Singing praise to God is not a new idea. I could recount verse after verse in Psalms alone that point us toward praising God in song. We should be just as eager today to praise the Lord with our voices as David was in his time. However, that doesn't mean we must sing in the same fashion as David did in order to properly praise God. Neither does a song need to be slow, melodic or morose in order for us to feel the gravity of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Heck, we don't even know what David's praise music actually sounded like.
I am pretty sure there were no tape-recordings made of it. It could have been the most radical head-banging music of all time for all we know. Who knows ? We do know he was partial to the harp, because that is mentioned quite a bit. Does this mean we have to use a harp or it's not real-bible-based-worship-music? I think not.
In my opinion it is not wrong to rock out about the love of Christ or the love we have for him - even in church. Psalm 105:1-3 tells us to let the whole world know about God with songs and exultation. Exultation is not a restrained emotion. It means to celebrate, to revel. This piece of scripture tells us to invite all of our friends and throw a party for God. And why not? I know that when I think about God and Jesus, I want to shout, clap my hands and raise the roof. Nothing about that feeling is blasphemous or worldly, it is pure joy for my God and I don't want to hold it in.
Music is a very important thing in my life, and specifically in my worship. I can express myself through the words, feel the beat of the music as it moves my heart with happiness in a way I cannot express myself simply by reciting a rote prayer or singing an old hymn. Is my form of worship wrong simply because it is not steeped in thousands of years of tradition? Does tradition trump everything when it comes to Christianity? How long do we have to practice something in order for it to become and accepted practice, or a tradition? And who gets to decide this for us? I don't buy into that tradition for tradition's sake thing. Traditions are meaningless without a spirit of worship behind them, and when I sing a slow, stodgy, old fashioned traditional hymn, I don't feel worshipful. I feel like I can't wait for the song to end already. I become impatient to rush through it so that I don't have to endure it any longer. How is that worshipful?
I understand that others feel reverent and worshipful when they sing traditional hymns and I respect that. They are worshiping in a way that suits them. I daresay that some of the old traditional hymns they are singing from 100-200 years ago were thought of as radical or 'out there' by some when they were first introduced. Do I need to wait 100-200 years in order for Contemporary Christian Music to become a tradition? Sorry, I don't have that long. I want to cut right to the chase and sing praises to my God in a way that feels right to me - today.
To worship means that we honor and show love. How can I honor and show love when I am just going through the motions. That is what I am doing when I sing old, plodding hymns and even the more upbeat ones don't really speak to my soul the way a Christian rock tune does. I want to get into it, clap, raise my hands and feel energized by the songs I am singing in church. So, in answer to my initial question - what make a song a worship song? I would offer this: Any song that allows the singer/musician/participant feel the power of God and to praise him with reverence and honor - that is what makes a song a worship song and it takes on different forms depending on the person who is worshiping; there is nothing wrong with that.
Here are a few of my favorite worship tunes. Picking my favorite worship tunes is as hard, if not harder than picking my favorite books was yesterday, but I will keep it to five today.
God of This City - Bluetree
Today is the Day - Lincoln Brewster
Give you Glory - Jeremy Camp
Your Grace is Enough - Chris Tomlin
Mighty to Save - Laura Story