i preached in a wonderful church yesterday morning. really – great people, fantastic youth ministry staff. and unlike some of my friends in the emerging church, i can still be reasonably flexible in being able to worship in a variety of worship styles and contexts. i dig rock-and-roll worship still, even pretty edgy stuff. but i also love a taize-style service, or a wonderful classical worship service. even a pop contemporary style is ok with me, with all the slick lights and (as i saw yesterday) an 8-person singing team who all clap in unison with that right-hand-against-the-wrist-of-the-left-hand-because-the-left-hand-is-holding-the-mic method (“am i fooling you? do you believe i’m actually clapping? there’s not really a clapping sound happening here, but you, the audience, are perhaps stupid enough to believe that there is.”) — even there, i can find moments of worship. i can’t quite pull it off in a straight-out-of-a-baptist-hymnal service, but most other approaches.
and i did love the people in this church.
but there was a moment when i laughed out loud. if anyone saw me, they probably thought i was having some kind of a toronto-blessing moment or something. and — to be clear — i wasn’t really laughing at them; i was laughing at the irony of the lyrics of two back-to-back songs. they typified the one thing in contemporary worship that immediately shuts down worship for me: lyrics focused on me, not god.
the first song in the set was great — a chris tomlin song.
then, we sang (well, i didn’t sing) a song i’d not heard before with a repetitive chorus that said (over and over):
that you love me like you do
that you love me like you do
i kept wanting to sing “love, love me do”, like the beatles.
this song was immediately followed by another song i’d not heard before, a song called “jesus, lover of my soul” (i know a song with that line in it, but this was a different one). the words went something like this:
it’s all about you, jesus
blah, blah, blah
oh, i have to pause right there and say “caution flag”! any time a song needs to specificy that it’s all about jesus should be a warning that it’s really not. and the next line confirmed it…
It’s not about me,
blah, blah, blah
i’m sorry. if it’s really not about me, then the song shouldn’t spend time saying so. really, this song IS about me; the focus keeps coming back to me. in fact, RIGHT after saying “it’s not about me”, the chorus says…
jesus i want you to know,
i will follow you all of my days
who was this song about?
me? or jesus?
i go to a church with pretty slickly produced contemporary pop worship. but thanks to be to god and the sweet baby jesus (and props to jason and steve and the other worship leaders), we rarely fall into this self-massaging (see my restraint there?) style of worship.
back to the “worship” set. the fouth and final song was “all creatures of our god and king”. the thought came into my mind that i needed to offer an apology to st. francis of assisi (lyrics) and william draper (music). really, i almost wanted to apologize to the hymn itself, in personified form, for having to exist in such close proximity to those crappy lyrics.
have you ever heard that sarcastic phrase, “well, enough about me, let’s talk about me for a while”? this kind of worship is saying that to god.
9 thoughts on “enough about me…”
I am in a fairly traditional church right now. And, a lot of times I have a hard time connecting to it. For me worship is not as much about form as whether I connect with the Spirit in the midst of the service. And that has to do with a lot of things that are not methodological and more mysterious and reflective of the church’s culture and heart and all.
And being a Baptist, I can handle a service with all those gospel hymns and hand clapping and stuff. As a matter of fact, in my old church we used to do bluegrass worship about once a quarter. It was phenomenal!!
I am really beginning to love how us in ministry have lost the ability to attend any type of “worship” or “church” or “speaker” and not walk away with out a few snyde comments.
Maybe YS should start a “Cynic” convention. But I’m sure there will be comments about it as well.
andrew — dood, i went to lengths to say i loved the church. it’s the LYRICS of those songs i was critiquing. i’ll critique the willow-favorite “how can i but love you” any day also! that song just makes me laugh!
I wasn’t critiquing you, personally.
Just making a general observation.
As “emergent” as I am, my current ministry job is at a very “traditional” church. And I’m a life long Presbyterian…so that should say enough.
Most people have no idea what worship is.. Its not about the songs we sing, its not about how cool we sing them, its not about the right chord progressions, its not about Music…
ITS ABOUT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND OBEDIENCE… I’m a worship leader and youth leader in my church and I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen people start well but not finish well.
When you get in love with God all this stuff don’t matter.
I agree with most of what has been said. The songs are in need of volume. The struggle of the topic is that unfortunately many people in services learn theology through our songs. If the songs have bad theology, what are we learning?
I’m so tired of people saying “this stuff” doesn’t matter. I’ve been in 4 “worship” bands in the last 7 years and it’s so frustrating to see extremely talented musicians and singers not giving God their best. It IS a performance when leading “worship” music. It’s a performance to God; to an audience of One and the only One that matters. Why shouldn’t it be the best that can be given? Why aren’t we, as lead worshippers, caring more about the lyrics and the quality of music that is being ingrained into the minds and souls of youth and adults??
Right on Marko…Jase and I have frequent conversations along this line. It’s refreshing to see that we aren’t the only who get frustrated by this.
I was thinking about this … I don’t think it’s unbiblical to mention yourself in the worship. Sounds weird at first, but one of our great models for worship is David, the man with a heart after God’s heart … he was always mentioning himself in his psalms and praise. I agree that some songs are just rediculous … but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to swing the pendulum too far the other way.
Worship is about obedience most of all… look at Gen 22, this is the first act of worship…
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