Do We Mean what We Sing in Worship?
I continue to wonder how closely those who plan and lead worship really read the lyrics of songs used in corporate worship. In addition to many obvious theological and biblical errors found in modern songs, there seem to be many songs cropping up lately that assume all those who participate in worship should feel, respond, or believe in a particular way. At times, I find myself distracted by the lyrics and begin to reflect on whether I should really be singing those words, making those commitments, or assuming those convictions.
In the effort to sing the latest and greatest songs churned out by the industry, and played excessively on Christian radio, worshipers have been exposed to sentiments that may neither be biblical nor spiritually healthy. The responsibility for filtering the lyrical content for corporate worship falls squarely on the shoulders of pastors and worship planners, but few seem to really be paying much attention. It seems that sentimentality and feelings rule the day, rather than clear theology (which is one of the purposes for corporate worship, as I’ve written previously).
Although it does not take long to find examples in a quick review of the most popular worship songs, to quote specific songs in evidence would be counterproductive. In conversations about such matters, I find that people get defensive rather than thoughtful. They assume these observations regarding the content of worship are somehow reflecting their personal spirituality, and certainly to attack a favorite song decreases the likelihood of careful consideration and response.
In light of this, let me describe in general terms what I have noticed, and allow you to consider the songs you are asked to sing during worship in coming weeks. Ask yourself if you can make the commitments that are assumed in the lyrics. Do you really believe what you are singing? Are you willing to do whatever the lyrics are committing you to do? Listen carefully, review the lyrics, and sing as both your head and heart are able.
Example 1: Songs that say, “I will bow, lift up my hands, dance…”
Admittedly, some churches are less physically engaged in worship than others. In fact, some people in churches would be shocked at someone who might actually do one or all of these things. Yet, these kinds of sentiments are in the worship music even in churches that discourage such demonstrations.
Example 2: Songs that say, “I will give up everything, leave it all behind, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for Jesus…”
It seems to me that this kind of sentiment must be stated in a figurative way, rather than a literal way, since we seldom see this kind of sacrifice in the Protestant tradition. (However, the Catholic tradition does demonstrate this in some of its religious orders.)
Example 3: Songs that say, “My experience of God makes Him real, and this song is about that experience which you can have, too…”
In spite of our desire to experience God, our experience is the result of Him being real and engaging those He loves. God remains real and faithful in spite of our experience, and to pin our faith on our experience places it on shifting sand.
Posted on April 19, 2016, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged Mark Sooy, theology, worship, worship leader, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Wow Mark! As the worship leader for our second service each Sunday morning, you certainly have given me something to think about. There are many contemporary “worship” songs which fail to mention “God”, or the name of “Jesus”, within the lyrics. While lyrically they contain a nice sentiment, there is no specific mention of who you are actually singing to, or committing to. They could sung to your wife/husband, girlfriend, boyfriend or even a tree for that matter, and carry the same message/sentiment without changing a word. Songs like this I am sensitive to. I choose not to do music which does not specifically identify who it is, indeed, you are singing this song to…that does not somehow specifically call out Our Father God, the name of Jesus Christ, or Holy Spirit in some way, shape or form (explicitly speaking of the crucifixion/death/resurrection/eternal life through Him). This can be tricky given the popularity of some of the contemporary worship songs that are out there, and desire of some congregants, and band members, to bring those songs into our service of worship. That is another discussion entirely.
Pondering your post for just a moment opened my eyes to the even deeper need to evaluate lyrical content, and the message we are actually delivering during our times of corporate worship. I thank you for the insight!! Be blessed, brother.