Part 5 | What about Target Practice
By Dave Yauk
In previous posts we’ve looked at reconsidering the nature of our corporate singing in church. We’ve considered our singing through the use of these words: total, text, tone and target. I’ve also provided a resource called the Song Selection Rubric, that enables one to plug in their songs and categorize them according to doctrine, emotion, corporate and personal language, and other items in order to evaluate the health of their churches overall singing diet. In considering the total scope of God’s story in our singing, we ensure that people mine through all of his truth even in song. In valuing the total story of God we affirm that the whole Canon of Scripture is important in order to shape God’s family into a healthy organism. In considering the text of our songs, we examined how it is beneficial to think through the quality and depth of poetry and prose in our singing. We must be excellent in using songs appropriately in their place in our services (consistent with Biblical standard, theological implication and historical wisdom), as well as using shaped language that is beautiful and impactful in its own right. Thirdly, we looked at a songs tone in Post 4, and considered how we shape people through song in their affections and emotions.
All of these aspects are important in singing, and in this final post in the series we will consider target.
Target with 1 – 2 – 3
Mike Cosper in his book Rhythms of Grace offers some helpful insight to our conversation here in what he calls “1-2-3 Worship.” He says that our singing should have 3 audiences or targets: God, each other, and the lost (See also the Song Selection Rubric). The lyrical texts we use should not only proclaim, praise, exhort, and make petitions to God, but should also consider the whole of the church, and most definitely should sing the truths of the gospel in our lyrics in order to evangelize the lost person in our midst.
Therefore, there are songs that speak directing to and about God. These songs help in creating a shaping a language that people can use to praise and worship their Creator. There are also songs that are particularly spoken in order to edify the church in Scriptural truths and foundation. These songs can be songs directed at others of the faith—e.g. songs encouraging steadfast pursuit of the Lord through trial and hardship. And lastly, churches must also consider that there are people attending congregations all over the world that are not saved. They don’t understand the language and the culture of God’s kingdom because they are on the outside of it. They need to be taught the central doctrines of the faith, and feel the persuading allure of the lyrical message. The Spirit is gracious enough to be present in the praises of his people, and he can draw lost people to himself in sensible, participatory, and understandable worship.
Multi-Generational and Multi-Cultural
Finally, in brief, I would like to just make mention the final aspect of target that you’ll see in the attached Song Selection Rubric. We must pay very careful attention to the demographics of those singing in our context—not only relating to whether they are saved or not saved, but according to their cultural and generational background. Singing and music provides a language or experience founded on universal acoustic laws that are given sonic presence in a myriad of cultural and generational dialects. The more we become aware and attempt to enter into the worldviews, cultural backgrounds, and generational age viewpoints of our people, the more distinctly we are hearing the voice of God…as the mosaic of the world’s cultures and generations reflect Christ’s face..
Sadly, over the years, churches have separated and grown apart over things like stylistic preference, racial and cultural expressions in song, and over age. Some churches have aged to the point where they have grown completely deplete of youth in their midst, and in others one cannot find a gray hair in the congregation. Where I live in the deep South, you’ll actually hear people refer to churches not by name, but by whether it’s a white or black church. Sad…
We’ve divided over differences and have lost the benefit of each other. Let’s revisit our singing, and make sure our voice reflects the nature of God himself. I leave you in your singing with the mentality of C.S. Lewis:
“There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God. The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense. But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on all who would try to improve their taste – there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.”