Worship songs have now been ruined for me. *chuckle* No, but seriously…
From some of the horror stories I heard at the beginning of the year, it sounded like I wasn’t going to enjoy any of Dr. Cherry’s classes. Well, false. Completely false. The two classes of hers I’m currently in are profoundly relevant and VERY much needed for what I’m studying. She expects/demands a lot, but I’ve learned more in just these first six weeks about the evaluation of worship songs, styles, etc than I have the past two years. Granted, not all of my classes have been centered around worship, but you get what I’m saying. I am glad, however, that I started out taking Dr. Yoder’s classes first. They laid a FANTASTIC foundation for integrating into the theology department to study worship on top of church music.
Today we turn in a project that evaluates 25 of CCLI’s top 25 worship songs (albeit from February 2005, but hey, they were still top 25 at one point). We had to evaluate them based on the following:
-Whether they were objective (main focus was on God) or subjective (main focus is “I”)
-List all the names for God mentioned throughout the song
-State the members of the Trinity
-Corporate or personal
Our of the list of top 25, only three came out corporate; 23 were personal in nature and weren’t all-inclusive for the congregation as one worshipping body. I don’t have the paper in front of me so the next few details are approximates. Two referred to the entire Trinity (God, Jesus, Holy Spirit). Most used “Lord.” Lord can refer to both God and Jesus; this isn’t so much a problem, it’s just for clarification and variety. We aren’t referring to God with many biblical names!
Bottom line: worship songs are in desperate, desperate need of being revamped.
Praise and worship songs, as a whole, tend to focus on emotions. While there is a definite need for this in our worship services, we’ve, well, in my opinion we’ve perverted His love. Yes, you read that correctly. Before stones start being cast allow me to explain. How many of our worship songs focus on love? Think about it. Allow me to give you a few…
Draw Me Close
Draw me close to you,
Never let me go.
I lay it all down again
To hear you say that I’m your friend
You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know you are near
You are my desire
No one else will do
Cause nothing else could take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace
Help me find a way
Bring me back to you
Take that out of a church service and insert it into a junior high dance. There is zero mention of God in this song. Sure, you as a Christian look at it and decide it’s to God because the typical powerpoint will have “You” capitalized. This is a love song, but I’m sorry, this isn’t really a love song to Jesus. Jesus isn’t mentioned one time, and no where, NO WHERE in the Bible have I yet to read about God or Jesus loving his people with the AMERICAN view of romance. If you want to throw the view of God being married to his bride, the church, okay, let’s talk about that.
Let’s revert back to New and Old Testament times. Now, if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to look at society and cultural views of people of this day. Men and women, um, excuse me, boys and girls didn’t fall in love and then get married. Their parents decided who they would marry, they were pledged to be married to that person, and the male had to buy his bride from her family. There was no dating, no courtship, no nothing to see if the two were “compatible,” as Americans would want to know. More often than not they didn’t have sex figured out, they didn’t have love figured out, they honestly knew nothing outside of what they’d seen in their own households. They were married and as time grew on, they fell “in love,” if you will.
Now that you’re thinking as an Israelite 15 year old would have (scared out of your mind? Yeah.), apply that to how it lines up with today.
To win our younger generations over we use highly emotional songs to draw them into worship and feed them with this view that God wants to romance them and win their hearts over. While I will agree that there is truth to that, I will not go as far to say that is entirely true. I won’t go on to say how we’ve messed up girls’ minds with the view of “Jesus is every girl’s boyfriend,” but I’ll cover that at some point. We fill our youth with emotionally high music, and then what happens after the honeymoon phase is over? What happens to them when they leave a revival and two weeks later they don’t have the same “feeling” they did at that revival? We haven’t taught them that the Christian walk encompasses FAR more than an emotional high. Keep going on down the road, they become young adults, and eventually they’re 30-something soccer moms and dads who aren’t involved in our churches anymore. Why? Well, honestly, how connected were they really to a church to begin with? Some of you may not think this has ANYTHING to do with the music we put in front of them, but to quote Plato, “Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who makes its laws.”
Correct? More yes.
What is the theology our congregations are gaining from our music? I will go to bet that I can ask many, many members of a congregation to give me their top five favorite worship songs and they’ll do it in no time flat. Can I ask the same of their top five favorite sermons they’ve heard? Some may be able to do it, but I’m going to assume it will take them at least a few minutes to figure out five sermons they can even remember let alone deem their favorite. We repeat songs all the time in our Sunday morning services… How often do we repeat sermons? Bottom line: If we’re going to repeatedly put songs in front of our congregations, they better one, have more theological integrity than what we see many have. Two, they need to stop focusing on the subjective, personal experience.
Here I Am To Worship
Hungry (Falling On My Knees)
Open the Eyes of My Heart
You Are My King
You’re Worthy of My Praise (I Will Give You All My Worship)
Trading My Sorrows
I Give You My Heart
Lord Reign In Me
Lord I Lift Your Name on High
The Heart of Worship (part of me has to laugh at the title and how it talks about ‘It’s all about you Jesus’ but the entire song is more focused on ourselves)
I just gave a pretty healthy list of favorite worship songs (albeit oldies but goodies). I absolutely love some of those songs and I know many of you do as well. Those songs were part of the top 25 list I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
What a surprise. America’s church is focused on me-worship. Perhaps you personally don’t understand my urgency…
Let’s again revert back to Israelite worship of the Old Testament…
Completely congregational. Their festivals? Their feasts? Hello, THE EXODUS!?!? God chose Israel as his people. He didn’t choose this person and that person. He chose an entire body. Why is our worship so exclusive? Their’s HAD subjectivity to it, for example Miriam & Moses’ song after coming out of Egypt. But the heart of their worship was done on days set aside and they worshipped together.
Let’s talk New Testament…
Paul talks over and over about what bodies of believers should do as they come together. There are canons all OVER the New Testament, and honestly they’re not exactly, “Thanks Jesus for loving ME and blessing ME and making ME feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.” Are you kidding me? The NT worshippers were gettin’ blessed through persecution, and they saw it as such. We get ticked when bad days come our way, yet they were rejoicing at such an honor. Furthermore, again, they worshipped as a body. We come into worship and expect God to move in a very personal way. I won’t apologize for this: Worship is not for you or your individual “feelings” about God. Worship is FOR God and initiated by Him. We don’t worship until he ushers us in. If you sit in a pew or a chair on Sunday morning, stop believing you’re there because you decided to be. Who wakes you up every day? Who gets you there safely? Don’t tell me you’re there on your own terms. Furthermore, when we show up, we best be thanking God for the privilege to worship him that morning. It’s not like we actually deserve the ability to worship him, thankyouverymuch. Honestly, it’s not really up to us whether we worship or not. There is always a reason to worship. Christ died and rose again! The man DEFEATED death! I THINK we all have a reason to worship..
I’ve done my fair share of harping on praise & worship, so you’re probably wondering if I have anything good to say about it. Yes. Definitely yes. I think it has a place. The worship that heavily emphasizes “I” and leaves out the congregation as a whole? Use it in your own worship time! I have absolutely no problem singing worship music of this type when I’m in my own room with no one else around. The song is between God and I, so what would the purpose be in using it in a congregational setting? It’s perfect for personal time.
As far as the worship that makes Jesus out to sound like a boyfriend or a lover… Well… I’m sorry. I can’t do that. While Jesus was on earth, please tell me when he portrayed his love to someone romantically. He didn’t. Just because he isn’t hangin’ around with us physically anymore, how did we all of a sudden come up with this, “Jesus is my boyfriend” garbage? There is SUCH a huge difference between romantic love and intimate love. We’ve lost that understanding.
Do I think songs like Draw Me Close has a place? Yes. Do I think that place is in a congregation where there are people who are on different points in this journey called a relationship with Christ? No. You’ll have some who don’t have a clue what Christianity is about. Couldn’t that song make them wonder what kind of God we TRULY serve if that’s the way we sing about him? For the Christian who is just starting out, again, are we making Christianity into a sea of emotion and nothing more? I honestly don’t think songs like this should be put in front of people unless they’ve been at their walk for a while and they understand the context and understand that it isn’t a song about being wooed by Jesus.
Game on. Pray on.