Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Examining Worship: part II: Is it helpful?

In my post, Lecherous Worship, I laid out two extremes of lyric writing that prevent music from being helpful in corporate worship; over-simplification and over-complication.

1. Over-simplification: These are songs that have helped create the label of "7-11" worship that is applied to contemporary worship - "sing the same 7 words 11 times." The most egregious example is the song "Let It Rain." Here are the lyrics in their entirety:

Let it Rain
Let it Rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven


That's the whole song. Sing these 11 words for 3 to 5 minutes. How, I ask, does this help anyone? Is it asking God to pour out blessings on us? Is it asking for the Holy Spirit to come in an abundant way? Overly-simple songs can easily create confusion and open the door for errant theology and intentional truth twisting.

2. Over-complication: Have you ever sang a song and found yourself asking "what did that even mean?" A common temptation for songwriters is to insert Biblical language into a song because it sounds nice, with no regard to the original context. So why is right now the days of Elijah, where the word of the Lord is being declared. I don't see the dry bones becoming as flesh, or David rebuilding the Temple. What is a temple of praise?

Writing poetic lyrics is like free jazz. It is easy to sound poetic, and hard to tell what is deeply imaginative and what is simply wordy. Congregational worship is not only for the high-minded or the literary, but for all who love Christ. We need to employ words that evoke powerful imagery and roll off the tongue, but also speak clearly. Good poetic language reminds us of the beauty of God, bad poetic fakery draws attention to the cleverness of the author and disengages the individual from worship.

1 comment:

theologyandculture said...

I know this is unpopular, but I've kind of felt that one song that was too simple was "This is the air I breathe." But that may just be me 0=).

But I guess one humbling thing to bear in mind is some scriptural choruses that are sung and repeated. Revelation 4:8, "and day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; who was and is and is to come!'"

Outstanding thoughts on lyrics, though. Following along with my previous comment on the other post, it's a bit of a shame that pastors and theologians aren't the ones writing the worship songs anymore. It's nice musically, because we get young talented musicians that write worship music; but it's often a trainwreck theologically.