This is such an important issue! I want to share a bit of my own journey regarding worship and theology in the hope it may help others.
Firstly to answer the last question: my favourite worship song is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. If my twenty-five year old self knew it would be this now, I would be completely shocked and possibly dismayed with myself . The words are beautiful, full of the gospel message. It’s hard to select just a few, but here are some that move me to worship God:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
The full hymn is here:
The reason that my younger self would have found this strange, is that back then, whilst I was hungry for God and wanting to experience His presence in my life, most of my spiritual feeding came from listening to worship music rather than reading the Bible. And experience is definitely the key issue here; the worship music I listened to fed my belief that I should be experiencing something tangible pretty much all the time. The theology that I gleaned from the type of worship music that I listened to was based on the idea that any ‘dry’ periods with God were not to be expected, that miracles and the supernatural should be sought after and expected regularly. This worship music was emotional, and atmospheric, whilst traditional hymns just didn’t fit this expectation. I’d go so far as to say that sometimes, the lyrics I listened to made me feel good about myself, rather than reinforcing the pure gospel message. Actually there is some excellent modern worship music around right now, I’m mainly thinking back to a few particular songs that were popular in some churches over a period of time.
Anyway, God brought me through a difficult time of realisation about how I was spiritually feeding, and then He took me through probably a year or two of deep theological study to understand the Bible so much better. It was during this time that I listened to an interview by Doreen Virtue (linked below) about worship music that was based soundly on scripture. I rapidly changed nearly my whole worship music selection as I was desperate to only worship in spirit and in truth, rather than in superficial emotionalism.
The challenge for me then came every week at church when I ended up scrutinising the lyrics of every single song in case it was teaching a wrong theology. This became wearying for me, preventing me from entering into worship corporately in case it was wrong. I think God has brought me through that now, although I am still pretty cautious with any new music. I think I have a better balance now where I don’t rule out entirely some of the older bands I listened to - they still produce some amazing songs with sound theology - but I’ve learned to filter out those that don’t sit well with scripture.
I love Shane and Shane’s songs that they’ve written on the Psalms. These are a great way to memorise scripture, as the CT article states, music helps us remember the teachings. I always look for music that’s taken the Word of God and set it to music. Another artist I love is Andrew Peterson for the same reason.
It’s a big shock to think that worship music could be leading us down a path contrary to scripture; it was certainly a bitter pill for me to swallow. However, I’d encourage anyone in a similar position to choose God’s truth over everything else, even if that means flying in the face of your church traditions. Find people to share this burden with and work through it together prayerfully. It’s also great fun exploring new worship bands that you’ve never heard of before.
I love the topic about music. I’m not a singer by any degree, but I can say that music is in my soul. I don’t have a voice for singing, but I have a heart for music. I can’t find my notes when singing, but some have commented that I’m good at whistling tunes. And I do often whistle gospel tunes a lot. Coming off the office whistling on my way out, my workmates would often comment that I seem so relaxed for someone who have been from work. The opportunities that I have to teach almost always include singing a few lines of a song to emphasize a point. I remembered sharing the gospel using the hymnal and my favorite song, At Calvary back in my youth.