In this series we will study Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy, who was pastoring the church in the city of Ephesus. We will specifically key in on applications and lessons that apply to worship ministry and worship leaders. Today we will look at our calling as worship leaders.
“To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
ARE WE TEACHERS?
Recently a friend of mine asked me if worship songs were supposed to teach people things. Without hesitation I shot back “well, we’re fooling ourselves if we think they aren’t.”
The truth is that most of us don’t remember what was taught in the sermon 3 weeks or 3 years ago, but we remember the songs. Timothy was charged not only to refute false teaching, but to instruct the people with sound teaching. I believe my pastor does this each week from the pulpit, and as worship leader, part of my job is to assist and support that teaching with songs that are based on sound doctrine.
HOW DO WE FIND SOUND DOCTRINE?
All through this passage we are told about sound doctrine. The importance of truth over myth or fable in our faith. How do we find and keep such truth in our church’s worship expression? If we practice songs, and arrange melodies but neglect our bible then we will be on shaky ground. We find sound doctrine and we study and grow in our knowledge of God, who he is, how he views us, and what he has done for us.
I start with the gospels and the Psalms. The more I know and study the scripture, the fuller the picture I get of Jesus and how to worship him.
“Fuller” may be the key word here. In writing this post, I read a lot of other blogs from all sorts of different denominational and theological perspectives that criticized “bad doctrine” in worship songs. I honestly found most of them to be nitpicking. How do I know this you ask? Because I am the chief of nitpickers. But I think what they are getting at is this: sing 7 songs about God’s love and never mention his holiness. Sing 5 songs about God’s justice but never mention his mercy. Sing about God’s grace but never his wrath, or sing of his wrath and forget his deep love. God’s love, wrath, mercy, justice, patience, anger, grace are all sound, biblical truths, but if we only mention one then we miss out on the whole picture. It’s not wrong, it’s just incomplete.
An example might be the song “Your Love Never Fails” by Jesus Culture. The often repeated line of “you work all things together for my good.” A lot of bloggers have criticized this song’s lyric as being wrong. But’s not wrong, it’s correct, but its also incomplete, so while the haters are hating, there is some bit of truth to their criticism. The bible says that God works things together for good for those who “love God and are called according to his purposes.” This promise is not given to those who don’t believe. The writers of the song assume that we A.) read our bibles and B.) that we are singing the song because we believe and are called.
So should we stop doing “Your Love Never Fails”? I don’t think so, I think it’s a teaching opportunity, and perhaps a gospel opportunity for us to share the fullness of what the scripture has said.
SING THE WHOLE COUSEL
In Acts 20:27 Paul declares to the Ephesian church that ” I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
When I lead worship I want to SING the whole counsel of the word of God. I want songs full of grace. I want songs full of love. I want songs full of truth. I want songs full of justice. I want songs full of mercy. I want songs that acknowledge wrath but embrace forgiveness.
I think that’s the challenge for worship leaders today. To find a group of songs that give a fuller and more balanced view of God, life, death, salvation, pain, joy, suffering, and rejoicing than is readily available.
IT’S UP TO US
As we talked about last time, we are called by God to lead our churches in worship. It’s up to us as worship leaders to choose and find songs that sound in doctrine and truth. It’s up to those of us who are worship pastors or music directors to charge the other worship leaders, that they would lead songs that paint a fuller picture of the gospel and biblical truth. I can’t wait for others to do it, the responsibility starts with me.