A friend shared a blog post on Facebook, and he tagged me in the post—implying that he wanted me to read it. I think he wanted my honest opinion. So, here it is…
The title of the post is “Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days?” The author Jonathan Aigner is director of music at a United Methodist Church and an active blogger. Aigner’s premise is critical of contemporary music. He writes, “We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church.”
Did we? When? Aigner is critical of Hill Song-style worship music. A quick internet search of “hillsong worship songs” yielded the following hits (these are the top five): “Broken Vessels,” “Christ is Enough,” “This I Believe,” “With All I Am,” and “Open Heaven.” The lyrics of the first song, “Broken Vessels,” start:
All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
But not forsaken
I've been set free
I've been set free
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I'm found
Was blind but now I see
Oh I can see you now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
Full disclosure: I do not typically listen to contemporary worship music. However, I see the value in worship songs. Every hymn was new, at some point. A hymn like “Amazing Grace” was once part of 1779’s new hits.
Going through the remaining songs on the Hill Song list, to me, each one could edify a Christian just as easily as it could excite the spiritual imagination of a new Christ-follower. For lifelong Christians and new Christ-followers, the music will be most effective when it reflects sound theology. A worship song that refers to God’s grace as a “choice you have to make” is semi-Pelagian, giving a nod to works-based salvation, which is a heresy clearly repudiated by Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc.
Not all worship songs reflect sound theology. Some are insipid and repetitive. Worship leaders need theological education. In order to pick doctrinally sound worship music, theological education should teach ministers and worship leaders sound Christian doctrine. Hence, a Presbyterian worship leader will be comfortable picking songs with a Calvinist/Reformed theology, and a Baptist worship leader will be more comfortable with an Arminian tone. Methodists will see prevenient grace, “I once was lost but now am found.” Almost all traditions would be comfortable with that song, and many, many songs will satisfy most traditions. Spotting the difference is essential training for worship leaders.
Perhaps there are churches that have abandoned worship in favor of mass-marketing. Culture is cluttered with noise, pulling people in different directions. Churches have the opportunity to respond with the powerful good news of transformation in Christ. If there is no transformation, then what is the point of being a Christian community? God calls people move from where they are to where God wants them to be. Each person is on a journey of transformation toward of becoming a new being in Christ.
The blog that inspired me to write this makes other points, and I or another thoughtful Christian could respond to each one. The author likely intended to motivate people to have deeper worship. Christians are not called to dissect one another’s thoughts. Helpful critique can inspire people to have more meaningful engagement with God. And, that’s something to sing about!