How to Incorporate Scripture into Musical Worship

two worship leaders teaching new worship songs

The Bible is the basis for our faith. It reveals our Savior (2 Tim 3:16), is how we know and believe (Rom 10:17), keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11), works powerfully (Hebrews 4:12), and gives life (Matthew 4:4).

As such, it holds a central place in our worship services.

But how we do incorporate Scripture into our song sets so that the sermon isn’t the only time when the word is proclaimed?

A scene from Nehemiah offers a good example.

Learning from Nehemiah

Nehemiah is about the rebuilding of the Temple after Israel’s exile. God’s people have recently returned to the land, and God commands them to rebuild the Temple so they can continue worshipping.
Nehemiah 8 depicts something like a worship service at the Temple’s rededication. There is music, preaching, and most importantly, reading from the Law:

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Neh. 8:5–6)

What a beautiful picture of worshiping God with the reading of Scripture. Ezra simply read God’s Word, and it had a powerful effect.

The general principle is this: let God’s people hear God’s Word read.  

6 tips for incorporating Scripture into musical worship

  1. Read it out loud. It can also be effective to have the congregation stand in honor of God’s word.
  2. Pray Scripture before or after a song, or during an instrumental part. This subtly teaches your congregation that worship songs should be rooted in the truth of God’s word.
  3. Put Scripture on the screen at key moments between songs. This reinforces that musical worship is not about getting through each song, but about reflecting on the Lord and His work.
  4. Engage your congregation with call and response. Many hymnals have call and response readings you can use for this toward the back.
  5. Read and explain Scripture connected to a song before singing. This helps your congregation watch for biblical themes as they sing.
  6. Pray and meditate after a Scripture reading or sermon. This reinforces that Scripture isn’t meant to just be heard, but internalized and obeyed.

The word is how we understand God. The word is how we understand ourselves. And the word is central to worship. These simple tips will help us fulfill God’s command in Colossians 3:16:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

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This is a guest post by music professionals Cody Norris and Stephen Folden. 

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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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Written by Matthew Boffey