“I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.” –Psalm 7:17
The following statements describe what we at Legacy Baptist Church believe to be ideal worship music, and they communicate what we value and what we’re trying to produce and promote within Christ’s church and for God’s glory. Originally written by Chris Anderson for Church Works Media (churchworksmedia.com), they are here shared by his permission.
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally Scriptural
Worship music, like the rest of the worship service, should be filled with biblical quotations, imagery and allusions (Colossians 3:16). In some cases (as with the metrical Psalms) that means that the hymn lyrics should essentially be thought-for-thought paraphrases of the biblical text. Even in cases when hymns pursue a biblical theme or doctrine, however, the biblical content behind the lyrics should be clear. We should be singing the Scriptures! Further, worship music is able to both express and advance the singer’s theological understanding. Thus, what we value in hymn texts is not merely creativity or artistry, but biblical and theological accuracy. The songs we sing in worship should be doctrinally rich and meaty. We want people to meditate on spiritual truths as they sing, both in public worship and in private, so we are endeavoring to provide fuel for such meditation through theologically astute texts, especially regarding the doctrines of God, Christ, and Salvation.
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally God-Glorifying
Worship music—and the rest of our lives!—takes place for the glory and pleasure of God. As the Westminster Catechism states so well, our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” More importantly, Scripture teaches that just as all things were created by and for Christ (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11), all believers are saved by and for Christ (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Thus, we are striving to produce music that encourages the Lord’s people to “magnify” and “exalt” Him (Psalm 34:3) by reminding them of His titles, attributes, words and deeds—by helping them see Him as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. While we trust that the songs will be enjoyable and edifying for the Lord’s people, they are intentionally focused upward so that the church might fulfill its purpose of glorifying God by singing directly of Him, for Him, and to Him (Ephesians 1:12; 3:20-21; Romans 11:36).
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally Christ-Centered
Worship music should be distinctly Christian. Our songs should make much of Jesus Christ and the glorious gospel. Because we believe that Christ crucified is the centerpiece of human history (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2) to which the entire Old Testament prophesied and to which the entire New Testament bears witness (Luke 24:47), we are determined to produce music that will point people Christ-ward and help them appreciate in fresh ways the glory of Jesus’ Person and Work. We want to sing about Christ—His perfect life, sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, intercessory ministry, and glorious return!
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally Congregational
Worship music should encourage every-member ministry. While we appreciate purposeful and appropriate special music, we believe that God is uniquely glorified by congregational singing. Worship does not belong only to those who are specially trained or gifted, but to every believer in Jesus Christ. Further, singing praise is the responsibility of the entire body, not a select few (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). These truths motivate us to produce music that is accessible, both textually and musically. We are not trying to be academic or classical. Whereas we genuinely admire oratorios by Handel or cantatas by Bach, we are writing music that we hope will be useful for the average, musically-untrained church member. The text and music may and sometimes will stretch the worshiper, but it shouldn’t be “beyond” him.
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally Fervent
Worship music should have texts and tunes that affect the entire person—mind, will, and emotions (Matthew 22:37-38). At times, that will require musical scores that are quiet and meditative, inspiring wonder or sorrow. More often, we believe, it will require musical scores that are joyful and celebratory, inspiring a heartfelt and exuberant response consistent with the many “Shout to the Lord!” commands of the Psalms and the worship of Nehemiah 12:43 that was heard from afar! We are striving to produce texts and tunes that stir the imagination and affections, encouraging appropriate emotional responses to the grand truths being sung. We want to help congregations engage biblical truth and respond with thoughtful, whole-hearted fervency (John 4:24).
Worship Music Should Be Intentionally Distinct
Worship texts and music should reflect the character of God in His holiness, glory, weight, majesty, love, grace, joy, and other perfections (Psalm 96). Though we recognize that the implications of this point to musical styles is necessarily somewhat subjective, we do desire that our music promote a biblical reverence (Hebrews 12:28-29) and have a sound that is distinct from most of what is heard outside the church. We also desire that our music be distinct in its quality. Of course, praise is accepted by God because of Christ (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), not because of our abilities. However, we believe that one way in which we demonstrate God’s glory and our esteem for Him is by offering Him that which is excellent. Our songs, like the Old Testament sacrificial lambs (Exodus 12:5), should be choice offerings, not the “lame” or “blemished” (Malachi 1:8, 13-14). To that end, we are striving to produce music that is excellent artistically as well as doctrinally—that is “skillful” (Psalm 33:3; 47:7). We are hopeful that the result will be Christ-honoring music that will point Christ’s people to Him for years to come.
“My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.” –Psalm 71:23