In several places this week I’ve encountered discussions about the “wordiness” of modern worship music. Many of the folks engaged in the discussion were comparing and contrasting today’s songs to yesteryear’s more traditional songs.
What is confusing is that many of the folks who long to get back to a more traditional approach (for whatever reason) are looking back with rose colored glasses thinking that those songs were so much more theologically rich and less wordy than today’s songs.
That is confusing to me, because as a kid of the 80s and 90s who grew up during the Integrity, Vineyard, and Passion worship music movements, the definite move in modern music was actually to SIMPLIFY worship songs so that they’d be more approachable and easier for congregations to latch on to. So most modern worship music seems to be LESS wordy than the traditional four or more stanza hymns of old.
Now, I am not suggesting one way is better than the other. I love traditional hymns and modern songs written with a more hymn-like structure. I also love simple worship choruses with minimal verses and a repetitive chorus.
I believe they both have their places in the worship environment.
Because “worship” isn’t limited to or by music. Worship begins in the heart turned toward God, and one of the ways that God has blessed us with to express that worship is music. I believe that along with prayer, music is the most accessible expression of worship to the majority of people. This is because music has such power to connect with our inward selves and move us on a level that mere reading or lecture cannot.
So, the real question about wordiness isn’t really relevant. BOTH can and should be used in our environments.
Wordy songs that express lots of rich, theological truths, in line after line, have the ability to teach us truths while our hearts are turned to God.
Simple non-wordy songs that express simple, repetitive theological truths line after line, have the ability to allow us to rest and linger on a simple truth.
The Bible is filled with examples of songs (think David’s psalms) that contain both wordy lyrics and non-wordy lyrics. He uses both types to express his worship to God.
Above all, we should be confident that the songs we choose and the songs we write to lead our congregations to express their worship should be led by the Spirit, should be filled with theological truth, should focus on God, and should be accessible (singable and memorable).