Pastoring Through Song

Video Transcript

This evening we have here, brother Bob Kauflin, who’s gonna lead us to talk about pastoring through songs. I am sure all of you, know Bob Kauflin and are familiar with sovereign grace music. Bob Kauflin is a pastor, songwriter, and speaker. He’s the director of sovereign grace music, a ministry of sovereign grace churches. He equips pastors and musicians in the theology and practice of congregational worship. He’s also an elder at Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville. Bob has written two books: Worship matters, leading others to encounter the greatness of God, and true worshipers seeking what matters to God. And if you want to follow him, he occasionally also blogs at worship matters.com. He’s also pretty active on sovereign grace music, if you go there, you will get to see a lot of content. New songs, which we can sing in churches, have a lot of content on worship leaders. Other things that you will be interested to do with worship and singing. Some of those things which would be helpful to you. 

So, today we have brother Bob Kauflin, talking to us about pastoring through song. So let’s listen to him and see what he has to tell us.

Well, I want to start by thanking you all, again, for being a part of this. And I appreciate that you do this monthly. And it isn’t just a one-time thing. Grateful for your desire to learn, and grow. I pray that our time together serves that end. And though I may not know your individual situations, our great Heavenly Father does, and our great savior does. He is eager to help us, he is eager to make us fruitful, in whatever field we are laboring in. Think of Isaiah 30:18, the Lord waits to be gracious to you, exalt himself to show you mercy. And I think that’s what he wants to do in our time together. So I’m gonna pray, and then we will get started. 

Father, thank you for this opportunity to explore how we can serve our congregations as we lead them in song. How Jesus might be exalted, more consistently and more gloriously as we meet. We thank you for the gospel, the good news that Jesus has come and lived the perfect life, and none of us could live and die to receive the wrath of God in our place to receive our punishment. So that through faith, we might be forgiven and justified in your eyes, and he’s risen from the dead and he’s ascended your right hand and he’s reigning overall and interceding for us until the day he returns. Lord, we thank you for that good news! And that we can sing about it. I pray that our time together, is fruitful, that it’s edifying that it brings glory to you. And we pray these things. In the name of Jesus our great Savior. Amen.

Well, um, I was having a chat with one of the brothers in the group about different musical styles. And I am not an ethnomusicologist in terms of knowing all the music of the cultures of the world. My one trip to India was 15 years ago, I think 2007, somewhere around then. When I got to firsthand saw, wow, this is really different. Ministered in some poor areas and in one of my sessions. The music was being accompanied by someone on a percussive instrument and a synthesizer kind of that wasn’t really having a lot to do with what we were singing. The person was playing the synth, but it didn’t really match anything we were doing. So, another time in another city, I had to accompany on, I forget what it’s called. It’s a little instrument, you have to pump it to keep it going. I don’t remember the name of it, but y’all know what I’m talking about. So I was thinking, here’s what I thought. If my teaching doesn’t serve these people in their situation, these brothers and sisters in their situation. It’s not biblical, what we say about worship has to be applicable in every culture. Now there are cultural elements that you can speak to. When, you know, I’m in America, I can speak too well, you know, these things often happen. But when I’m in another country, it may be very different. And what I want to speak to you today about are things that go across cultures. The conversation that I was having in the chat about, you know, there being different music in different cultures, yes, there is. But there are biblical principles that we can apply no matter what culture we’re in. And that’s one of the ones I want to talk to you about today, pastoring through song. I used to call building pastoring three people through congregational worship, corporate care through corporate worship, or something anyway, was more complicated. pastoring through song is what it’s called how congregational singing serves to build the church. Now, there are many reasons God wants us to say,

if you read your Bible carefully, actually you don’t even have to read it that carefully, you should! If you just read your Bible, you’ll see there are a lot of references to singing. And someone asked me last night, why does God want us to sing? Well, we sing because God is a singing God. 

Zephaniah 3:17 he sings over us. We sing because singing helps us feel the truth. It’s an emotional language that affects us emotionally. Singing helps us remember words. And we’re told in Colossians 3:16, we’re to let the word of Christ, the Word of Christ, dwell in us richly. As we teach and admonish one another with thankfulness and a heart singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts to God. How does singing help the word of Christ dwell on us richly well, it not only affects our emotions, but it helps us remember words. I remember songs that I sang, you know, in my teens, 50 years later, I am 67. But I still remember these songs, because music helps us do that. So those are some of the reasons God commands us to sing. We have our own reasons, you know, some people think that music helps us express God’s creativity and beauty, and it does. Christian faith is unlike many other faiths that don’t have songs of celebration and jubilation as they meet. You know, Christian meetings resound with praises. I was just reading Psalm 111, this morning, where it says, I will praise you in the midst of the congregation with a whole heart and will praise you. That’s what Christians do, we are called to do that. And some would see that as an expression of God’s beauty and creativity. It’s mutually edifying. Ephesians 5, says that we’re addressing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. It gives glory to God. Psalm 47 says that we’re to sing praises to God, sing praises to our King. Four times in one verse, we’re told to sing praises. Why? Because it glorifies Him. It is more than simply saying his praise. We don’t get together just to say things, we get together to sing as well. It stirs our affections for God, and singing does. 

Now, one word that’s rarely mentioned when we talk about reasons, why we sing, is the word shepherding or pastoring. Why do we sing? because we want to pastor people. So, I think that a number of you are pastors in your church. Others of you lead the music, whether you’re someone who actually plans or leads singing in your church or someone who is overseeing it. The Pastoral impact or the pastoral aspect of singing can make a significant difference in your church. And this is true whether your church is 15, 150, 1500, or 15,000. These principles will apply, they are still true. So don’t think well because my church is only 20-30 people. I can’t really do what he’s talking about, oh, no, yes, you can! Every church has the same tools by which to magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ. We have the word of God,  his unchanging, inerrant, eternally sufficient word to us. We have the gospel, which is the power of God, the good news that Jesus Christ has come to live and die and rise from the dead for us and we have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make decisions on who to fill based on the size of your congregation. He comes because people have gathered in Jesus’ name. He is there because we have gathered in His name, so this applies to your church. 

Let me just say that now there are different approaches to the person who leads the music and different ways we can think about it. I just want to highlight a few erroneous ways of thinking or maybe insufficient ways of thinking, before we get actually into pastoring through song. Some people think of musical leaders, the song leader, and their focus is on musical direction.

They just want to make sure everything is right, musically. So, they might be conducting, you know, they might make sure all the cut-offs are right and everybody’s in tune. So they are a song leader. There’s another kind of leader that’s a cheerleader. And they’re focused on emotional response. When I was in India, I wasn’t understanding everything that was being said, but the person who was leading the music for this group of about, I don’t know, 100-150 would at various times, shout out, hallelujah! And they would respond hallelujah. And he’d say, hallelujah. And they would say, hallelujah. And I said it was like a hallelujah button, this is what I told him. So you press the Hallelujah button, and everybody goes Hallelujah, and it’s like. That is not leading corporate worship. And I’m sorry if you do that. But I would encourage you not to do that. Because all we’re doing is we’re being cheerleaders. We’re saying, you know, get emotional, get excited, and God is better than that. He doesn’t need cheerleaders. Isn’t that good news? He doesn’t need, for us to come and try and tell people. No, God really is good. Really? No! he’s good, really, he is, and we don’t have to do that. Because he is good and he’s much better than we think he is. Some people think of the music leader as a teacher. And for those people, you’re leading the music, but really, you’re giving a mini-sermon every time you get up to lead music. And some of these music leaders are frustrated preachers, they want to preach, but they can’t, they only leave them in music. So they share for like, 5-10 minutes in between every song. It’s very helpful, can be helpful to speak between songs, but you’re not the teacher. 

Some think of the musical leader as an artist, and their focus is on performance. The teacher is focused on right doctrine, which is a good thing to be focused on. The artist is focused on performance. So for the artists, it’s all about how I look, how I sound, and what people think of me. In this chat I was having earlier, the gentleman was saying that a lot of churches in India, look at what America does and say, Oh, we want to do it like that. That’s not a good thing to do. For what America does is diverse. A lot of what comes from America is performance oriented. It’s not just America, a lot of what we see in the modern worship world is performance oriented. I was speaking to someone not too long ago, who during COVID. They started live streaming their services, as maybe some of you did, maybe many of you did. And he started paying attention to like, how everything sounded. So he put something called auto-tune on his voice, that’s silly. Because people listen to your voice every Sunday, and it’s just you and they’re not listening to your voice anyway. You should be listening to the sound of the congregation, but this is his mind. In his mind, he thought oh, I have to sound really good. No, Jesus perfects all our sounds. And it’s not the quality of our voice that makes our worship acceptable to God. It’s the finished sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that makes our worship acceptable. First Peter 2:5, says that we offer sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So Jesus is the one who perfects our worship. It’s not about performance. It’s not about everything sounding perfect. And then finally, some people think of the worship leader as a mystic, and their focus is on a spiritual experience. And you find this in every culture. It’s where we come together to sing hoping that something will happen. I don’t know what it is, maybe we feel goosebumps, maybe we feel shivers, maybe we’ll feel a wind go through, or maybe whatever it is some spiritual experience, unrelated to what we’re thinking. That’s a mystic. Alright.

So some of those have some good qualities in them. But those are not the main focus, shouldn’t be the main focus of the person, who’s leading the music, or the pastor who’s overseeing the leading of the music. Their heart should be, how can I care for the souls of God’s people, when I’m leading these songs, or when they’re singing these songs. So there are five things that God calls a pastor to do in the New Testament. It causes pastors to feed, to lead, to care for, to protect, and to be an example to their flocks. And the scriptures, I get those from is first Peter 5, where Paul says, I exhort the elders among you, shepherd the flock of God as among you exercising oversight. Acts 20 contains a number of them, where Paul says, “ Pay careful attention to yourselves that are being an example and all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, that’s leading and pastures to lead to care for the Church of God.” That is the shepherding aspect, the caring for which he obtained with his own blood. “I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock and that, from that, we get the idea of protecting the flock.” So there are many ways these responsibilities are carried out. Counseling, preaching for sure, individual conversations ministries. But one of the ways that we pastor our people is by leading them in singing. Wisely and faithfully leading songs can be a significant means of grace for the congregation, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. That’s why pastors need to be involved in the choosing, singing, and leading of the songs in your church. If you think of the church is a place where well as a pastor, you know, I focus on the preaching, and then I have this music person to focus on the music. I think you are missing the responsibility that God has given you, in your church, because singing is one of the ways that you fulfill your function, fulfill your role as a pastor. So if there’s a pastor who says, well I let the music person choose the songs, you’re missing out on an opportunity to care for your people. And there are a number of churches where what’s happening in the music and what’s happening in the message, in the sermon are two different things. I’ve seen both situations, where the music is rich, doctrinally fueled, gospel fulfilled, Christ exalted, and the sermons are shallow and weakened, and man-centered. And I’ve seen the other way as well. And this might be more common, where the messages are from the word expositional preaching, you know, faithful to the text, and the music is fluffy. Music is me-centered, the music doesn’t depend on God’s word. And so that shouldn’t be that situation. Neither of those situations should exist in our churches. We want the singing to support the preaching, we want the preaching to mirror the singing. They should be cut from the same cloth. So that’s what I’m hoping to address. And we’re going to look at the ways five ways that singing can be a means of pastoring your church. 

First, we can feed the flock through singing or we can teach the flock. Songs teach, I just heard someone said the other day, that the songbook of one generation will be the statement of faith for the next generation. I thought that was so well put, the songbook of one generation will be the statement of faith for the next generation. Our children are learning who God is from what we sing much more than the messages, but our adults are as well. Our songs teach us about who God is, about how we are to relate to him, what our world is, and who we are. Colossians 3:16 says, “ We are teaching and admonishing one another.” Ephesians 5:19 says, we are addressing one another, we actually remember much more from our songs in our sermons. I know that sad news for those of us who preach, but it’s true. A songwriter will have much greater sway over your congregation than then your message if they’re in contrast. So, songs teach two ways. First, they teach objectively about God, ourselves, and our world. This means that like the Psalms, our songs should be filled with the Word of God, the worthiness of God or the character of God, and the works of God. 

I was just in Psalm 111, this morning, and I saw this it’s right there, “ I will give thanks, Lord, with my whole heart and the company upright in a congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is His work and His righteousness endures forever.” That’s the character of God, the worthiness he has caused his wondrous works to be remembered”, the reference to his works again. “The Lord is gracious and merciful.” That’s the Lord’s worthiness. “He provides food for those who fear him”, that is his work. “He remembers his covenant forever, that’s his word.” And then, later on, it says, “ his precepts are trustworthy, they are established forever and ever.” So you see, in just eight verses in Psalm 111, we have the psalmist, praising God for His word, His worthiness and his works. Our song should do that as well. It means that just finding songs that people like to sing is not a high enough standard, if we want to please God with the songs we’re using. Choosing songs that we like, choosing songs that are easy to sing, choosing songs that are familiar, none of those are bad qualities. They’re just not the qualities that God uses to determine, what we should sing to him. Here’s a good question to ask. If people only had the songs you sing, as the way they knew God, how well would they know the Lord? Would they know that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a substitutionary death and rose from the dead for our justification? And through that we are adopted into God’s family? Would they know that God is Trinity Father, Son, and Spirit? Would they know that identity is in the finished work of Christ, as God’s people, not our culture or ethnicity, or nationality? Would they know what God’s Word says, from the songs we say? That’s what we need to evaluate over time. And each week, we can ask those questions. 

So songs teach objective truths about God, songs also teach us subjectively, how to relate to God. The kinds of songs we sing every week are telling people this is how you should relate to God. So, if we sing shallow, repetitive, up-tempo songs all the time. We will be teaching people that God is shallow, that it’s easy to relate to him and that he wants us to be happy all the time. No, none of those things are true. But that’s what our songs are teaching. Singing doctrinally thick songs, say God only wants us to, to relate to us if we’re smart, singing emotionally driven songs say that God’s more interested in our emotions than our minds. But emotionally dry songs, teach people that God really isn’t interested in what we feel and desire. Oh, but he is. He’s very interested in what we desire. God speaks to our desires constantly in the New Testament. And he speaks to idols constantly in the Old Testament, they’re the same thing. He’s speaking to the same thing. Songs should teach us, in a time of bowing and in a time of celebrating. There’s a time for repentance and sorrow over our sin. The time for rejoicing, there’s a time for reflection, and a time for proclamation. So in all those ways, our songs are teaching our people every time we gather. So, we have to think are my songs teaching people the right things. That’s the first point.

The Second Point, we can lead our people through singing, we can lead the flock through singing. I’ve talked to more than one pastor, many pastors who have told me I can’t lead the music in my church because I’m not musical. And I say, well, if corporate worship was a matter of strictly of music, well, that would be true. But corporate worship is primarily a pastoral function before it’s a musical function. So, if you’ve been using that excuse, I want to challenge you and I want to say you may not have a musical bone in your body. But you can help people know how to pray and how to praise and how to lament and how to rejoice and how to learn. And how to exhort God, you can do that, why? Because you’re a Christian. Because you’re a pastor. This means you have to know maybe not what key the songs read. But you have to know what they say. And if you know what the song says, you can lead corporate worship. I know I’m going to say a lot of things that are challenging some of you guys. And I’m fine with that. Because I’ve been doing this for 47 years, leading music in the church, and I’m very comfortable with where I’ve landed in terms of how God wants us to sink to him. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve been around the world, and I have been exposed to a lot of different kinds of leading. I have led very badly myself many times. So I’m trying to communicate the things, I think are most important. And some of these things will be a challenge. And that’s okay because our aim is to please the Lord, it is our eager expectation and hope that we will not be at all ashamed. But that now with full courage, Christ will be exalted in our bodies, whether by life or by death. We want Christ to be exalted in our bodies, we want Christ to be exalted in our singing. 

So how do we lead the flock? If we’re not musical? Well, you can lead before the meeting even starts by helping to plan the meeting, and helping to plan the songs. I had a pastor once, say to me, you know my worship leader won’t tell me the songs he wants to sing before Sunday. And I said, you need to talk to him about that, and tell them that it’s your job to pastor the church, and you need to know what diet they’re getting. So if he’s not willing to give you the songs, tell him the songs before Sunday, he’s not going to be doing that anymore. You need to have someone who’s willing to talk with you beforehand, about what songs you’re gonna sing. You need to plan carefully, to ensure the kind of theological balance and doctrine balance that we were talking about earlier. We need to plan expectedly because God wants to bless His people. He shows us ways to show to be gracious to us. He’s eager to bless us. We want to plan humbly because we realize that our plans alone don’t glorify God. He meets us and his spirit empowers what we do that our meetings really have an effect. And we need to plan purposefully so that people know what to focus on. We’re not just throwing different things together for the meeting, you know, and are happy that people come and they keep coming. And so we must be doing well. Well, that’s not enough. We can do better, so we can just think about, what we’re actually going to do. We can give thought to the songs, we give thought to the scriptures, and we can give thought to what we’re going to say. I mean, I plan my liturgy every week for our church, and then I have done it by Wednesday afternoon. And then I send it out to the other elders that I work with. You might be in a small church, it’s just you and maybe one other brother, who’s not an elder or pastor, but you can talk about what you’re going to do. You can talk with the person who leads it, or it’s good to talk with someone about what you’re going to do. You get different perspectives and the Spirit works through us as a body using different gifts and different people to do that. How do you lead through the meetings, because we’re talking about leading the flock through our singing? One of the key things we can do is help people understand why we’re singing, what we’re singing, what we’re singing, and how it affects them. And that has to do with transitions, what you say, in between songs, you know, there’s a model of singing that has strings out like three, four or five songs together and thinks. Well, that’s the music time, why not say something in between some of those songs. Why not read scripture in between some of the songs, so that our singing is truly grounded in God’s word. You could say, you know, why are we going to sing this song? I don’t know if any of you use a hymnal. But I’ve seen churches that do and they might say something, we’re now going to sing song 46, that’s the introduction. Well, that does nothing to tell people what the song is, or why they should sing it? Why they should have faith for singing it. But you could say, we’re not going to sing hymn 46, it’s a song that reminds us of our great need for God’s mercy and His provision for us in Christ. Tell them what to think about while they’re singing. Let them know, now you have to have songs that say something if you’re going to do that. You don’t want to stand up and say, well, we’re about to sing a shallow song. So I’m gonna read a scripture. So to help balance out the shallow song we’re singing, I wouldn’t recommend that. We might say why we’re about to read the Scripture, you rather than just getting up and reading the Scripture, of course, the word of God does have power just in being read. We are exhorted to give attention to the public reading of scripture. But you could say we’re gonna read Romans 8:37 through 39. Yes, you could introduce it like that. Or you could say, we’ve been singing about how God’s mercy is greater than our sins. Paul highlights that reality in this passage, which we are about to read from the book of Romans. Do you see how I am connecting, what we’ve just done for we’re about to do, it’s often helpful to take a line from a song, and then use that as the jumping-off point for the Scripture about to read. You know, we just sang the song, in Christ alone where it says, and on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. Do we really believe that? It’s what God’s word tells us? In Romans 5, it says, when we were still sinners, God showed His love for us. And then he sent his son for us. That’s the kind of transition we can make. That is a part of the leadership that we can provide, when we are singing songs, and it’s a way of pastoring people’s souls. 

We are drawing people’s attention to biblical truth to the content. We’re not saying, wasn’t that a great song to sing? Was it? Did you feel the celebration in the room? Don’t draw attention to the celebration, don’t. Boy, you all sing so loud? Okay, who cares if they sing loud. Draw attention to the glory of God, draw attention to the word of God. Draw attention to who he is and what he has done. We need to be reminded constantly of how glorious and great and good Jesus Christ is. Do you know why? Do you know why? Because we forget. We forget how good he is. We forget how gracious he is. We forget how kind and merciful he is, and most often we put ourselves in the place of God, and we think we’re great. Why aren’t people showing us the glory we deserve? Why aren’t people thinking about us? Why aren’t people saying good things about us? And yeah, it’s hard to glorify God, when we have those kinds of thoughts. That’s why we need to remind them and we need to lead our people in remembering, what is true. At the end of Psalm 107, the psalmist says, “Let him who is wise attend to these things. Let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. Whoever is wise, let them attend to these things. Let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. We need to consider the steadfast love of the Lord. Because we forget it. So, we can lead people in our planning, we can lead people during the meeting through good transition statements, and then we can lead people just by teaching them, what the purpose of music is in the church. 

You know, I don’t doubt that, that people in your churches are no different from people in American churches, they come in with their own ideas of what music is supposed to do. So they might come in with the idea that music is supposed to make me feel happy. So let’s sing happy songs. Or music is supposed to make us be like the Americans. So, when our music is like, what they’re doing over in the US, then it would be good. That’s a wrong perception. You could teach them things like this. Music is meant to help us exalt, God’s glory in Jesus Christ. It’s a vehicle for our worship. It doesn’t produce worship. It’s an expression of our worship, it doesn’t produce it. Here’s something you can teach him. The most important sound on Sunday morning is the congregation. Which is important in terms of thinking about, you know, how we sing songs across the world? There is a place for indigenous music and in your church, you might have someone who plays the harmonium. And that’s it. Well, use the harmonium, you might have people who play acoustic guitar and piano, use acoustic guitar and piano. Whatever you use, you might be in a large church that uses an orchestra. You might have a rock band. Here’s the point, whatever you use to accompany your congregation, your congregation sound is more important than the sound of your instruments. Why can I say that? Well, because in God’s Word, the references to instrumental, the use of instruments in praising God is scarce. Not a lot of it. There’s some for sure. But the references to singing dwarf, the references to instruments. And in the New Testament, especially all the commands are related to singing, how we sing? So, whatever an instrument is doing, it’s meant to support, just as said in the clip, it’s meant to support faith-filled, Christ-exalting, emotionally engaged singing in the congregation, that’s what our instruments are supposed to do. So use the instruments that serve your congregation. I mean, I’ve been to, churches in the Philippines that sound very American. I’ve seen churches in India, that sound very American, great! You don’t have to sound American. I’ve seen churches in Latin America, that sound very American. They sound more American than we do at times because I’m just trying to get the congregation to sing loud. They’re trying to reproduce what we’ve done on an album, on a recording. It’s not wrong to reproduce what’s done on the recording, it’s just not the main thing. It’s not the main thing, your congregation singing is the main thing. Alright, so that’s the second point. 

The Third Point, we can care for the flock through singing. So we’ve talked about teaching the flock, leading the flock, all these pastoral responsibilities, and pastoral roles. Now, we’re talking about caring for the flock. And this is really the heart of what I want to share. Everyone who walks into our meeting, on a Sunday is battling one of three things, and maybe all three of them: sin, suffering, and self-sufficiency. It’s nice that they all begin with S and in English, they don’t always begin with S in other languages, sin, suffering, and self-sufficiency. People come in and they’re burdened by condemnation. And then they sing happy songs and are totally unaffected, still condemned at the end. People come in battling against sin and just its power over their lives. They sing some songs, and they don’t see how it connects to their battle against these sins. People come in and they are battling, suffering, they’re enduring trials that they cannot get through maybe long-term illness, maybe the death of a loved one. Maybe they can’t support their family, they’re suffering and they sing a few songs and they think that doesn’t help me at all. Or some people are battling self-sufficiency. They come into the meeting and think I don’t even need this. Why am I here? I don’t need this. And they don’t realize how much need they have for the gospel, for the Word of God, for the spirit. We can help every one of those people, by wisely choosing and leading the songs we sing. Now, we’re going to care for people best by helping them understand how the gospel relates to what they’re going through. That’s what it means when Paul says in Colossians, “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” What is the word of Christ? Is that the words that Jesus said? No, that is the word about Christ. It is the gospel, it is the good news that God has sent Jesus His Son to redeem a people for His glory, by dying in their place, taking their punishment during the wrath of God, and rising from the dead. That’s the good news that is to dwell in us richly.

Well, how does that help people? Well, the Gospel frees us from condemnation, no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1. So what song would help us there? Well, I don’t know if y’all sing this song, I may be referencing songs you don’t sing, but there’s a song called before the throne of God above, which is a sovereign grace song and we say this:

When Satan tempts me to despair

and tells me of the guilt within,

It’s really important what comes after those lines. Because what we could sing is, I look inside myself again, and I feel so condemned. When Satan tempts me to despair. That’s not what the song says, it tells me to go within upward I look and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin. Because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me. That is good news, that we can point people to and say, you have walked in here this morning feeling condemned, you know what. I have good news for you, the sinless savior died, and now your sinful soul is counted free. Let’s sing that verse again. Oh, that can be so helpful for people. The gospel tells us we’re reconciled to God, we are no longer separated from God, we have been brought near through the blood of Christ. There is a hymn that says bold, I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ, my own is the hymn and can it be by Charles Wesley. We’ve been adopted into God’s family, the Gospel has done that. And we sing a song and now we’ve been adopted through his blood eternally, come praise and glorify. All these ways were teaching people through the words we sing, what the gospel means for our lives. We’re secure in God’s love. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, you’re feeling distant from God this morning. I have got good news for you, the blood of Christ has brought you near no power of Hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand. What are we doing there, we’re seeing the Word of God. We’re telling people that the gospel makes a difference in your life. Now, a lot of times we have to draw people’s attention to this. And it means we have to be singing songs that actually talk about the gospel. A lot of songs talk about Jesus, talking about Christ, or God. They never did what he did. And if you read the songs, you’ll find they’re always talking about what God did. Over and over and over, we never stop talking about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, it is the greatest news in the world. It is what our people need, it is how we can care for their souls. And oftentimes, I run up an intensive, whereas 15 Invite 15 worship leaders to come and be with me for five days. It’s called worship matters intensive, and one of the things we do, we go through the lyrics of songs about the cross. And we look at what those songs actually say about the cross. And we find that often, they don’t say very much about the cross. They mention it, they might say, well, Jesus loved me, so he died for me. But that really doesn’t tell us what Jesus did and why he did it and what he accomplished. 

So we want to look for songs that do that, in Christ alone, and on the cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied. There’s a song, Man of Sorrows, on the sin of man and wrath of God, have been on Jesus laid. That’s the gospel, the sin of man and wrath of God has been on Jesus laid silent as he stood accused, guilty, mocked and scorn bowing to the Father’s will, he took a crown of thorns, something like that. It’s the gospel, telling what he did. So we have to have songs that talk about who God is and what Jesus has done. And then we draw attention to it. And we help people see how what we’re singing connects with their lives. 

So how about suffering? We have to realize that being removed emotionally, emotionally is not the same as being changed morally. Right! There are good feelings that come from singing together, in fact, scientists have shown that the body produces endorphins, which give us a good feeling. Whenever we sing together with people doesn’t matter if you’re singing Christian songs, just singing together because non-Christians sing together. Why would they do it? Well, it feels good. It feels good when we do it. But that’s not why we sing. We sing so to the word of Christ might dwell in us richly and when we sing we want to do two things to help people in their suffering. First, we want to make sure we’re singing songs that talk about the hardships of living in this world. That we battled the world, we battle our flesh, we battle the devil. We’ve written a song called Oh! Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. I know if you’re familiar with that or any of you are familiar with that. But verse two talks about my song when enemies surround me, my hope, when tides of sorrow arise, my joy when trials are abounding, your steadfast love my refuge in the night. It’s saying to people, you know what, even as Christian tides of sorrow are going to arise. Enemies are going to be all around you. You’re going to find that life isn’t always turning out like you think it is. And it’s okay, that’s the Christian life. God didn’t promise us no trials, he said he would deliver us through them. He would deliver us in them, he would be our hope and refuge and rock in the midst of those trials. While our song can help people understand that we are secure in Christ, in whatever we’re going through. So, we want to identify with people, but then we also want to point him to the hope we have in Christ. God is a strong refuge in the midst of suffering. And all our suffering has to be seen in light of the savior, who came to suffer for us so that he might redeem us. 

Christians are the only ones who can say unequivocally that God has a purpose for our suffering. God is committed to conforming us to the image of Christ, it is not a question. We don’t have to wonder, what’s happening with my life. Why am I going through all this? That’s what some of our people are saying. Maybe some of you are saying, Why am I doing all this stuff? Because God wants to conform each of us to the image of His son, he wants to make us like Jesus. He wants us to have the trust of Jesus. He wants us to have the love of Jesus. He wants us to have the patience of Jesus. He wants us to walk in the truth as Jesus did. How does he do that? Well, we like to hope that he does it through success and through blessings. He doesn’t usually do it that way. Usually does it through suffering and trials. 

My wife has cancer right now she had cancer four years ago, and it came back. In fact, she’s probably at radiation right now, this morning. What do you do with that? Does that mean God is not good anymore? Does that mean he’s failed? No. He’s still good. And we’ve reminded ourselves of this many times, and we’re actually doing wonderfully. Yeah, our love is, is doing great and our trusting God is doing great. Why? Because of the things that are true. It’s true, she has cancer, but there’s a greater truth and that is God’s using this cancer for the glory. And we are having opportunities to share Christ with people, we’re having opportunities to demonstrate faith in Christ. We are having opportunities to demonstrate that the joy we find in Christ is greater than the sorrow we have in Julie having cancer. So that’s what, we’re helping people do as we lead them in singing. By caring for their souls. We’re not just planning songs, we’re preparing people to live and to die. And for those who are self-sufficient our songs, remind them of their need, our songs remind them or they can remind them of their sin or songs can remind them of their inadequacy and their insufficiency. Because I tell you what, the world is not telling the most things. The world is telling them to believe in yourself, follow your dreams, you can do it, you can get out of this horrible situation. Just by swimming up, what’s in you. That’s ridiculous, that’s bogus, that’s self-worship. Christianity says, you are helpless, and you are hopeless, because of your rebellion against God. But God Himself took it upon himself to rescue you, by becoming one of us. It is such great news. And now we owe the love of God, our Father, because of what Jesus Christ has done and who he is. That’s what we’re reminding people of. Every time we sing. We’re caring for their souls, it will shape the songs you choose to sing. It will shape what you say about the songs you choose to sing. 

One of the ways to prepare yourself for that is simply to pray for people. As you’re preparing songs, pray for the people in your congregation. Now, you’re not choosing songs based on what people in your congregation are going through. You’re choosing songs based on the word that’s being preached. You know we used the sermon from the previous week to form the basis of the songs we’re going to sing in the next week. But most of all, we’re rehearsing the gospel and we’ve found that it’s best to remind people every week that God is great, that we have rebelled against Him. That God has provided a way for us to be forgiven and that we have the joy of responding to him in various ways through thanksgiving, through obedience, through evangelism, through sacrifice, and through just being in awe of him. That’s just walking through the gospel every week. That’s how we’re training people, that’s how we’re feeding them, that’s how we’re leading them, and that’s how we’re caring for them. We’re not just singing songs, we’re preparing people to live and to die. And we want to root them in that which is of first importance. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “ That Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.” What is it for? What does it mean? Why does it matter? How does it relate to my life? That’s when we have the opportunity to answer those questions. Every time we sing, it really changes how you think about singing, or it should, it should make us realize this is an opportunity. 

If you’re a pastor who is preached every Sunday, God bless you, thank you, thank you for studying the Word and preaching his word. But if you’re thinking that’s the only way I can help people, you have a great thing coming. Because you can start looking at your songs and asking, oh, I can help people here by singing this song and this song, this song. And that’s why we do what we do. That’s why sovereign grace music exists to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for the church, from our local churches. We want to serve you and we are in the process of having our songs translated into multiple languages that if you if you are in a church, where you’re speaking a dialect, or another language, there’s a place on our website. Somw gracemusic.org, where you can submit translations of songs. We’d love to see our songs translated. That’s not in my notes, but I just thought I’d mention it. Alright, 

Number Four. We teach the churches as we sing, we lead them as we sing, we care for them as we sing, and we protect them as we sing. Through the songs, we say we protect the flock through singing. In three ways we protect the church from the errors of the world. By singing songs with rich theological Christ-exalting truth. If the songs we sing are shallow, people are going to believe what the world is telling them. Because the world is not the world is shallow in reality, but the world is giving them lots of reasons for why they should pursue what’s in the world. The world has good arguments for being of the world, we have better arguments for being not of the world. And we have to sing about it. We protect the church from the vices of the world, and the sins of the world. By reminding them that God is holy, God is righteous, He is pure, and He is just, he visits his wrath on those who are opposed to him and don’t find refuge in Christ. When you consider that the Psalms were often sung in groups, where there were unbelieving Jews. They didn’t really believe God that those songs about God’s wrath were meant to convict them. And if we never sing about God’s wrath, sin, or judgment. We are not serving our people with the songs we’re singing. Not that every song has to have that in it, but we need to sing the songs that let people know God is a holy God, and we shouldn’t be consumed by His Holiness. We should be extinguished, we should be dead. The fact that we can gather and approach God and not be struck dead should amaze us every time we gamble. 

So we protect the church from the vices of the world, we tell them sins not worth it, and God will judge them. And then we protect our churches from the pleasures of the world by doing all we can to present Christ as dazzling and infinitely superior to worldly choice. So that’s where our music does matter. The goal isn’t to do music, that sounds as horrible as we can make it. You know, I wouldn’t use the situation that I experienced a number of years ago in India, where the synthesizer really wasn’t having anything to do with the singing. I wouldn’t hold that up as a model and say, yeah, do this. No, I want the music to be beautiful, it should be appealing. But, what’s more, beautiful and appealing should be the lyrics. The lyrics should be telling people that Christ is satisfying. We’re not just gathering to say do better. We’re gathering to remind ourselves that Jesus is a great Savior, he’s a great king, he’s great art (not clear), and you will never be satisfied outside of him. 1 Peter says that we rejoice in him with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory. Why is that? Well, he has forgiven all our sins and he really satisfies. 

Last Point, briefly, we can be examples for the flock through singing. That just means when we sing, if we’re not preaching, we’re not leading. We are showing the church, the rest of the church, how to engage with the words that we are singing. Psalm 108, begins, “ My heart is steadfast, oh, God, I will sing and make melody with all my being.” So if you’re a pastor who only gets energized and active when you’re preaching, but your singing is dull, and you just don’t look engaged at all, you’re teaching your church. You’re also teaching your church by how you live your lives. So you might be a great singer, very passionate when you sing. But you might be living in ways that are dishonest, deceitful, deceptive, impure, and that bring dishonor to the Lord. So we have the opportunity to be an example to our fox when we’re singing and when we’re not singing. 

Now, if we pursue singing in the manner that I’ve just described, if we use our singing, to teach and to lead and to care for and to protect, and be an example to our flocks, it will have an effect. Let’s do what Paul promises in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “ We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” That’s what’s meant to happen when we gather to behold the glory of the Lord as we sing. Evidence of people being pastored through song are going to include things like humility. People will be humbled by the fact that God saved them. Holiness they will want to avoid sin because they’ve just been singing about how holy and good and righteous God is. People who struggle with security, I don’t feel loved by God. Oh! Listen to, what our songs are saying? Jesus has come to make you a part of God’s family. Your sins are completely forgiven, there’s nothing, no judgment remains, and no condemnation remains for those who are in Christ. They will be more unified because they will recognize that it is not our musical preferences that join us together. It’s the fact that Jesus has saved us and made us one new man and our people will be filled with gratefulness. We will be amazed every time we sing. Just time the Psalms identified most often thankfulness with singing. Where to sing for joy there are a lot of emotions that singing can express, but the predominant one is joy and gratefulness. So, Colossians 3 says, “We are singing with thankfulness in our hearts to God”. Why are we thankful, because we should have been crushed by God as a result of the sins, we have committed. But instead, he crushed his son, who is now risen from the dead and is reigning in glory until he returns and we get to be a part of that don’t you think that’s something to be grateful for.

Our songs are meant to provide everything, we need to shepherd our people. But let’s not miss the opportunity to give our people all that they can provide by God’s grace.