This is an idea for an open discussion that can go many different ways. I was reading through the worship course discussion and it occurred to me that there is an underlying theme running through all of this that is very specific to the backgrounds we all come from and worship in.

Everyone comes from some kind of theological background - Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. etc. And if you look in many of the denominational hymnals, specific doctrines are often being reinforced through the lyrics. So a Methodist might not find it too inviting to sing Baptist hymns. I attended an Episcopal church for about a year and the hymns we sang were all very much in line with their specific catechism. In fact, we rarely sang anything but hymns. And a serious Catholic would never have been able to sing with us.

But my question is this, should it be this way?


Should we be writing songs that are common for all of us?


Would this be too general?


Have we already achieved common ground with modern worship songs?


How much teaching should we include in our worship songs? 


Should any worship team be able to lead worship anywhere?


If theology backgrounds are a barrier, does that make scholarship and theology bad?

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It's a good and important question. 

I have written some general, some chari/costal and some specificially Messianic songs. I think "The Torah Shall Go Forth from Zion" would not play well in a Baptist, Presbyterian or a Catholic congregation.  "Alive in Your Spirit" would play better in a charismatic or pentecostal congregation than a cessationist one.  OTOH, "Holy is Your Name" or "Seven Fold Halleluia" could do well in any of those settings.

We all have our distinctives and that is fine. But we should be aware of our congregation and denominational settings and choose songs appropriate to that place. A mix of the general and specific is probably best.

When Messianic songs began sweeping our nation in the 70's, I loved many of them for Scriptural authenticity (they often used exact text or close paraphrase) and the vitality of the Jewish/Slavic music that carried the tunes.  They were easy to import -- all you needed was a simple drum beat, maybe a bass and a tambourine who knew how to keep in time (that was always the hard part).  My Dad, fully engaged with this culture, began to call Y'shua Y'shua instead of our Anglicized "Jesus", and wrote some lovely songs using His name.

There was also a fear, perhaps one that has carried through to today, that Hebraizing music was bringing about a re-enactment of Galatians.  Some will look at the cultural trappings (say, a church which starts doing dwelling in booths) and think that enforced circumcision is just around the corner.  Paul gets pretty noisy in his statements about such things (if we took what he says about new moons full straight-on literally, we wouldn't celebrate Easter or Christmas).

I would agree with your statement "be aware of our congregation."  The Jerusalem council gave instructions to Antioch with "indispensable requirements" to help the Gentile converts become acceptable to the Jewish ones.  I'm sure there were some who felt they need ALL the requirements, not just the "indispensable" ones (thus Paul became one of those "liberals" who didn't really keep the whole law).  But that passage in Acts 15 clearly shows the value of considering one's congregation.

And there is a rub. Most Messianic congregations really cannot use mainstream worship music because it is just not Jewish enough.

But as to undoing Galatians, that letter was written to gentiles who were being coerced into becoming Jews (see Acts 15.1) and not to a majority Jewish congregation (like Jerusalem). So Hebraic music and all that is associated with that is entirely appropriate for a Jewish congregation but would not be for a mostly gentile one.  (one of the reasons I have mostly stayed out of this discussion)   The flip side of Acts 15 for gentile believers is Acts 21.17-26 where what was expected of Jewish New Covenant believers was confirmed. Of note is the fact that Paul, by his going along with James' suggestion, agreed with what James said concerning Jewish believers.

That said, that fact makes many songs of theological import to Messianic Jews of limited use in the larger Church body, and vice versa.

Alex posted the lyrics of a song he composed about the Sabbath.  Here is one by a guy named Steve McConnell and recorded by a former house mate of mine Barry Segal called "We Delight in Your Shabbat." I think you will see how it just would not work in a regular church setting but is quite popular in Messianic congregations. 

Avinu Malkeynu our Father our King
Lord we Delight in Your Shabbat!
We enter Your rest and Your praises we sing!
Lord we Delight in Your Shabbat!

(cho) We delight, we delight, we delight in Your Shabbat!
We delight, we delight, we delight in Your Shabbat!

In six days You painted the face of the earth
And carved out a day when You'd rest from Your work


You brought forth a nation from Abraham
And spared his son Isaac providing the ram


The prophets foretold that Messiah would come
Sh'ma Yisrael the L-rd G-d is one!


And just as You rested when Your work was done
We enter Your rest by the Work of Your Son


The lilies You dress and the sparrows You feed
You Elohim provide every need!


Your people will enter Your rest when we cry
"Baruch ha ba b'Shem Adonai!"


The point is not whether you agree with that particular doctrinal stance or not.  The point is that is what a large part of Messianic Judaism believes and most of the church world does not.

And this is exactly the kind of example that illustrates the discussion. Perfect.

I believe in the rest, I just don't feel legally compelled to observe the earthly shadow of it... Ha ha.

Thanks David! (OK, and Greg.)

The Acts 21 quote is well chosen!  It not only gives us a window into practice in the Jewish Messianic community, it shows with what charitability Paul would walk the fence he was commissioned to walk (and we are commissioned to walk many fences as we live out our Christian lives).

It's a good set of questions!  I think we have to learn to live with the differences - if we just wrote songs that everyone could agree with, then it would be very dull (and some of the more boring the modern worship songs might sound nice, but say almost nothing). So:

How much teaching should we include in our worship songs?

Lots, please. People remember songs long after the sermon is forgotten.

Should any worship team be able to lead worship anywhere?

I'm convinced our primary calling as worship leaders is to serve our immediate Christian community.  So, we choose and write songs that reflect the unique local circumstances of musical and theological taste, so that people can sing them truthfully. Having said that, it should be possible for us to go into a more general gathering of Christians and pick songs appropriate for the occasion.... if we have no common ground with the church down the road then one of us is probably not Christian.

If theology backgrounds are a barrier, does that make scholarship and theology bad?

I want to answer "no" to this, because I think scholarship and theology are good. Neverthless, there is this tendency, which I find within myself, for those who understand more to get grumpy about bad theology or bad teaching. There are songs I could happily sing ten years ago, that I find hard to sing now, because I can see the problems. I now cringe when I realise the word "Christ" has simply been used as a word that fits the rhyming scheme.

At its best, more knowledge and understanding can allow us to sing the old songs, or say the old creeds, but perhaps now mean something different by those words,

I would love to write lots of songs that could be sung in any church but tough, tough, tough. My heart is bigger than my pen and paper. I also think songs tend to get watered down and thinned out while trying to please everyone. I believe we should write songs based on the Bible and what God convicts us personally over. Theology bad? nah, I wouldn't say that, but I would say maybe a little too focused on at times. We are all so diverse. These questions bring on headaches.:) GREAT topic Stevo!

If it won't take the thread too far off course, here's a test-case that hits several of those questions.

Several years ago I was serving in a (Presbyterian) church in which the pastor decided to preach through the Ten Commandments.  Since the praise team didn't have too many songs handy that would fit thematically with topics like murder, theft, adultery, and coveting I decided to try to write an album of ten songs, one based on each of the Ten Commandments.

I only ever finished seven of the ten, but here is what I came up with for the fourth commandment ("Remember the Sabbath..."), for which there is a pretty wide spectrum of opinion among Bible-believing Christians.  At the time I was trying to write a Sabbath song that pretty much any Christian could sing in good theological conscience; but I suppose in hindsight it would be worth considering if that's even the best approach to take.

Anyway, here are the lyrics if anyone wants to analyze their value and/or theological singability in light of the above line of questions:


Lord, You’ve made us Your workmanship,

Prepared good works for us to walk in,

And clothed us with power from on high

To work with strength beyond our own;


But in Your holy and compassionate plan

You’ve marked off stops on our journey

To lay down our tasks at Your feet

And simply place our hands in Yours



Draw Your people away

From the burdens of all our labors

To places of holy refreshment and blessed restoration,

Where the intimate voice of our heavenly Lord

Extends a weekly divine invitation

To disembark from our work and enter Your rest...



But we have failed to trust in Your arrangement of the time

You give us in this life;

Remind our hearts once again

That You’ve provided all the time we’ll ever need

For every purpose You’ve ordained.


Wow, I can't believe you guys were asked to do that. But it does look like you came through somewhat!

Oh, the pastor didn't ask us to write a worship album for his sermon series.

That was my idea after the fact.  The pastor just asked if we had any songs on hand that would fit thematically with his sermons, and for pretty much all the commandments from 4 on we didn't.

But this also raises an issue that I believe someone brought up in another thread - is there such a thing as being TOO thematic?  If we write songs that are TOO thematically specific they can become such "niche" songs that they are hardly ever actually used - in fact, I don't think I've ever used this particular song in a corporate worship setting.

On the other hand, the song I wrote based on the 8th commandment (on stealing/stewardship) I've used a lot, and someone on this board even introduced it at her church as a theme song for her pastor's series on stewardship a few years ago.

But getting back to the original questions of this thread, I think it's a delicate balancing act, especially if you're in a church (such as the one in which I serve) that has a strong evangelistic focus, which means that we assume there will be outsiders present on any given Sunday and a wide spectrum of Christian maturity levels among our church members.  If everything we sing feels like a theological dissertation then we probably won't be serving either outsiders or relatively young Christians very well, but if we try to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator then we won't be encouraging growth among Christians.

Funny you would bring themes up - I was thinking that your shared lyrics were both thematic and yet could be used any time. And they seem musical too.

To your last statement - theological dissertation is a good description. Some hymns feel like an endless dissertation which I get very tired of.

I appreciate that.

If you're at all interested in hearing it, here's a link to a little classical fingerstyle demo:

Also, one thing about this song that might bring a smile to your face - originally I was going to have the intro verse talk about Genesis 1 and the six days of creation; but then I figured that since the whole creation/evolution/age of the universe thing is such a hot-button issue among Christians; rather than write something that might send people's minds wandering back to the last creation/evolution/age of the universe debate they were in (and thereby create a distraction to worship), why not just write a little New Testament "theology of work" based on Eph 2:10 and Luke 24:49 (two passages which, as far as I know, do not have any particular controversy attached to them) and avoid that potential distraction altogether?

I'm guessing based on your last statement that "Hymns For A Modern Reformation" (which a pastor friend of mine once joked is a perfect 10 on the obtuse-o-meter) is probably not anywhere in your Sunday repertory...?


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