The Real Worship Fails
If you are active in the worship music realm of social media you will have probably heard about a page called "worship fails". This brilliant idea is a video collection of wrong notes, voice cracks and failing equipment all during live worship sets. Most of the videos are self submission (in case you were going to get defensive). These people are highlighting the “realness” of serving on a worship team, the fact that most of the time someone is going to slip up.
This is a lighthearted thing, a comedic break. But the term “worship fail” really lends itself to talking about some major problems in modern Christianity, especially if we worded it as a question like “Where are we, as Christians, failing in our worship?” and that's what I want to look at with you a bit. Not how our musicians need to do better on any given Sunday, but about what we all actually think the word worship means, and if we have been failing to do it, in our lives and on Sunday.
Most people, when asked “what is worship?” would respond along the lines of “music” or “singing to God” which is not incorrect. But imagine this, you ask someone “what is food?” and they say “Pizza!” would you not look at them a little funny? Yes, pizza is food (music is worship) but to call worship “music” would be just as odd as limiting food to just pizza. Instead, the correct answer would be “food is all sorts of different things that we eat in order to have energy and be healthy.” In the same way worship is not just music, but is the mechanism by which we glorify and praise God, whether in working or eating or singing. It is the underlying motivation of the Christian.
So we know that it’s not just music, but let’s talk about what the goal of musical worship is.
You would think by looking at the lyrics to some of the songs people are singing, that the goal of musical worship would be to make ourselves feel better about... Ourselves…? A lot of these top of the billboard songs that these mainstream churches are singing don’t really tell us much about who God is, maybe a vague reference to His “goodness” or His “power”, but you will often notice that those descriptors are preceded or followed not by an explanation of how or why God is those things, but about how those things benefit us. Here's kind of what I mean:
“Your goodness is running after, running after me ME”
“The battle belongs to you lord, I’M gonna see a victory!”
“There’s no mountain you won’t climb up… coming after ME”
“I’M gonna sing, in the middle of the storm, louder and louder you’re gonna hear MY praises roar”
You get the point. These songs are more about what God can do for me/what I can do for me(?) than they are about God. Now I'm NOT saying that there is never a time for these songs, or that these songs are inherently wrong. I think that if you are a discerning Christian you can sing these songs in times of personal worship (car, shower, on a run, the usual) but they should not be considered staples in a churches repertoire.
On any given Sunday morning you could make a safe bet that 50% of the people in your sanctuary are either new believers, immature believers, or not believers at all. To the people in those categories the lyrics above are extremely misleading, not intentionally, but because those people aren't in a place spiritually to discern what the meaning actually is. (And I doubt your worship leader is giving a sermonette before each song explaining what they mean.)
To the mature believer “There’s no mountain you won’t climb up… coming after me” means that even the insurmountable debt of sin that God held against us, even that mountain, Jesus overcame and did so in pursuit of us.
To the immature believer “There’s no mountain you won’t climb up… coming after ME” means that Jesus loves me so much that He is going to cure my moms cancer, or the “mountain” of financial debt, He’s gonna get rid of it for me. Not that God can't fix these things, but imagine if you were the believer who thought they just heard that Jesus is going to fix their problem.. and then He doesn't.
You see, these songs aren’t heretical or sinful in themselves, but they are not painting a clear picture of who God is for people who don’t already know Him. The more our songs point to us rather than God, the more likely we are to be able to impose our own, misguided, meaning onto them.
If you are a believer I would implore you to take a closer look at what you are listening to, to make sure that you aren't forming your theology (your understanding of God) around songs that don’t have good theology. The only solution to this is to test everything against scripture. If a song you are singing leads you to believe something about God that scripture doesn't support, stop listening to that song. If you are not in tune with your Bible, even singing songs with sound theology can be tricky.
At the end of the day we need pastors and worship leaders to give a crap about how they are actually leading their people. Don’t assume that your congregation has the capability to interpret and discern, rather teach them exactly what the Word says, in song and in preaching. Why make it harder for your people?
And if you are new to the faith, seek out songs and teachings that tell you about God, not songs and teachings that tell you how to be better or that magnify you rather than Christ. And read your Bible for goodness sakes.
This is so important in our churches right now, don’t just let it slide.
Gospel/God centered worship songs:
In Christ Alone
All I Have Is Christ
All Praise To Him
His Mercy Is More
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Before The Throne
Only A Holy God
Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery
Be Thou My Vision
Hail The King
He Will Hold Me Fast
There Is A Fountain
Rock Of Ages
Christ Our Hope In Life And Death