We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Some Thoughts on Songs Used for Worship

I like the assembly where we have been attending for a year now, because the teaching is good and fundamental, the people seem to be solid believers and fellowship is good.  Oh there are things which they support or promote which I disagree with but there will never be an assembly which is totally acceptable to anyone!  But sometimes I really wonder how much thought goes into the selection of songs to sing for worship services.  At least at this assembly I haven’t encountered anything totally aberrational or heretical, or even a “Jesus is my boyfriend” song.  There’s been some slightly aberrant and some odd ones which get close to the “Jesus is my boyfriend,” but nothing to the extent of what was happening at the assembly we left after 13 years.  However, it would surely be a better assembly if we ceased with the Hillsong and Vineyard songs! 

The topic of this post is some examples of songs which aren’t really offensive with the lyrics, but they become senseless because they are sung over and over, and are really better for personal devotion rather than congregational singing with lots of musical bridges.   Please, worship leaders, use some discernment and quit using songs for their “feel good” effect or for rousing emotions.

The theme of the sermon was the love of God and our love for each other because of the love of God. We started out the service with these two:

No Greater Love, by Tommy Walker

There's no greater love than Jesus, 
There's no greater love than He gives 
There's no greater love that frees us So deep within

All the worlds empty treasure will soon pass away 
But His love will last forever
In my heart it will remain

We praise Your name stand in awe of 
Your never-ending love
Love so great that it covers
All my sin and shame
No greater power there is no greater force 
In all the earth than the strength of His love

[and of course we repeated this song a couple times before transitioning to the next one, and that is the irritant]

Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing) [a Vineyard song]

Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging
Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet
Your love is a mystery, how You gently lift me
When I am surrounded, Your love carries me

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Your love makes me sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Your love makes me sing

Your love is surprising, I can feel it rising
All the joy that's growing deep inside of me
Every time I see You, all Your goodness shines through
And I can feel this God song, rising up in me

Yes, You make me sing
Lord, You make me sing, sing, sing
How You make me sing

I don’t sing Vineyard no matter how good the lyrics may be, but this one, especially with the  emotion-driving music, as well some repeating of the lyrics, was quite irritating.  The disturbing parts are
1. “Every time I see you…”  Do we really see Jesus or God the Father?  How can we sing this lie?
2.  “I can feel this God song, rising up in me”  God song?!?!

After prayer, offering, and Scripture reading (1 John 4:7-5:5), we had a breath of fresh air with this song — and we didn’t repeat it!

Oh How I Love Jesus

There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in mine ear,
The sweetest name on earth. 

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me! 

It tells me of a Savior's love,
Who died to set me free;
It tells me of His precious blood,
The sinner's perfect plea. 

It tells of One whose loving heart
Can feel my deepest woe,
Who in each sorrow bears a part
That none can bear below. 

The choir then sang a song titled “Because He Loved Me.”  I don’t do well understanding lyrics sung by choirs (or even soloists), but our choir hasn’t sung anything with poor lyrics and I don’t have a problem with a choir singing a “radio” song which is inappropriate for congregational singing, so I wasn’t concerned.  I did look up the lyrics once home and they were fine.  Anyway, after the choir’s song, we sang the following as a congregation.

Your Love Compels Me, by Doug Holck

Your love compels me Lord,
To give as You would give,
To speak as You would speak,
To live as You would live.

Your love compels me Lord,
To see as You would see,
To serve as You would serve,
To be what You would be.

Now the lyrics are fine, but we sang it over and over.  I’d much rather sing one of these short songs once and then go right into another song rather than going around in circles working up the emotions.  So my plea to song leaders is that we don’t go around in circles with any song!

The service continued with the excellent sermon about what our motivations should be when doing the works of God, followed by a soloist singing Steve Green’s “The Mission,” which was a good song:

There’s a call going out
Across the land in every nation
A call to those who swear allegiance to the cross of Christ
A call to true humility, to live our lives responsibly
To deepen our devotion to the cross at any price

Let us then be sober, moving only in the Spirit
As aliens and strangers in a hostile foreign land
The message we’re proclaiming is repentance and forgiveness
The offer of salvation to a dying race of man

To love the Lord our God
Is the heartbeat of our mission
The spring from which our service overflows
Across the street
Or around the world
The mission’s still the same
Proclaim and live the Truth
In Jesus’ name

As a candle is consumed by the passion of the flame
Spilling light unsparingly throughout a darkened room
Let us burn to know Him deeper
Then our service flaming bright
Will radiate his passions
And blaze with holy light

The song was fine for solo performance but I hope they never decide to use it for congregational singing because the tune was difficult.  However, after the song was completed, the congregation sang the chorus again — and again.  Why must we always have the repeats?!?!

One of the problems with the contemporary songs being used, even if the lyrics are okay, is that all we get is a projected view of the lyrics with no musical notations.  Now, this is fine for people who listen to the radio all the time or buy the CDs and learn the songs, but for us who are not musically inclined (and take many times to hear a song before I can even begin to remember the tune), we need a hymnbook with the music included!  It really is time to think about the congregation’s ability to know and sing the songs chosen; otherwise many members of the congregation are marginalized.  

Please think about that, worship leaders.


Anonymous said...

Glenn we have much the same issue as you at our church. I think that they are trying to appeal to the young(er) people. Music is being made much more important to them than our generation and for that reason it has become the focus. The focus should be the Word read and preached, and of course our churches still have it, but less so, with more focus on music. They think they have to keep appealing to bring more in so that the church can grow both numbers & buildings when the older people are be gone. I too truly grieve at this trend and wonder what will become of them as they point these young people to songwriters and ministries that are truly off theologically and ecumenical to boot (Hillsong, Darlene Zscech, etc)

Anonymous said...

I think the repetition, the loudness, the visuals on the screens, etc are meant to stir up emotion and create certain feelings. True worship is meant to engage the mind but the trend is toward feelings and sensory experiences. It might be instructive to ask some young people what their thoughts are about all of this. Why do they think it's this way?

Anonymous said...

About the mission song, I don't even swear allegiance. That is a very American thing, is it not?

Anonymous said...

HI Glenn,

As I've said here before, I'm a trained musician who has attempted to address this issue with leadership... that music fit for congregational worship needs to be doctrinally solid and uncomplicated musically. But for the most part they do not listen, because they are thinking of achieving a "sound" or a "style", or they just like all the contemporary songs and bring them into the assembly without considering their worthiness for corporate worship. I've told leaders that the typical contemporary song is written BY performers FOR performers, and therefore is too difficult for the average congregant. In contrast, the average hymn is usually more substantial lyrically and is far easier to sing. Leave the complicated pieces for special music, but even then, the vocalists need to sing with proper diction so people in the congregation can understand the words!

But what do I know, right? After all, the 20-something guy with the guitar is "in charge". And if you think "touch not the Lord's anointed" is an attitude only found in those crazy charismatic churches, think again!

I freely confess that I have grown to despise - and I do mean despise - what passes today for "corporate worship".


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 1/21, 2:16AM

I don't see a problem with swearing allegiance to Christ. And I don't see how that is an "American thing" either.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I'm hoping to finish my next "RAAH" post for publishing today. Wait until you see what I have about "worship"!

Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying playing through a songbook of what they used to call "negro spirituals." I especially like "Gospel Train." By contrast, today's black church songs are prone to painfully long stretches where the same phrase is repeated over and over. It loses my interest, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you're going to hate heaven, having to sing over and over throughout eternity, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come."

I hope you won't be too bored singing it for eternity.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 2/2 11:04,

You obviously don't get the point. And, by the way, now where does it say in the Bible that "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come" will be the only thing we sing, and even if we do repeat it, it won't be for working up the emotions!