When planning songs for worship, consider this theory on grouping – or identifying – songs into one of two categories. Even though musical style often aligns itself with these two groups, the theory has very little to do with musical distinctive.

Most any worship song can be identified as DESCRIPTIVE or REACTIVE.

These are songs that “describe” a principal or act or point of belief. These song teach us what’s going on. Descriptive songs are often more wordy and stripped of anything that might distract from the thematic purpose.

Many – if not most – hymns are descriptive songs. These songs of the historic church attempt to explain how and why God does what He does. Think about how many old hymns tackle massive issues in the Bible and Christian faith. When you sing these songs, thematic clarity and poetry combine to help you understand something about the Father more clearly. These songs typically reference scripture directly and tend to be more wordy.

This doesn’t mean theses songs are somehow less “worshipful” than others. Letting your mind and heart grow wise from descriptive songs will undoubtedly move you to gratitude in a worship time.

And those us who grew up in church may well be wiser because of those rich, explanatory hymns that we thought were so boring as kids.

These are songs built to give God thanks or tell Him that He’s welcome and adored. Some assume that the theological “why” is understood or might even shrug off the philosophical challenge for more immediate, honest expression from the heart.

There’s not near as much teaching in reactive songs, but they do often provide a way for a congregation to respond personally to the Father. Reactive songs very often have simpler lyrics and melody so that people can engage and sing quickly. Many – if not most – modern worship songs are reactive songs.


The world has become a very different place, and the stylistic lines are becoming much softer these days.

With music sharing and unlimited reference material at our fingertips, you’re just as likely to hear a modern worship song tackle a massive doctrinal point as an old unknown hymn that reads like a love song.

Good worship leaders work hard to use both these types of songs. Ideally, every set would be a healthy balance of teaching/instruction and heartfelt response to God. I’ve adopted this over the past few weeks and have realized that I could do much better on balancing these components.

I’d encourage you to take a look at your planning over the next few weeks. How “descriptive” are your songs? How “reactive?”


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