Last week on my blog, I reflected on two reasons why a worship leader should have a solid theological foundation. The article did not prescribe the type of music to use due to the fact that different churches have different music preferences and styles. From ages past, music wars in the church have ranged from the type of music instrument to use in liturgy, to the type of melodies to use. In fact, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) in the Renaissance period frowned upon certain styles of music due to their secular tunes, noisy instruments and theatrical singing. However, these songs and instruments became commonplace in later periods of music.

In Kenya, during the colonial period, for example, the use of drums, cultural music and dance, in the church were condemned. These forms of cultural expression were labelled as being barbaric and demonic. Later, in the post-colonial era, one could sense similar undertones concerning music, dance and certain types of instruments. It was not uncommon to see dance troupes being prohibited from performing in churches or certain instruments being perceived as being devilish. Nevertheless, these forms of worship in religious ceremonies, especially in the church, have been re-introduced over the years. I believe that God gave us different cultures, tribes and tongues so that in our diversity Jesus is worshipped as savior (Revelation 7:9-10). In addition, we should not be afraid to innovate in our expression of worship, just as long as the central theme remains on loving God and His people.

quote types of lyrics

So, what type of songs should you consider when planning for a worship service? One of my favorite worship leaders- Bob Kauflin, posits that there are three types of lyrics found in congregational music.

  1. Objective lyrics

These are lyrics that tell us something about God. For example, the psalmist in Psalm 104 describes how awesome God is and the works of His hand. An example from the African context is the song Jehovah, you are the most high, by Kofi Thompson. The song declares like in Psalm 115:3-8 that all other gods are useless for they cannot save those who trust in them; God on the other hand hears and is merciful to His people.

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  1. Reflective lyrics

These are lyrics that describe what we are doing as we worship God. For example, Psalm 66. In the Kenyan context, a song with the lyrics: Tunainama, tunainuka, tunasema Yesu ni bwana (we bow, we rise, declaring that Jesus is Lord) can be classified as a reflective song. Another example from the Kenyan context is a Swahili song with the lyrics: Tunainua mikono yetu, tukisema we Bwana, katuokoa kutoka mautini, tunasema we Bwana tunakiri uwezo wako…(we lift our hands saying you are God. You who delivered us from death, we acknowledge your power…).

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  1. Subjective lyrics

These are lyrics that express our response to God; our love, conviction etc. For example, the Psalmist in Psalm 42:1-4 pours out his longing and dedication to God through song. In the Kenyan context, a song with the lyrics: Nafsi yangu yakutamani ewe Bwana Mungu wangu…(my soul longs for you, Oh Lord my God…), can be classified as a subjective song. As one choosing congregational music, don’t be afraid of using subjective songs. These songs can be a powerful means for allowing the congregation to express their convictions about God in one voice. Generally speaking, one may find that a particular song may contain objective, reflective and subjective lyrics. An example of such a song is: Here I am to worship.

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I would like to hear from you. How has using these three types of lyrics in song selection deepened the faith of your congregation?