And as my music minister clambers into his hamster wheel of repetitive verse so I mount the saddle of my hobby horse to once again bemoan the state of worship music in the church.
An interesting study has come out examining the most popular “worship” songs and to no one’s surprise of the 38 songs 22 were from three cults, I had almost said churches out of charity but that would be a lie. Bethel, Hillsong, and Elevation, six more songs on that list were collaborations between a particular cult and an “artist.” This is a shift from the previous model of particular songwriter/musicians such as Chris Tomlin. A real situation of going from bad to worse. It is really quite stunning that the old chestnut of, well if the song is good we can separate it from the source and sing it, keeps getting trotted out. At this point it is noting short of willful ignorance to not see the heresy that undergirds these songs. They may be our words, but they mean different things from those places. In fact the songs are almost incomprehensible outside of their theological context.
The effects are telling, as the study shows:
“Those songs become one of the primary ways of connecting with God — rather than prayer or sacraments or other rituals. Because of their market success, these churches have changed the spiritual practices and sometimes even the theology of congregations from many traditions. “The industry itself becomes this invisible hand,” he said. “We don’t name the theology of praise and worship — we just assume it. And we use this kind of song repertoire to reinforce it.” – There is a Reason Every Hit Worship Song Sounds the Same, Bob Smietana (Emphasis added)
And if that weren’t chilling enough consider that those who have been given care over your soul can’t be bothered to examine this kind of music before they force feed it to you ad nauseam week after week, repetitive chorus after repetitive chorus. This kind of music catechizes into a shallow anemic theology, faith, and practice. One of the authors of the study, Shannan Baker, gives an example, “A lot of it is, what is God doing for me now? And what has God promised to do for me in the future?” It is the kind of man centered worship and masquerades as worship of the triune God.
Mindless, self-centered music is simply not acceptable. Consider the speed of the music. It leaves no time for gravity, for reflection, for working out of theology. It is merely designed to manipulate the emotions. The fruit of all of this is many people, dancing along, arms raised, tearing up, and having no context for the actual Lordship of Christ in their lives. Don’t believe me? Look at how the women are dressed. Raise the issue of modesty and suddenly Christ is a tyrant. Look at the lust problems of the men. Oh sure we all will admit porn is bad, but they will defend “prestige TV’ to their last breath. We do not have healthy churches, because our shallowness has been dictated to us by an industry built up by three very popular cults that lie about their fealty to God.
It is beyond time that better is demanded. I am all for writing new music. It is a slow and laborious process to do well. But in the meantime, I have this niggling feeling that there might be some kind of musical heritage handed down to us. An enormous library to be explored. Not all of it is going to be good. Some separating wheat from chaff might be required. But I just can’t imagine that there isn’t a ton of solid theology put to music out there somewhere. Maybe we should look to that than to some slick haired guy, who sings the same slide twenty-five times and varying volumes assuming that pleases God. Someone help me out here, I think what we are looking for sounds like Shymnal, Bimnal?