Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash
1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! – Psalm 96:1-3 (ESV)
The passage above is the missions statement of the worship pastor. We are to lead and encourage our people in congregational singing and as we sing with thanksgiving and praise we are to “bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” The lyrics we sing carry a message about God. They teach our people about who God is and what He has done. Therefore, what we sing matters. The songs we choose to sing should point us to a holy, infinite and majestic God who is worthy of our praise.
As a worship pastor, I am constantly looking and listening for songs (old and new) that are singable, theologically rich, and that will deepen my congregation’s understanding and relationship with God. These songs will help me accomplish this missions statement in the best way possible. I am also constantly looking for new inspiration that will help me to accomplish this missions statement. Recently, I have found great inspiration from Christian Hip-Hop.
If you want to hear theologically rich lyrics (theology is the study and teaching of God. The more rich the lyrics, the more deep the teaching), sound exegesis (or interpretation) of biblical passages, deep thoughts that will make you ponder the excellencies of our God, even the direct quotation of Scripture itself, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. To use the language from our passage, our missions statement: If you want to hear people bless his name, tell of salvation from day to day, declare his glory among the nations and his marvelous works among the people, listen to Christian Hip-Hop. If you need inspiration or need to be encouraged through music, listen to Christian Hip-Hop.
Particularly, I have found great inspiration and encouragement through Christian Hip-Hop artist, Shai Linne. Of the Christian Hip-Hop scene, Shai is probably the least known but one of the most theologically sound and doctrinally rich. Listening to even just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. The amount of Scripture and theological richness and depth packed into his lyrics would put most pastors and song writers to shame.
Listening to Shai’s songs, pushes me to find songs that are theologically rich. His use of Scripture in and around his songs pushes me to quote more Scripture within the worship set. Whether it’s explaining with Scripture why we are singing this song, or proclaiming Scripture over the congregation during an instrumental break, or closing out with a responsive reading from Scripture, I want to use the power of God’s Word to point us to Him. I want to take a cue from my brother in Christ and sing songs that are packed with Scripture and theological richness. Below is one of Shai’s latest songs, “Immutable,” which teaches us about the unchanging nature of our God.
To be clear, this is not Shai’s own doing. This is the power of God working through Shai’s ministry to encourage and push me in my own ministry. Even though Christian Hip-Hop is not a part of the culture of my church, even though we do not sing Christian Hip-Hop songs, God is using Shai’s ministry to encourage, broaden, and deepen my own ministry. Inspiration and encouragement will come in many forms, with God being the Chief Orchestrator of all of it. God is inspiring me to fulfill the missions statement above with Christian Hip-Hop.
So, to review, what have I learned from Christian Hip-Hop…
- Incorporate Scripture – Reading scripture before, during, or after songs is a great way to point the affection of our hearts to Christ and encourage our people. After all, what better way to increase the “punch” and depth of our services than with God’s own Words.
- Inspiration and encouragement come in many different forms – We, as worship pastors, should be pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Listen to music styles you may never do in your church or that you may not even like. God uses all things for the good of His own purposes (Romans 8:28) so He can use different music styles to inspire and encourage you.
- What We Sing Matters – What Shai raps about matters. He chooses his words carefully. As said above, listening to just one of Shai’s songs is like listening to a pastor’s full-length, Sunday morning sermon. In the same way, I want to find the songs that are rich in theological and doctrinal content and teach those to our congregation. If we sing theologically weak songs, guess what? Our congregation will be weak theologically. If we sing theologically and doctrinally rich songs, guess what? Our congregation will grow. As they grow in their understanding and relationship with the Lord, they will grow theologically and doctrinally rich.
My prayer for worship pastors is that we would not be concerned with the amount of people in our sanctuaries on Sunday mornings, that we wound not be concerned with doing the latest songs, that we would not be concerned with lights, fog machines, sound, or entertainment. My prayer is that we would sing songs that are theologically and doctrinally sound. That we, as worship pastors, would seek to draw our people closer to God with the direct quotation of Scripture within our worship sets. And that we would be spending time in the Word and in prayer, growing close to God ourselves, that we might minister to our people and to our family out of the overflow of our relationship with God.
All Glory Be to Christ.
Jeffrey Johnson is the worship pastor at Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church located in Cecilia, KY.