The Gathering and Singing: Gospel Music?

worship 2If you attend some type of worship service on Sunday, you’ll notice that music plays a huge part of the service. It’s so important that churches hire people as their worship leaders, worship pastors, ministers of music, etc. because singing is a huge component of worshipping God. Consider the Psalms, Moses’ songs, Mary’s Magnificat and how the angels sing about the glory of God.

Music is also so important that some people will choose which church to attend or not based on the music alone. Should it be that way? Well, yes and no. It should not be that way if the choice to attend a church or not is purely based on a preferred aesthetic quality of the music. What if said church has expositional preaching, healthy polity, a loving congregation, an evangelistic and missions emphasis, etc. Should the style or tempo of music keep us from attending and joining? On the other end of the spectrum, what if said church didn’t have all of the signs of health mentioned above, but had music to your liking? Should the style or tempo of music be the controlling variable for your attendance and joining? I hope we would say no to these questions.

However, that doesn’t mean that music isn’t important and shouldn’t be considered. So how should we think about music in the life of the corporate church? For our personal use? While this article will not answer this question in great detail, I will offer one foundational answer. Above all, we should be primarily concerned that the Christian music we sing corporately, and privately too, reflects biblical truth, especially concerning the work of redemption. In some circles it is said that churches ought to sing the gospel, pray the gospel, preach the gospel and picture the gospel in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and church discipline.

Have you ever considered if the music you sing during the corporate gathering reflects biblical fidelity? Have you ever considered how or if the music sung during your corporate gathering complements the sermon? Perhaps you might be thinking that I’m putting too much thought into this and that “worship” should be a time in the service where you’re just caught up in the spirit and enjoying the moment. I don’t believe that is commanded in Scripture. I do believe that God would have us to be intelligent worshippers as we sing about biblical truths concerning Him and His works. The mind and the heart should be affected by songs that convey biblical truth. We must be discerning about the music we sing.

In 2010, Marvin Sapp released an album titled Here I Am. Here I Am’s lead single was titled “The Best in Me”. Interestingly, the song peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel songs chart. It charted on secular and gospel charts. How did this happen? How did a gospel song chart in the top 20 on Hit R&B/Hip-Hop chart? I won’t get into all of the red tape concerning the music industry’s charting criteria, as it is complicated. However, one criteria that directly affects music sales are the lyrics. Let’s consider a portion of the lyrics from this song.

He saw the best in me,
When everyone else around
Could only see the worst in me
(Can I tell ya’ll one more time, one more time?)

I said he saw the best in me,
When everyone else around
Could only see the worst in me,
(I wish I had a witness tonight, all I need is one)

He saw the best in me,
(When everyone else around me)
When everyone else around (OOOOh)
(Could only see)
Could only see the worst in me,
He’s mine
He’s mine
And I am his
And I’m his
It doesn’t matter what I did
It doesn’t matter what I did
He only sees me
He only sees me for who I am

While this song may have stirred the minds and hearts of many, there is a fundamental problem with it. That fundamental problem is that it isn’t biblical. While it’s labeled a gospel song, sadly the good news is noticeably absent. There’s nothing in this song about the redemptive grace of God in Christ. Perhaps what’s even worse is that it doesn’t convey the truth about the nature of man. As best as I can tell, Sapp is claiming that God continually stands by his side when others won’t because He saw the best in him.

Biblically speaking, there is nothing good in man that causes God to respond favorably to us. In fact, the very opposite is true. The Apostle Paul cites the painful indictment that all mankind is wicked and rebellious in Romans 3:11-18 and Ephesians 2:1-3. Not only are we naturally wicked, but we deserve God’s wrath. However, the good news is that despite our heinous nature and inability to please Him, God, purposing to glorify His grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and patience, sent Jesus to atone for our sins. Instead, Sapp’s song paints a better picture of man than the Bible does and minimizes God’s nature. Sapp’s song is man-centered, not God-centered. Friends, we must be discerning about the songs we hear and sing. They must be measured by the truth of Scripture.

A good example of gospel music is “All I Have is Christ” by NA Band of Sovereign Grace Ministries. The gospel is proclaimed and the focus is on the grace and mercy of God in Christ.  This song is an example of the doctrinal faithfulness that songs should resonate with in our congregational worship and our personal listening.

Grace & Peace,