Talking About the Theology of Worship Lyrics


As worship pastors, we know that leading our congregations in worship is not just about playing music and singing songs. It’s about creating a space for people to connect with God, and one way we do that is through the songs we choose to sing. However, from time to time, people can and will take issue with the lyrics of worship songs and claim they have bad or harmful theology. Some of these can be valid concerns, and other times it may feel more like “majoring in the minors”, as it were. As leaders, it is important to navigate these conversations with congregants in a way that is respectful, compassionate, and constructive. Let’s explore some practical tips on how to have these conversations with grace and understanding, so that you and others have an opportunity to learn and grow.

Acknowledge Diversity of Thought

It’s important to recognize that not everyone will agree on everything when it comes to theology and worship. When someone approaches you with a concern about song lyrics, take the time to listen to their concerns and respect their perspective. Ask them specifically what they found troubling about the lyrics and what they would suggest in terms of alternative wording. It could be that they are misunderstanding the intent behind a certain phrase or biblical reference, or there could be a legitimate theological issue. Regardless, listening with an open mind and showing genuine interest in their concerns can help deescalate the situation and ultimately foster deeper trust between you and the individual.

Know Why You Chose the Song in the First Place

It’s important to do your own research before striking up a conversation with someone about song lyrics. This means taking the time to understand the biblical and theological foundations of the songs you are singing and the implications of certain phrases or references. Equip yourself with knowledge so that you can engage in a meaningful and informed conversation with someone who approaches you with concerns. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to reference resources like commentaries, biblical dictionaries, or reach out to other pastor friends for their input on the matter.

It’s also imperative to explain the process of selecting songs for worship services and the overall worship theme. By doing so, congregants can get a feel for the producer’s intent and may better empathize with the meaning behind the lyrics. Explain how each song fits into a larger narrative and worshippers should be able to better appreciate and understand the message being shared.

Be Understanding

Remember that music is often a personal, emotional, and spiritual experience for individuals. Song lyrics can bring up deep-seated emotions, memories, and even trauma for some people. When someone approaches you with concerns about a song lyric, try to empathize with them and understand that their perspective may be coming from a place of hurt or pain. Be gentle, compassionate, and patient. Avoid being too defensive or dismissive of their concerns, as this can further alienate them. Instead, try to foster a space of open dialogue where everyone feels heard and respected.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

Lastly, consider the larger worshiping community you are leading. While it’s important to listen to the concerns of individual congregants, it’s also vital to consider the larger scope of the congregation as a whole. We want to make sure that we are choosing songs that resonate with everyone and create an environment where people can encounter God. Ultimately, we want to remember that worship is not about us – it’s about God. As leaders, we must choose songs that are grounded in biblical truth, promote Christ-centered worship, and align with the beliefs of our denomination.

As worship pastors, navigating conversations with congregants about song lyrics can be challenging. However, by exercising empathy, doing your own research, listening actively, and considering the broader worshiping community, we can lead our congregations in a way that honors both God and his people. As we continue to lead our congregations in worship, let us be reminded that ultimately, our goal is to point people to Jesus, and that often happens through the songs we sing together as a community of believers.

Josh Tarp, Author

About the Author

Josh Tarp is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader from Minneapolis with over 15 years of experience in church & worship leadership. Josh serves as the Director of Marketing at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts, managing social media, designing graphics, and handling customer service.

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