Lately, I’ve been very frustrated by the music used in most evangelical church settings. The songs we sing seem so loud, shallow and disjointed at best and emotionally manipulative at worst. From my experience, it seems worship bands simply sing songs off of the newest “worship” albums by the most popular artists.
When I sit and meditate on the words, a couple of things always strike me. First, there is very little depth or freshness to the songs. Every song seems to use the same words like “glory,” “majesty,” or “worship” or use the same word pictures. It’s very rare to find a song that leads the congregation into a fresh expression of adoration lyrically.
Also, it seems most of our contemporary worship songs are musical expressions of ADHD more than anything else. Sure they sing about or to God. But they seem to pull from a Psalm here and a Gospel there with little cohesiveness. And many times, it not only creates a disjointed theme, but also misinterprets those contextless passages.
And please don’t get me started on how some songs actually rewrite theology for the sake of the rhyme. For example, here’s a line from a popular song, “The Godhead Three in One: Father, Spirit, Son.” So who gave the songwriter permission to alter centuries of biblical and creedal doctrine by changing the order so he could rhyme “one” and “Son”?
I remember hearing Gordon Fee state, “Let me hear how you pray and what you sing and I can tell you your theology.” So if all we sing are devotional songs with disjointed themes, contextless Scripture and mediocre or bad theology, then what does that say about our actual living theology? Not what we say we believe, but what we really believe as lived out daily and naturally.
Any way, one of my favorite Eastern Orthodox authors and speakers is Frederica Mathewes-Green. I listen to her short podcast regularly. In her latest podcast, she talks about the importance of rich and meaningful songs. When I heard it, all of the frustration I’ve been feeling lately seemed to find a voice.
The story about her spiritual father that she tells at the end of the podcast is moving. I hope if God allows a similar end to me one day, my last breaths and actions are filled with deeply ingrained worship, partly due to the rich music I listen and worship to.
You can subscribe and/or listen to Frederica’s podcast HERE:
And you can listen to her thoughts on songs right below by clicking the play button.
3 thoughts on “Frederica Mathewes-Green & the Importance of Songs”
I haven’t listened to this one yet, but I really love the way she is so down to earth. And a hearty AMEN to your points about worship music. (from a former worship pastor)
What a GREAT post!!! I have struggled with this very issue in worship for the past few years.
Jason, thanks for this insight. I am a teacher/chapel coordinator at a Christain school and there is always a tension with music. Some students want us to replicate the summer camp experience; others are sick of “cheap” music and want something richer. Hard to know how to discern it all…