So I was in church today and most/all of the worship songs were about, in my opinion, making the worshiper feel better about themselves than about actually worshiping God… My questions is, can there be a point where the songs are too much about self comfort instead of being in awe of God? Is this a bad thing? How common should these songs be in our worship? We’re there hymns that were like this over the last few generations? Is this a generational thing?
Do you mind to share samples of the song lyrics please? So we can all make a more objective judgment based on the evidence of the content of the songs.
I don’t want to give specific songs just so I don’t make a person or a group the focus. So to elaborate a bit, when in church I think it’s good to sing songs to worship God, make Him the focus. I don’t want to listen to Christian music that might have their time and place but are more therapeutic for the emotionally unstable listener. More focused on what the person needs than forgetting our needs and enjoying Gods presence
It’s interesting that you bring this up. This morning, I was listening to “You Are What You Love” by James K.A. Smith, and he suggests that part of move toward the emotive, comforting worship songs common today (and away from the confessional hymns and liturgies that were more common in past generations) was motivated by the “seeker sensitivity” movement. Basically, the belief was that church should seem familiar, comfortable, and “cool” to those outside, and it was assumed that the liturgical, the confessional, and traditional hymns were too strange and unapproachable. (Ironically, these types of worship, particularly confession, may be exactly the sort of thing people long for without realizing it.)
I’m inclined to agree with you, though. Of course, every generation has had bad hymns (both in terms of quality and theology), but too many modern hymns are focused on the individual and feeling good. Some “worship songs” even go so far as to never mention God by name, such that they could just as easily be addressed to a human lover. It can get to the point that, for those who struggle with depression (as I do), anxiety, or guilt, church worship services are the most unbearable part of the week.
Mmm! Good words brother! My wife was also saying that the songs today reminded her of a love song that couldn’t and between two people, very vague.
Really liked the end of your first paragraph, people are sick and need a savior even if they don’t know it.
I’ll be praying for you like I do my dad and other friends that struggle with depression
Hi Karl… I thought I was the only one
I think maybe I’m a little old fashioned anyway (not old… just old-fashioned) but I totally agree with you. Although I do think there is such a broad range of taste and so many ways that people make an emotional connection (which is at least in part what music is about) with God. I’m not what one would describe as a particularly emotional person but music is one of the rare things that bring it out in me.
For me particularly I find the singing of great hymns with great truths to be one of the most uplifting things we can do and I find that some of the more modern hymns and songs just don’t offer that at all and, as you say, seem to focus to much on the “me” rather than the Lord. But I’ll certainly acknowledge that I’m probably a little curmudgeonly in the eyes of other people sometimes (in my 30’s and describing myself as curmudgeonly… hmmm).
I’ll give you one example that puts across both things…
I love the song “Take my Life” which starts “Take my life and Let it be consecrated, Lord to thee”. There is a song we sing in church on Sunday which has a line in it “Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul”.
…Now… there is nothing wrong with the lyrics of either song… both are godly concepts. I only bring it up to show a subtle shift in some songs that is actually a lot clearer in others. The first is ascribing the work and the focus to God, whereas the second (even if only in my perception of it) seems to focus more on the work we do (we’re doing the giving) rather than on God and him working in us.
Please hear me, I’m not saying this song is wrong, just that my perception of it changes its emphasis and meaning for me and therefore I’m not as big a fan of it.
I think what you’ve probably got to ask is… is the song you’re singing actually being sung for God? Is it heretical in any way? Is there a way you can shift your perception so that at least you can participate and enjoy the music in a way you think is appropriate? Music is such a wonderful and important thing, but it frequently is the cause of division in churches which is something we are to avoid.
I don’t think I have a point here… just rambling. Thanks for bringing it up Karl.
Hello, Karl @Kinewman! I agree with what most have said here. However, I think the worship music being “off the mark” is a symptom of a larger issue of the church culture pointing more towards and being more about the individual experience. I am not completely opposed to looking at experience (after all, the Bible does include the Song of Solomon ), but I am opposed to putting it as top priority in worship; that, in my mind, becomes a form of idolatry. Currently, I am concerned with a trend of attempting to substitute Bible study with self-help groups, but really, it is all a part of an underlying root of putting experience on a pedestal, I think. This is a hindrance to those who think that because they can’t “feel” God all the time, something is wrong. I mentored a girl who thought that and was constantly troubled by it, and though I explained to her that we can’t make experience our measuring stick for our life of faith or walk with God, because the experience itself is not the end, even though I think she wanted to believe me, she just kept going back to experience and feeling. That makes my heart ache.
@tsbehan If it makes you feel any better, Tim, I’m sure “curmudgeonly” could be used to describe me, and I’m only 23!
@Kinewman Thanks for your concern, Karl. I’ve been a lot better since I switched churches (there were a lot of practical reasons for doing so besides the issue with worship), and Sunday mornings are once again a time I look forward to.
It occurs to me that another element missing from a lot of modern worship is the communal aspect; worship services are often less a gathering of the body of Christ seeking God together than they are a bunch of individuals gathering to seek God individually under the direction of a band.
We might not always get it right in our praise music, however the Holy Spirit will help us if we keep the upward look in our singing to God. God is Good to All. Fred
As one of the music leaders in my church, I think a lot about this question, @Kinewman, so it’s good that you bring it up!
My general approach is to try to provide a good mix. I love a good, rousing old hymn. @tsbehan and @MicahB have praised their richness and depth, and I second (or third?) that! However, I also think that songs that have a slightly more ‘person-centered’ bent to them do have their place in the worship service as well, esp. when the Gospel calls for a response. Songs that are prayers can also tend to be more personal.
So, really, I look at the whole of the service and evaluate whether or not the set of songs I’ve chosen work well together in proclaiming the Gospel and reinforcing the themes that run through the Bible passage for that morning. I find, a mixture of old and new can be quite complementary!
I’m with you @KMac. I have played for many years on the worship team and I love a good mix of old and new, and honestly, I probably favour many of the “old” hymns with a bit more contemporary instrumentation. But at the end of the day, it’s about the message and bringing the focus to worshiping God.
@Kinewman and @MicahB it is interesting you bring this topic up. My daughter struggles with depression and this is one area she finds very difficult. When we can get her to church, she tends to leave for the worship time and come back for the message. I think some of it may be guilt, but she also struggles with feelings of hypocrisy that she (or others) aren’t really living what they are singing about. I honestly don’t know, but she has made it clear worship time is tough for her.
It’s interesting, I’ve been in a very dark place before, and, though I did manage to make myself go to church, I found sitting through the worship was very frustrating, painful almost. Looking back on it now, I can recognise that I was simultaneously very scared and very angry with God. (Or, at least those were my two dominant emotions!) I was too bitter to speak with him (worship), but I was still making myself (somewhat) listen to him…or at the very least, be in His presence. Much like Jonah, I wanted to run away and hide.
I don’t know what it’s like for your daughter, but if it’s anything like where I was, that’s rough. If you haven’t done it already, it might be worth asking her what it’s like for her to sit in a church service right now. Is there anything specific that’s evoking a sharp emotional response for her? At the very least, you’d have some more specific ways to pray for her as she wrestles with whatever it is that’s nagging her.
But back to song choice – lest I get too off-topic! – I also think it’s worth mentioning that I think it’s good to also incorporate songs (or a set of songs) that display a range of emotions. That way, maybe people who are in pain that week can sing some words without feeling too much like a hypocrite? If a lament is appropriate, I’m going to do one…unapologetically. Always singing ‘happy’ songs can seem disingenuous after a while.
I think it depends on the church and what’s going on that day. I like old school songs but I also like worship songs that relate to what I’m going through. There are songs sometimes in church that are old but I can’t relate to them at all. Doesn’t mean they’re bad but that’s just not my struggle. Then there have been songs that it seems like God hand picked it just for me to hear at that moment. I believe that’s important to consider. It’s just like the message being spoken that day by the pastor. Sometimes that message isn’t for you but for someone else there.
At times I think the older generation does have to consider that not all worship is the same and what brings you closer to God may not bring someone else to God. I do agree that any music that takes the focus off the lord isn’t the best music to be played during worship but one does have to give room for the possibility that it’s not just them in the room. Sometimes I need assurance that God loves me and other times I wanna be able to give thanks too. The worship team isn’t going to always hit the mark either. Sometimes they are having an off Sunday.
Great conversation, bottomline is that all praise and glory goes to HIM, whcih means the songs need to be worshipping the creator and our LORD. In today’s culture some songs are written to exhibit the singers talent and elate the listeners…