I’ve gone through a process in my worship leading. As a self-avowed postmodern Gen-Xer, I’ve loved new forms of praise music – especially some of the newer praise choruses and new hymns. I cut some of my musical chops accompanied by a pump organ in a rural southern United Methodist Church in Mississippi, though, so I love the old hymns as well. One of the criticisms I’ve heard about some of the newer music is its inherent narcissism. Many of the songs seem to be all about me, what God does for me, and how I relate to God. Yet, the context in which many of these songs are used are corporate settings, where it’s not about me, but about us – the Church, the body of Christ.
I used to not be phased by this at all, thinking that people were just looking for something to complain about, but then I got to thinking. One of the biggest problems in the church in America is that we have become slaves to the ideals of individualism. One of our cultural icons has been the Marlboro Man – the guy out on the range by himself, taking care of business without need of anyone’s help. We lift up as role models people who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” and we esteem the entrepreneurial spirit.
These, however, are contrary to the interdependence and community called for by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where we depend on one another, bear one another’s burdens, and spur one another on to good works. For this reason, I have become very selective about the songs we sing in our church. I’ve even taken it upon myself to change lyrics of some songs to reflect a corporate nature and to emphasize that we are one body made of many parts – that together we are the bride of Christ. One such song that we are working on right now is Tim Hughes – below is the version that we are using in our church:
God in our living, God in our breathing
God in our waking, God in our sleeping
God in our resting, God in our working
God in our thinking, God in our speaking
Be our everything, Be our everything
Be our everything, Be our everything
God in our hoping, God in our dreaming
God in our watching, God in our waiting
God in our laughing, God in our weeping
God in our hurting, God in our healing
I encourage all worship leaders to think about the lyrics closely. What kind of faith are those lyrics encouraging/cultivating? Is it a private spirituality that doesn’t need anyone else (i.e. an “it’s just me and Jesus” kind of faith)? Or is it a faith that stresses the community of believers, working together for the Gospel? Do our songs stress only what God does for us, or do they praise God for who God is without making requests of God? It’s worth all our time as worship leaders to think about it.
Last summer, i took part in a mission to the city of Oakland. My roommate was Korean, and i began to notice when he led worship that we tended to sing songs in ‘we’ more often than ‘i’ and i liked it. It felt more cohesive for the group.Coming back, i began to notice that even in corporate prayer, i asked God to be in situations or with people instead of asking God on behalf of everyone praying with me. It’s corporate, but selfish.Needless to say, i’m with you. I agree that we tend to be individualistic worshipers. We have forgotten that it’s a very recent thing for the Bible to be read as individuals as well as collectively. It’s a good thing, but i think it gives us this mentality that we are each seeking God individually, and if we so happen to do so as a collective, cool. It’s a backward mindset, i think.
Doug Thorsvik said:
Excellent thoughts; I share your concerns. I referenced your blog entry in my latest blog and just wanted to let you know: http://strategicsongselection.blogspot.com/2009/08/i-trouble-we-i-balance-in-corporate.html