A Worshiping Family
Pastors, elders, and worship leaders have the responsibility of making the choices about which Scriptures, prayers, and confessions to include in corporate worship. What a holy stewardship it is to choose what words will be on the lips of our people in worship! This is not a task to be taken lightly. It is a privilege and joy and responsibility for us!
When it comes to the songs we choose, we need to also recognize the importance of that task. Words are important. Unlike the sermon preached each week during a service, the words we sing in congregational worship are words we all proclaim in agreement, in unison. It is a serious task to choose words that we all can sing in agreement, together.
A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Although biblical theology must be at the very core of shaping our thoughts about God, the manner through which the church cultivates the imagination through the arts also has a role in forming our conception of God as both affect “what comes into our minds when we think about God.” In our cultivation of music then we should consider Steven Lawson’s thoughts regarding The Attributes of God:
High views of God lead to high and holy living. High views of God lead to exalted transcendent worship of God, but low views of God lead to low and base living.
The reality is that there are artists, music groups, and churches whose personal or organizational beliefs are less than orthodox or downright heretical who produce songs that are mainstream, catchy, and kind of fun to sing. Their songs shape the way that we think about God. They disciple us - directly or indirectly. For example, Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel Church (Bethel Music/Jesus Culture) blends Kenotic Theory (that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity), and shades of Arianism and mysticism. Bethel generally de-emphasizes the gospel of salvation and the preaching of the cross, in favor of a focus on the supernatural. The Bible is generally de-emphasized in favor of new revelation beyond the Bible. Johnson believes that we must be willing to “go off the map” with the Holy Spirit instead of diligently following the Word.
Others are part of movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation or Word of Faith which espouses the insidious prosperity gospel. What is the prosperity gospel? It is a perversion of the gospel according to which Jesus is a means to God’s full blessings, primarily of wealth, health, and might, now available to those who trust and obey certain faith principles prescribed by a particular man of God.
Every time a church uses a song, whether it be through our required CCLI, direct downloads, or other purchase methods, or even when we use the “good songs” and leave out the “bad songs,” we are financing their movements meant to propagate their theology by them paying royalties.
God has gifted us in our day with countless powerful songs, with truthful lyrics, set to compelling tunes, that we don’t need to outsource to any outside group whose theologies are troubling or even heretical to fill our services. We have choruses and hymns, old and new, that proclaim with crystal clarity truths we as a church would die for.
We desire that everything we put before Jesus’ church ensures that you “...may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).
Because of that, the Session has created the following artists we will avoid and those we will commend for use in our congregational singing.
Artists to Avoid
Numerous other artists are associated with the groups listed below. We must remember that we can learn much about a person’s character and beliefs by who they associate with. This is especially true of high-level pastors, leaders, and worship artists. Therefore, the Session and Director of Music will research the roots, training, and associations of worship artists before we sing their music in our church.
- Bethel Music and Jesus Culture
- Elevation Worship
- House Fires
Recommended Worship Artists
God is raising up another group of worshippers who are centered on the gospel and adhere to sound doctrine, the faith once for all delivered to all the saints (Jude 1:3). The following groups are recommended as sources for congregational worship:
Keith & Kristyn Getty
The Gettys are modern hymn writers. Their songs teach Christian doctrine and cross the genres of traditional, classical, folk, and contemporary styles. They are the composers of the modern hymn “In Christ Alone.”
The vision of CityAlight is to write songs with biblically rich lyrics and simple melodies for the Christian church to sing.
The Norton Hall Band
This band comes out of the Billy Graham School of Music at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and desires to promote Christ-centered and biblically guided worship, centered around the gospel and birthed out of the Word of God.
Mr. Ortega is a songwriter who has produced contemporary interpretations of traditional hymns and songs, including “Give Me Jesus”, “Be Thou My Vision” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”.
Sovereign Grace Music
Sovereign Grace Music wants to provide songs for the church characterized by theologically-informed, Christ-exalting lyrics, singable melodies, and creative musical arrangements. Because their theological blend combines elements of Reformed and Continuationist theology, their music seems to benefit both conservative churches wanting to broaden their musical styles as well as charismatic churches looking for a greater biblical depth in their songs.
Other Worship Artists
Some songs written by Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, and others associated with Passion Music and Passion Conferences.
The great historic hymns of the faith
These must not be forgotten by the next generation.
There may be other resources available. We should always be looking for new sources of sound music and supporting those artists and teaching our people.
1) The Session will have final authority over the song selection.
At the end of the day, the elders of the church will be held accountable to God for the sheep and are responsible for the teaching and doctrine of the church. Our Book of Church Order says that the Session has “... authority over the time and place of the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, over all other religious services, over the music in the services.” Because of that, we will have the final say in what is or is not used in our times of corporate worship. In the case where an “Artist to be Avoided” acquires the rights to a song of a recommended artist, the Session may choose to still use the song.
2) We want to draw from a blend of new and old music
Many hymns are timeless and contain precious doctrinal truths that must be passed down to the next generation. These hymns can be updated stylistically if desired but the lyrical content is what we are after. We will also be intentional about the mingling of historic and contemporary music as we do not value stylistic narrowness.
3) Our songs will keep their focus on God
Only select songs that exalt the character and attributes of God and the wonders of Christ’s redemptive work. As Robert G. Rayburn once said, “It is fundamental that we recognize that all true Christian worship must be theocentric, the primary motion and focus of worship are Godward.”
4) We will sing gospel-centered songs
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and it is for unbelievers and believers alike, therefore, the songs that we sing will proclaim the gospel through song. We will sing songs based on scripture that glorify God, regardless of if they are about ‘me’ or Him.
5) We will avoid songs that have unbiblical or extrabiblical language
Songs with excessive creative license are not fit for congregational worship and may either tell lies or stretch the truth to a breaking point.