I’ve been pondering on this blog about why, as a worship leader, I have become bored with corporate worship as we currently practice it. It’s caused me to start deepening my understanding of worship beyond just the singing of songs, to focus more on the weightier matters of the heart, to consider that worship can involve all of life, and even to reimagine what other sorts of things we can do that could be called “worship.”
But today, I want to go back to thinking about the singing aspect of worship. (After all, this isn’t to exclude one form of worship for the others.) Today, I want to express a hunger, a desire, for more depth in the songs we sing when we’re worshiping God.
Now, I think probably every Christian I know has had some opinions about certain songs the church sings that he/she thinks don’t belong there. Most of it comes down to questions over the lyrics. One guy in church used to get on my case for singing a song with the lyric, “I know that You hear every cry/You are listening/No matter what state my heart is in.” He contended with me that God doesn’t hear us when our heart is in sin–a very specific theological standpoint that not everyone would agree with. And a reader here mentioned being uncomfortable with songs that ask God to “rain down” or “come down” because God’s Spirit is already here, with us and in us, so perhaps the “coming down” thing is not a new covenant concept.
I have to be honest here; although I stumble theologically over a few lyrics myself, I personally have some latitude with these kinds of issues, as long as they don’t blatantly contradict Scripture. As an artist, I think we sometimes over-analyze our lyrics, expecting them to be these flawless, theological nuggets instead of just letting them be artistic expressions. I also think we tend to think a little too linearly (like the Greeks) rather than multi-faceted (like the Hebrews who wrote the Scriptures). In Greek thinking, everything has to add up; so if, for example, God is already here, how can He “come down?” For me…I have accepted the omnipresence and infinite nature of God to the point that I don’t have a problem believing He can be here and come down at the same time. Both, in fact, are in Scripture. So in this case, and others like it–when one’s understanding of God could lean either way (and still be Biblical)–I respect everyone’s right to disagree, but in most cases I am not quick to censor lyrics on that account. Just my opinion.
On the other hand…theological issues aside, I’m struggling with both the shallow nature of a lot of the lyrics we sing, and the current tendency of our worship songs to run together, sound all alike, and say basically the same things. I mean, there are only so many ways you can sing, “I love you, Jesus,” “I need You”, “You’re all I want,” “I’m hungry for You,” etc.
Another example (just giving a personal opinion here)–when Hillsongs music first started coming to America, I loved it, thought it was a breath of fresh air. But when the third, fourth and fifth recordings all sounded and acted pretty much the same as the first, I lost interest. And it isn’t just them; it seems like the entire “worship genre” that emerged…well, let’s just say I haven’t had any worship recording genuinely move me since Hungry by Vineyard UK, and that was almost 10 years ago. I’ve stopped going to the Christian bookstore to look for new worship music; I’ve given up on it. Other than a single song here or there, I’m bored with the whole scene. (And that’s hard, because some of these guys on the records are friends of mine.)
Thing is, this apparent genre-wide lull in inspiration is what has compelled me to write more of my own songs these past few years, to try to fill in the gap I am feeling. And I like some of what has come out of that search. But you know what? I’ve gotten bored with my own stuff, too. (Dang it, now that’s rough.) And this is also what’s compelling me to ask some tough questions about the whole thing. Is this all there is? Are we doing this right? Is what we’ve boxed in and called “worship” a fair reflection of the bigness of our God?
If I’m bored with it–what am I doing presenting it to God?? Shouldn’t my offering of worship cost me more than that?
I have to confess that I’m a work in progress on this, and I have fewer answers than questions. I’m not going to stop singing to God, because it’s a good thing to do; but I’m actively seeking a deeper sense of meaning. I look at the Psalms, and I see so much more depth in those lyrics than what we’re writing today.
Something I read recently in the book Exiles by Michael Frost has given me a glimmer of hope. I don’t agree with all his opinions concerning worship, but I do resonate with his thoughts about Christ-followers being revolutionaries, and how that should play out in our songs. He says we need to be singing songs that express a deeper love and commitment to Christ and His ways, in the face of the selfishness, greed and injustice of the world around us. Our songs need to reflect the revolutionary nature of our faith. For me, that’s something to chew on….
What about you? If you could list one song above others that particularly inspires you to worship, what would it be? (And it doesn’t have to be a “worship” song, per se.)