New Rule For Worship Songs: Look With Suspicion On The Other Rules

by Bobby Gilles

in Songwriting/Hymn Workshop,Worship Leading

I love some books so much that I dog-ear many of the pages and, for years thereafter, occasionally pick up the book when I have a minute or two and skim over the marked pages. The other day I skimmed a few pages in one such book, Worship Matters by my friend Bob Kauflin (whose blog is also named Worship Matters). I came across this gem on page 101:

“Don’t assume that a song that uses a lot of first-person pronouns is man-centered. Psalm 86 uses the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” thirty-one times in seventeen verses. But you’re never left wondering who the focus is. God delights in strong emotions that are a response to revealed realities.”

We worship songwriters, leaders and other service planners have a lot to consider when writing or choosing songs (see my “Can We Trust The Contemporary Worship Industry”). Unfortunately, the sheer weight of this sometimes leads writers and pastors to make quick rules like:

  • No “I” songs
  • No “we” songs
  • No songs about Jesus — just songs to Jesus
  • No songs that reference Christ as “You” rather than by name

and on and on. We have good intentions, but blanket rules like this do a disservice to God and to our congregations. Not only this, but if we applied many of these quick rules to songs in the Bible, many of them would fail the test.

There’s no getting around it: songwriters and service planners must be students of Scripture, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Our own individual preferences and our attempts to create legalistic shortcuts will otherwise lead us into rejecting a good many worthy songs — and perhaps accepting songs that fail to serve our people or give adequate praise to God Almighty.

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