What Do Your Songs Say?
Jimi Williams —
“That new song has such a killer melody! I love how it builds into the chorus and that bridge section really explodes!”
Songs that sing great and sound great really grab our attention. It’s how we are made. We naturally connect to catchy melodies. And depending on how we are hardwired, we might be more inclined to sing a great melody than a great lyric. Raise your hand if you’ve ever caught yourself singing along with a pop song on the radio without really thinking about what you are saying. I’m guilty!
This danger is always present when we sing in worship. Sometimes the crafty melody hijacks our senses and we disengage with what we are saying. There’s also the danger of putting a really singable song into our worship set without fully thinking through the lyric. I believe most worship writers really want to sing truth, but I also know that we all are imperfect and prone to wander. I also know that what means one thing to the writer can mean something totally different to the listener.
As worship leaders, we have a huge influence on our congregations. We stand up every week and, in essence say, “Hey everyone, repeat after me.” We literally put words into people’s mouths! That should cause all of us leaders to step back and take a deep breath. And once we catch it, to commit ourselves to making sure we are only leading songs that are true, Scriptural and honoring to Jesus.
So how can we make sure our songs say what they should? Here are a few suggestions:
-There is safety in numbers. Have a pastor or trusted leader look over new songs for potential confusion or untrue lyrics.
-Tie songs to Scripture. To make sure people have the right context for the song lyric, read and talk about a Scripture that portrays the truth you are about to sing. This is especially valuable when introducing a song for the first time.
-Don’t blindly trust the writer. I know many leaders who will sing anything a certain writer or church creates because they are a fan of that person or church. This is dangerous! Songwriters, the same as pastors, must be scrutinized in every word they write, not to criticize, but to ensure that we are feeding our people the truth.
-When in doubt, leave it out. This was great advice given to me by a pastor several years ago. If there is the potential for misunderstanding, it would be better to pick another song, even though you really love the melody. There are plenty of great songs!
If you’ll take these few steps, you’ll ensure that your church is singing songs that have great melodies, but also great lyrics.