Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.
“Some of the best worship songs are like a chapel and a classroom at the same time,. They teach you something about God, and they give you space to reflect and respond to that.” (Matt Redman – quoted by Chris Molyneux in his 31.8.2015 Music Musings.)
“The Chapel and the Classroom”. Matt is a prolific worship-song writer — his songs are sung all over the world every Sunday. This is his unusual way of describing “worship songs”. But very valid.
This captures so well the two dimensions of all Congregational Singing: The vertical (chapel) and the horizontal (classroom). Praise and thanksgiving, directed vertically to “God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (chapel). Instruction and correction, directed horizontally to “one another” (classroom).
Matt’s model illustrates a foundational Scripture that must control all our singing in church: Colossians 3:16 — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16 refers to “the chapel” when we are told that it is “to God” that we “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts.” That is vertical praise and thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:16 refers to “the classroom” when we are told to that it is “one another” that we “teach and admonish with all wisdom as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”. That is horizontal instruction and correction.
The two dimensions belong together. Matt says that it is “at the same time” that they “are like the chapel and the classroom”. So don’t separate them. Don’t spend all your singing-time in vertical praise and worship songs. Don’t spend all your singing-time in horizontal instruction and correction songs. Thoughtfully, “with all wisdom”, blend these two purposes into your Sunday service.
What is the perspective that holds the vertical and horizontal together? What is the architecture that ensures that the chapel and the classroom are actually one building?
Colossians 3:16 gives the answer: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. It is the word of Christ that integrates the vertical and horizontal.
If we are filled with “the word of Christ”, this will “richly” enrich our choice of songs, so that they will express our praise and thanksgiving vertically to God, and they will also instruct and correct us who sing them, to become more Christlike in our daily lives.
Make sure that you carefully compile your Sunday song-list to include both vertical and horizontal songs. Make sure each song is based on the word of Christ (not on your own feelings, preferences or experiences, or on the current flavour of the day).
Such worship songs, says Matt Redman, will be “some of the best worship songs”!