I grew up in the land of Woody Guthrie. The folk singer grew up about thirty miles from my hometown, and his legacy is well known in the area. Guthrie is best known as the folk singer who wrote the famous protest song, “This Land is Your Land,” and inspired a number of musicians in the folk movement to engage injustice.
The main idea behind a protest song is the notion that things are not currently the way they are supposed to be. An injustice or oppression needs correction. The same should be true for most of the music we sing in church. The world is unjust. Things do not operate according to their design.
Protest Against Your Heart
We say often at Valley Life that our worship leaders choose and write songs that literally put words in the mouths of our people. And when we do that, in many instances, we are forcing our people to confront idols in their lives and culture. This should be a dangerous act. There have been times where I have asked our people to pause and listen to what we sing. In those moments, I’ve encouraged them to stop, plead with the Lord to help in their unbelief, and sing along. In those moments you are protesting your own heart.
Protest Against the World
Other times, we sing truth that goes against culture. One of our favorite songs to sing at my church is “Only King Forever” from Elevation Church. A line in that songs says, “As nations rise and fall/Kingdoms once strong now shaken/But we trust forever in Your Name/The Name of Jesus.” We believe this line. We believe that every nation will crumble, but the kingdom of God will continue. This directly opposes the nationalism so prominent even in our day. America is a great nation, but as Christians, we have no eternal allegiance to it. We have eternal allegiance to Jesus.
The songs we sing should be dangerous. Just as people felt revolutionary when they sang along with Woody Guthrie, we sing along with the greatest revolution in history. Don’t allow that feeling to be lost as you lead your people in worship.