One of the most impactful, musical, experiences in my life is playing songs for the saints who are confined to nursing homes. Many of these brothers and sisters have Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are so weak that they cannot rise from their wheel chairs and if somehow they manage to stand they are in great danger. One sweet lady lights up every time she sees me with my guitar and invariably shares the same story “My husband plays one of those and I sang in the choir and the glee club”. She doesn’t remember that she’s told me this almost every week for the past four years but when I play the hymns that she sang in the church choir she remembers all the words. Even though she can’t remember me, the music brings back these words that sustain her even in this broken season of life.
This redirects how I approach singing in church. When I pick songs, I’m not just picking things that I like or songs that are popular. Instead, I am picking out the arsenal that the congregation will use in the battlefield of life. When they are sad these should be songs that encourage them. When they are angry these should be songs that direct them back to God (Psalm 4:4). When they are happy these should be songs that rejoice with them. When they can’t get up from their wheel chair these songs should remind them that even though they are weak, He is strong.
I write songs with this same lesson in mind. Equip the saints for spiritual warfare. Give them songs that sustain them in all seasons of life. Many times I will ask the question “Is this song for saints of all ages? Or do I have to be a healthy 20-40 year old to sing it?”. Now there is a time and place for upbeat songs but if that is our entire diet then what will we sing when we can’t even raise our hands in the air? Carl Trueman asked it another way “What can miserable Christians sing?”.
If you are a songwriter or a worship leader, take this as a challenge. The next time you write a song or pick a worship set, imagine this song or songs are the weapons and armor your congregant gets to take into battle. When struck by the hammer of life will their shield hold up? When combating the false teachings of the world will their sword cut? Or will the dull blade harmlessly rebound off the thick skin of sin, leaving both the Christian and the world unimpressed?
Equip the saints with songs that glorify God, songs that teach them His word, and songs that sustain them through all seasons of life, not just the happy ones.