So how do we pick better songs? Or how do we know if a new song is worth singing together? Today, I want to offer one of the questions I use to filter out what is better from what may not be: Who is doing what in this song? I know- what horrible phrasing and what an awkward question, right? Well, this is how I start to think about something grammatical people call agency. When studying the grammar of a sentence, the agent is the initiator of the action of the phrase or sentence. Agency is about who is doing what is being done in a text. Where there are verbs, there is agency, for every doing is linked to a do-er.
Let’s take a fairly popular worship song and look at agency in its lyrics. In Tim Hughes’ “Here I Am To Worship,” the opening line of the chorus reads:
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You’re my God.
In these lines, the agent is the “I” who is singing. “I” am the one who is acting, who is worshipping, bowing down, and saying what I then say. Similarly, in the first verse:
Light of the world,
You stepped out into darkness-
Opened my eyes,
Set me free.
The agent who stepped out, opened and set “me” free is God, or more specifically Christ, as these lyrics reference the Incarnation. There are many songs that we sing in churches that name who God is or who we are (we call those stative verbs), but even stative verbs have agency: If you claim, “Jesus is Lord”, the verb is still referring to Jesus (the agent) who is in a state of Lordship. So every song we sing has verbs in them, and the verbs point to the do-ers of the actions they name.
What does this grammar talk have to do with picking worship songs? Stick with me…
The gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ centers on the actions that God took to bring salvation to us all. Paul calls the gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The Father sends the Son, in the power of the Spirit, and the Son willingly lays his life down to atone for our sin, is raised, ascends, and will return to redeem his people and the entire creation (a brief synopsis, I know). Notice how all of the verbs in the gospel have God as their agent. Why? Because he is the author and perfecter of our faith. He has acted, and we respond to his grace by his grace.
With this in mind, I firmly believe that songs that lean more on God as the agent in their lyrics are better for the church because they better reflect the agency we find in the gospel. When you listen to a new song and it is more about what I or we are doing than what Christ has done/is doing/will do, the song should seem off-balance in light of the agency of the good news. There is definitely a place for songs and lines of response (and I will talk about that soon), but as worship leaders whose song choices shape the thoughts and hearts of those who join us in song, we must first and primarily name who God is and what God has done, for in God and his actions we find the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, and that includes the people singing in our church.
So when you listen to that new Cool Guy Worship Collective album, pay attention to the verbs. Who is the primary do-er in this song? Who is acting, and what actions are being named? Live by this rule when choosing songs: a song with heavy God-agency will always be healthier for your church than a song with heavy us-agency. The more the saving actions of God are named, the more likely the song will shape your church into the redeemed people the good news redeems by the power of the Spirit.
This post was written by Drew Causey. For the original post with comments, go to: http://exchangedliving.com/post/48779369196/picking-worship-songs-101-gods-love-my-love
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