The In-Between Songs

Jimi Williams —  July 10, 2014

There are stages of every Christian life: Justification (salvation), Sanctification (working out our salvation) and Glorification (heaven).

Working with worship songs and songwriters, I hear a lot of songs about salvation and heaven, but not as many about sanctification. I believe there is certainly a need for songs that address all three. We need to praise God for salvation, even singing to the lost how God has saved us. We also need to look ahead at times to heaven when we will finally worship Jesus face to face.

However, there’s a whole lot of life that happens in between salvation and heaven, and it’s critical that we write and sing songs that deal with life as a Christian. I think our songwriting may point to a larger issue within the church, that we’ve gotten really good at teaching what it means to be saved, but we struggle to teach life transformation.

We need more songs on what it means to love one another. We need more songs about being faithful to our families. We need more songs about generosity. We more songs about standing up for the weak and hurting.

These things may not be as fun to sing or preach about, but our churches are desperate to know what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

14 responses to The In-Between Songs

  1. Like the points that are shared by different replies. Someone rightly said that those kinds of songs have their places. Maybe radio, tv, mp3 players, solo pieces and concerts etc. the problem is that many of us do not listen enough outside of church. When we gather the spoken word, testimonies and exhortations deal with those topics but the singing in my humble opinion is about the Lord. That Isiah moment that someone mentioned, That Job 40:4 and Rev, 4:8 moment. Its amazing how singing “we exalt thee” can cause us to be broken for these same things that we say are lacking. As we genuinely seek to glorify Christ in our singing, the Holy Spirit will convict us of the deficiencies in our daily worship (life).

  2. I think you’re spot on. I would imagine the vast majority of people are in the sanctification stage. I’m working on a concept for a youth ministry at our very small Methodist church. I am planning to use contemporary songs as the theme of each lesson, tying them to scripture and to life application. I anticipate that many of the kids that participate will not be all that knowledgeable about anything church related. In between songs would be amazingly helpful for giving them the opportunity for a more full, more rounded understanding.

  3. Isn’t using our talents that God gave us worship? God is a creator, and if we, as his sons, follow his example by creating music, doesn’t that glorify him? I feel that the only music that does not glorify God is the music that promotes sin, because it uses God’s gift to rebel against him.

    While music sung in church should be directly focused on God, why can’t the music industry focus a little bit more on how to walk out the Christian life? I’m only 18, but one of the biggest struggles I have is how to live out the lessons taught in scripture. Music today, especially in my generation, is a huge part of life. We learn a lot about how to live from music. Shouldn’t the music we listen to be able to help us grow in that sense too?

    • That’s a lot of wisdom for 18!

    • This article is not promoting to sing worship songs about sing, it specifically says songs about generosity, being faithful to our families and standing up for the weak and hurting.

      Yes, we have countless songs about the glory and majesty of God (which is amazing, don’t get me wrong) and about Heaven (Revelation Song) but what this article is stressing more so is the journey after salvation and before Heaven. Which I agree with. Just don’t only write songs about glory and heaven, but every space in between!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, it seems to me that when we define this hard separation between what can and cannot be sung about in worship we are saying that worship is the music portion of a Sunday morning service. That’s not worship. Worship is living our lives in a way that honors God. We are worshiping God when we love one another, when we care for our families, and when we stand for justice and fight for the oppressed,so why would we not sing about these things? Worship is not our Sunday morning sets, worship is a life that honors God. That being the case, those secular songs sung about loving one another and taking care of one another are often worship songs in a way our Sunday morning songs are not.

  5. I tend to write in the in-between. I like to use my own experiences and God’s discipline as a starting place to get to His glory. As worship leaders, the goal should be to move people towards God. If He is impersonal, then the congregation can shut-down or forget what they’re saying. The more personal songs can sometimes grab people’s attention in ways that the impersonal songs can’t. I think they both glorify God though.
    John Mark McMillan does a great job writing the in-between, he just does it in a way that is somewhat difficult to understand.

  6. I disagree…worship is for and about God, not us. Songs about us can be reserved for radio play or exercise, if at all.

    • Jason, while I agree that worship is primarily about God, it is also for the edification of the saints. The Psalms are loaded with prayers and praises that deal with really specific life situations. We can’t divorce praise from how we live our lives, instead our lives should be a reflection of our worship. This means singing about forgiving others is just as holy as singing about God’s attributes.

      • Apologies, I initially misunderstood the original post: I do appreciate hearing songs about Christian life. In fact, I wish there were more songs in CCM about relationships and marriage. My previous response still applies to actual congregational worship/praise, where my opinion is that God should be our focus.

  7. cassius Ndovie July 13, 2014 at 10:10 am

    there are indeed times when we get lost into the euphoria of praise and worship whe our inner conviction ticks that we need to re-dedicate our lives. Prophet Isaiah was cought up in a situation like this (Isaiah 6) when saw the heavens opened and the four creatures were singing “holy, holy…” he examined himself and saw that he wasn’t worthy ti stand before the Most Holy One and he did not go the “pharisees” way (hypocricy) but surrendered himself so that he should go through the renewal process. So the more we sing about the character and nature of God, the more He reveals Himself to us and how He expects us to lead and live our lives

  8. Mike Coradetti July 13, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Amen! The poetry and songwriting in scripture covers the multitude of human experience, from longing to struggle to praise and victorious exclamation. But this experiential variety and depth is largely absent from modern religious songwriting (CCM and worship music). I’d be very excited about seeing those topics in songwriting.

  9. I do not agree with this… These issues are not to sing about, but to preach about. And to speak about in your cellgroups. The singing is to praise God, to sing about who he is, to sing about His great works, His mercy and love etc. And to worship him for all he has done, still does, will do and to poor our hearts out to him, love Him. When we sing of the great works and love of God and sing what Jesus means to us, unbelievers can also hear and receive revelation through that. But when churches a desperate to hear about how to live the Christian live, I think they forgot to preach and teach these subjects. That is what home groups or cell groups are for…

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