Singing the Cross

What is the most important feature of a worship song? Tune? Style? Harmonies? Think about it personally. When you hear a new song on the radio or in a church meeting, what main factor makes you say, “I like that”?

I want to suggest that the most important feature of any song is its lyrics. While a song’s melody and harmonies certainly influence its value, nothing is more important than the message of the words. Great lyrics can compensate for a forgettable tune, but nothing can overcome the deficit created by poor lyrics. Ideally, the songs we use in worshiping God will combine great lyrics and great music; but if we are forced to choose one or the other, we must emphasize message over aesthetics every time.

Great lyrics are clear, not vague or confusing. They are memorable, not trite or inane. They are God-centered, not self-centered or secular. They are creative, not boring or unoriginal. But above all, great lyrics are biblical. Music teaches, and so we must make sure our songs are teaching the truth.

But what biblical truths in particular do we want to sing about most often? After all, the Bible is a really thick book covering an incredible range of topics. Should we favor some of those topics more than others? Or should we spread it around and sing about anything and everything that’s in the Bible—families, creation, Abraham, rainbows, heaven, faith, miracles, etc.?

I’d suggest that Christian worship must have one central theme to which our songs return over and over. Here’s a hint from the Apostle Paul: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). If Paul could sum up his teaching as “nothing except Christ and Him crucified,” I suspect we should strive for that same summary of our singing. The person and work of Jesus Christ must be our central theme week after week, song after song.

You know that curious little word “crux,” as in “the crux of the matter”? It means “the basic, central, vital point or feature.” Know where that word comes from? Crux is the Latin word for “cross.” The central feature—quite literally the “crux” of Christianity is the cross. It only makes sense then that the cross should be the crux of Christian worship. Watch for it in our songs today.