Is Singing Worship Songs A Heart or a Head Issue?

A couple days ago I posted an article I read on my Facebook titled ‘Why I Lead the Worship Music You Hate, and Why I’m Going to Keep Leading It‘ which lead to some interesting comments from some of my friends. Some liked it and agreed with it, others like bits of the article but not all of it, my dad didn’t like the tone of it and I overall liked it, but disagreed with some of the points. With about a 3 month hiatus from blogging, I figured this was as good a time as any to enter back into the fray (with apologies to anyone who has continued checking this for any updates: I began seminary this fall and haven’t had time to keep up with this)

First off, my goal as a worship leader through music is not to appease people or simply sing the songs everyone likes. Contrary to the belief of many people I talk to, Sunday mornings aren’t about what each individual wants or needs, but about lifting high the name of Christ. We all come from different background and have different issues that we’re struggling with that day, and to think that each Sunday morning is where I need to be filled up is a selfish way of viewing Sunday morning worship. This time together should simply be an extension of what we do throughout the week individually with Sunday mornings being a time for us to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage one another to better pursue Christ. As was stated in the article, “My job is to disciple worship in the church.” While worship is so much more than simply singing, it definitely includes singing and helps put melody to Gospel truths that allow us to better remember the God we worship.

Secondly, we are to worship God with our hearts, soul and body. We cannot so easily compartmentalize our lives into these little segments, but instead need to be worshipping God with all areas of life. These all bleed into each other and affect one another and together make up our entire being (there’s some Trinitarian theology in there somewhere, anyone else want to write about that one??). One of the biggest mistakes I have with this article is that it polarizes head truth with heart truth which cannot be done. Yes, we preach far better than we live, but we cannot completely separate our beliefs from our actions and vice versa. To separate these parts out (as in music is primarily emotional/heart and preaching is primarily head/thought) is a dangerous generalization. All of our lives are surrendered to God and need to be submitted to his perfect will. THAT is worship.

Thirdly, church services aren’t about trying reach non-believers. Our weekly corporate worship services are to disciple and equip the body to better serve God throughout their lives. Almost everything we do in church should appear strange to those who have not submitted their lives to Christ, and that’s good! We are called to be set apart, a holy priesthood, the very body of Christ. It’s not a social club or a lecture hall but the physical way God has chosen to reveal himself to the world. Believers should leave Sunday mornings more ready to be a living example of Christ in their homes, workplaces and various areas of life. The “seeker-sensitive” church model has been attempted by many people (and is still tried by many) and as Willow Creek has shown, cannot be sustained.

Finally, the words we sing matter. This issue has been written about by many people far smarter than I, but bears repeating in this discussion. My goal with the songs we sing is to help people have a better understanding of who God is. The songs we sing do teach and shape the way people interact with God. Practically, this means that I will sing (hopefully) a wide variety of songs that include both old and new songs. I just finished a book called Ordinary this week by Michael Horton in which he says, “Older forms, songs, and prayers are not better because they are old, but because they are family treasures in the attic. (Ordinary, 178)” I will not do traditional things simply for the sake of tradition, but because we draw from a rich heritage that can be traced to the very creation of the universe. Singing a wide variety of songs also teaches that God is vast and cannot be contained or every be fully described. We need new songs that can better reveal characteristics of God and even with an eternity we will not be able to fully describe who God is and what he is like. In Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters, he has a quote that says, “show me the songs a church sings, and I’ll tell you their theology.” (I’m sorry, I can’t find the book so I don’t know the exact page) Words matter far more than people realize or want to admit and music can be a powerful way to remember Gospel truths and allow the Gospel to better reach our hearts of stone and turn them to hearts of flesh.

Much to the dismay of many a worship through music leader at churches across the world, the worship wars are not dead and will not completely die until Christ returns. The problem is that the real worship war is within our hearts as we need to die to ourselves on a daily basis. Sunday mornings are not about you or I as individuals, but as the body of Christ. What can you do to better equip the saints to worship God throughout all of their lives?

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  1. Mark Ayen

     /  December 17, 2014


  2. Mike,

    Thanks for referencing my article. I’m humbled it got you writing again. I love this article! I think your points are right on. It probably would’ve taken a couple hundred more words for me to adequately avoid a few miscommunications and I’d edited down to 2,000 from 4,300 words already and didn’t anticipate them.

    The points you bring up are valid. I’d never argue against them. If I’d anticipated the need, I’d have made them myself. I was never trying to separate music as a heart activity and teaching as a mind one. I used the word primarily intending it to be incrementally (and if we’re honest I think that is a practical inevitability 1) if I asked you to teach a lesson you’d most likely give a sermon not sing a song and 2) if I asked you to give us some time to personalize our intimacy with God you probably would lead a song, not start talking, unless it were a prophecy), but TRULY they are both. And there’s no reason to differentiate. I brought it up because I’ve heard more and more what concerns me as a solely cerebral relationship with God. One example is a chief board member (more powerful than the pastor in his church) with this mindset who said he’d studied the Bible for decades, but this relationship stuff is new to him and he wanted to know more about it. His church is one of those that would make the argument I address. I think It’s a valid concern if we squeeze out relationship for a mental acknowledgement of truth, as though anything more is unpredictable and scary. They should both be present.

    I brought up heart Scriptures to show God wants to touch us in a personal way, not to marginalize the head in worship. I can see how it came across that way. I do think words are essential, and I would never choose a theologically weak song for the sake of the music. I’ve avoided a few in my church because I think that’s an essential responsibility and a vital part of worship.

    I also was surprised anyone saw a seeker-service mentality in my post. But that’s probably because I am so against that movement that I didn’t anticipate some would make the connection. I still think we shouldn’t actively make purely style choices that would turn people away unnecessarily, and I stand by that. But where the seeker-service and I are radically at odds is that there is a motivation in the seeker movement to make a cookie-cutter, nice service that is like the kiddy pool version of a relationship with God. It asks little, gives little.

    I want to bring the power. I think what draws people to church is the Holy Spirit and some sort of desire for God. And when they come they better get him. In fact, it is an injustice if we do not take teaching and worshiping in the Holy Spirit seriously when they show up to meet God. That is our only sustainable way of keeping them and more importantly, changing their lives in Him. So I believe in leading a powerfully Spirit-filled worship set, worshiping in the presence of God, preaching the Word extensively and getting into the hard issues, and discipling as deep in teaching, love, and the grace of God as possible to lead people to Christ’s work at the cross and everlasting victory in Him. Every week.

    Thanks for bringing up these points. I’m glad you made them. I hope to catch some great articles here again! God bless you and those you lead in Christ.

    For his glory,


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