The title of this post comes from a question one of my group asked me recently. We were going over songs various people had enjoyed during a recent summer conference, and I had said I didn't like one song because it didn't make sense. I felt that halfway through the first verse, the song suddenly switched from praising "God the Father" to speaking to your fellow worshipers and getting them to praise more.... the switch seemed very sudden, and I began to wonder how many people singing the song are paying that much attention to the words.
"Why do you think a song needs to make sense?" she asked. Her point was not so daft as it sounds - the song clearly seems to touch people, they seem to worship to it, and it does seem to draw people into meeting God. Does it really matter that the sense in the song is a bit all over the place? People are touched by this song. None of the phrases are "theologically incorrect" in and of themselves, so perhaps it's OK.
For me, it does matter. I want to feel that the songs I'm singing are well put together, and that they make sense. I can't disconnect my brain when I'm worshipping, which means I need to be able to affirm the words with my head as well as my heart. The feeling I get, when I see such disconnected phrases, is a bit like the feeling I get when I read a badly-punctuated paragraph. I want to get my red pen out.
And, theologically, I do feel there is something wrong. The structure of a song, the way it is presented, carries theological freight whether the phrases are true in themselves or not. Our God brought order out of chaos, and took pride in his creative work. Shouldn't we aim for the same in our creative work?
The hands-raised thing during that song (How great is our God) doesn't really bother me that much, if at all - I guess my point was that it is more of a logical inconsistency than the "Sing with me" bit....
When singing Worship or Praise songs I defiantly believe the song has to make sense. If you have a new person reaching for God the words help them to think about how they can approach the Lord. For a seasoned saint the words can bring them into focus. Help people to forget life for a moment and focus on Jesus. IE .. Heart of Worship
When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart
Songs we sing are presenting a thought, request or statement to King Jesus. Think about it, if we were to address Queen Elisabeth would it make sense to speak nonsense or speak correctly? But we are not just singing to an Earthly King. We are singing to the Almighty God! We need to do our best and to give our best. I know that there are songs that are just plain fun to sing but the words are not so proper. But in a Church I think the content of the songs we sing are very important and totally need to make sense. : )
It is a good point that it is helpful for the uninitiated if a song makes sense. I think song-writers get away with a lot in terms of imagery and well used phrases because, well, surely everyone knows what they mean, don't they?Similarly, because people remember song lyrics much more easily than Bible pasages or the sermon, it is a good idea if they make some sense.
I always wondered who's heart is being blessed in the last line. And I always found it weird in that song that it's about the heart of worship and the music fading and being stripped away - but it's being described in a song.
Oh well, just some suppressed observations that were lurking in the back of my mind and not germain to the discussion.
... and have you ever heard "When the Music Fades" performed without a gradual build in musical intensity? ;-)
There are plenty of songs out there which don't make sense or, more charitably, contain multiple perspectives. You don't have to pick from the worship song genre to find those so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on them. I would rather stand with people passionately worshiping God with "broken" songs (and living it out beyond the songs) than folks who think that a few sterile (but oh so logical) songs are enough to stop God taking too much interest in the rest of their lives.
However, since our corporate expressions of worship are the primary way most people lay up their store of theological understanding, I would ideally want to see those passionate, kingdom-of-God citizens equipped with words crafted to a standard fit to present to the King.
I have heard "The Heart of Worship" performed with every imaginable form of theatre blatantly out in front. But I just googled Redman himself. He starts and ends quietly, re-focusing on "all about you", while the middle section increases, representing the rise of worship within one's heart -- after all, the drummer can worship God, too, and the all-about-you worship pictures in the Psalm include the loud, clashing cymbals. But as to passionately worshiping God with "broken" songs (and living it out beyond the songs, I could hardly agree more.
I just inherited from my Dad two Bibles, a NIV and a NASB. It is well-known that the NASB is a tighter translation on the word-for-word basis and precision in literal meaning of phrases; the NIV, while an excellent translation, is a little looser, but excels in euphony, in beautiful expression of the meaning of the text (one reason people held on to the KJV for so long). Beauty of expression is a form of meaning in itself (without going so far as Keats' exaggeration, "beauty = truth, and that's the hokey-pokey"). So I write my songs or read the scripture aloud from my NIV or maybe the New Living, which is designed to be used that way; and study from the NASB or the Greek (whose mode of expression surpasses the others in beauty, rhythm and precision, but doesn't work outside of Greece).
"Broken" expression is not as easy to use as a songwriter might imagine. Incomplete sentences worked for Hemingway, but he knew how to place them. If a writer learns how to craft, or choose and place his words, they will come closer and closer to that standard fit to present to a King.
Yea, I know. I just like the irony.
Perhaps it's the old attitude about song fading away, and a new sort of song welling up (or simply a new attitude about song).
Yesterday we sang in church "Holy God, We Praise Thy name" - beautiful old German hymn-tune. I was resisting this song in my heart, for the English words seemed like an endless stream of cliches. When we rehearsed, I played it loudly and fast and got it over with. But in the assembled worship service (combined "traditional" and "contemporary" for summer services), as I turned the page and stared at the words, the worshipfulness took ahold of me, and we took the volume and tempo down, and the congregation seemed to understand. I cannot explain it logically, that's just how it was.
That song - Heart of Worship - was a song of repentance for a congregation that had let their musical excellence become an idol.
IMO that song should NOT be sung congregationally UNLESS the congregation is in the same place; in need of repenting from making music an idol.
That brings up a whole question concerning songs of repentance. In any given congregation, some are needing repentance; others may need a warning; others are glad for freedom from temptation XYZ. So can we corporately sing a song of repentance? Perhaps so, but with different outlooks, just as we may read Psalm 51 (a song), and realize, "OMG! That's me! Ugh!", but some of us have been into the sin in different ways than others, and some may have overcome the sin recently and are still saying "whew!" to ourselves, giving thanks to God.
Even a song of joy, a "testimony song", may appear to some as an ego-swelled saint bragging about their good life -- or we may see in that happy song the difference between the spirit-filled life and the way I am currently living, and the need to repent.
I think the poetry of the words is more generally applicable than the specific season of repentance that gave birth to it. Not many of us will be famous worship leaders in an apparently thriving church that is growing in international reputation but a lot of Christians can find themselves wholeheartedly singing "It's all about you, Jesus". We may or may not have made worship an idol but plenty of people can identify with the feeling that they have fallen short of allowing Jesus to be Lord of all their lives and with the desire to allow that to be so.
Judging by the CCLI charts it has resonated with people around the globe!
In many of the world's best stories the hero is an "ordinary" person (Frodo, Sancho Panza, Pogo, etc.), which enables the reader to identify in many areas, giving the work a general, or widespread applicability. Even the superhero often has an ordinary alter-ego we can connect with.
In Little League Baseball, I hit my first (and only) home run. My teammates called me "Slugger Moore". You can guess I wanted more of that -- and struck out swinging three times the next game. Even in worship leading if something goes exceptionally well in the music we may become momentarily "famous", and need to deal with it.