“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

'Happy' Worship

So, as I begin looking at music in general I wanted to start with some basics.

1) - Not ALL contemporary worship music is bad.
2) - Not ALL Hymnody is good.

With those basic two points, I shall begin to do a brief examination of the status of worship music. The first thing that is disturbing today, (and I believe that I have touched upon this before), is that most people consider 'worship' the musical/singing piece of a service only.

This is wrong-headed; worship is what takes place when God's people gather together and involves singing, preaching, praying, the ordinances and invocation/benediction. For far too long, the modern church has downplayed the preaching of God's Word and built up an emotional outlet that many call the 'worship service', until in the modern world what we have is 2 hours of singing (and sadly, many of the songs are inane), and 5 minutes of 'preaching' which usually involves not much more than a pep talk to the gathered throng.

I find it interesting that many churches today, especially the 'top' growing churches, advertise NOT that they preach the Word, but that people need to come and be involved in their worship experience. And when you dig a bit, that usually means professional musicians and songs all about US!

Recently White Horse Inn did a series on 'Happy, Clappy, Worship', and spoke of the very real fact that almost ALL worship music is one-dimensional -- that is, that almost all worship music is 'happy'. How many churches sing through the Psalms, or sing laments?

Recently our worship leader came up to me and told me that he had penned a lament out of the Psalms and would it be OK to prepare it for our church? I very much encouraged him, as we spend far too much time singing songs that get our 'happy' emotions going, but far too little time singing out in our pain as David did.

Something that struck me while I was listening to the White Horse Inn broadcast was Rod Rosenblatt's statement that the 'requirement' to be 'happy' within the modern church is a new form of legalism. One is often discouraged from being anything but artificially pumped up by happiness. And this is reflected by the songs and preaching style of many mega-church pastors.

Their messages are ALWAYS Anthony Robbins-like, and the songs that their worship teams sing are happy, happy, joy, joy.

You may disagree with me, but that was one of the things that I enjoyed about Casting Crowns first CD. They spoke of pain, doubt and worry. They addressed God in these areas, and spoke of trusting Him. Now, I don't know if I agree with everything they ever wrote, who does, but their CD was a breath of fresh air in a CCM market so often over-saturated with sappy nonsense, and contrived happiness.

The church should get back to singing the Psalter, singing through the Psalms -- and letting true emotion out -- the pain and contrition of David in Psalm 51, the sorrow in Psalm 77. Not every song needs to be a Psalm, or a hymn, but the full range of emotion should be dealt with, not just one facet.

An example of the 'sanitized' worship that I am talking about is the modern worship song -- His Steadfast Love Never Ceases.

Below is the song:

The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases
Robert Davidson

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
New every morning.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.
Great is Thy faithfulness.

Now, now compare that with the Scripture it was taken from: let us hear from Jeremiah, just to give context to these words. I am only going to put the first 26 or so verses in from Lamentations 3 -- I recommend you go read the rest!

I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.
He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.
He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.
He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

See how different the steadfast love of the Lord is? In the song, it is some 'good' thing that never really specifies, and is bouncy and happy. In the Lamentation it is AMIDST the agony and pain of the destruction around Jeremiah that he finds the steadfast love of the Lord. We need to KNOW the steadfast love of the Lord in these times!

Now, if you like the aforementioned song, that is fine, the song is not incorrect, just incomplete. God is there and sovereign, and not every day is going to be a good day -- and that is when we will need Him most!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I found you comments interesting, especially about what comprises worship. Several years ago I ONCE attended a mega-church on a Saturday night to see what all the hoop-la was about (you know the one, right around the corner from that mall we go to -- but it could have been any of them).

The music time was a 30 minute stage show that could have easily fit into Broadway or Vegas. At it's conclusion, the pastor came on stage and said, "Now that worship is done, let's...." WORSHIP IS DONE??? Wow! I guess we were through worshipping and ready for our pep talk (which by the way never mentioned Christ, with only a veiled reference to God three times).

Corporate worship is the entire service where in all true evangelical churches (except the Plymouth Brethern), the preaching of the Word is (supposed to be) the centerpiece.

How far we have come!