worship should be the greatest show on earth

21 10 2009

Growing up during the latest worship movement brought the question: How do you apply the right amount of musical artistry in worship so that you won’t be distracting to the people?

As I have journeyed in my understanding of worship and have seen different groups of believers worship, I realized that this is the wrong question.

I think it is better addressed with two questions:

1. How can song leaders best worship God?
2. How can those being led in worship know that worship is not a show for them?

Our responsibility is to worship God. His Greatness deserves our greatness in worship and nothing less.

Imagine if people were worshiping through a Cirque du Soleil type performance. Now that would be awesome! When we worship God it should be the greatest show on earth!

NOT the greatest

The challenge in corporate worship is having something that everyone can participate in. Obviously, not everyone can move their body’s in amazing ways as a tribute to God. Honestly, not everyone can sing either.

The problem is when we see others do something we cannot do we are mesmerized by them, but in worship we are supposed to be mesmerized by God.

I just realized something interesting. U2 came to Phoenix last night.

Their name is really a marketing technique. It can mean a lot of things or nothing at all.

So how does this apply to worship? When I think of the worship team I think of us versus them, but if we are really all worshiping God then it isn’t us versus them. The worship team is everyone. In other words the worship team really should be telling the gathering that the band is you too.

Yeah, I know it’s a little cheesy, but I think you’ll remember it better.

I’m sorry I didn’t answer my two questions, but really answering those questions is not my point.

The point is to remember: YOU are to worship the Lord out of YOUR relationship with Him.

We should all dig in and figure out how each of us can best worship God because He is worthy. If everyone focuses on their gift to God through worship, then it will be the greatest show on earth.


Jesus is not my boyfriend – what Southpark can teach the church

23 09 2009

I really appreciate Matt Redman’s honesty in this clip. I applaud his admission about searching Scripture and finding it hard to find the romantic imagery used in many modern worship songs.

I don’t know if you are the type of person who finds it a little challenging to sing songs that seem like love songs to God. When I talk about love songs, I’m talking about the ones you hear on the radio for lovers.

One of my favorite Southpark episodes is Christian Hard Rock from season 7.

What I really like about this episode is that it makes fun of Christian songs by saying the formula is easy. Just replace words like “baby” with “Jesus” and you have a Christian hit. For example “I love you, baby” becomes “I love you, Jesus.”

The problem with lyric writing like this is that it is self-focused. There are good things about acknowledging the thought and feelings we have about God, but they have to be based on the truth.

God doesn’t ask us to be in a love relationship with Him that is analogous to a man and woman falling in love. Though there is the image of the church as the bride of Christ, we are to love God by obeying His commands.

Jesus is not my boyfriend and He’s not supposed to be my boyfriend. He is my Lord, my Savior and my God. Did we ever consider that maybe God created a special love feeling for human beings that is similar but not exactly like the love we should have for God?

What is interesting to me is that when people encounter God in Scripture, they don’t go on about how beautiful or lovely He is. People usually are stunned, blown away by His holiness and His power. There is an awesomeness about God that cannot be described. It doesn’t cause gushy feelings in our hearts, but instead makes us fall to our knees.

I’m not saying that He is not beautiful or lovely, what I am saying is that it is not the emphasis of Scripture. Look up “beautiful” and “lovely” with “God” or “Lord.” Then look up “holy” and “mighty” with “God” or “Lord” and you will find many more hits.

This is what I am thinking: Scripture’s emphasis should be reflected in the lyrics of the worship songs we sing.

did we just sing the same line 20 times? didn’t God get it the first time?

19 08 2009

I’ve had discussions about how some songs repeat the same lyrics over and over. My first thought is that the writers are lazy. The second thought is one shared with me, “Didn’t God hear us the first time?” Why would we need to say the same thing over and over again?

Here is an example of why I feel like songs used in worship get a little ridiculous with repeated words.

If you just want to see the lyrics here they are:

And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And he set me on fire and I am burning alive.
With his breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And I cannot hold it in
Remain composed.
Love’s taken over me
So I propose the letting myself go.
I am letting myself go.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And He set me on fire, and I am burning alive.
With His breath in my lungs I am coming undone.
And I cannot hold it in and remain composed.
Love’s taken over me and so I propose the letting myself go.
I am letting myself go.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

I need to catch my breath, I need to.
I need to catch my breath, give me a moment now.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

I’m laughing so hard
And I’m laughing so hard
And I’m laughing so hard

I first must disclose that I often don’t get David Crowder’s lyrics. I know his lyrics are very image driven and I don’t connect with them well. Second, I really like the sound of this song, but I am always disappointed by the lyrics.

What does this song say?

It talks about what God has done for him. Not bad… that idea can be used in worship. What has God done? God set him on fire. People can get me pretty fired up too. What might stand out is that God provided a love that overtook the singer. That’s not a bad idea, but they are concepts without concrete actions. What if the person (not David Crowder) singing the song has all the same feelings, but they are not really God initiated or founded? The song becomes empty.

The breakdown of the song’s lyrics might seem a little off focus from the title of the post, but it is connected.

We started talking about why we would ever repeat lyrics in worship songs if God gets it the first time. The first repeated line “You are my joy” is an expression of reaction to God, not a characteristic about God. It’s not bad to repeat the line, but I’d prefer more lyrics about why God is my joy. Remembering why elevates the source over the experience. (If you have studied post-modernism, which I won’t go into, then you will understand why this is important. If you really want to know more the easiest and most fun way is to watch Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix on disc 8 of The Matrix Trilogy box set.)

The next repeated lines “I need to catch my breath” and “I’m laughing so hard” are just lyrics describing an experience and nothing about God, which I would propose is better left out of a worship song.

The most important question is not the function of repeating lyrics, but if it is biblical.

Read Revelation 4:8-11

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

We see that the four creatures never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” They say it day and night. In conjunction with this the twenty-four elders fall down every time saying their own line when the four creatures do their bit.

There we go, a biblical reference to repeated lines. Though, it might not all be in one song, it’s all day and night long.

What makes this different from the song we looked at? These are qualities about God. They contain words describing God, His character, and what He did. The lyrics are not about us.

There is a song that has repeated lyrics that moved me.

It is Jeff Deyo’s “You Are Good” and the lyrics are:

Some would say that You cannot be found
And some would say that You are far away
But I know You’re the God who lives in me
And I know You will always have my heart.

‘Cause You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good
And Your love endures forever
You are good, you are good.

You are the only One
You are the One that I desire
You are the only One, my King.

We see two repeated lines, but the one that grabbed me was, “You are good and your love endures forever.” It describes a quality about God. In this we declare a truth about God to God.

There is a reason why the repeating words moved me. In repeating the lines over and over God showed me a different quality about His love. Not only does God never end in quantity, but it never ends its flow toward us. No matter how much we mess up God’s flow of love toward us will never end.

The repeated lyrics musically represent truth just as in Psalm 136. Because the repeating lyrics make it feel like it never ends, we are reminded that God’s love never ends.

So, what my answer to the use of repeated lines in a worship song?

There is scriptural precedent for saying the same thing over and over, and repeating the same line can be a creative tool to communicate truth.

old school is not good for church

5 08 2009

The movie has nothing to do with the post. The name fit, that's all.

If the songs you sing in church haven’t changed in a while it might actually indicate a serious problem.

Old songs are a part of the church history and Christianity is an ancient faith. Scripture tells us to remember the past.

Deuteronomy 32:7 – Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.

Psalm 77:11 – I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 143:5 – I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

Now, look up “old” and “song” and you will find:

Why doesn’t <br> hold up in the html code in WordPress? I had to play a trick so it looks right.

Why doesn’t <br> hold up in the html code in WordPress? I had to play a trick so it looks right.

Exactly.  You won’t find anything.

But if we look up “new” and “song” and you will find:

Psalm 33:3 – Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 40:3 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 96:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Psalm 98:1 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

Psalm 144:9 – I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,

Psalm 149:1 – Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!

Isaiah 42:10 – Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Revelation 5:9 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 14:3 – and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

The reason for new songs can come from two sources. One reason can be that God seems so amazing that one song about Him does not satisfy our urge to worship Him. A second reason is that we have learned something new about God, or He has done something new for us that we are compelled to worship Him about this new thing.

If God’s greatness is immeasurable then the amount of songs should likewise never end.

I couldn’t find where Scripture celebrates singing of old songs, but some people latch onto old songs with all their life. There is nothing wrong with singing old songs, but having no new songs shows something: there is no growth. Growth will result in something new.

A growing tree will continue to sprout new branches.

A dying tree looks the same until decay is evident.

Yellowstone - Dead Tree

Refusing to let old songs fade into the distance is placing a creation over the Creator.

We should remember our Creator and His works of old; but old school music is often about our nostalgia and our comfort.

Worse of all reliance on old school music could mean that we have never experienced anything new from or about God that compels us to sing a new song.