One of the many things I’ve started doing since coming to Scargill is leading worship. I had accompanied worship leaders before, but never actually led a congregation in it myself. It’s certainly been an eye-opening experience for me, and I might not actually be as bad a singer as I thought… It’s also caused me to reflect more deeply on the actual words we sing.
The song that I’ve led the most frequently is the good old hymn, “Before the Throne of God Above”. The part that really resonates with me is the start of the second verse:
“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.”
I love that the line is “When Satan tempts me to despair”. It’s not “if”, it’s “when”. The writer of this hymn wasn’t afraid to recognise that the Christian life isn’t all puppies, sunsets and pretty rainbows. That’s something that I feel could be addressed in more of our worship songs: the darker sides of life. Yet more importantly, the song then tells us where our answer lies when things go south: on a wooden cross on a hill just outside Jerusalem.
It’s things like this that have helped me to understand the purpose of music in worship. The reason songs like “Before the Throne…” were written was to teach. We hear all the time that many Christians are using music as their main source of doctrine, so it’s important to have the full width and breadth of Christian theology in the songs we sing. I’m not saying we don’t already try to accomplish this, but I’ll listen to some worship albums or attend some worship services and lyrically, it all seems very one-dimensional. I’ve learned that when choosing what songs to lead people in, it’s important to make sure they don’t all reiterate the exact same messages. Because to do that would be to keep the congregation’s spiritual understanding back from its fullest. We need songs that address all sides of life, but always point back to the same end: Christ.
“Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. Use all wisdom to teach and instruct each other by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)