Thursday, August 04, 2005

How Shall We Worship Him?

By Alexander Samuels

I ran across an editorial by Jeremy Gage that was posted the other day on the Covenant Community Reformed Ministries Web site. I was not really looking for anything to do with the topic of Christian worship. The title however, "Substance and meat vs. shallow declaration," caught my attention.

After I read this, I have to say I was genuinely touched by the question this editorial raises about some of the worship songs I have so easily accepted. I ran through several in my head only to discover that "yes" there was a lot of . . . mindless repetition in some of the songs I knew that really taught me nothing about the glory and majesty of God. Certainly, there was no theology there as in most of the greatest hymns. I have to admit that this article bothers me. I guess that is what Gage intended it to do. I will share some of his own words with you and let you decide:

How many contemporary worship songs say "I love you" 87 times in a row? Or "You're a great God"? Or some other similar things, without any substance of exactly why God is worthy of our worship?

This is the key reason why I just don't like much of modern worship. It seems so shallow. It almost reminds me of infatuation, in some ways. You are overtaken by strong declarations of emotion, and although it's 'real' - you can't really describe why it is that way. There might be vague generalities or some such, but when it comes to writing pages upon pages of what exactly is so virtuous and praiseworthy - we're at a loss. This is not the way it should be. Yet, this is what we settle for in the worship of our Lord.

The old hymn-writers seemed to have the exact opposite take. They wrote verse after verse just describing, in Biblical detail, the glory, majesty, and character of God ... and they trusted in those meditations to bring about genuine love in the hearts of a regenerate. No over-the-top declarations of that love necessary, just a patient and passionate consideration of God's character.

In summary, and I know this is pretty inadequate as an explanation, but hopefully it'll make sense to you: it seems like these modern worship songs exalt our infatuation with God - trying to get us 'in love with being in love with God,' rather than bring us to a genuine consideration of that which makes Him 'altogether lovely.'

Here's a test that may make it clear: If you said "I love you Lord" 1000 times straight, you really don't get much more than a sinful, hypnotic state ... but if you carefully list 1000 of God's great attributes and deeds ... well then, that's something that'll stir your heart with genuine religious affection.


At Friday, August 05, 2005 9:31:00 AM, Anonymous Tim In VT said...

Modern "worship" songs seem to stem from the cultural tendency of contemporary Americans to operate on feeling rather than faith. Look at how many view "love". If they do not "feel in love" then they do not love the other person. In their minds, it has nothing to do with commitment to the other person, or with their will. It is all about the feelings. But, as another song writer once said "Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will".

I have too often seen men and women throw away marriages because they no longer "feel in love". I believe that this kind of thinking has infected the church in relation to our "feelings" about God. People want to feel something stirring in their chest. They want to experience some feeling of rapture and adoration. It is wonderful to be able to feel things like this about our relationship to God. But we must remember that our love for God is an act of our will. It should guide us and infuse us even when we don't feel it.

As Scrooge pointed out, so many of our feelings are the result of what we had for dinner. When we "feel" in love with God, is it love or is it a "blot of mustard, an undigested potatoe??" Is there more of gravy than of grace?

Modern "worship" songs have a place in the service. But I think they have more to do with our feelings about being in church than they do with worshipping God. After all, if church is drugery, who would bother?

At Friday, August 05, 2005 11:50:00 AM, Blogger Mickey McLean said...

Thank you Tim in Vt. I want you to know how much I appreciate your contributions to this blog. Hope you will continue to drop by and comment when you feel led to do so.

At Friday, August 05, 2005 12:50:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...


Good point about marriage. How true. We fall in and out of love (feelings) many times during our years of marriage. The commitment to love as an act of the will is what God asks for and what keeps a marriage together.

At Monday, August 08, 2005 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Apostle John said...

One of my choir members calls many of the contemporary praise hymns, "7-11 Songs" meaning 7 words sung 11 times.

Of course, we need to be careful with that sort of thinking -- Handal's Messiah doesn't have too many words, and how many times does it say "Hallelujah."

But it is sad that congregations feel they need one or the other -- why not both? Praise and contemporary, along with ancient hymns.

Many feel the day of contemporary worship is over. The model, after all, is 30 years old. The newest trend is emerging worship. A web page on the PCUSA site refers to one of the trends of emerging worship is a respect for tradition with an openness to new expressions.

At Tuesday, August 09, 2005 6:03:00 AM, Anonymous Alex said...

Thanks for stopping by John.


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