One of the things we do in church is sing. I love singing. When I was a kid I didn’t; I think I must have driven the Sunday school teachers crazy. I was one of a group of boys who delighted in changing the lyrics of the Sunday school songs and then giggled at our cleverness.
I am much older now, and most of the time, the songs are very effective in bringing me, sometimes incrementally, to a place of worship. This is, I believe, the purpose of singing in church. But some songs, at least for me, can work contrary to this purpose.
In these cases, I just can’t get past something in the song and I end up focusing on what I believe is bad writing and not on the intention of the song–be that praise, thanksgiving, confession, prayer, or whatever.
I struggle with whether this is my problem; perhaps I am too critical. I am critical of movies, songs on the radio, books and restaurants, so it’s difficult to turn it off on Sunday morning. But maybe I should try harder.
On the other hand, perhaps everyone would benefit from praise and worship songs that overly critical people like me could sing without distraction. Would it not be better if the songs we sing in church were excellent in every way?
I understand that there is a lot of personal preference in the songs we like or don’t like. This can’t be avoided entirely, but I believe there are objective standards to which I am appealing. As a matter of fact, some of the songs that I think are excellent I don’t particularly like. I understand that all human art is likely pretty poor to its heavenly audience no matter how good it is, but I do believe that it is important that our offerings of praise be our best, nonetheless.
My first impulse was to level an indictment at specific examples of songs that I believe fail artistically (or theologically). But, this approach can be upsetting and the point of the critique is completely missed. John Stackhouse wrote a blog critiquing inferior worship music and many were unable to receive what he had to say.
I thought it would be better to praise aspects of some songs that are excellent. My hope is that present and future worship leaders and songwriters would give a great deal of thought to the songs they sing and write so as to powerfully serve the connection between mere human beings and their creator.
Next Post: Good Metaphors, Bad Metaphors