How often have you heard the following conversation?
“What a beautiful melody that was at Church this morning! I was so moved by the way he played those notes on his saxophone! I wish I could glorify God by playing so well. It’s a shame that some people weren’t worshiping to it like I was able to.”
What’s the point?
A question we must consider: what is the point of our playing the melodies of songs in our worship, meanwhile excluding the lyrics? I have heard this many times in many contexts; whether it be during the time of worship singing or just as special music, there seems to be some fascination with playing the melody of supposedly popular songs, but leaving out the lyrics so that people can worship to it. But why do this? Yes, there are times in the Psalms where there are rests in the lyrics for reflection. There are also pauses so that a new refrain can come strongly into the singing, but why do we leave out the lyrics to entire songs and hope for people to worship with us?
Not everyone’s a Church kid
I grew up attending Church every Sunday. My family has always believed in Jesus and we have a collective love for the old hymns. But not everyone has grown up in that context. Lord willing, our churches are not comprised of only “church kids”. So when we play the tunes of old hymns or other “well known Christian songs” in our services, I believe we are risking excluding those with “a past” from worship. They didn’t grow up with those hymns, so they most likely don’t know them. Thus they don’t get the lyrics and it’s just a nice melody on a Sunday morning.
I got another great taste of this when I was on break at work one day. The Weather Channel was playing on TV and as I was reading, I heard something familiar. And there it was, just as I was watching radar images of rain go past the screen, DC Talk’s song In the Light was playing… without the lyrics. It’s a great melody but without the words, it’s just background music for The Weather Channel. How many people watching that day were blessed by hearing that? Is our “Church Music” just background music to some people?