Matt Glover cartoon on worship

Recently I’ve been reminded from a number of different sources about the importance of the words of songs within our Christian culture. Whether it’s the songs sung within the traditional Sunday meeting or new releases put out by contemporary Christian artists, we relate to and adhere to the theology presented in the songs we love most.

Rather than just grabbing the latest contemporary Christian music hit and rehashing it in our Sunday-morning gathering, we should be choosing our corporate worship songs based on Scripture. Here’s what I’ve been learning to question when I hear songs, especially those placed in front of us in church.

Are the words true?


We need to test our songs (and our beliefs) with the Word of God. Right belief about God is intimately connected to right worship because believing right things about God is an essential component in honouring God appropriately.

There have been times when I’ve heard Christian-themed songs that made me want to cringe — not for the abominable music or monotony (though there are plenty of those around), but for the lyrics. One church we visited brought out a song — apparently a congregation favourite from the gusto with which they sang — that repeated the words “I can’t believe He’s chosen me” in their chorus. What a muddle-up! Didn’t anyone stop to think about what they were actually singing?

There are many examples of complete error wrapped in the heart-warming Christmas carols (Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day and “Little Lord Jesus, no crying he made”), but extremely popular songs also twist theological concepts and promote emotional fuzz over true doctrine. Above All (“Like a rose trampled on the ground…”) exalts man above God with the words “You took the fall and thought of me above all”.

David and I have been rejoicing in the promises of God lately and can lift up our voices to sing every tongue in heaven and earth shall declare your glory as promised in Philippians 2:9, but does everyone who sings it truly believe that?? And if they don’t, why do they sing it?

Who are we singing to?


Take a common worship song like Draw me close to you and sing it to your lover. It works, right? So when we sing it in church, is it just the context that makes people address the song to God? Or should the song be properly introduced so people know where to direct their worship?

Are we singing to ourselves? Is the song self-focused? In the Secret is a good example of a catchy song that we like to sing, but an analysis reveals that it’s little more than a self-promotion. We want to hype ourselves up (to know “you” more).

It’s not just the quasi-romantic vagueness of the object of our affections or the pep-rally calls to rouse ourselves to action. Are we truly worshipping a Triune God? If so, why don’t our songs reflect that? In our current traditional congregations, there’s a serious imbalance in the attention we lavish on the three figures of the Trinity.

In Whatever happened to the Father, Susan White points out that within churches, attention to the Triune God is decreasing as people focus more on Jesus. She says, “In some churches the person of Jesus has become virtually the sole object of congregational worship, the name of God the Father is almost never invoked.” Is that true of the songs you sing?

The emphasis that’s placed on worshipping Jesus and songs like It’s all about you, Jesus may — as Robin Parry writes — undermine the place of the Father and the Spirit in the spiritual life of the ordinary congregationer. This shouldn’t be such a big deal, but we’ve developed a Christian culture where the ordinary person is more likely to turn to a man for spiritual guidance than the Bible. Consequently, believers are forming their theology from what they hear on Sunday mornings, rather than searching the Bible for themselves. (That’s another post.)

So if the Sunday morning songs are subtly undermining the Trinity, Christians may not necessarily learn the theological aspects of worshipping a Triune God. Parry states, “I want to suggest that worship of Jesus is central to Christianity, and that it is honouring to both Father and Spirit, but that it must not move towards an exclusive focus on worshipping Jesus that denies the reality of the Trinity by pushing the Father and the Spirit to the margins.”

Parry analysed 28 worship albums produced by Vineyard Music between 1999 and 2004 and found:

  • • 5 songs (1.4%) were Trinitarian (contained at least some reference to all three members of the Trinity)
  • • 32 songs (8.8%) were two-person songs, with 19 of those being Father & Son songs
  • • 140 songs (38.7%) were songs directed at one person only (Father: 20 songs, Son: 115 songs, Spirit: 5 songs)
  • • 185 songs (51.1%) were what Parry called “You Lord” songs — really indeterminate in who the worship was directed to.

Although your church’s list is probably not strictly Vineyard-only, I believe Parry’s outline makes obvious the great disparity across all our churches’ song lists. Where is the Trinity? Where is the Spirit?

Sensible approach must be taken to either define clearly who we are singing to so that praise is given where it is due or choose a list of songs where the object of our praise is more obvious. For further study, I recommend Worshipping Trinity by Robin Parry, although other titles have also emerged on the subject and may be equally as helpful.

For a good example of a contemporary Christian song that worships the Trinity fully, have a listen to Christine Dente’s Trinity on her new album, Voyage.

Three in one, one in three……………………………..
Awesome mystery……………………………..
Father, Son, Spirit Holy……………………………..
Our God, the Trinity……………………………..

Oh Father, you have loved me, sent Jesus to redeem
Oh Jesus, you have loved me by washing my soul clean
Oh Spirit, you have loved me by showing me my need
So profound a mystery

Three in one, one in three……………………………..
Awesome mystery……………………………..
Father, Son, Spirit Holy……………………………..
Our God, the Trinity……………………………..

Oh Father, I thank you for giving me to Him
Oh Jesus, I thank you for taking me in
Oh Spirit, I thank you for planting faith within
An amazing mystery, the awesome Trinity

Three persons in one God……………………………..
Three persons in one God ……………………………..
I praise the threefold name……………………………..

***……………………………..

Anyway, if you’re looking for more information on Christian worship songs within the traditional Sunday-morning meeting context, here’s Your Guide to Contemporary Christian Music.