MANILA, PHILIPPINES—A few days ago, Iretweetedthis quote from theologian and New Testament scholar Gordon Fee: “Show me a church’s music, and I’ll show you their theology.”
The sobering implication is this: your church’s theology will more closely mirror the music you sing than the sermons you preach.
This quote is both a critique and an encouragement for pastors. It’s a critique because Fee knows that many evangelical (especially charismatic) churches sing worship songs that have shallow (and occasionally heretical) theology. But it’s also an encouragement—an encouragement for pastors to see the entire worship service (both the singing and the preaching) as an opportunity to teach theology to the congregation.
Why is congregational singing such an effective mode of teaching theology? Because, unlike sermons, worship songs are sung over and over and over again. Therefore, though you can say a lot more in a thirty-minute sermon than you can in a three-minute song, a three-minute song—sung over and over again for many years—can have a much greater impact on the theology and spiritual development of someone in the pew.
Ideally, our preaching and singing should reinforce one another.
A few months ago, Paul Barker preached a short message on Revelation 19 at a training for Every Nation staff in Nashville. Describing John’s apocalyptic vision of heaven, Paul pointed out that Jesus was “clothed in a robe dipped in blood” (19:13). He contrasted this with the description of Jesus’ bride (the church) coming to meet him. They were dressed in white robes, “with fine linen, white and pure” (19:14). This image, of course, points to the work of the cross; in particular, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. John was making the point that because Jesus’ garments are red (stained with his blood), our robes are white.
Justin Gray, the director of Every Nation Music, was captivated by this image and what it implied about Jesus’ work on the cross. This idea was eventually turned into a song that Every Nation Music recently released. Paul preached this powerful message to a few dozen people in Nashville, but because of the song, this truth will be sung by tens of thousands of people all over the world—hopefully, for many years to come.
My encouragement to pastors is this: as you make greater efforts to preach the cross in your churches this Easter season, make sure you also are singing the cross.
Here are my top ten favorite Every Nation Music songs that focus on the cross: