Tuesday, March 21, 2006

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


Pastor Kevin said...

Great post Ken. It seems, by your conviction of worship, that you truly are a minister to God's people through music. Oh if our churches had music ministers with this understanding of what worship is and the conviction that God's children are there to sing not for the appeal of many but for the appeal of one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I look ahead to your posts forthcoming!


Perry McCall said...


Great guidance on a thorny issue. I would like to ask you question about one of your guiding questions. “Does it invite us into the presence of God?” Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the subjective sentimentality of our times which equates mood lighting and emotional responses to the presence of God? I am not asking this question as a criticism. I understand what you are asking and I agree with you. I am just calling to mind the various times I have heard people declare the presence of God after “triumphant” ending to quartet singing a southern gospel classic!! Please help! We are dying out here. Well maybe not that bad but please help!

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Puls,

Welcome! This was great, and I'm looking forward to your other posts.

Love in Christ,


J.D. Rector said...

Excellent comments Dr. Puls! As a musician myself, your input is encouraging. We welcome you to the tech-realm of blogging. I have the same question as Perry McCall. How does one define what is the correct pattern, style, songs, anthems, etc... that leads us into the presence of God? I have personally encountered those moments where I know that I have had an authentic worship "experience" with the Almighty God. How do we as leaders convey that solemn moment for those we are leading in worship? Thanks again for your excellent comments!

Secure in Jesus...
J.D. Rector

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Puls:

I too look forward to the remainder of your posts. This is definitely something needed!

David Hewitt

Baptist Superman said...

Stick to Fanny Crosby. That is all.

ken puls said...

Perry asked: "Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the subjective sentimentality of our times which equates mood lighting and emotional responses to the presence of God? "
I hope to answer your question more fully in upcoming posts, but my short answer is to focus on the objective truth and promises of God's Word.
God is not present with us because we have the lighting just right or because the choir sang well or we managed to select just the right songs. He is present because He is a gracious and merciful God who delights in making Himself known as as "Immanuel" has promised to be with us. We have the great privilege in leading in worship of reminding God's people that they have gathered for the glorious purpose of meeting with God in His Word.

Perry McCall said...

Let me rephrase my question. How do we respond to those who accept the “chill bump” standard for proof of God’s presence? I promise that I am not trying to be argumentative or difficult. I also realize that the practical answer that I am looking for might not even exist. But the problem is just so out of hand out in the small town and village Churches.
I have been at a gospel singing with fellow Church members where significant false teaching occurred concerning the person of Christ. Yet, the people were absolutely convinced that the “spirit of God” had fallen on that place. He particularly fell on all of us when they turned the lights off and only the lights shinning on the cross were left on. “Man, if you couldn’t feel God in the house tonight, then you ain’t saved!” How do we respond to that??
I look forward to your next post. Thank you for the time you have already spent fooling with me.