Worship Notes

"Psalms, Hymns and
Spiritual Songs"

With all of the talk I like to do on songwriting, I thought it prudent to share with you some things that God has shown me about the different kinds of music he likes us to write, sing, and minister.  I want to look at two verses of Scripture, both found in the New Testament:

Ephesians 5:18,19 - "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."

Colossians 3:16 - "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

You may have noticed that both of these verses refer to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  So the question now becomes, "What are psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?"  Let's define these three terms:

Psalm - The Word of God, put to music.  That's the simplest definition of what a psalm is.  There are many great songs out there that are simply verses of Scripture put to music.  Sometimes we rack our brain trying to figure out what to write when everything that we need is simply found in our Bible.  I challenge you to take a verse of Scripture and put it to music.  You can never go wrong with writing directly from the Word.  That way you know that it is doctrinally accurate.

Hymn - The residual song of the Lord.  This is a song that lasts the test of time.  Sometimes we tend to think that it is a hymn if we find it in a hymnal, or if it has a chorus and at least three verses.  Put simply put, if it has or will last the test of time, that qualifies it to be a hymn.  In my opinion, one of the greatest hymn writers of our time is Bill Gaither.  He has written songs, some over 30 years ago, that have stood the test of time.  You know you have a great song if it still has relevancy years later.

Spiritual Song - This is a song that, unlike the other two, does not have such a broad influence, but is important nevertheless.  It is usually a song that is meant for a specific time or season, a specific purpose, a specific person, or a specific body of believers.  There are some songs out there that will minister more to my congregation than yours, and vice versa, simply because of the seasons our churches are in.  Some spiritual songs are meant only as a message for today.  I have seen people prophesy in song.  Those types of songs are spiritual songs.  To be completely frank, I believe it is a type of music ministry that is not common enough in the Body of Christ.  You may write a song that is directly in line with your Pastor's vision in your church's current season.  But that song may not have near the impact a year from now.  That would be considered a Spiritual Song.  Be sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to write through you in Spiritual Songs.

You should be familiar with what types of songs you are ministering in order to become a more effective minister of music.  God's Word shows that these songs can result in some great things.  Let's look at some examples:

In Ephesians 5: 18, 19 Paul tells us to be "filled with the Spirit".  The word "filled" comes from a Greek word that is in the Present Progressive tense.  In other words, Paul is telling us to "be filled and be constantly being filled with the Spirit".  Being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time event.  We should be constantly being filled with the Spirit, partially because we should be constantly pouring out to others, but that's another message. 

Then in verse 19 Paul tells us how to be filled with the Spirit, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."  Have you ever just sung to yourself, without actually singing out loud?  That's Biblical!  Make melody in your heart to the Lord, and that will help you to stay filled with the Spirit.  Notice, though, that it does not simply state that singing alone will keep you filled with the Spirit.  We should be singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Be careful of the kinds of music that you open yourself to.  Make sure that they are conducive to keeping you filled with the Spirit.

Colossians 3:16 tells us that we should be "teaching and admonishing one another" in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Music is a great medium for teaching.  Moses taught the Law to the Children of Israel through song.  We learned our ABC's through song.  Keep this in mind when you are writing.  Whatever you sing is going to communicate life or death to your congregation.  Make sure that your songs will teach, admonish, and uplift the people you are ministering to.  That way, the Word will "dwell in you richly".

One thing that I try to do is to have a song ready at the end of the sermon to reinforce my Pastor's message.  Studies show that people will only retain about 7% of a spoken message, but they will retain much more when that message is reinforced by music.  Your congregation may leave your service, singing a song that will bring back to memory things that they may have otherwise forgotten.  Keep that in mind when ministering in music after your Pastor preaches.  I have found that one of the greatest ways to reinforce the Pastor's heart and vision to the congregation is to write songs off of the sermons he preaches.  Music is a tremendous tool for teaching.  I believe we should be putting it to great use.

The most important thing in Songwriting is to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit when you are writing.  Let Him write through you, so that you can further His work through your music.  Also, don't limit yourself to one vein.  The Body of Christ has many members, many different tastes, different facets.  Let's try to be "all things to all people" through the music that we write, all the while being led by the Holy Spirit, so that His Will may be accomplished in the Earth.  Keep writing!