Do words matter in worship songs in church?

Humming Bird

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Take a read of what one poster wrote on Christian Forums in the thread, ‘Entertainment vs worship:

Music is one element of a church meeting. Church building decorations are another. The clothes we wear are another. These are all important things. My wish is that we would treat everything as important as we treat choice of music and words of teaching. As for this thread, well it does seem like it turned into an oldies vs newies debate. I can’t really judge I guess, because it has been a long time since I sung an oldie in a church service, so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing.

I will say however that for a lot of young people, the reason they prefer newies is that they are simply written in the language they would use everyday, so they are more comfortable singing those. Its an expression of where you are on your journey. So yeah, old songs may have a depth sometimes older people would pick up on, but maybe that is because they have the wisdom that comes with age. If you want to bash the young generation fine, but remember how many years it took you to get that wisdom. Or maybe you picked up on the depth of hymns such as Charles Wesley’s from a very early age? Well, I salute you then.

We are the younger generation though, hopefully we do get wisdom with age. Personally, I don’t always pay attention to the words I am singing in worship anyway. I mean they are true words, of course, I wouldn’t sing something I didn’t think was true. But as for depth, wisdom sincerity, fellowship, communion and intimacy with God, well, every time what God does through us is different and all a song needs to have to promote that is a long quiet instrumentally bit where can be still, and instead of focus on what we are saying to God, focus on what God is saying to us.[1]

This was my response:[2]

Since you say, ‘I don’t always pay attention to the words I am singing in worship anyway’, you have nailed one of the key issues in worship singing. Why sing these words if you don’t pay attention to the words?

That to me is one of the key issues. There’s a radical difference between ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise’ than some of the light stuff I sang last Sunday night at a church I visited with my wife to hear an Open Doors persecuted believer from North Korea.

Those folks rose to sing Hillsong lite stuff and were on their feet for 25 minutes. I’m a former radio DJ and those songs could have competed with some of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix stuff I played way back when.

They sang a string of existential nothingness while some in the congregation waved, spoke to and gestured to each other – paying no attention to the content of the songs. We had 25 minutes of this and it all began with the rolling of the drums (with 5 microphones behind a cage) that caused my wife and me to jump from our seats with fright when the amplified drums were hammered for the first time to begin ‘worship’ singing.

The music was so loud in this large auditorium that my wife could not tolerate it, so she left the building until the speaker came to the stage.

(Hillsong Church logo – courtesy Wikipedia)

Here’s an example of the Hillsong kind of lyrics:

All Day[3]

[Verse 1]:
I don’t care what they say about me
It’s alright, alright
I don’t care they think about me
It’s alright, they’ll get it one day

I love you, I’ll follow you
You are my, my life
I will read my bible and pray
I will follow you all day

[Verse 2]:
I don’t care what it costs anymore
Cos’ you gave it all and I’m following you
I don’t care what it takes anymore
No matter what happens I’m going your way
All Day
All Day now
All Day
[Verse 1]

Anyone around can see
just how good you’ve been to me
For all my friends that don’t know you
I pray that you would save them too

I listen to the words I sing and refuse to sing trite, existential experiences.

Words matter when we worship God.

Here’s the contrast:

(image of Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing[4]

[words by Charles Wesley]

1. Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

2. My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.

3. Jesus!–the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life and health and peace.

4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.

5. Look unto Him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race,
Look and be saved through faith alone,
Be justified by grace.

6. See all your sins on Jesus laid;
The Lamb of God was slain;
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

7. Glory to God and praise and love
Be ever, ever given
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

See my other articles:

6pointMetal-smallCompare Charles Wesley’s hymn with a Hillsong song

6pointMetal-smallEntertainment vs Worship

6pointMetal-smallWorldliness in church music


[1] ACWaller #57. Available at: (Accessed 12 October 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #58.

[3] Words available from LyricsMode at: (Accessed 12 October 2012).

[4] The Lutheran Hymnal, available at: (Accessed 12 October 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.