I need to say at the outset that “worship” includes any reverent engagement with, or response to, the Lord. It can include acts of service, financial giving, working, eating, writing blog posts … and singing. Bob Kauflin does a fine job further defining worship on his blog, WorshipMatters.

In the context of this blog post, I’ll use the term “worship” to mean songs we sing either about God or to God.

So what is the “purpose” of such worship?

I think there are several, but I’d put at the top that worship music should instill sound doctrine. “Whoa!” you might be thinking. “That sounds dry!”

But it’s not dry. Sound doctrine serves to inform us of who God is and what He’s done, as well as who we are in Him. Such engagements with the glorious truth about God invigorate us, helping our hearts resonate with His and spurring us to respond with gratefulness. How can pondering the wonder of God and what He’s done be dry? How can exploring the rich truth of the wondrous and efficacious cross be anything but thrilling?

Is there biblical support for such a position? I think so. Consider Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Singing is spoken of in context of “teaching” and “admonishing” (which can be thought of as “correcting,” in the sense of reinforcing correct, or sound, doctrine). The result of such singing is heart-felt thankfulness to God.

As Bob Kauflin acknowledges, “exploring objective truth about God” isn’t the only purpose of worship songs. The lyrics can also be subjective or reflective, words that allow us opportunities to confess our emotional response to who the Lord is and what He’s done. Elsewhere he suggests that we sing for the following three reasons:

  • We sing to remember God’s word.
  • We sing to respond to God’s grace.
  • We sing to reflect God’s glory.

So what’s the purpose of worship music? Why do you worship God in song? And if you’re a “worship leader,” how might a better grasp of the purpose of worship aid you as you select songs for your congregation or small group to sing this week?

Ted Slater
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