A while ago, I had the opportunity to observe a worship service in a Sikh temple. While obviously the general focus, as well as the customs, were vastly different from what I know in Christianity, the worship through song seemed almost… familiar.
Let me be clear, the Sikh worshipers were not worshiping the one true God through Jesus Christ as empowered by the Holy Spirit. The object of their worship was not what was familiar—it was the words they sang in worship to their god.
The Lord is always with us.
The Lord is faithful.
We love the Lord, who watches over his people.
The words being sung that day echoed many of the words one might hear on any modern worship station or playlist. Yet they could not be farther from the true object of our exaltation, Jesus Christ.
Why then does worship through song in a Sikh temple sound much like worship through song in many of our churches?
The answer says more about our songs than theirs.
I’ve often heard the question, what would our people know about God, themselves and the Gospel if all they knew was our Sunday morning worship through song? It leads me to consider what a Sikh tuning into Christian radio or observing a Christian worship service might conclude about the God we worship.
While there are many ways to evaluate worship songs, and we certainly don’t want to turn into worship critics, there are three key ways to evaluate our worship through song to discern not only if it is true and worthy to be sung, but also if it is distinctly Christian.
Is this song more about God or me?
Many worship songs declare the attributes of God but do so in a way that ultimately exalts the benefits we receive from Him. Yes, God is always with us and will never leave us, but do we like that because it means we are always covered, or because it shows God’s complete omnipotence and gracious mercy toward sinners? Songs that distinctly sing of the attributes of God Himself for His glory more than our comfort will rightly tune our hearts to focus on God rather than our circumstances.
Is this song filled with God’s Word?
If we don’t have the content of the Word in our songs, we won’t have the power of the Word in our worship. There is no better way to ensure we are singing truth about God in a way that honors Him than by singing God’s Word back to Him. Songs that are distinctly rooted in the Bible will always lead us back to the Bible as a source of worship. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to equip the people of God with the worship of God.
Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ expressed in this song?
The Holy Spirit works to exalt Christ. If our songs do not exalt Jesus, the Christ, God the Son, then they are not Spirit-filled. The best worship songs not only express our affection but set our affection distinctly and boldly on Jesus Christ and His work in the Gospel to save sinners like us. If our hearts are to be stirred, let them be stirred by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is stirred in us spills out of us, and we want to be people overflowing with the Gospel – not just vague generalities about God.
As the church, we have such a great well of worship through song to draw from. Saints throughout the ages have sung of Jesus and allowed their focus on Him to provide a perspective that surpasses this shifting-sand world and fixes our hope securely on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.
May we not become critics of worship. Instead, may we choose and use music wisely for the glory of God and the good of His church; not just on Sunday mornings, but in every avenue of our lives.