A Strong Mnemonic Device?
One of my favourite worship quotes comes from Alex Enfiedjian’s Worship Sets:
As the gatekeepers of our church’s “worship vocabulary” we must take caution to make sure that the songs that shape our people’s theology are biblically sound, Christ exalting, and clear! Remember, singing is one of the strongest mnemonic devices, so choose wisely!
One definition of mnemonic is “aiding or designed to aid the memory”. This is certainly true of the Christian songs and hymns that we sing. They aid our memory, imprinting lyrics, hopefully comprising biblical truth, into our brains and into our hearts. A silly example is that if I try to remember the nine fruits of the Spirit I usually end up with eight! But by remembering a simple song, I can easily recall the full list.
And our songs are designed to aid our memory. This has been well understood at least as far back as Charles Wesley, who deliberately wrote his songs with the intention of reinforcing the teaching of the sermons preached by his brother John and others. Using simple devices like rhyme and metre made the songs and their teaching stick in the mind, with strong and frequently repeated choruses to emphasise the key points.
In Wesley’s day, most ordinary people would have been unable to afford a Bible, or unable to read it, hence the vital importance of hymns. But today our songs and hymns are still shaping people’s theology, so let’s be sure to make them “biblically sound, Christ exalting, and clear”!