So my kids and I were at the Children’s Museum yesterday and we stopped all the fun playing to sit down and have lunch. As we bowed our head, my almost-three-year-old said the following blessing:
God is great, God is good
Let us thank Him for our food
By His hands, we all are fed
Thank You, Lord, for daily bread.
It got me to thinking – to whom are we praying in this prayer? I know that the easy answer is God, but only one out of four lines is actually addressed to God. If prayer is supposed to be conversation with God, one would think that prayers should actually address God. Maybe my kids’ mealtime blessing should be something more like this:
You are great, You are good
Lord, we thank You for our food
By Your hands we all are fed
Thank You, Lord, for daily bread.
Now, since I’m the one who taught them the first prayer, it’s my own dumb fault for teaching them to talk about God rather than talking to God. Is the same not true with much of our worship in the church?
worship |ˈwər sh əp| noun acts, expressions and/or a state of religious devotion typically directed to one or more deities.
As a popular song recently stated, our worship is for “an audience of one.” We worship as we direct our entire being on loving God, communing with God, praising and adoring God. Why, then, are many of our songs sung about God and not to God? Previously, I posted about the importance of thinking about the theology being espoused by the music selections we make as worship leaders. It is important that we make sure that our song selections reflect the corporate nature of our worship. Likewise, it is important to think about the subject, whether stated or implied, in our songs. For example, think about the following hymns and ask yourself, “Who is being addressed in these words? Who is the subject? Who is the object?” (If you need help remembering the words, click on the song titles for a link to the lyrics)
In the story of the Fall of Humanity in Genesis 3, the serpent comes to the happy couple and asks the woman, “Did God really say…” One pastor pointed out that the serpent’s first attack was to convince the woman to start talking about God rather than talking to God. The slippery slope to destruction began when prayer stopped and theologizing began (a good reminder for those like me who love theology). Likewise, in our worship, we have to ask ourselves, who are we addressing? Many of the songs listed above are songs about God, not songs sung to God. In fact, many of them have as the implied audience the congregation of worshippers. Is that what we want to promote in our worship – a time of talking to one another about God without talking to God?
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me, I’m not saying that these songs should not be used in worship – I’ve included them here because we’ve used every one of them in my own church. What I am saying is that we need to think about our songs and the role we are expecting them to play in our worship. Do we use them to encourage one another? Good! Do we use them call one another to focus together on God? Great! But use them in the right context. These are not worship songs in the strict sense of the term. They are not expressing our love/adoration/worship to God. Instead, they are songs of testimony to the world (and one another) about our God.
Pastors cannot get away with preaching the same sermon week after week (although I know of some who come pretty close). They don’t have the luxury of instilling the message through repetition. As worship leaders, we do. We have the chance to sing songs over and over, week in and week out – to the point that these songs become a part of people’s lives. For this reason, we need to take heed with the music that we select. What kind of theology are you implicitly advocating because of your music selection? Are we encouraging people to a deeper communion with God or are you encouraging a deeper fellowship with one another and God is merely the topic of conversation?