Monday 26 January 2015

Songs we should never sing - a response

Last week there was discussion on Facebook about an article which listed some songs we should never sing in church, and why.   I'm not going to address every issue in the article, but a couple of the points in it need a response as we deliberately use those or similar songs in our repertoire at Christian Music Ministries.

1) The writer seemed to take particular offense at songs that are very intimate.  Firstly it mentions 'In the secret, in the quiet place', struggling with the language such as 'I want to touch you, I want to see your face'.  It also cites 'Draw me close to you' as problematic as it doesn't explicitly define who 'You' is within the song, and both have 'zero theological content'.

Songs that can be perceived to have little theological depth often come in for this kind of criticism, but here at CMM we strongly advocate using them alongside songs and hymns that have greater content.  In our Worship Works days we teach about the concept of the flow of praise, a time within a worship service where 3 or 4 songs are connected together, taking people from the cold start of first thing on a Sunday morning through to a place of intimacy with God and openness to the Spirit.  One of the possible structures for such a praise block is Invitation, Proclamation, Adoration.  We begin by making a decision to worship, inviting ourselves and one another to enter in with hymns such as 'Praise my soul the King of heaven' or songs like 'Come, now is the time to worship'.  Then once the mind has begun to swing into gear, it is good to move onto something meaty that proclaims and declares truth about God.  It is then at this point when the body is saying, 'Here I am Lord' and the mind is saying, 'Yes!' that our spirits can be open to the voice and movement of God's Holy Spirit.  We can reach that point of intimacy and adoration.  And often these songs of adoration have less to say theologically, and can be more emotional.  For the Biblical thinking behind this principle, see our Worship Works book.

But they have their place.  When they are in their rightful context the need to define 'Jesus' or 'God' as the subject melts away.  We were created to have a relationship with God, and a close one too.  With our closest friends we don't keep them at a distance and only use long words and clever speeches.  No, with the deepest friendships we use shorter words, such as 'I love you' or 'Thank you' or 'I need a hug.'  Simple doesn't necessarily mean shallow.  As for 'I want to touch you, I want to see your face': these aren't sexual lyrics - our culture has done that to our minds.  Instead I imagine the desperation of the woman to touch Jesus' clothes in Mark 5 and Luke 8, or the utter relief of Mary Magdalene clasping Jesus' feet in Matthew 28 and John 20.  Then there is the wonderful imagery of 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes' in Revelation 7 and 21 - he'll have to get pretty close to do that.  It is OK to be emotional in our worship.  Our emotions were created by God and are part of the very fibre of our being.

2) Among the other criticisms in the article was that the writer thinks we should not sing songs that come from God's perspective.  Think of the the verses in 'I the Lord of sea and sky' or the song 'Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you'.  When sung in corporate worship, it may feel a little strange, but these songs come straight from Scripture and can be massively helpful to remind us of the many wonderful promises God has made to us.

'As a mother tends her tiny child
I will care for you'
Roger has written a few songs like this, such as 'Precious and Honoured' (based on Isaiah 43) and 'Engraved upon my palms' (based on Isaiah 49 and Hosea 11).  At CMM we will regularly use them in a very special context - we call it the Ministry Song.  After a sermon or talk, the congregation are encouraged to sit and receive from God as a soloist ministers to them by singing over them.  Sometimes after one of these songs the soloist might be encouraged to improvise, and sing out fresh words that God puts in their heart.  It is incredibly exciting and beautiful to see people blessed and moved by the Holy Spirit in these times.

Tastes and opinions differ massively from person to person - God's creation is amazing.  We hope and pray that the writer of that article and you too will find psalms, hymns and songs that speak deeply into your lives and inspire a deep, loving and joyful worship-relationship with God.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Engraved upon my palms is one of my favourites. I heard that song played at a wholeness through christ course in Leamington Spa some years back and it was so relevant for me at the time