Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Worship Music: Pleasing Me or the Lord?

Over the years, the music genre of Praise and Worship (P&W) has been castigated in terms like “Ear Candy” and “Ear Porn.”  The former are songs that have a simplistic sweetness with little or no spiritual nutritional value.  In the realm of pop or other secular music, this is expected.  We each have songs, groups, genres, etc. that we enjoy listening to for no reason other than a personal appeal.  Seat me before a string quartet or chamber orchestra, and I will be elated, but the same effect can be had through bluegrass or a 1960’s-1970’s performer.  We all understand the appeal and how far it is meant to go.  It may or may not have a genuine message, but we don't care because the tune and rhythm has an appeal.  So why are they in worship sets on Sunday morning?

Here is a good example of “Ear Candy.”  The beat and tune are catchy, but notice there is nothing in the song except a nebulous concept of love that is neither defined nor directed.  It is only felt.
One Thing Remains
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me (3x)

On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I'm confident and
covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there's nothing that can
separate my heart from your great love
Notice also that we have no indication to whom this is directed.  All these allusions have been used in love songs for wives and girlfriends.  I thing it is meant to be sung to God, but someone needs to explain why that might be true.  So why use it in Sunday worship?

The latter category of “Ear Porn” is more insidious in that it engenders passions of personal desire and pleasure based on a romanticized or perverted conception of experience with Christ rather than genuine love.  Consider a song I mentioned in a post from July, 2011,
The More I Seek You
The more I seek you, the more I find you.
The more I find you, the more I love you.

I wanna sit at your feet,
Drink from the cup in your hand,
Lay back against you and breath, here your heart beat.
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it’s overwhelming.
This is not “Jesus, you are my savior” or even “Jesus, you are cool guy.”  It’s “Jesus, you are my lover.  Let’s sleep together.”  In an attempt to invoke a more meaningful relationship aspect missing from the Ear Candy, this goes off the rails by projecting an intense physical union with someone other than your spouse.  It objectifies the Lord Jesus in much the same way women are objectified in the sex trade.  Jesus becomes what I want him to be in order to make me feel good and can get through the hour or the night.  No commitment is made.

Music that honors Christ is thoughtful, edifying, and communal.  For example, the psalms tell of writer’s (or people’s) experiences but intend to point to the Lord as the source and goal of meaning in this life.  Whether wrought from personal or corporate events, the musical expression is intended for group participation: the entire company of God’s people is exhorted to join the proclamation of good doctrine concerning a good God and Savior.  That takes work but reaps rewards when accomplished.

I leave you with a good recent example mentioned by my friend, Glenn Chatfield, on his blog.  This is what should be promoted.
Behold the Lamb
Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us - and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Torn for you - eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you - drink and remember
He drained death's cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise
To respond, - and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.
As we share in His suffering
We proclaim Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Thanks for the link.

Boy, those are two I haven't heard yet, and that second one is definitely a "Jesus is my boyfriend" type.

They may not have anything to do with worship, but boy, do they make you FEEL good!

Steve Bricker said...

You're welcome.

I passed along the song you posted to our music leader. He wants to incorporate it in the future.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Wow! It's nice to promote the good stuff, isn't it?