Lately, it seems that everywhere I turn there is cynicism toward the mainstream worship music that is evolving today. People say songs are overplayed, songs have too shallow of lyrics, songs focus on “I” too much, music is too loud, worship leaders are too casual, blah, blah, blah. Although I frequently play along and list things that I’m hesitant about in worship music, it has begun making me quite tired. It’s hard for me to enjoy worship services anymore because my brain is reeling with criticisms of the songs that play. To be honest, I’m kind of sick of it. I think it’s time that Christians stop focusing on the small things in worship services and instead focus on the big picture of God’s grand and wonderful story. The real question is not: Is this chord progression overused? The real question is: does this song effectively communicate who God is and bring glory to Him in its lyrics and instrumentation?
To make clearer the question of instrumentation, one must look back on the doctrine of ethos that Aristotle and Plato introduced in their studies of music. This theory refers to the power of music to influence one’s character and emotions. I do believe this doctrine has proven true through the test of time, and because of that, it is important that the musical elements of worship music hold integrity. For example, because screamo music is linked with emotions of anger and rage, it would most likely not be appropriate to utilize screamo songs in times of musical worship.
Although the main focus of lyrics may be important in some ways, the most important thing is that the songs communicate biblical truth. Christ DID die for me. I AM forgiven. Just because these lyrics are self-focused, doesn’t mean that we should instantly label them as wrong. We praise God for who He is, and He is a redeemer, is He not? I think to some measure it is important that Christians are wary of constantly singing about themselves and focusing on the individual, because the focus IS God, not us, but praising Him for what He has done, as long as it is anchored in truth, is not wrong just because we say the word “I”.
The hardest thing in worship music for me has been the overuse of songs. For example, the first time I heard “Holy Spirit” by Brian and Katie Torwalt, I was instantly in love with it. But over the past few years that it has been popular, I would say that it has been played in one of every two or three worship services I’ve attended. Needless to say, it’s lost its spark. But in those times where I hear the beginning riff starting to play, I have a choice to make. Do I a) roll my eyes and let my critical thoughts swirl in my head and I simply endure it or, b) do I focus on the lyrics, and let the Holy Spirit show me something new every time because He is faithful in doing so?
My intention is not to say that small factors should not be taken into consideration when deciding what songs to play for musical worship, because I believe that in the right time and place, they are important. However, what I am saying is that we as Christians need to stop being critical of songs that play on Sunday and allowing it to hinder our worship, and instead focus on the truths communicated in those songs and choose to praise God for who He is no matter the song that is playing.