Guest Blog: Finding Our Voice in Worship (Part 1) Ken Puls

This is the first in a series of guest blogs on “Finding Our Voice in Worship.” Dr. Tom Ascol has asked me to step in while he is away in Romania this week and share some of my thoughts on music and worship. I am new to blogging, but I appreciate this opportunity and look forward to reading your comments and feedback.

How do we choose music for worship that is God-centered and God-honoring? This is the question we face, week after week, as we plan and prepare for the corporate worship of God’s people. What is it that makes a song conducive to worship? What makes one song a better choice than another when we plan our services and craft our orders of worship?

What are the filters we should have in place as we screen and select music specifically for the purpose of congregational worship?

In this series I want to give you three filters or tests that I have found useful in selecting music for worship: veracity, suitability and authenticity. In this first post we will consider the first test:

I. Music must be Doctrinally Sound — veracity

We must begin with the text. Are the words of the song focused on God and on His Word? Are they substantial, saturated with truth, in submission to truth and informed by truth? If the song lacks truth or fails to conform to truth, we need go no further.

We must grill the text with questions:

Question the origin of the text:
Who wrote the words?
Why were the words written?

Question the message of the text:
What do the words communicate?
Is what the words communicate conducive to worship?

Question the purpose of the text:
Do the words have a worthwhile and noble purpose?
Does the purpose of the text serve us in our worship?

For example:

Does it invite us into the presence of God?
Does it focus our attention on God–His character, attributes, and works?
Does it call upon God to meet with us in worship?
Does it declare and proclaim His Word to us?
Does it help us confess our sin?
Does it help us to rejoice in Christ and the forgiveness of sin?
Does it teach us by expounding the truth of God’s Word?
Does it commission us to go out and live in obedience?
Does it voice our prayers and petitions to God?
Does it remind us of the promises of His Word?
Does it express our praise and adoration to God?
Does it express our thanksgiving to God?
Does it voice our submission to God in obedience to His Word?

Question the biblical moorings of the text:
What Scripture passages are quoted or alluded to in text?
Do the words clearly and accurately teach and proclaim the Word of God?

Question the theology of the text:
What do the words teach us about Person and work of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, about humanity, about sin, about the gospel of Christ, about the church . . . ?
Does the music consistently set before the congregation the great doctrines of Scripture.

There are truths that we need reminded of frequently. We need to remember that our God is sovereign and in control of all things. We need to dwell often on justification by faith alone in Christ alone. We need to meditate on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Music can be a great blessing as it serves us in embedding these essential doctrines into our thinking. What we sing feeds our soul. We must be careful that our songs are spiritually healthy, theologically balanced, and doctrinally rich.

Question the placement of the text within the service:
Does the music before the sermon help us focus on God and enter into worship.
Does the music we sing after the sermon hold us accountable to the truths we proclaimed in the message?
Does the music as a whole support and undergird the preaching and teaching ministry of the church?

This is the first test–is the music doctrinally sound?

We want to sing words with substance and depth that reflect the truths of Scripture. We want music that is composed and designed to impart truth, not just create an experience that makes us feel good. We want to sing words that appropriately respond to and hold us accountable to Scripture. And we want to sing the words of Scripture itself (psalms and other passages).

Test the music first by its veracity. It is true to the Word of God?

Ken Puls

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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