Worship Leadership Series (part one): Surveying the Extremes

Albert Mohler quotes Paul S. Jones, who surveys the contemporary church landscape. It is a hedonistic, narcissistic, relativistic, ‘me-focused’ age, though, is hardly one that should inform and define our approach to God. And yet, it does. We measure our success by numbers, our relevance by how technologically integrated and up-to-date we are, and our worship by how good it makes us feel. In the minds of contemporary saints, hymns clash with the spontaneity, simplicity, and style that have come to rule in the modern evangelical church.

I agree with this sentiment. Here’s a sampling from a recent Passion CD (Our Love is Loud) featuring Charlie Hall:

Suddenly I feel you holding me
Suddenly I feel you holding me
Suddenly I feel you holding me.
Suddenly I feel you holding me.

Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.

Suddenly I feel your hand in mine.
Suddenly I feel your hand in mine.
Suddenly I feel your hand in mine.
Suddenly I feel your hand in mine.

Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.
Sweep me away.

No kidding. These are the lyrics to this song that thousands of young people sang at the tops of their lungs with eyes closed, full of tears, and arms uplifted.

Or perhaps you’ll appreciate the timeless truths that edify God’s people such as this one by Chris Tomlin:

We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
We’re gonna dance in the river. Yeah.
(are you ready?)
We’re gonna dance, dance, everybody dance.

Not exaggerating. Look it up.

This song is a zit on the nose of an otherwise brilliant songwriting career. I like Chris Tomlin. This song… not so much.

This blog has actually found the top 5 worst worship songs. I guarantee you’ve sang at least 3 of them.

That’s the extreme on one end. However, as noted in a previous post, these emotional excesses can lead to overreactions against them. Some contemporary churches have totally abandoned contemporary worship music and have gone all hymns, all the time. And then some are sarcastically calling for Psalm Chanting and no music in church for 10 years.

A healthy dose of balance is in order because great songs have been written throughout the ages of the church both ancient and modern. Great songs have been written in a diversity of styles. We don’t need to run screaming from a Passion conference, tear our robes, and swear to never sing contemporary music again. We do, however, need to exercise a little wisdom and balance in how worship is led. In our individualistic age, everyone has an opinion about music and the worship leader’s job is to help the whole body unite around a particular style of music.

This will be a long series, but here are the topics that I’ll be covering.

Part 2. Singing is commanded in scripture.
Part 3. Choose the right worship leader.
Part 4. The most important task for a worship leader: Song selection.
Part 5. The second most important task for a worship leader: Contextualization.
Part 6. Leading a contemporary worship band

Feel free to comment your favorite bad worship songs below.

3 replies
  1. Craig
    Craig says:

    Well, if you take these two songs out of the context of the worship experience, you could have a point. You don’t however, because you have. Jesus Christ, the River of Life, Dance in the River of Life. We’re gonna Dance In The River Of Life! THAT is something to shout about don’t you think?

    And then…
    Suddenly I feel you holding me
    Sweep me away.
    Suddenly I feel your hand in mine.
    Sweep me away.

    Do you seriously not see the worship quality of these lyrics? Some of the most powerful thoughts, messages, and songs are often the simplest. Less is more. To judge someone’s heart in worship is not at all in keeping with the spirit and unity of Christ.

    Reply

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