Worship weaves God’s beautiful vision of the world together note by note, voice by voice.
This is why I cannot wrap around the worship music debate. It seems like an argument for the sake of arguing. It stymies me when I begin to write music for the church. Shall I write a hymn, or a worship chorus? Why bother if all that counts are songs written in the last millennium?
The debate is between traditional hymn forms, and contemporary worship songs. One theologian called worship songs “narcissistic diddies.” No doubt post-modern attitudes hailing individualism have tainted the meaning of worship and compromised some lyrics. It’s all part of “feel-good” church and big money. Self-help church sells, but not like a treasure that becomes family heirloom; it sells like chicken McNuggets. Hence the revolving door. Mention a big church and throw a stone any direction and you will likely hit someone who says, “I used to go there.” Ask why.
Blaming the music throws the stone at the wrong sinner.
A true worship experience is the responsibility of every worshipper in the congregation.
It ruins the musical expression of God-people love when we make music a tool instead of art. I love the art of church, stained glass windows that tell the Bible story, religious paintings, fountains and statues. Art is a powerful heart-cry; music is one of the most powerful artistic expressions the church has.
I like the meditative quality of repetitious worship choruses. They stay in my mind like “whatsoever things.” (Philippians 4:8) “Twitter-lyrics,” pithy repetitious lines, have a place if every pithy word is carefully chosen. It’s kind of like the Honk if you love Jesus bumper stickers. I used to be so insulted by them, until one day I thought about what it would be like to have Satanic triteness floating around the roadways for people to ponder at traffic lights. I like seeing the name Jesus, and I like thinking the name Jesus, and I like how the mere mention of that person stirs my heart – so I honk.
We must still insist on quality and substance in our church music, succinct or otherwise. The worship songs work well if they unite us in worship. They are tragic if they are only about me, me, me or I just want to feel better so I came to church. Church is bigger than that. Otherwise, you could choose between church or getting a message, or fishing… or a 12-step meeting. All are good, but one belongs in a different category, an Eternal-meaning-of-life category. It’s like the difference between a plastic magnifying glass from a cereal box or the Hubble Telescope.
The Hubble Telescope discovers things as they are, not things as we want them to be. It asks questions and finds answers that lead to more questions. It says, “I want to see beyond this world things that eye has not seen.” (I Corinthians 2:9) Worship is an opportunity for us to see worlds unseen. It is bigger than the individual, but ultimately blesses the individual. It is in giving ourselves selflessly in worship that we open up to possibilities only God knows.
Worship is poetry. When we sing to God, about God, or about the meaning of life in God, we tap into galaxies unknown, we join a cast of saints and angels.
What songs will still be around 100 years from now? Maybe it’s the wrong question. Will God still be worthy of our praise 100 years from now? 1000? A million? My goal is not necessarily to write a song that lasts (although I do strive for that), but to participate in The Song that is Eternal.