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when the music fades, all is stripped away
and i simply come
longing just to bring something that's of worth
that will bless your heart

i'll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself
is not what you have required
you search much deeper within, through the way things appear
you're looking into my heart

i'm coming back to the heart of worship
and it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus
i'm sorry Lord for the thing i've made it
when it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus...

words and music by matt redman. copyright 1999.

so... i'm likely to step on some toes here.

i. can't. stand. this. song.

seriously... it kills me. 'it's all about you, Jesus'? really? from where i stand, this song is all about ME. this song is about what I can do for YOU. which in the grand scheme of things is absolutely NOTHING. i can bring nothing to God that can even begin to compare to what he brings -- no, what he simply IS -- to me. and yet, here is this song, a song that i suppose can be argued is about Jesus in an indirect sort of way. and this, i argue, is the state of many modern "worship" songs of the day. it makes me very, very grumpy to think about.

today we sang "holy, holy, holy". aside from the "early in the morning our song shall rise to thee" line, this hymn is about GOD and his attributes and is full of imagery found in scripture. the only other mention of man is in context of our sinfulness. this. is. good. stuff. right. here. nothing about our feelings or how much we really, really, REALLY love singing to him. because those things change. we are fickle, broken creatures. are we worshipping God? or are we just worshipping worship? [as if you can't guess my answer.]

there is something about the old hymns that are powerful. i used to think it was just a time thing -- wow, this is cool, great melodies and lyrics from way back when, you know? what a connection to our past. but i'm realizing the reason i am drawn to these hymns isn't because of all the thees and the thous and e'ers [although those are awesome too, in their quaint little way]. it's because they are based on something solid. immutable. powerful. they are aesthetically incredible without relying on emotion or sentiment. let's face it: there's a reason these songs are still around. and i'm pretty sure it doesn't have anything to do with airplay, record sales, or how they make a stadium full of people weep during the bridge or at a sudden change in dynamics.

i'll readily admit to enjoying songs that are pretty dumb. "my glorious" by delirious [deliriou5?] would be a good example. "God is bigger than the air i breathe"? what? but man, the guitar riffs, the bass line, the drumset, the melody... it's a good kick-ass song when you want something loud to sing along with and just rock out. would i play it for corporate worship? probably not anymore [though we used to at my old church]. "obsession", also by delirious, would fall into a similar category. it's a haunting, reflective song, but not necessarily appropriate for corporate worship.

i could go on for days about this topic. i feel like i say this sort of stuff pretty often, but i always seem to get funny stares and confused looks, like i've got lobsters crawling out of my ears. am i the only one who sees this? feels this? am i the only one who cares? am i just too damn picky and self-righteous about my worship standards for music? i love worshipping through music but some days i just feel so frustrated by it all.

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 at 12:31PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments18 Comments

Reader Comments (18)

Good thoughts.

I blogged about this last Easter when I went to my parents' church and they thought it would be a good idea to have the kids choir lead most of the singing. Fine. But they sang stuff like, "Every Move I Make" or whatever it's called, which has to be the most barf-worthy worship song EVER. We never got to the great old hymns. I was thoroughly disappointed.

I'm a fan of hymns myself. I think that there's quite a bit of depth to the lyrics that's lacking in a lot of modern worship. I do prefer a guitar to an organ, but both have their place. I really enjoy some of the updated hymns projects, JoC and Indelible Grace and all that. But that being said, there's definitely modern worship out there I really enjoy as well. For example, I really *heart* Chris Tomlin.

I too sometimes wonder, and I am not at all a hymnologist so I don't know if this is true, how much our hymnals have improved by the pruning of time. The average hymnal has what? 500 or 600 hymns? I'm thinking that a lot more hymns were written over the course of the years, and probably some of them weren't all that great. The hymns that have lasted all this time have lasted for a reason: because they are the cream of the crop. By contrast, if you release a modern worship CD today, your songs might be in a church tomorrow. There's not that seasoning that only the passage of time offers, partly because there just hasn't been that much time passing, period, and partly because we're all rushing into the next big new things.

Our hymnals represent the best that several hundred years of music have to offer. If we took only the best of the best modern worship songs, I think many of them could stand next to a lot of the hymns. Of course, the MW best of the best would be smaller in number because MW hasn't been around as long as hymns. Unfortunately, a lot of churches lack the measure of discernment needed to make this happen.

So yes, the general abandonment of old hymns troubles me greatly.
Feb 13, 2006 at 01:51PM | Unregistered Commentermeegs
meegs, don't forget "breathe" or "arms of love". if i have to hear either of those ONE MORE TIME i swear i'll lose it.

for the record, i'm not one for organ music by any means. my current favorite "style", if you want to call it that, is setting hymns to a guitar/bass/drumset instrumentation. freaking awesome.

also for the record, i don't hate ALL modern worship music. just... uh, most of it. i think songs like "awake my soul" and "these thousand hills" [um, maybe minus all the "la-la's"] -- just off the top of my head -- get my vote for hanging around a bit, and as appropriate for corporate worship.

and yes... discernment is KEY.
Feb 13, 2006 at 02:06PM | Registered Commentermdog
"this song is about what I can do for YOU. which in the grand scheme of things is absolutely NOTHING."

I take issue with this. Guitars and organs aside, there is something we can do for God. God actually wants us to love him, and that's something he can't do for himself. In order for God to receive our love and still have it really be love, he can't demand it or force it upon us. What is worship if it isn't the expression of our love for God? Sometimes that love is in the form of admiration (songs about or to God) - simply being in awe of who God is. But because God chooses to actually be in relationship with us, we can also experience the love of friendship and familiarity, and that involves sharing our lives, our emotions, our struggles and our joys with God (and singing about them). So sometimes, loving God - and therefore worship - is about us, very much about us. It would be very one-sided without us. Sure, it's not equal to what he brings us, but then we would be gods ourselves if it were.
Feb 13, 2006 at 05:22PM | Unregistered Commenterjared
okay, so you caught me on my hyperbole...

i'll grant you all that. okay. my point of contention, though, is that i don't think weekly corporate worship should really be focused on, and revolve around, us. seriously, half the time i feel like we're singing about "hey, Lord! look how cool it is that we love You so much! thanks for all the stuff!"... and you know, i imagine he is delighted at our gratefulness. there's nothing wrong with it. but.. for every song? i guess i'm just thinking: good, better, best. i feel like it would be much more powerful to acknowledge God and his unchanging attributes with our words, than to conjure up feelings all the time... the difference between meat and milk.
Feb 13, 2006 at 05:46PM | Registered Commentermdog
Hello - you don't know me at all, I just stumbled across your blog.

I was wondering if you have any idea about the html to your web site here. I am trying to get a similar layout for my own and simply don't know enough html to do what I want.

If you could help me out that would be great. I guess the two things that I am trying to figure out how to do is 1) how the main txt area and the sidebar are in the middle of the page and 2) how you have a different color for you title sections throughout the page...

Thanks for your time...
I really appreciate what you had to say in your post by the way.
Feb 13, 2006 at 07:42PM | Unregistered Commenterraeh
welcome and thanks, raeh. email sent.
Feb 13, 2006 at 08:42PM | Registered Commentermdog
After growing up in a church very tied to the old hymns, modern worship was fantastic to me when I discovered it at the age of 18. I think you are right in that many, but not all, of these songs focus on us. Not that this doesn't happen with old hymns (I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together).

I think there's a need for balance in these songs. It's nice to have songs that have easy enough lyrics that you can sign with your eyes closed and just focus on God. But these songs risk being a "7-11 song" as one of my dad's coworkers calls them. (They have 7 lines that you sing 11 times). Also the simple cord structure makes them easy enough for the amatueur musician to play, but they risk being boring and all sounding alike. Perhaps lyrical depth is something more of us are starting to look for.

I think repetition kills both hymns and modern music. It's so easy to get bored (sick of) modern songs and just mouth the words along the way. But after 18 years, the old hymns seemed pretty... old. I'm not sure how to remedy that. Variety? Attitude? Focus?
Feb 13, 2006 at 08:51PM | Unregistered Commenterkt
oh man... i've never heard the 7-11 comment. so freaking true.

ah yes... balance. a good reminder. i'm not suggesting we ONLY go with the old school. but i'm definitely suggesting an examination of what, exactly, are we singing about? you're absolutely right about lyrical depth. i often feel like i'm in a wading pool. the thing is, i felt the same as you at 18. i guess it seems like we've been treading water since then... or maybe i've just been out of the worship loop for the past few years. which is decidedly possible.

does it help to frame the hymns in a guitar/bass/drums setting, or does it still seem old and boring? it helps me, but then, i guess i never paid much attention during mass anyway. we definitely were not a congregation that was big on singing.

variety = GOOD
repetition = BAD

a note to all that i'm trying to weed out and pinpoint what my frustrations really are as discussion continues... i don't really know what i want, i just know i want something different...
Feb 13, 2006 at 09:30PM | Registered Commentermdog
"i don't really know what i want, i just know i want something different..."

That's what I've been saying about life in general lately. Maybe this is all connected to my bordem with "contemporary" worship music? (kidding) Music, and therefore worship through music (thanks for the distinction, Jake), is an art form. It is the created worshiping the creator through creating something (hopefully) beautiful. Just like paintings, some make it into the gallery of fine art or Donkey's back room and some is left to sit in a dusty closet. I'm not sure what this has to do with anything, other than to say that we, the people who create or sing worship music ought to be as critical of it as we are of artwork and choose carefully what expresses our love for God at least as carefully as we choose a birthday card at the Hallmark store. Maybe we, those of us are are physically close enough to do so, ought to sit down and talk about the songs we choose to sing and why we choose them. Of course, I guess that could start here.
Feb 14, 2006 at 08:53AM | Unregistered Commenterjared
what are you (kidding) about? i agree with both the boredom and with the "quotes" around the word contemporary.

"...we, the people who create or sing worship music ought to be as critical of it as we are of artwork and choose carefully what expresses our love for God..."

this. is. IT. this is what i'm talking about. we need to put more thought into what we're doing, what we're choosing... discerning between good, better, best. between mediocrity and beauty. between music and worship.
Feb 14, 2006 at 09:04AM | Registered Commentermdog
I'm kidding that my bordem with my job is related to boring worship music. I suppose there could be a tie in, but it would be stretch.
Feb 15, 2006 at 08:56AM | Unregistered Commenterjared
ah. got it. hey, you never know... boredom has far-reaching capabilities.
Feb 15, 2006 at 12:08PM | Registered Commentermdog
Amen. I'm not a big fan of the way most people sing hymns, but the lyrics are definitely deeper than most of the contemporary stuff. And I'm glad other people have realized the hilarious irony of Heart of Worship.
Feb 15, 2006 at 08:11PM | Unregistered CommenterIan
you hit the nail on the head... i was talking about "Christian music" to the high school girls Sunday night, and trying to explain why i don't like it, and you've said it much better here--it's "all about me" rather than Him.
Also, just a response to what someone said above... He doesn't need us to love Him. the Trinity is complete in perfect communion and fellowship. Loving God is a privilege, and we can't do it unless He calls us to it and enables us.
Anyway, i am so annoyed by the songs that say things like, "all I want to do is worship Jesus all day long," and things like that, because seriously, who can say that in all honesty? i also want to take a shower, drink coffee, pee, play with the dog, call mom, eat food, mow the lawn, do some laundry, walk on the beach.... and i can worship God in those things, and should, but do I think about that? Not usually. Where's the song that says "I suck at worshiping God, but He loves me anyway, so I depend on that alone." Maybe I need to write it. What tune would do well with that line? Maybe I should reapeat the words "alone" and "suck." For effect. Hm...
Feb 16, 2006 at 12:52AM | Unregistered Commenterj
welcome, ian and j.

j, i'll totally support that song. actually it sort of sounds like "awake my soul": "no one is good enough / to save himself / so awake my soul tonight / to boast nothing else"...
Feb 16, 2006 at 07:29AM | Registered Commentermdog
If I may, let me interject maybe a different perspective.

I've been around long enough to see trends. There is this movement out there to sing songs about God (or sometimes we say, "worship is about singing songs TO God"). There has been the "anti-hymn phase", then the "if you don't write it yourself it's not good" phase, also "the only good music is praise chorus music" phase... etc. etc.

1. Read the Psalms (and even other poetry literature). Sometimes they are TO God, sometimes ABOUT God, sometimes they are about US and our condition. Sometimes they are about relationships and feelings.

All of it is good and all of it is needed. To eliminate any of it is sucky theology (sorry if I offend). And if you want to talk about repetition, read Psalm 136 (and LOTS of others). If the bible is our guide, I would argue many chorus are more biblical (although I am a hymn guy in many ways.)

2. Worship is not just for us anyway...

That said, I tire quickly of the "worship is only for God" line that comes up so often. That is not great theology either. The Jews worshiped to remember, to celebrate, to proclaim, to witness to the "unsaved"... sure, they were singing to God, but singing worship songs has never been one dimensional.

And if I get "my way" in worship, someone else does not! Some of the songs you might be sick of might speak powerfully to aother person. A friend of mine says "if I have come out of worship not liking part of it it is a really bad thing." Folks, the body is diverse... and we don't always get our way. Suck it up. Now, I agree with some of what (my good friend) mdog said... but I don't get a real rise out of singing worship... and think that we spend WAY to much energy on arguing about this. You wouldn't believe the stuff I hear about this all the time... and how everyone contridicts each other! (My favorite story about this... my first month at my current church, 4 people came up to me after the service... one said the music was too loud, one said it was too soft, one said we don't do enough new songs, one said we did too many new songs. Seriously... all on the SAME Sunday.)

3. Do you think they argued about worship in the catacombs? Do you think one said, "I think we ought to sing this song and not this one?"

Okay, here it is... I think the "worship wars" are stupid. Truth is, I'm a pastor and I don't like all the worship at my church. I could change it... but it will never be perfect. Sorry, no matter who leads, or who sings or who picks the songs... doesn't matter. I wholeheartly agree that picking worship songs should be done with care, and reverence and a LOT of thought should go into it. Yes, Yes, Yes. It is a fearful thing to usher others into the presence of God (as it is to teach), but it will never be perfect.

What bugs the snot out of me is when our worship team and media operators gather to pray before worship, and only me, the paid worship leader and usually one other person prays out loud. That may say more about our hearts then the repetition of our songs.


When I came to my current church, I was big into getting worship "perfect." After 3 years, I gave up on that... and now I'm more worried about getting my heart right before God. Granted, there are some things that need to change... yes, it is far from perfect, but it starts more with us and our hearts and attitudes.

Maybe I was the one who stepped on some toes...
Feb 19, 2006 at 09:03PM | Unregistered Commenterblogging paul
hi paul and welcome back to the bloggingworld!

more continually forming thoughts from my brain on the subject...

i don't intend to give the impression that i only want to sing hymns or that we need to throw out everything written in our lifetime or that we shouldn't sing about our relationship with our creator. but i feel like the balance is way out of whack with an abundance of "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs, and so, my current thoughts are an attempt to make a point and weigh down the other end of the spectrum.

so maybe my problem is less about "me" songs versus "God" songs. more about lyrical depth and quality. thing is, it seems easier to make a shallow song focused me than it is to make a shallow song focused on God... but that's only my opinion and observation. and i think a song can appear to say a lot about God but actually be focused on us... and vice versa. and maybe that's really not a big deal. but it's still kind of annoying to me.

we are all built to connect with God in so many different ways. some feel most connected watching the sunrise; some by beautiful artwork; some by servanthood; some by hearing teaching; on and on. me, it's worshipping through music, whether it be playing or singing. i feel it's only logical that, as a result, i am simply compelled to focus on the music, the lyrics, the melodies, and to strive for it to be the best it can be. yes, that can be subjective. but this is my knowledge, my skills, this is what i bring to the table... and if i had no passion for it then frankly why would i even care? i'll freely admit i can be overly picky and yes, possibly pretentious about the subject -- a question i brought up in my original entry -- and i'm trying to find a balance in that. on the other hand, i make no apologies for trying to seek out what i think [subjective, yes, i know] can be most edifying for the Church.

parallel thought... our church has an amazing media team. graphics, creativity, technical knowledge... truly, they are masters of their crafts. and some people probably couldn't care less... probably don't even pay attention to how much talent and effort is put in each week. sure, we could do some word art and clip art and it would be fine, the message would come across, the world would keep spinning, no big deal. but we don't do that. why not? because we have people that possess the ability and the skill and the vision and the passion to make it better... the best it can be with our human abilities [and maybe some expensive video equipment and software]. and so i feel it should be for all that we do. it won't be perfect, but it can still reach great heights. if the resources and the skills are there... then why NOT take a deeper look and a concentrated effort into making [insert your particular ministry/passion] the very best it can be? if i feel like i'm not doing that then i get frustrated. this may be a fault but i see it as desire...

thoughts, rebuttals, tangents welcome from all...
Feb 20, 2006 at 06:10PM | Registered Commentermdog
No... I hear you... excellence honors God and inspires people. I agree that we have to put our best forward... and I hear what you are saying. But strictly speaking about music... it is VERY subjective. And in Christian music, what honors God may not be the best song in the world if it ushers people into the presence of God. If "Breathe" helps people to worship, who am I to say it sucks? In fact, there is a song we do that a good friend of mine hates, he says it sucks, but every time we do it I encounter God and my heart really worships...

So the goal is to get people to worship, not meet our musical (sometimes biased and snobbish tastes.)

You are a good person with a good heart... thanks for being a friend.
Feb 20, 2006 at 11:37PM | Unregistered Commenterblogging paul

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