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As I See It - Reflections at 63 - Worship Matters
This past Sunday I turned 63. I’ve reached that age when the question I get most frequently is some form of, “So, what have you learned after all these years?” Eight years ago, when I was an ancient 55, I shared nine things God had been showing me. Five years later, when I was even older, I posted more “lessons learned.” I haven’t stopped learning. But this year, I thought I’d share some of the encouraging and not so encouraging trends I’m seeing in the church when it comes to music. By “trends” I mean what many churches today either think or practice. These observations obviously don’t apply to every church. My hope is that they’ll contribute to leading worship in song in a way that is driven more by faithfulness than fads. Better and More Creative Words, Not As Much of the Word I probably review a new worship album every couple weeks. Lyrics are getting better. They’re more thoughtful. More creative. More insightful. It doesn’t seem, though, that lyrics overall are more consciously driven, shaped, and informed by the Word of God. Nor do I always get the impression when people are leading that they’re dependent on the power and authority of God’s Word rather than the musical atmosphere they create (Ps. 19:7-9; 1 Thess. 2:13). Last year, I was encouraged to come across a YouTube video of an entire psalm being read passionately and thoughtfully before a song. But that tends to be the exception, not the rule. It’s still a good idea for leaders to have their Bibles with them when they lead and to actually read from them. It provides doctrinal fuel for our emotional fire and makes it clear where our authority comes from. More Songs about God’s Love, Not As As Many About God’s Holiness We’ve seen an outpouring of songs that remind us of God’s fatherly love, his passion for us, and that his love will never fail. We can never hear it enough. My pastor, CJ Mahaney, pointed out in a recent sermon that the most repeated phrase in the Bible is, “Your steadfast love endures forever.” But what makes God’s love so amazing is understanding how it was demonstrated and why we don’t deserve it. Actually, God’s love isn’t just underserved. It’s ill-deserved – the exact opposite of what we’d expect, given his blazing perfection and our sinfulness. But Jesus took our sins upon himself at the cross and took our punishment for every sin we would ever commit (2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 2:13-15). That’s why we can now know and experience God’s love. The church needs more songs that help us acknowledge how often we still go astray and how God’s love not only accepts us in Christ; it transforms us. Lights Are Coming On and the Lights Are Still Out It’s been refreshing to see musical leaders acknowledge their weaknesses, mistakes, even sins. Despite the temptations of self-promotion on social media, we’re becoming more aware there are no great worship leaders; just a great Savior who is worthy of all our affection and adoration. But common practices like turning down the lights in the congregation and over-producing can fight against that realization. The distance between the famous and the average continues to widen every time we value performance over participation, spectating over singing, celebrities over servants, and great concerts over gospel community. And those still seem to be prevalent problems. Technology Serves us More Than Ever and Rules Us More Than Ever Instant song access. Transposable charts. Instrumental tracks that fill out the sound of the band. Thousands of lyrics and Bible verses available at a moment’s notice. Ableton Live. Digital sound and lighting boards. Seamless communication systems. Wireless monitors, and more. Advances in technology serve us in innumerable ways. But with increased use comes increased dependence. We invest dozens of hours on technical details rather than theological precision or simply serving in other …