The sense of the words [in worship songs] should be unmistakable, and they should shine with truth, tell of righteousness, incite to humility, and inculcate justice. [Lyrics] should bring truth to the mind, devotion to the affections, the Cross to sins, and discipline to the senses. The melody should not be flippant or uncouth. It should be sweet but not frivolous; it should both enchant the ears and move the heart; it should lighten sad hearts and soften angry emotions; and it should never obscure but enhance the sense of the words...This is what should be heard in churches (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Letter 398).
Considering this medieval monk was writing primarily about monastic chants, there's a lot of takeaway in there for us today. Worship music is not about the composer, the lyricist, or the one(s) leading worship; for if a worship song reflects any of these three, it doesn't lead us to the worship of God. Worship is about drawing us to Almighty God, not drawing us to those leading worship or to those who write the songs.
A worship song is composed to draw us to the heart of Christ, yet sometimes its lyrics or melody ends up distracting us from the heart of Christ, for we pay more attention to the song than to the God of the song.
May we learn that at times it's best to look forward by looking backwards. This counsel from one medieval pastor to another reminds us what true worship songs should be.
(c) 2015 Michael C. Voigts