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Four arrows

How often have you been encouraged to understand the words you're singing?  Sometimes it takes too long to work out what a worship song is all about, and having a simple symbol might help in the heat of the moment.

The vast majority of hymns and songs of praise are written from our perspective, with a small handful written in the first person as God himself speaks "Be still and know that I am God"; others include Kate Simmonds' Creation Song: "I wanted to express all of my love in my creation".  These rare songs have a beauty beyond all measure.
The Four Arrows below offer a visual anotation for songs written by us to or about God.

This simple idea was developed in 1990 to help encourage responsible worship leading.  Most worship songs can be split into five main types (four arrows and an asterisk), and cane be illustrated with an arrow:

Aim, type Examples
Praise, thanks, I love you Glorious things of thee are spoken; Father, we love you
Prayer, help, please intervene Come down O love divine; Purify my heart
Describing God, tell a story Amazing Grace; He has risen!
Invite others to join in O praise ye the Lord; Come on and celebrate
Warfare, going out In heavenly armour; We are marching

It doesn't allow for a sense check on emotional stimulus or rhythm, but it's a good check on balance of themes for the chosen songs.   We might take note if all the hymns and songs in the meeting were asking for help and might consider it prudent to include some hymns and songs of praise.

A few songs would be best defined with a fifth arrow - pointing forward.  We've struggled to illustrate this in two dimensions until Matthew K (Manchester Vineyard) suggested an asterisk.   Typical songs in this category include In heavenly armour and I'm going down to the enemy's camp.

Our ancient home grown worship song database (using Excel) included space for primary, secondary and tertiary aims.  A song like As sure as gold is precious (Robin Mark) is categorised as Up, Right, Down; primarily it talks to the Father describing his heart (You love this city...), the singers speak the Spirit's brooding to each other (Lay your burdens down) and finally Revive us is a loud prayer to God.

Psalm 40 covers all directions: Up v 5 includes thanks to God, Down v 13 asks for help, Left v 1f tells a story and the Psalmist is looking out to others Right in v 3b.  * Verse 14 declares war!

Shortly after the Four Arrows were conceived, a large wooden arrow was made, tastefully (!) coloured in metallic blue with a white edge.  It was used in a light-hearted way to dialogue with fellow worship leaders, suggesting a new direction for the worship.

As each year goes by we enjoy the insight of many worship leaders.  We're grateful to the Keynote Trust; Andrew Maries many works and writings include a welcome reminder of the themes in the Bible's worship handbook, the Psalms.  Andrew asks: "How often do we sing all twenty aspects - God’s word, Prayer, Thanksgiving, Anxiety, Sin, Joy, Wonder, Adoration, Protection, Longing, Faithfulness, Confidence, Unity, The Nations, Injustice, Anger, Distress, Despair, Depression and Death?"

The simple principles shown in these Four Arrows form the basis of much of our life and worship - and especially then looking to the Holy Spirit for his direction for what we should be singing next (if anything!).  We hope it gives you an easy pointer to help choose the best song for the moment.