I love worship services. Or at least I used to love them. I guess I still do. It’s designed to put you in a specific mood. Whether that mood is contemplative or repentant or pumped up and ready to storm beaches for Jesus, the worship service is a great tool for inspiring that desired emotion. A good worship leader can do more than half the work of getting people in a mood to receive anything the pastor wants to say from the pulpit. A really good worship leader can get you emotionally to a place where you feel as if God is in the room with you.
There is an art to the worship service in church. I know of some Christian colleges that have course work on being a great worship leader.
The cynic will see it as shameless emotional manipulation, but music has always been a part of our species, a way in which we seek the divine, the transcendental, and I think there’s definitely value in it.
But these days, like with most things in church, I spend a lot of time really listening to the words and critically analyzing them. I have no idea what flipped this switch on, but I find myself unable to stop it and it’s really ruined a lot of worship songs for me.
And it’s made me realize that we lie in church. A lot.
And not the usual Protestant lies we tell God of “Forgive me one more time and I’ll never do it again” (Spoiler alert: you will do it again, probably that evening) or “help me out this one time and I’ll devote my life to you” (You won’t.)
“I could sing of your love forever…”
Really? You could sing of God’s love forever, but you’re not going to? Or you really are going to sing of God’s love forever, in which case, no, you didn’t because you weren’t singing during the sermon or on your way out of the service.
“of all else I’m letting go…” or “I give my life to you” or some variant of that theme:
So you’re leaving your family and devoting your life to serve the poor, healing the sick, building wells in Africa or some other missional work? Or you’re giving away all of your goods and moving to a monastery to contemplate God? No? Then you’re not really letting go of everything else are you?
Even within the context of our daily lives, we’re still not letting go of our plans, our thoughts of the future, our jobs, our problems.
Or are we falling back on the old evangelical lie I mentioned above of “I promise I’ll be a better Christian, Lord!”
“Did you hear the darkness tremble when all the saints joined in one song?”
No, I didn’t. And neither did you. And I’m fairly certain that the devil (if he really exists) is perfectly happy to let all of us sit in our churches singing our hearts out so long as we’re not really going outside of our church to feed the hungry, fight against injustice, visiting the sick, befriending the outcasts, or clothing the poor.
“I feel like dancing…”
Unless you’re in a charismatic church, no, you don’t. And you’re not going to dance. Especially if you’re Baptist. Not unless you want the church elders to perform an exorcism on you after the service.
Anything about lifting hands…
Look around your church the next time you’re supposed to sing about lifting your hands to the Lord. I’m guessing 80-90% of people are not doing that even as they sing about it.
Jesus paid it all…
Then why are so many sermons about all of the ways in which we, as human beings, fall short? Shouldn’t we be a bit more secure if Jesus did indeed pay it all?
“Our God is greater than any other…”
Then why is my Facebook feed filled with posts about how liberals are destroying God and Christianity is under attack and we should all be afraid and vote conservatives who will ‘restore the law of God’ to our land?
I’d welcome any submissions you have of worship songs or lines in worship songs that bug you or make you think “Yeah, I have no idea what this means” or “I don’t believe this at all…”
I think a lot of what we sing, we sing because it’s what we’re supposed to do. Not necessarily because we believe it or because it’s true.