Singing with meaning

[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]

Have you noticed how our world is losing its grip on ‘Meaning’?  Many seem to have given up their search for Meaning in life, and are actually embracing Meaninglessness. They choose to substitute ‘Feeling’ for ‘Meaning’. Of course, our emotions are an important gift from God. But so are our minds. Mind and Emotion must be connected in the whole personality given us by our Creator.

See how many TV advertisements use the technique of bombarding us with unrelated images. These create Feelings within us, even though our minds are so puzzled that we switch them off. Then, with our Feelings dominant, we are told to buy XXX bottle of booze, or YYY kind of car. Such meaninglessness appeals to our generation – a teenager told me she loves this kind of advert.

This worldly habit has infected some of the new worship songs we sing on Sundays. Have you ever wondered what these lines mean?

“It’s living water we desire to flood our hearts with holy fire”.  How can ‘water’ flood us with ‘fire’?

“Over the mountains and the sea Your river runs with love for me”.  How can a river run over the mountain and sea?

Such songs (from the popular Worship CD Hillsong Delirious? Unified Praise Live Worship (c) 2003) are bombarding us with unrelated images that trigger fuzzy-warm Feelings. We are easily conned into feeling spiritual ~ as we sing trigger-words like ‘living water’, ‘flood’, ‘hearts’, holy’, ‘fire’, ‘mountains’, ‘sea’, ‘river’, ‘love’ and ‘me’. String such trigger-words together in any order, add a good tune with a strong beat, and you have another popular ‘worship’ song.  Meaningful connectedness is irrelevant.

When I asked the publishers what these words mean, I was told that these songs are written by normal people for normal people, so we shouldn’t have high expectations; and that people enjoy singing lyrics in worship that relate to their life and their environment, and we should not question them because  these songs are sung all over the world. These songs say what people want to say to God.

The publishers made no attempt to answer the question: ‘What do these lyrics mean?’ Their criteria for choosing them are:

* ‘normal’ (unthinking?!) people enjoy singing them, and     

                        * they are widely popular.

However, our criteria for choosing lyrics should be

                        ^ Are these the lyrics God would enjoy? and

                        ^ Are they compatible with the Bible message?  and

                        ^ Are they meaningful?

As we choose our songs for each Sunday’s worship service, let’s intentionally sing lyrics with clear, logical meaning. Let’s put aside our natural inclination for ‘me-centred criteria’ – what we enjoy, what are popular. Let’s consciously choose the songs that God will enjoy ~ lyrics that are biblical, and rich in meaning.

“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. Sing with gratitude in your hearts to God giving thanks to God the Father, in whatever you do, through the Lord Jesus.”   —  Colossians 3:16,17

“I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” 1 Corinthians 14:15 (in the context of the whole chapter, which emphasises ‘understanding intelligible words of prophecy and instruction that edify the church’. Apply this to the Songs we Sing, as well as to other components of the Service.)

One Comment

  1. You are so right, Hugh. We sometimes want to run away when a worship group “leads” with such meaningless unbiblical songs