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There are two main elements in song selection. The TEXT and the MUSIC. There are two main elements that go into the vehicle of a song. The text and the music. There are some exceptions to this such as when incorporating an instrumental piece or reciting lyrics from a song. However, for the most part, we are talking about selecting a song. So the main elements are our text and music.
In my opinion, the most important of the two is the text. So let’s begin with the TEXT today. Tomorrow, we’ll cover MUSIC.
There are two main qualities about the text that I look for in a new worship song. First, is it doctrinally sound? Second, is it lyrically meaningful?
By “doctrinally sound” I mean, does it paint an accurate picture of God? If the text is somewhat cryptic or paints a picture of God that cannot be found in Scripture, then it gets low scores in my opinion. It’s important that the text remains true to who God is. Someone once told me when the Bible is clear, be clear. When the Bible is vague, be vague. The text to music sometimes can simply be too vague, which then means it probably doesn’t make the cut. There’s also the notion that some songs talk about God and some songs are a prayer to God. It’s important to know which the song is doing. While this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it being doctrinally sound, if it is talking about God, it’s important that it’s speaking truthfully and accurately.
Let’s move on to what “lyrically meaningful” means.
This is where things get a little subjective. One person may appreciate a poem that rhymes every other line. Others may appreciate poetry that has an emphasis on repetition. Yet others appreciate a very abstract use of poetry. Whatever method of poetry is used, it needs to be meaningful to the user. What makes something meaningful to the end user? The mind must be engaged. The mind will start at point A and move to point B. In other words, the words invoke motion in the mind. Once the cognitive is stirred — the emotions follow.
Let me jump on a quick personal soapbox for a minute. I feel sometimes churches try to invoke emotion with the music before engaging the cognitive level lyrically. In my opinion, this can be a dangerous thing to do. The musical part of the song can bring an emotional response — with little or no thought of what’s behind it. What I am cautioning against is evoking emotion before evoking the cognitive level. I feel it’s better to begin at the cognitive level, and allow the singer to personally decide when to let the emotion follow. Another way is to allow both to take place simultaneously. But again the danger is to begin on the musical emotional side and allow everything to stem from there.
So we’ve talked about the text part of a worship song. I want to make sure that it’s doctrinally sound and lyrically meaningful. But that is only half of a song! The other half is the music. Let’s keep in mind, the music is secondary to the text.
Tomorrow — we’ll cover the music aspect.
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