Rant About Worship Songs

| | Comments (28)

Here are some of the things I really hate in a worship song.

1. Too simplistic, banal, lacking in depth, shallow, doctrineless: Consider that one that just talks about unity among brothers that only mentions God in passing at the very end.

2. It's so repetitive. I mean, come on, how many times can you repeat "His steadfast love endures forever" before you start thinking the song is going to go on forever? Examples: here and here

3. For some songs, the focus is too much on instruments, and the sheer volume leads to its seeming more like a performance than worship and prevents quiet contemplation.

4. There might be too much emphasis on too intimate a relationship with God, using first-person singular pronouns like "me" and "I" or second-person pronouns like "you" instead of words like "we" and "God". This fosters a spirit of individualism, and it generates an atmosphere of religious euphoria rather than actual worship of God. Worship should be about God, not about us. Or what about the ones that use physical language to describe God and our relationship with him? Can you really stomach the idea of tasting God?

5. Some songs have way too many words for anyone to learn.

6. It patterns its worship on experiences that not everyone in the congregation will be able to identify with. If you're not in the frame of mind or don't have the emotional state in question (e.g. a desperate longing for God. Then what are you doing lying and singing it? Worship leaders who encourage that sort of thing are making their congregations sing falsehoods.

7. Then there's that song with the line asking God not to take the Holy Spirit away, as if God would ever do that to a genuine believer.

8. Then there's that song that basically says nothing except expressing negative emotions.

At this point I'm so outraged that people would pass this sort of thing off as worship that I'm almost inclined to give in to the people who think we shouldn't sing anything but the psalms. Oh, wait...

[cross-posted at Evangel]

28 Comments

Well done.

Spot on. I also noticed that none of those songs contain the words "Jesus", "justification" or "Heidelberg"

You had me for a few moments there. I was about to write an angry comment about those all being Psalms ... until I looked at the links--and your last couple of words!

Great post!

This is flipping awesome.

I was about to note that some of these criticisms applied to the Psalms -- and then I decided to click one of the links. Well done.

Hooray for the Psalms!

So I guess one question remains: how does the NT apply the psalms to its teaching about church corporate worship? Is it simply enough to say, "well since the psalmist did it, we can do it in corporate worship," if it is indeed corporate worship that we are wrestling with here. Just a thought to ponder.

No, the mere fact that psalmists did it doesn't mean it's appropriate in a new covenant setting. But the a priori ruling out of something as if it's wrong in principle can't stand up to the fact that it wasn't wrong for the psalmist. So the arguments that treat it as in principle wrong are going to need to be adjusted in the ways like some of the things I suggest in the Evangel cross-posting's comment section.

I like the idea and understand the concept but is it not pushing it having a title that includes the words: "hate" and "worship" in the same sentence?

Do a search of this post, and see how often in the comments people speak of hating certain worship songs. Since that's the attitude the post parodies, I think it's entirely accurate to use those two words in the same sentence.

You had me for a second; I was about to point you to Ps 118 on #2 :-) . Good one!

Jeremy,

I completely agree that the arguments need to be rethought a bit. The psalms do a great job at explaining the character and actions of God, and these are things that we need to sing about. At the end of the day, any argument on either side needs to address what Scripture says our worship needs to be. Kudos on keeping everyone from all sides honest in this important discussion!

While Psalm 133 may not be overflowing with doctrine, I'd hardly call it simplistic, banal, lacking depth, or shallow, whereas a lot of "worship songs" are banal and shallow. And some of them are just plain doctrinally wrong and are actually offensive -- particularly those that elevate MY importance over GOD's glory.

That's worship alright, just not worship of whom we claim.

I gave an example. I wasn't going to list a psalm for each sub-category.

There are some pretty simple songs in the Bible. Psalm 133 is certainly lacking the kind of depth a lot of people mean when they level that criticism against worship songs. They usually mean theological depth. Shallowness can simply consist of focusing on surfacey matters, and Psalm 133 sort of does, since it's about a horizontal issue.

I never said there are no legitimate arguments against any worship songs. I in fact said the opposite in my clarificatory comments at the Evangel cross-posting, which I did refer people here to above. I also never said that there aren't arguments in the very close vicinity to these. I actually said the opposite

I do, however, completely disagree with your last comment. Getting some important fact about God wrong does not mean you're not worshiping God but are worshiping some other being. It means you're worshiping God and getting some important fact wrong. I've said enough about that elsewhere that I don't want to repeat all the arguments here, but you can read them if you want to know why I think that.

With my last comment, I meant to refer to those songs that "elevate MY importance over GOD's glory." Those are the songs in which the worship is misdirected.

Ah, misdirected from God to you? That I think I can agree with.

Thank you, Jeremy, for a most interesting post! It would seem I am a bit behind in commenting on this so please forgive me if you have moved on to other thoughts. I am in agreement with most of your points, but I'm wondering about the "...making their congregations sing falsehoods". Specifically, I'm wondering whether or not it's actually a beneficial thing to both contemplate and either sing or speak of things you don't necessarily feel, at the time you either sing or say them. For example, we are instructed to forgive others and, as I'm sure you well know, we do not feel forgiveness nor feel like forgiving, yet we speak of it, pray for the aid and ability to do so, and even attempt it without full understanding of what it truly means. Forgiveness is an example where, I believe, actually speaking of it can lead to further understanding and practicing it truly brings us closer to the prize. In the same way, it is possible that singing with a congregation about desperation for God could lead to a more mature understanding and a deeper, fulfilling realization that I am in fact, desperate for Him when I neither thought so nor wanted to think that about myself when I walked into church. So, rather than "singing falsehoods" the congregation could simply be engaging in an interaction that will make them more spiritually aware - aware of God's goodness and grace in contrast to their own deficiencies and character defects. What are your thoughts?

Heather, did you pick up on the fact that I don't agree with any of these criticisms? Does that change your understanding enough to make your question disappear?

Hi (again)! I realized after I commented that you might think I didn't catch the satire. I did and thank you for it! It wasn't particularly clear from your post whether or not you possessed some of these same thoughts and I was more curious than anything else! I did read most of the comments from the evangel post, though, to see if you had already answered someone along these same lines. If you did and I missed it, please send me the link and my curiosity will be over . . .

I pretty much agree with you. There are versions of this criticism that might be legitimate. For example, if we have too much of our worship based on one kind of experience that's not universal then it will have unfortunate consequences. But I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with worship that has people saying things corporately that don't match up with their actual experiences.

Thanks, Jeremy, my curiosity is now quelled!! ;) Perhaps it was simply my naivete or the fact that I'm a newbie to your blog...since there are elements of truth in any good satire, I simply couldn't figure out which pieces (if any) you thought contained, at least, a modicum of merit and which were simply ridiculous. Again, thank you for your clarification, sir, and I look forward to reading more!

Jeremy,

I have to respectively disagree with your arguments in point two, and four.
In point two, you assert that worship songs are too repetitively composed, and yet you also argue in point five against having too many words for anyone to remember.
In point four, you argue that worship should not be so focused on "us" as individuals, but should be more focused on God.
I feel that both of these points contradict themselves in that if you take the Bible for truth in being inspired by God Himself through David, He would not take David's worshipful writing in the examples you give as being too repetitive or complex.
In addition, while we do worship God, not the relationship, we worship Him because of what He has done for us. Meaning that because of His faithfulness to us, His love in sending Christ for us, and His intimacy with us because of Christ. There is relationship (God and us) and and we worship in relationship with Him.

hey,

I understand frustrations with worship. I remember reading when Solomon was dedicating the temple and a ton of different instruments started to play together, and people praised God simply saying, "He is good; his love endures forever." Then the temple was filled with clouds (2 Chronicles 5:12-14).

There are Psalms where david seeks God, asking him to not take away his spirit, which is probably why it is in a worship song, though I don't think it should necessarily be put into a song for a large group of people to sing together. It was very much a personal prayer of David.

We all relate to God in different ways. We're not all the same. And it's sad that so many people treat worship time as a structured requirement rather than a time to focus on God whether they sing or not. It's sad when people are mindless and prayer-less in worship. That's my greatest grievance...rather than what is being sung or who is or isn't singing.

I know it can be frustrating. I agree with a lot that you're saying, and people in the church need to be challenged and worship needs to have more consideration in some congregations. The most important thing for a worship leader is to seek God's heart out for how to lead a time of worship, to allow the Spirit to lead, to be humble more than structured (and I'm the kind of person who likes to be structured).

I also think that it is much more important to build up the body of Christ by focusing people on God rather on what we like or don't like about worship songs. May God's grace and peace be with us as we learn to worship Him.


For such a "straight talker" you DO speak in riddles!!! You almost had me...and I was going to move right along since I mostly didn't agree. Then I clicked a link...and had a good laugh!!!

Good job!

I must take issue with #7, as true Christians are "sealed" with the Holy Spirit, which is given as a "pledge" of our inheritance.

David had no such promises concerning the Spirit, and had sinned worse than Saul, from whom God had withdrawn His Spirit.

I do catch the point of the post, and that is that we should lighten up when tempted to condemn a particular song as worthless.

I would caution along with Kieth, that simply being in the Bible does not automatically make a song or other expression suitable for Christians in general, for corporate Christian worship in particular. or for any particular occasion.

Tim, as I said before, those issues came up in the Evangel discussion where I cross-posted this. What I have to say about them comes out in the comments there.

I have been a church musician for 40 years, and here is my rant:
I agree that over the past 30 years, a shift has come into EVERY single church's music program....and that was the introduction of this contemporary PRAISE and WORSHIP music. This new music is mindless, takes a couple of words or phrases and repeats repeats repeats, with boring repetetive music which drones on and on, and all of this without telling a story, rendering a message, etc. Older songs and hymns at least had some amount of interesting music, told a story, etc. I guess all the good music is dead, and perhaps that is what Satan wants, eliminate all the songs which convey the story of salvation and introduce mind numbing nothingness. We need people who read the Bible to write songs and tell the story that needs to be heard!

I'm not sure I completely disagree with you, but I'm also not completely sure you understand the point of the post.

Leave a comment

Contact

    The Parablemen are: , , and .

Archives

Archives

Books I'm Reading

Fiction I've Finished Recently

Non-Fiction I've Finished Recently

Books I've Been Referring To

I've Been Listening To