Have you ever experienced this? You’re in church, singing with the congregation, and suddenly a line from the text becomes highlighted in your mind. You’re arrested by its truth. The music flows on while your heart is stirred up toward God. You feel a lump in your throat and your eyes well up.
You may not be a heart-on-sleeve kind of person (I’m not), but if worshiping God is a heart response to truth, then your emotions should also respond to some extent.
Kevin Bauder (Central Baptist Seminary president) has proposed two regulating principles for the expression of emotion in church music:
First, though good hymnody may express deep emotion, it is not about the emotion. Right emotion must be grounded in reality. When the focus shifts from the spiritual reality to the emotion itself, the emotion in no longer rightly grounded. The purpose of hymnody is to adore God, not to admire ourselves. By concentrating on our own emotions we transform hymnody into a mode of self-assertion.
Second, good hymnody must attach the proper emotions to the realities that are being considered. We recognize intuitively that hymnody must not express emotions such as anger with God or hatred toward him. We know that good hymns do not mock God. Simply avoiding these egregious errors, however, does not ensure that a hymn communicates ordinate affection.
“…We ought to feel and express a range of emotion toward God. We must fill our worship with joy, awe, fear, and love. Not just any awe, or fear, or joy, or love will do, however. We must learn the right fear of God, the right love, the right awe, the right joy.” (PDF)
What hymn or song has stirred your feelings toward God? Recently I’ve found this communion hymn (by Isaac Watts) resounds with the Scriptural awe of God’s grace. You can hear a sample here and here are some of the verses:
“How Sweet And Awful Is the Place”
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.