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Friday, July 07, 2006

SING A NEW SONG

"Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting."

Praise SongsCONTEMPORARY WORSHIP
(or, how I enrage or drive off most of my readers)

In churches, for the last decade or so there’s been a struggle between those who want more contemporary worship services and more traditional worship services. In this context, contemporary tends to have these characteristics:
  • Fewer older hymns
  • Less prayer
  • Less formal
  • Shorter sermons
  • Informal talks instead of sermons
  • A “praise band” instead of an organ or piano
  • Stronger focus on songs instead of the word
  • Less reading of the Bible
In essence, the church is pushed away from what people think of as church and toward what people would think of more as a rally or a motivational seminar, with songs. The debate about what music is sang is often at the core of this argument, and churches have split over the music and songs being sung in the past. There are people who will or will not attend a given church based solely on this criteria. While this sounds shallow or excessive, there’s more to it than initially can be determined by the casual viewer.

First, the important thing to remember is that when one talks about “contemporary music” in a church, they aren’t talking about music written and performed in the last five years. This style of music stretches back into the sixties, and is much akin to the stylings of Carole King or Amy Grant. Contemporary Christian Music found it’s niche of style and has changed little for nearly 40 years, although it is considered “contemporary” still. It is called contemporary as opposed to centuries old, not contemporary as opposed to last year.

SingThe movement was a reaction to what was considered “dead” worship, where everyone knew the songs by heart and nobody showed emotion or spoke during church, sitting stony-faced and unchanging in the pews as exactly the same church service format was followed every single Sunday. Whether this was accurate or not probably depended a lot on the church in question, and certainly one may feel great emotion without feeling the compelling need to wave their arms around or cry out. But there are churches that were and still are flinty in their inflexible, unfeeling nature, like the worshippers are made of ice and uninterested in a joyful noise of any kind, let alone to the Lord.

APPROPRIATE
But the debate over what music is being sung or played is often confused and mischaracterized. Often, the argument is framed in terms of old versus new, when it should be nothing of the sort. The division here isn't popular vs traditional.

It's appropriate vs inappropriate. Most old music is inappropriate for a church worship service, similarly, little new music is appropriate.

Classical music isn't necessarily appropriate to a church service, almost all of the classical music ever written was awful and vanished into obscurity. What we should all seek as Christians is not what moves us emotionally, not what we like, not what's popular or traditional, not what fits x specific musical style, but rather what properly worships and honors God. What is best. Let us use the story of Cain and Abel as our guide: give the Lord only what is our best. Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable because he offered God only what he managed to dig up, rather than what was his best to offer. Surely as we offer a sacrifice of praise to God, it ought to be similarly our best.

After almost 2000 years of Christendom, we have maybe two hundred songs really worthy of being included into a hymnal and sung as proper worship for God. Each passing year, hundreds of new songs were written, and for a long time, many of those were about God or were religious in nature. Almost none of them were worth even considering for church worship, no matter how popular, fun to sing, catchy, or likeable they may be. I happen to love Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, but it’s hardly something appropriate for church worship.

Certainly if through all of past history most songs were junk there is no reason to presume that even a handful of songs made in the last 40 years are worthy of our singing and playing. Yet it often seems as if every time someone hears a song they like or sing along with in the van on the way to school to drop off the kids they want to have it in church the next Sunday.

Almost none of the songs at any time were worthy of singing, after the millennia we have perhaps an average of about one per century worthy of keeping and worshipping God with.

What we must do as Christians and as worshippers is examine what we sing and play before we decide on it at a deeper level than “I like this” or “it was emotionally moving to me.” When I hear some rock music like One by U2 it moves me deeply as well... but that doesn’t mean somehow it ought to be sung at a worship service. A lack of proper discernment, of Berean wisdom regarding music is what led the church I attended in the early 1970’s to sing My Sweet Lord by George Harrison until someone pointed out this was not Christian in any remotest sense.

Why not spend some time thinking about what makes great songs stand the test of time, what makes them worthy of worship, and apply that to the songs we sing before we throw them on the overhead projector and sing them 4 times through?

CONSIDERATIONS
The first thing to remember is the primary purpose and goal of a Christian is not to be a better person, not to help one’s neighbor, and not to convert others. It is to serve, honor, glorify, love and respect God. Yes, we should grow more holy as God is holy. Yes, we should love others and yes we should obey the great commission to spread God’s word to all the earth. But we do so out of obedience to God, out of a desire to serve Him, out of reverence and love for God, and most of all to glorify Him above all things.

Christianity isn’t primarily about us, not at all. It’s about Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. Being a Christian is being brought into a right relationship with the awesome creator God, not about being a better person. We become better, slowly, bit by bit, by being brought into a right relationship with God, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Being a good person isn’t the goal of salvation or becoming a Christian, it’s a byproduct. It’s the fruit of the spirit, not the purpose of the spirit.

How you worship is based on your theology, just like how you do everything is based on your theology. Practice comes from doctrine – that is, what you do is based on what you believe. Practice without doctrine is random, meaningless, and empty. Doctrine without practice is dry, dead, and offensive. How we worship, more specifically how and what we sing needs to reflect what we believe and why.

Thus, when we worship, we need to keep this as our main, all encompassing focus: does this serve and glorify God best? Is this respectful of Him, does this portray God accurately and adequately to others? Does this bring me to greater worship of God, or merely make me feel good, make me feel religious? To do this right, we have to think about what music really is, and what truly is best in our worship of God.

GOOD, BEAUTIFUL, TRUE
The reason people are sketchy about what's appropriate and proper for worship, the reason people are having difficulty understanding good or quality music is that we've swallowed the postmodern worldview on aesthetics feathers and all.

Hold your hand up, nobody will see you through the screen. Everyone who agrees with the statement that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, hands up everyone who thinks that what is good in music is a matter of taste. Everyone who thinks that style is neutral.

Everyone who just raised their hand is thinking in terms of relativity and postmodern philosophy, not Christianity. Beauty, like morality and truth, is absolute. Yes, we will have personal preferences, but some art is truly better than others and some music is higher quality than other music. The closer we get to God, the more beautiful a thing is. Music has absolute reality about it just like morality and truth does. Some music is better than other music, it is higher quality, more skillful and excellent.

Without the ability to discern what is superior music and what makes a better song, we cannot offer our best to God, we merely offer what we prefer. What we need to strive for is what God prefers. To this end we have to consider what makes for good music. I don’t want to go through a long dissertation on music theory, but I do want to hit a few points about music that need to be considered.

STYLE
Style affects the music we sing. Musical style and the tune that we sing affects the meaning of the song, and it’s quality. One of the basic things that most musicians understand is that the tune better carries the message and content of the words if it is appropriate to what is being said and sung. Even heavy metal bands would have songs called “metal ballads,” songs at a slower meter, with more gentle, melodic tunes, as befit what was being sung about.

I have an experiment for you. Amazing Grace is one of the most beloved songs of all time; it is honored and loved by Christians and non-Christians alike. The song even was a top 10 hit in the 1960s when played by a Scots band. Spend a few moments singing Amazing Grace to the tune of Gilligan's Island. Go ahead, its the same meter:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me...

See how that changes the words? That’s a simple illustration of what style does to content. The words we sing are incredibly important, as I’ll talk about more in a bit, but more than just the words, what tunes we sing matters as well. Singing about the glory of God to a cheesy circus tune makes no more sense than a funeral dirge sung to a happy children’s tune. The words and music must fit, they can’t just be in a key that tugs at the emotions of the singer and in a style that’s popular or emotively compelling.

WORD
The songs we sing must be carefully examined for what they say as well. Some songs are little more than a love song for Jesus, songs that express the love and respect for Christ in terms better suited for sweethearts than adoring subjects of the king of kings.

Look over this song and tell me: contemporary worship or pop love song?

I can't fight this feeling any longer
And yet I’m still afraid to let it flow
What started out as friendship, has grown stronger
I only wish I had the strength to let it show

I tell myself that I can't hold out forever
I said there is no reason for my fear
Cause I feel so secure when were together
You give my life direction
You make everything so clear

And even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winters night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might

And I can't fight this feeling anymore
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
Its time to bring this ship into the shore
And throw away the oars, forever

Cause I can't fight this feeling anymore
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
And if I have to crawl upon the floor
Come crashing through your door
Jesus, I can't fight this feeling anymore

My life has been such a whirlwind since I saw you
I’ve been running round in circles in my mind
And it always seems that I’m following you, Lord
Cause you take me to the places that alone I’d never find

And even as I wander I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window on a cold, dark winters night
And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might

And I can't fight this feeling anymore
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
Its time to bring this ship into the shore
And throw away the oars, forever

Cause I can't fight this feeling anymore
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for
And if I have to crawl upon the floor
Come crushing through your door
Jesus, I can't fight this feeling anymore.


OK I cheated. Where it says Jesus the song originally said “Baby” and where it says Lord it originally said “girl.” This is “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, a number 1 hit in 1985, a love song for a girl he’s known a long time and now realizes friendship has developed into infatuation.

Now look at this song:

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear,
falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses,
And He walks with me,
and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
and the Joy we share
as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of
His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing,
And He walks with me,
and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
and the Joy we share
as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I'd stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go;
through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the Joy we share
as we tarry there,
None other has ever known...


Again, love song, or Christian contemporary worship? The only hint is the first verse, mentioning the Son of God. Delete that and you’ve got exclusively a love song, filled with palpitating hearts and longing gazes and unspoken dalliances in this garden. What’s the problem here? This was one of the most popular worship songs for a long time and still is a favorite, particularly among women.

Worship should teach and lead the congregation. It should be not only an expression of emotional surges, but something that actually serves to glorify and worship God. Consider these verses from the Bible:
"speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" Ephesians 5:19

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16
See that last part? Teaching and admonishing one another in the music. Not just singing, not just enjoying, not just feeling good. Speaking to one another, not simply making sounds that are pleasing and memorable. Music instructs, leads, teaches, admonishes, exhorts. It is more than a simple ditty that makes you feel warm and tingly inside, it's more than that sacred E chord that makes you feel more "holy." Music has the very powerful to reach people in a place that nothing else can, it gets inside you and reaches your soul. This potent weapon should be used for God’s service just as much as any other. To relegate music to enjoyment or warming up the crowd for a dynamic speaker is violating these scriptural principles.

The words to a song have to be theologically correct. My Sweet Lord, as I mentioned earlier, is a catchy song that’s easy to sing and is religious and spiritual. But the words, particularly the second half of the song where it begins a hindu chant:

Hm, my lord (hare krishna)
My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet lord (krishna, krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (hare hare)
etc…


are not Christian, rather they are quite pagan, and obviously inappropriate for a worship service let alone any Christian activity. The words of a song sung at a worship service must fit the beliefs of the church, be theologically accurate. Singing something the church does not believe or disagrees with is foolishness and would not be allowed or even considered in any other sort of organization. Just because you like the song or it makes you feel particularly holy does not mean it’s appropriate for the worship service.

Another aspect of lyrics that must be considered is if something is actually Christian or not. Many a song can be sung that is not specifically Christian in any manner. Religious, yes, it may mention God, it might even mention Jehovah, but is it Christian? Simply being spiritual or religious means any cult or religion can sing it without concern. Mentioning Jehovah is going to shock many Jews but it isn’t particularly Christian without the themes being more than simple worship of a powerful God. I think of a song by Amy Grant that was nothing other that names for God from the Old Testament, that's interesting, but it would work fine in any Synagogue or even a Mosque. It's one thing to enjoy such a song personally; it is another entirely to sing it in corporate worship.

Specifically Christian songs should have at least themes and ideas in it that would offend or discomfort other religions – or why even call it a Christian song at all? Christianity like all religions is exclusive: it contains ideas and themes that other religious reject and dislike, not to be offensive, but because they disagree on a fundamental level.

It is fine for a song to be something simple enough children can appreciate and love, Jesus Loves Me is a song all ages can enjoy and filled with meaning and significance all should appreciate. But something clearly targeted at 3 year olds and requires singing 9 times to make it long enough to fill a song period likely does not have enough content to even satisfy children and is so simplistic nobody learns, nobody grows, nobody is admonished. Children especially need to grow and learn, and have a capacity for it which eclipses that of adults.

Learning more about music is important, we cannot worship God properly if we don’t even know what we’re doing. Not all of us must know the most exhaustive details of music and theory, but at least some ought, and we all have a responsibility to know and learn more.

But the biggest problem we face is the lack of musical education we have stacked on top of postmodern indoctrination. Music theory and understanding what makes quality music is all but lost to our culture, in whatever degree we might have once had it.

Coupled to this is the unwillingness to heed the wisdom, learning, and discernment of people who do understand this and have the training and ability to perceive quality and excellence. If you like cars, but want the best, you are best served by learning what you can about cars or relying on someone with that knowledge and ability, yes?

Why on earth should we ignore the wisdom and learning of those in the congregation who have studied music, who have discernment and wisdom concerning it? Music style is one of the few things in Christian life that we all figure "well its just personal, whatever I like, those old fogies (or young punks [cane shaking here]) that stuck in the mud guy, who cares what they think, this speaks to me!"

You can't do that in Music or any other part of Christianity, we are a community of saints, with varied and diverse strengths and gifts. Rely on those who have gifts. In musical choices as well as the rest of life. Listen to people who know and who have discernment, don't reject them simply because they happen to notice that your favorite song may not be the best choice for worship.

WHO AM I WORSHIPPING ANYWAY?
One of the aspects of the lyrics of many hymns and contemporary worship songs that is most troubling is the subject of the song. Who is it about? Why was this song written? Watch the lyrics, see who the song is focused on. Is it God? Is it His works and majesty, the praise due Him? Or is it all about what I'll do and who I am and how I feel? Worship is about and directed toward the object of worship. When someone worships a movie star, they have pictures and movies and books about this person, not about themselves and how they feel about this star. When someone worships their car, they think about it, and how they can make it better, and shine more, and avoid scratches, not about how they feel when they drive it and how they are when they are near it.

Worship is about the subject of worship; it is directed to and focused on that subject. When we sing a hymn or praise chorus, it needs to be about God primarily. Consider the psalms, God's gift to us as a guide to what songs should be like. Even in the psalms about the psalmist, the focus is on God, always turning to God for guidance, help, protection, healing, and strength. If your song is all about praise and how much you want to praise and how often you'll praise... but has no reason to praise God or even who He is in it... chances are it's not a very good song at all, no matter how it makes you feel or how much you like it.

At the very least, how many times does "I" show up versus "we" in the song? If a song is about me to the exclusion of other worshippers, that should throw up a caution sign. This is supposed to be a corporate worship service, not a personal display of piety. You're at the church service with other people, and together we gather to praise and honor God.

Real ManMEN WORSHIP, TOO
One aspect to consider about worship services and the songs and music we have at church is who they are catering to and who likes them most. Most modern "throw up on the screen" praise songs are keyed higher and in a tone women find comfortable. But what about the men at church? Books like Why Men Hate Going To Church cover this in greater detail, but consider a praise song, then try to imagine a rough, manly, strong soldier with dirt on his face and a gun clutched in his hand singing it. Imagine a construction worker, a big burly blacksmith. Doesn't quite fit, does it? Doesn't seem like something they'd even consider singing, right?

Music should reach across all people as well as all generations. Amazing Grace, which I mentioned earlier, does just that. It's a song that through the ages, to all ages and types of people, men and women, boy and old lady can and will sing and appreciate. It reaches and teaches and edifies and lifts up the soul to God. Focusing primarily or exclusively on songs that make women happy, in keys that they can sing but men might find it challenging to even attempt is not proper or appropriate for worship.

Many men don't sing at all to begin with, it feels undignified and silly to them. Having songs that confirm this attitude does not help matters, and can even contribute to the idea that church is for kids and women, and men stay home to watch football. The songs we sing, the music we play has a deeper and more significant impact than you might imagine. Men will sing songs, but they have to be songs men like - and women, be honest, do you dislike the thought of strong, good men singing joyfully and vigorously at church? One way to encourage that is to avoid songs that men will be embarassed by or find manipulative or overly emotional. Another is to find songs that men find strong, appealing, and noble.

CHEESE
One last aspect is how the world reacts. While it may feel just wonderful and be the kind of music you personally like, something you have to consider is how people outside the church reacts. It's one thing for the Gospel to be an offense, as scripture points out. It's one thing for church to be uniquely Christian and challenging like any other organization, to be set apart and feel like something different is happening.

Praise BandIt's another to offer up something that feels artificial, manipulative, and even amateurish and cheap. Cheesy. The biggest problem with the "praise band, lets put on a show" kind of worship service is that the very people it's primarily aimed at trying to attract - young people and teens - are the most critical and cynical when it comes to entertainment. Most of them have spent their entire life being entertained by multi-million dollar experts. The Sunday Morning praise band, no matter how tight, can't compete with MTV.

To the world, most of this looks cheap and poorly done, or emotionally manipulative, neither of which is attractive. In fact, people find that disgusting, offensive, and patronizing. None of those are features we ought to feature in a worship service to God. Certainly few of the modern praise and worship "contemporary" songs are reverential, strong, and filled with a sense of God's greatness. I'll be honest with you, to most people outside the church what we do in contemporary worship sounds pretty second rate and insipid.

They think it's lame. And so do most of the teens even at your church. Watch them, if you can look at the back of the church where they hide to see if many of them are actually singing. Look at the ones who do - would they not come to church if these songs were not sung?

The result of what we sing? Fewer and fewer men going to church and teenagers going somewhere else, or staying home. Sure, you have the core of people who love this kind of music - primarily but not exclusively baby boomers. The church should be more than a tight core of specific people who like specific things. Are the men who embrace this kind of music and worship the strong leaders a church needs?

SO WHAT?
The attitude I see and hear in this debate is a lot like a teenager's attitude toward dating. So... what can I get away with? Where's the line, how much can me and my sweety do before it's too much?

You're asking the wrong questions. You should be asking, "What glorifies God more? What is proper to worship with? How can I offer a more excellent sacrifice of praise? What is the purpose of Worship?"

There's no basis or reason to take the position that worship is something we can work on AFTER we fix everything else, because it's the back door to the church the world gets in to modify everything else. And it matters more than you might think. If you look at the Bible, you’ll see some pretty catastrophic things God does, especially in the Old Testament, but sometimes even in the new. Contrary to much preaching and comment by Christians, this is not in response to sexual immorality, it’s when people worship God improperly or disrespect Him.

What happened to Cain for his failure to worship God as he ought? To Nadab and Abihu? To Ananais and Sapphira? Those familiar with the Bible know these stories, and what happened. Lack of respect for the Lord enrages him – and our purpose is to glorify and worship God, not enrage him. Doing things the way we figure is right when He has said otherwise is a short road to His displeasure.

Is Satan dividing the Body of Christ by encouraging people to worship incorrectly or poorly, and then clapping his hooves in glee when people get mad at anyone daring to object? Let us pray for wisdom, strength, and a greater love for God rather than our own whims, desires, and personal preference.

FINE
Remember, this is about worship, not about the songs in and of themselves. If you like a song that's not so very great, fine - sing it when you shower, listen to it in your car, slip it in your I-Pod and jog with it. I listen to lousy music too. But when we gather for worship, something better should be offered, something specifically directed at and intended for worship, for praising God and for bringing His people together to learn, grow, admonish, and praise. If you want to sing Kum Ba Ya around the campfire, go ahead. But save better stuff for church.
*UPDATE: Some changes and editing for clarity and better reading.
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8 Comments:

Blogger Anna Venger said...

CT,

I'm not going to say I agree with you completely. I do prefer some of the praise music to some of the stodgy old hymns which must be sung slowly, all five verses, with vocabulary and poetic form such that no one has any idea what they're saying, to an organ playing slightly off rhythm (just to make the entire experience complete). I've attended churches stuck on the old stuff. And no one has a clue so it's not worship. But I think you intimated something along those lines at one point.

Might I add that some of the praise music is directly from Scripture verses? I think that's rather Biblical. I like singing Bible verses.

On the other hand, while I prefer the tempo and more modern phrasing of contemporary worship songs, I have felt uncomfortable for the men around me. Some of it is terribly trite. And you are right that the focus ought not be on us. I'm not sure that an emotional experience necessarily equates with true worship. I believe the two can go hand in hand, but when someone can "worship", get all emotional and maybe even weepy, and then go out and live like the devil, I have to wonder about the quality of his/her worship.

The church I currently attend has a large contingent of manly men. Most come as families and the men are very active. Some are current or ex-military, many are very athletic. There is a cross section of ages. The compromise we've come to is a mixture of contemporary and old hymns. I'm not sure what else a church is supposed to do at this point.

Bottom line, worship is demonstrating the worth of another. It is not just for a few minutes on a Sunday morning. Worship is how we live our lives. Do the choices we make show that God is in charge of us and that we value His commands? That's true worship. When the hard times come, do we believe Him and love Him and live according to His commands or do we go our own way.

And you're right about the changing bit by bit. I think my transformation has been just a bit too piecemeal at times. Why oh why is it such a long process??? I shake my head and wonder why He chose me. But I'm thankful He did.

9:17 AM, July 08, 2006  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Might I add that some of the praise music is directly from Scripture verses? I think that's rather Biblical. I like singing Bible verses.

That depends. If you sing "I will praise him, hallelujah" 25 times technically thats singing Bible verses, but is it Biblical content? Praise who? Why? How is anyone learning, being edified, being admonished here, how are we speaking to one another?

My pet peeve about many songs used for modern praise choruses is that they pick part of a psalm (the praisy happy parts) and not the other parts (the really sad, hard parts). Nobody sings imprecatory songs any more, those are just not praisy enough and are kind of a bummer.

I agree many hymns are just awful - like I said, most songs through history are just not any good and unworthy of worship. But there are some very good hymns that were written before 1965, some very very good ones.

And really, I think the best illustration I know of, I couldn't fit it in what I wrote. What will you sing if you're thrown in prison for your faith and beaten, have your fingernails pulled out, tortured. Is "Shine, Jesus Shine" going to really be any help, is it going to mean anything? When your baby boy is hit by a car or when your sweetheart has incurable bone cancer, will 99.9% of praise choruses and modern "contemporary" worship songs be any help at all? Will they have any meaning?

I love some newer stuff and loath some older stuff. Like I said, it's not about new v old, its about appropriate v not appropriate.

8:43 PM, July 08, 2006  
Blogger lance said...

All I can say is that for me "Amazing Grace" is the best song ever written and says all I want to say about God and my relationship with him. But as far as knowing what is more appropiate or not? I dont know and I am not sure that I ever will. I feel that for churches to break over music is a sad thing. For me the bottom line isnt the worship at all (though that is important to me) but what is at the heart of the church.

11:43 PM, July 08, 2006  
Blogger Anna Venger said...

Yeah, I agree Lance. Amazing Grace is an amazing song. I sing it to myself frequently because I marvel that God chose me when I didn't really want to be chosen and that His choosing me when He did probably preserved me, literally. And as much as I mess up, I still don't deserve it. Which is why it's all grace.

6:59 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger lance said...

I would ask you CT if you think there is some benefit to the lifting of the spirit that can take place during worship regardless of the song?

11:24 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Not in terms of worship or God, but its pleasent for the person involved. The thing is, this emotional surge can come from a lot of different sources and show its self in a lot of different ways.

For instance, when I sing a song like And Can it Be, I have a hard time not busting out crying, in a quiet way. But a song like Shine Jesus, Shine annoys me to the point of anger. For other people it is different stuff.

But none of that matters ultimately, how I respond emotionally is beside the point. It's a possible side effect, but not the reason we worship. Whether it happens or doesn't happen is no indicator of truth, righteousness, worship, or faith.

8:44 AM, July 10, 2006  
Anonymous President Friedman said...

Interesting post. I've never thought of gospel music in quite those terms before, and I've listened to a bunch of gospel music in my life. When I was a boy I would occasionally skip out on the rest of my family and go to the Methodist church with my grandmother (the lone Methodist in a family full of Baptists, bless her heart). Now, those folks sing some serious hymns... By the time I saw my first 'Nightmare On Elm Street' movie, I'd heard so many songs about blood (Jesus's blood, goat's blood, cow's blood, lamb's blood) that the ensuing gore didn't bother me one bit.

Even after leaving the faith, I still to this day enjoy a lot of country gospel standards. Josh Turner's recent song "Long Black Train" is one of the best contemporary gospel songs I can think of (and it's about as manly and admonishing a sounding song as you'll hear sung). Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord?" is right up there with Amazing Grace in my book. Johnny Cash sang too many great gospel songs to count. Even most of his songs that weren't officially gospel songs were still about undeserved redemption.

For some reason, gospel music just sounds more believable coming from people who have been involved in some serious sinnin'...

7:27 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I agree, Pres. Johnny Cash was a man who was able to find songs with deep meaning and gave them the right music to carry that meaning - great illustration.

7:30 PM, July 10, 2006  

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