Kevin de Young is writing lots of great material over at the Gospel coalition. If you have never visited there I would encourage you to do so. Today I’m sharing a summary of his ‘Ten Principles for Church songs’ which has been published in two parts. I have included his introduction, and then a summary of his ten principles (with some teasers) – which I would thoroughly endorse! To read his full explanation of each point you will need to click through to the actual website. It would make great material to work through with the church leadership or your music team, to clarify issues, prevent problems and encourage one another:
“When it comes to singing on Sundays, churches have more options than ever before. From hymnals to Hillsong to homegrown creations, pastors and worship leaders have thousands of songs to choose from. A nice problem to have. But still a problem. No music leader or pastor can keep up. No church can sing all the great hymns and all the latest greatest songs on the radio. No musician can excel in all the available styles. No leader can please all the people all the time. . . There are other questions too. What sort of instruments should we use? How much should cultural context come into play? Is there only one right kind of song to sing? If not, are there any wrong ways? I can’t possibly answer all those questions. But there are some general principles we can use to make wise decisions with our church music. Let me suggest ten principles for congregational singing.
1. Love is indispensable to church singing that pleases God.
Love is indispensable when we sing and when we are trying to discern what is best to sing.
2. Our church singing is for God’s glory and the edification of the Body of Christ.
Congregational song is part of the teaching ministry of the church.
3. We ought to sing to the Lord new songs.
Sometimes I want to ask to very conservative Christians: “Do you really think the last good song of praise to Jesus has been written?”
4. Church singing should swim in its own history of church singing.
We should swim in this big ocean of church music, an ocean that is continually receiving new streams.
5. Sing the Psalms
It’s strange, even though we are commanded to sing Psalms and even though Psalms have been at the center of the Church’s singing for centuries, still we easily ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the middle of our Bibles.
6. We should strive for excellence in the musicality and the poetry of the songs we sing.
Some songs are simply deep and some are deeply simple, but there is a way to do both well. With so many songs to choose from, there’s no reason churches can’t make an effort to sing songs with some sense of poetry and musical integrity.
7. The main sound to be heard in the worship music is the sound of the congregation singing.
What people want to see in your worship is that you mean it. And no matter how chill or how reverent your worship is, if no one is singing, it’s lame.
8. The congregation should also be stretched from time to time to learn new songs and broaden its musical horizons.
Every church will have a musical center. You should not reinvent the center every week. But you should not be enslaved to it either.
9. The texts of our songs should be matched with fitting musicality and instrumentation.
Musical style is not neutral, but it is elastic. Music conveys something. Some melodies are too syrupy or too raucous or too romantic.
10. All of our songs should employ manifestly biblical lyrics.
In all our songs we want to be teaching people about God. If we aren’t learning good theology and biblical truth from our songs, then either we don’t care much about our songs or we don’t care much about rich biblical truth, or both.”