Renewed patterns of singing

[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]

Here’s a totally comprehensive command of God that touches every aspect of our lives: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will”. (Romans 12:2).

How does this apply to our sung worship?  What are the patterns of this world’s singing which we should avoid? Let’s look at some, and how being a Christian can transform this world’s singing into singing that fits “God’s good, pleasing and perfect will”.

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Me-centered
Most songs we hear on the radio are about ME. What I feel and what I want. That’s the pattern of this world — and self-centredness causes most of the trouble in this world.

A transformed Christian will focus on God and His will (v2) ~ what GOD wants. God-centred believers can cope with most of the trouble in this world.

Examine the songs in your Church repertoire and Sunday song-list, and make sure they are GOD-centred, not ME-centred.  Selfishness can look very ‘holy’ sometimes, when the songs use phrases like “I want ….”.  Include songs that express GOD’s specific wants and commands, and only then sing ME songs that respond with MY specific pledges to obey Him.

Performance to entertain
Most songs we hear on the radio are PERFORMED TO ENTERTAIN.  That’s the pattern of this world music scene — rave entertainment, from Idols singing the latest Hits.

A transformed Christian will focus on PARTICIPATORY SINGING, as the Bible puts it, “to one another”.  Congregational Singing.  Yes, there is a place for the occasional Singer up front Performing a “Message in Song”, but most of our singing should be “congregational”. Everyone singing together and to one another the praises of God and the teachings of His Word.

Examine the songs in your Church repertoire and Sunday song-list, and make sure they have “Worship and the Word” lyrics.  Make sure the music is easily singable by the average congregation of non-professionals. Avoid trying the replicate the “Worship Hits” that sound awesome when sung by professionals, but fall flat on the lips of students, housewives, artisans and business-people.

Music is more important than words
Songwriters are Songwriters because of their Musical talents, and only secondarily because of their lyric-writing abilities. They can sing well, and they can create music well. The words are often not crafted with poetic skill, and they sometimes lack coherent connectedness. But the Music and the Beat cover these blemishes.

A transformed Christian will prioritise the meaning of the Words, and use Music as a servant to carry them. Music and Rhythm are there to embed the Words in the mind and soul. That’s why the Holy Spirit preserved the lyrics of the Psalms over thousands of years for our benefit, even though we don’t know what they sounded like when they were written.

Examine the songs in your Church repertoire and Sunday song-list, and make sure the Words express worthy meaning on worthy themes. The Lyrics must have clear coherence, presenting God’s Word in sequential logic. Then find a Tune and Rhythm to fit the words, and sing the Words together with sensitive enthusiasm.

Endless repetition
We’ve all heard those popular songs that pick up on a phrase and sing it over and over and over and over and over and over again. REPETITION ad nauseum. That’s the pattern of this world’s songs. The effect is to disengage the mind and release the emotions. The body takes over and sways or jerks to the rhythm of the music. These are the techniques of the Hypnotist.

A transformed Christian will soon be bored by such repetition, and yearn for something more substantial. A hunger for meaty Lyrics. Lyrics that get out of the repetitive rut and say something substantial and meaningful. Some songs repeat the word ‘holy’ 20 plus times, as if this makes the singer more holy. They don’t realise that the word is derived from the root “separate”, and that this calls them to be separate from the repetitive pattern of this world’s songs!

Examine the songs in your Church repertoire and Sunday song-list, and make sure they are rich in substantive, Biblical or theological Meaning, expressed in creative lyrics. Though Repetition that is carefully crafted, as in a refrain, can be helpful when used to embed God’s truth into human memory. That is good. But avoid mere repetition for repetition’s hypnotic sake.

These four Contrasts between the World’s Songs and Christian Songs will help you apply Romans 12:2 to your Sunday Worship:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will”.

Next time we will answer the question: What are God’s own criteria for this Renewed Pattern for our Congregational Singing?

 

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