In Christ”:

Bearing with one another
In humility and peace
We will walk into the hope as we’ve been called
Faithfully we will labor
For the splendor of Your bride
Growing in the leadership of Christ

We are all in one body
We are called to one hope
And we drink of one Spirit
We are one in Christ

Our faith is not merely an intellectual assent to various truths about God and about ourselves. Our faith is rooted in the truth that the Son of God became human, lived, died for our sins, and rose again, but it is also rooted in the experiential reality that God in Christ is transforming all things—including us as we live in community together. Let’s live out our faith this way, and let’s worship God together in this same way.