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I have five worship-related confessions to make.
1. I play the drums in the worship band at my church. One reason is because I love to play the drums. It makes me happy. The other reason is that I’d much rather be on stage during the worship time than out in the audience “worshiping.” Why? Keep reading. To my possible detriment, I’m gonna tell you.
2. I am perpetually annoyed that we refer to the singing part of a church service as “worship.” As in, this is the part of our Christian lives that involves worship, and preferably a kickin’ praise band will be around to facilitate it. To think this way ignores pretty much all of the Bible, which makes it clear that worship includes a host of things other than singing — like giving, serving, sacrificing, pondering, praying. Calling the part of the church service when the singing happens worship is like identifying eating as only that which we do at McDonald’s.
3. While singing, ahem, “worship songs,” I like to think about the lyrics I’m singing. This inevitably results in two scenarios. First, I get sidetracked by lines that are particularly declarative and say something I would never say (or that I would blush at saying about, well, anything). Take this phrase, for example, from “Here I am to Worship” by Tim Hughes:
Never mind the weird parallelism of the altogethers. I am just not an emotional, touchy-feely kind of person. I would never tell someone that they are “lovely” or “wonderful” to me. It’s such gooey language and it feels totally weird and inauthentic for me to say. To say that to God? It feels totally fake.
The second scenario is that the song lyrics say something that isn’t exactly true for me, or at least not true the moment I’m singing it. Take, for example, a phrase from the chorus of “You Are My King,” by Billy Foote.
I’m not always sure what it means for me to honor God. During the times I think I do know, I’m not certain it always brings me joy. Honoring God sometimes requires sacrifice, right? That’s not always joyful. I can’t always sing lines like this. Either they’re too ambiguous to be true for me personally, or they’re a flat-out lie.
4. I also get annoyed at the thoughtless banality of many worship songs. Cliches. Dorky rhymes. Meaningless Jesus-is-my-boyfriend language. I realize I can sound like a grumpy crank, but can we not come up with some more creative ways to talk about God than the kind of phrasings that overly rely on adore/Lord and love/above rhyme sequences? What in the world does “open the eyes of my heart” mean anyway? Why are we always asking, in worship songs, for God to “show us Your glory” when God explicitly told Moses that he would die if he beheld His glory? If what we call “worship” is really worship, then why does it have to be so dumb?
5. Because when participating in corporate singing, I think of this lovely and wonderful video, because it is so spot-on when it comes to the outward expression of worship.
Anyway, end of rant. I play the drums because that’s the most comfortable place for me to be during the “worship” time, and I am possibly a heartless jerk for thinking this way.
Thanks to my archaeologist/theologian friend Bob Cargill for getting me thinking about the subject.
[The above cartoon is by Dave Walker at CartoonChurch.com.]