Friday, May 15, 2009

Martin Luther's Warning

Before I choose a song for the congregation to sing on a Sunday, I make it a priority to read exactly what will be sung beforehand. The content of a song, the lyrics—that truth that is contained within the boundaries of melody—is the most important aspect of the song itself.

Perhaps Martin Luther understood this better than anyone. During the Reformation, the most popular way doctrine spread was not through the intellectual discourses between the theological heavyweights, but through hymns! And specifically hymns in the language of the people.

Martin Luther recognized the power and effectiveness of these songs, and in fact, he went on to write many hymns to teach and edify the church, but he also knew the dangers that would threaten to enter the church through song. Which is why he wrote these words:

False masters now abound, who songs indite;
Beware of them, and learn to judge them right:
Where God builds up his Church and Word, hard by
Satan is found with murder and a lie.

False teachers don't always enter the church as Pastors or Sunday School teachers, but also as hymn/worship music writers, and music ministers. It is a sobering thought to be given the responsibility to discern what is right and wrong for a congregation to sing. To those who are in such a position I hope Luther's words of warning impact you in the way they have impacted me. My prayer for myself and for those in a similar position is that God would grant His grace that we may continually be able to "judge them right."

By the way, I love that picture of Luther because it reminds me of myself...sitting at the table with my instrument, a drink on the table, papers scattered, children playing in the room, dog on the floor...that table even looks like mine.


  1. Excellent Post!
    I am glad to have discovered your site and will be checking in frequently. Luthers Warning is especially needed in todays church culture where sentimentalism takes prioity over doctrinal clarity.

  2. Pastor Patricia ErricksonMay 18, 2009 at 8:31 PM

    That's one reason I hated the song we sang at CFNI: I found Jesus... I didn't know He was lost or missing, but of course when I complained via the student box, I was told that the song meant something to the students.. Guess I wasn't one of those students...


  3. I can listen to Christian radio for only so long because to my ears many of the singers sound, shall we say, over-the-top demonstrative. Passion is a part of performing well, but I experience a disconnect when a singer sounds like he/she is pushing rather hard to get, as they say, "into it".

    However, I do very much tend to warm up to music, be it up-beat or mellow, that radiates with authenticity and seems to reflect the singer's desire to share a meaningful message about what God can and will accomplish, and what He has already achieved out of His love for us.

  4. I so agree about the lyrics of songs. We need to really think about what we are singing. We need to make sure it is true.

    We also need to make sure it is really in our hearts. How many times do we mouth the words to a prayerful song, yet there is nothing in our hearts. We are on auto-pilot. Let's MEAN what we sing and make sure what we sing is really something that reflects the truth.

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