If you have been a part of a church for any length of time, then it is likely true that you have had to endure a song or two for which you didn’t care. Sometimes these “bad songs” have more to do with style than substance, wording, or simple preference. If you are a theology lover like me, it often has to do with some small nuance of doctrine rather than drum-beats or some skinny-jean wearing guy firing off some minute-long guitar solo. The question is, when these songs are inevitably sung at your church or a conference, how are you going to react? What should your response be? Many people simply sit down, or even cross their arms with their apparent displeasure. I have even seen some that simply stand with a sour look on their face. As Christians however, how should we respond? If everyone else is standing as a corporate body and singing, how should we respond so as to not draw attention to ourselves, and allow the Lord to still be worshiped by those around us? How can you still worship, but yet not be coerced into worthless worship because your heart is not right? Here are a few ideas to consider.
Pray About Your Attitude:
You see in the bulletin that song that you just hate to sing… Your soul groans. You are thinking to yourself, “I think I am going to need to go to the bathroom about that time during the service.” You simply have a bad disposition about it before it ever starts. Sadly, I must admit that I have been there, and I didn’t mind showing my displeasure. It was written all over my face when the song was sung. However, I finally came to the point when I realized that singing to God should have a lot more to do with Him than my personal desires. I was coming into the service wanting to feel God and feel the music, instead of having Him be the object of my praise; the object of my worship. I needed an attitude (and a heart) change. When I finally came to this point, it made worshiping God through a song that was not my preference a lot easier. He was the one that I needed to be aiming to please, not myself. So, this is the first place we need to look when that song is going to be sung. We need to check our attitudes. Check and make sure that your heart is right before you seek to cast stones at the music minister or praise team leader.
Find the Biblical Truth in the Song:
We all have desires and preferences in our musical choices. I love songs with rich and theologically sound words. However, I work with students and go to a lot of youth conferences. There, one is more likely to find a loud and more contemporary style of music. At times there is less of an emphasis on biblical orthodoxy in the words and more emphasis on the quality of the music. Not everyone enjoys the same style of music. Nevertheless, we need to always look for the biblical truth in the songs that we sing (John 4:24). Biblical truth is what separates Christian music from every other type of music in the world. It is part of the formula of true praise or worship. Ultimately, the words must be right and our hearts as well, for our song to be acceptable to the Lord. While the song might be light (or very heavy) on biblical truth, as long as it is biblical truth, you can still sing. Even if you don’t like the beat of the drum or the sound of the organ, if the words are right, then put aside your preference and sing not just unto the Lord but also for the benefit of those standing next to you as well (Colossians 3:16).
Change The Words:
Every once in a while you run across a great song that might have a single line with some troubling lyric. This is common, not just in new songs but some of the old great hymns as well. This doesn’t mean that you cannot sing the song. When I have been at a conference or a church and one of these songs are sung, I simply either stop singing during that particular line or I make up a new line that fits the song better and then sing it. We must remember that all Christian songs (unless they are a Psalm from scripture) are man-made and not inspired by God in the same way scripture was inspired (I Timothy 3:16). There is nothing wrong with changing a word or two. But you might not choose to belt it out at the top of your lungs. That might be distracting to the person next to you, and that might end up doing more harm than good. Changing the words so as to make much of Jesus is not wrong, in fact, it is right.
Pray Instead of Singing:
If an attitude change has not helped, the words that are being sung cannot be found in scripture, and there is no hope to change the words, a final option is to simply stand and pray. Paul said that we should “pray without ceasing.” If you just cannot sing a song that the church is singing, then another appropriate way to speak to the Lord is through prayer. This allows you to participate with the church body in standing and joining your heart to the Lord, but simply through a different medium. It causes no distraction and it allows you to give glory to God through your personal words instead of someone else’s. I have done this on several occasions and have found it to be very helpful in preparing me to hear from God though the preaching of the Word. It allowed me not to be frustrated over a song choice, but also not to compromise my personal conviction or preferences.
Singing unto the Lord has both a horizontal and a vertical element to it (Colossians 3:16). It is for the benefit of others, ourselves, and the Lord as well. As you grow as a Christian, you will find that we should want to be with the corporate body and sing songs of praise, adoration, and worship to the Lord. As you do this more, you are bound to run across a song or two that just doesn’t fit in to the “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs being sung in spirit and the truth” model. When you do, I hope you will think about these things that I have mentioned. We don’t want singing to be about us. We never want to draw attention to ourselves instead of God, and if we sit, cross our arms, and sulk, that is exactly what we are doing. We should always seek unity when possible. My encouragement to you (from a person who has had to learn this) is when you run across one of these songs, check your attitude, and then sing. Look for the words that glorify God, and then sing. Change the words if need be, and then sing. If you exhaust these options, then stand with your brother and sister in Christ and give glory to Him through your prayers. Join with your fellow brother and give Jesus the honor and praise that He deserves.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell