I’m swamped and have not had time to do any writing. It sucks, because I like to read, reflect and write. But I haven’t been able to massage my life enough to squeeze out time to really blog like I want. But I’m glad others like Len are still stoking the fires. I’ve ripped his entire post to put here because it addresses something I’ve been thinking about on and off lately.
From an interview with Mike Frost on Smulospace.. can you relate?
Q: When I was a student, and later worked with you at the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling College, I couldn’t help but noticing every now and then that you didn’t seem overly enthusiastic with corporate singing. You’ve also written about your distaste for “Jesus is my boyfriend” worship songs. Can Christian music be redeemed through contextual forms of music and meaningful lyrics?
A: I really hope so! But I’m not a musician, so I write about this stuff as a disempowered critic. I have no ability to change it myself because I can’t write music or play an instrument. But I’m getting tired of singing love songs to Jesus-my-boyfriend. And frankly I feel silly when I have to sing songs so sentimental and cloying they could have been written for a 1990s boy band. As much as I’m loath to admit it these days, I’m not ‘in love with Jesus’ (for some people this might sound like blasphemy).
But let’s be honest, I love my three daughters more deeply than I could ever imagine loving anyone, but I have never fallen in love with them. My love for them transcends the exciting, heady, temporary feelings of romantic love. Likewise with Jesus. I love him and am completely in his debt. But I’m not head over heals in romantic love with him. So it’s not singing that I don’t like. It’s the kind of singing that I’m expected to engage in. As much as this romanticising of worship bothers me, even more disturbing is the recent trend of singing worship songs in which I have to pledge my unfaltering devotion and service to him. You know, the ‘Jesus, I will never let you go…’ type song. In these songs I have to declare that I will follow him to the ends of the earth and that I will praise him all my days. In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with making such promises to God. The Psalmist does so on occasion. But frankly, I’m so much more comfortable with singing about the fact that Jesus has promised that he will never let me go. My promises seem hollow and unreliable. It’s God’s promises to me in Christ that are solid, reliable and unfaltering.
I sorely wish Christian musicians would write songs that help to sustain us as exiles, as foreigners in a forbidding country. We need songs that strengthen our resolve and inspire us to act. Not silly loves songs to Jesus.
I used to love intimate worship. I enjoyed singing songs of love and devotion to Jesus. And I still do on occasion. I like expressing my loyalty to Jesus through that medium.
But I think I’m growing up (or at least I would like to think so). I don’t simply want Jesus to be my “boyfriend.” I want him to be my Teacher, my Master, my Father, my Savior, my Lord, my Model, my Coach, my Shepherd and so much more. And most of the time I’m not going to feel the emotions of “romance” (for lack of a better word). Nor should I. I know Jesus is intimately present with me. But there’s so much more to our friendship than intimacy. Intimacy is at the core, but it’s not everything.
Jesus is about transforming this world, quite frankly, with or without me. Surely he loves me and calls me. But he calls me to God’s purpose for the world (Romans 8:28). There’s work to be done. And I need to train in order to be able to do that work cooperatively with Jesus. And I need to actually do the work that needs to be done. And like any work, it’s a combination of joy, love and loyalty with pain, struggle and failure.
Paul brings this out in Romans 8. There are two aspects of those who love God — the Spirit brings the intimate Abba-cry and the Spirit conforms us to Christ through labor pains.
I want my worship to reflect that. I want my musical worship to reflect all facets of my journey with Christ, which is why I’m finding more and more “worship songs” in “secular” music. There’s a gritty honesty in a lot of that music that seems missing in the mainstream worship music. Plus, I want my musical worship not to sacrifice sound theology for the sake of poetic expression or a simple rhyme. I’ve been cringing lately at a lot of the songs I used to sing as well as the newer stuff that comes out. I’m not sure we realize how singing a catchy, yet theologically incorrect chorus can distort our imagination and thinking. And I enjoy greater musical diversity in my musical worship. (Is it me or do all the “worship bands” sound the same?)
Also, I want my worship to expand far beyond music. It needs to incorporate silence and inarticulate prayer and spiritual disciplines and art and communion and icons and symbols and probably other elements than I’m unaware of right now.
Two significant elements of worship that I have found particularly relevant regardless of mood or circumstance are the Jesus prayer — “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” — and the Lord’s Prayer. I love to pray them silently through my day. I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful they are as continuous expressions of worship through the day.