[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]
So our choice of songs for next Sunday will be guided not by what we like, but by what God likes. He has told us what and how to sing in Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16,17. We saw how remarkably similar these are in describing God’s favourite songs.
God tells us to sing songs drawn from three genres/styles: “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs”. God listens to our singing, to see if we include this variety of songstyles in our congregational worship. Let’s try to identify these genres:
PSALMS: We know that the Jewish song-book, “The Psalms”, was widely used in the early church. The word “psalms” implies musical accompaniment. 51 quotations from the Psalms are found in the New Testament. Within the Psalms there is Variety:
* Some psalm-songs express remorse for sins confessed (6,51,130 etc).
* Others offer praise and worship (48,65, 96, 103, 136, 150 etc).
* Some psalms are prayer-songs, pouring out our hearts to God (17, 55, 64 etc).
* Some are songs of personal testimony to God’s deliverance (18, 40, 107 etc)
* Psalm 45 is a Wedding song (sad to note that for the first time in human history, western Weddings tend to avoid congregational singing.)
* Other Psalms describe the coming Messiah, fulfilled in Jesus (2, 16, 45, 47, 110 etc).
* Many Psalms are songs of doctrinal and ethical instruction: about God and His ways, and how to live right. (1, 8, 15, 19, 50, 119, 127 etc).
* Psalm 96 is an example of a missionary song, calling non-Jews to submit to Yahweh.
* The Songs of Ascents (120-134) are to be sung in Processions to the Temple.
In this genre of “Psalms” there is a w-i-d-e Variety of themes. Many of them overlap. Most Psalms have been paraphrased into “Metrical Psalms”, to easily singable tunes.
HYMNS: Many commentators regard Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 2:11-13 as samples of early Hymns sung in the apostolic era. A hymn is a song in honour of God and His ways, that “has a beginning, a progress of thought and a conclusion”. (A.S.Gilfillan). Hymns are seldom written quickly – they call for serious crafting, consistent rhythm, poetic skills, thorough revisions, and matching music.
SPIRITUAL SONGS: These are songs that are spiritual, in contrast to secular. This term is wide enough to embrace Contemporary Worship Songs (CWSs), Scripture in Song, and Choruses ~ almost everything not already classified as “Psalms” or “Hymns”. Some Christians include spontaneous “Singing in Tongues” under this heading.
Why would God, who created such infinite Variety in our world, be satisfied with only one style of singing? He longs for Variety in our Songs! Yet, when many churches moved out of the old-fashioned hymn-rut, they soon settled into a new-fashioned CWS rut. A mono-themed rut of “Praise and Worship”. 90% of CWSs say the same thing .
God is listening to our congregational singing! He waits to hear the variety of our “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs”. Don’t disappoint Him.