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Let's Stop Singing

Someone recently shared an article with me titled "Let's Stop Singing These 10 Worship Songs." The author, Corrie Mitchell, is making a point that there are some songs that have made it into the mainstream worship scene that are lyrically weak at best. I believe her ultimate goal is to encourage song writers both to be more conscientious of their lyrics to not neglect theological accuracy at the expense of prose--which is a noble and applauded effort.
But with that said, here is my response to her article.

Let's stop singing these 10 worship songs.
That's right, there are too many important theological statements that are getting left out of worship songs. If congregants don't have the opportunity to proclaim the entire Gospel message in the course of one song then it isn't worth singing. After all, what if that is the only song they ever hear in a worship service? They will be left thinking that the Gospel message is incomplete. That Jesus only died to save them without realizing that the same applies to the person next to them. The Passion of the Christ deserves far more than 16 bars of strophic writing could ever offer and therefore we should avoid songs that only portray a portion of it.

Yes, we should stop singing those 10 worship songs but why stop there?? I vote that we stop singing the following songs as well:

11. "He Lives"
Problem Lyric: "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart."

Don't get me wrong, Jesus gives me the warm fuzzies in my heart from time to time and that has a strong impact in amplifying my belief. But what about the times of doubt? What about when the trials and storms come and batter against us, and our heart is turned cold in mourning and pain? Jesus still lives. The Bible proclaims it! Regardless of how I feel Jesus still lives. And it has nothing to do with my heart.

12. "Rock of Ages"
Problem Lyric: "Thou must save and Thou alone."

Augustus M. Toplady meant well when he wrote this back in 1776. It is filled with snippets that recall scripture references throughout the text, yet nowhere does he actually mention God's name. Therefore we might as well sing this song to a representative at the Genius Bar after he fixes our MacBook.

Another significant problem with this song is the title which now shares titles with a Broadway musical about sex, drugs, and rock and roll that makes fun of the church and is full of promiscuity. We cannot be associated with such a demoralizing title that will recall sinful desires while singing to God.

13. "Good Christian Men Rejoice"
Problem Lyric: "Ox and ass before Him bow."

Not only does this song include language that no good Christian should ever say aloud, but it also moves along at such a quick clip that no congregation could ever keep up with the speed to get the words out.

14. "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb"
Problem Lyric: "washed in the blood of the Lamb."

If you're not a Christian then this lyric is pretty much guaranteed to convince you that Christianity is a cult. In order to be a Christian you have to take a blood bath. Not a great lyric to sing out cheerily. This song should probably be rated PG-13.

15. "Come Thou Fount"
Problem Lyric: "here I raise my Ebenezer."

Do you know what an Ebenezer is? And your answer can't include character names from A Christmas Carol. An Ebenezer is a "stone of help." Samuel had a memorial stone placed after a battle against the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:7-12). Any song that contains a word that congregants might not know simply encourages them to sing nonsense lyrics without any heart behind them. At that point people are singing just for the sake of singing, not because they mean what they are saying.

16. "Take My Life" 
Problem Lyric: "take my life."

This song is the epitome of many worship songs. It makes a claim ("take my life," "every moment all for Thee,") that most Christians wouldn't be willing to back up. Do I really mean it when I ask God to take my life? Maybe I'm pretty comfortable as is and I would just like for him to take 10% of my life. Maybe only 5%. Maybe only an hour a week, every other week.

Songs with a claim like this should be sung as "God, here's what I want to be like, please help me get there by YOUR power." In the meantime, they should not be sung.

17. "I'll Fly Away" 
Problem Lyric: "when I die..."

This song never mentions the glory of heaven but rather just is a happy song about dying. There is no real promise of praising God but instead is a joyous proclamation that life ends some day.

18. "National Anthem" 

There's no real problem lyric with this song, but when we are limited to 60 minutes of worship each week to praise God, it seems like an unfortunate designation to assign 2 minutes of that time to proclaim our praises to our nation. Nationalism and Christianity were designed to be separate entities so why start to mix them up on Sunday mornings?

Secondly, the National Anthem is a contrafactum, meaning a text that uses a pre-existing tune. In this case, it was a British drinking tune that Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to. Why would we sing a tune from the country we were at war with and use that to begin all our major sporting events to honor our country?

19. "How Great is Our God" 
Problem Lyric: "sing with me."

This lyric was actually a prompt that Chris Tomlin would throw out during his worship concerts, encouraging the audience to sing along with him. The lyric stuck and now congregations all across America find themselves singing the audience cue to...each other.

20. "10,000 Reasons" 
Problem Lyric: "10,000 reasons for my heart to find."

Is God limited to only 10,000 reasons to be praised? Shouldn't this song encourage us to find an unlimited number of reasons to praise the Lord? I serve a God who cannot be contained by a number so finite as 10,000.


By now hopefully you have picked up on the sarcasm. 

The point here is that every song written for congregational singing has its faults--no single song is perfect. But each song does present a unique aspect for us to worship God through and when several songs are stitched together in a worship set, that hopefully creates a broader more complete picture of the Gospel and God's love. 

So let's sing more songs--let's not nitpick a song to death at the expense of worshiping a God who is worthy to be praised. Let's sing through the context that the composer originally created the song to be sung through and let's do so with abandon. 

Let's write and compose and perform and sing songs that bring God honor and respect and praise. And let's not leave any note unsung. 

Comments

  1. Haha!!! #14 reminds me of what John Wimber said when he walked into a church and someone excitedly ran up to him and said loudly "Hello Brother...have you been washed in the blood?", and he fearfully said "Oh no...when do they do that!?" Loved the cartoon your dad used to have outside his office door at CBC (been a while), showing the worship leader on a gallows and head in the noose and all the congregation gathered around waiting...so true.

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