Earlier this year I went to a youth conference for Junior and Senior High Schoolers. I sat in on a few of the sessions and was super impressed with the story telling and communicating of biblical narratives told by the speakers. Also I had forgotten how crazy/energized teens are! I mean, college students are pretty wild too, but junior/senior highschoolers at youth conferences are a whole ‘nother breed of human.
Gotta love ‘em.
Anyway, there was a really cool indie Christian band playing worship for the senior high students. Skilled musicians. Super hipster. Great combo. We stood and began worshiping through singing and I was immediately sort of rubbed the wrong way when the lyrics were so artists and cryptic that I wasn’t quite sure what we were talking about. And though I think that style of music might not be best for corporate worship, I understood the gist of what we trying to say and so onward we went. The next song/songs where very basic with few words and even less depth. I didn’t want to be frustrated or a “worship snob” so I quickly reminded myself how I love simple hymns like “God is so good” which isn’t wordy or theological, but simple and true. This is the same sort of thing. But as we sang another song with simplistic, one-sided, me-centered choruses, I thought to myself,
“This is so vague and gospel-less. I could easily be a Buddist singing to Budda asking for blessing, or an Islam singing to Allah of his greatness, or a Mormon singing to my nontrinitarian god about my desire to feel him. And I would barely need to change a word.”
And so I sat down.
As that thought entered my mind, I was so angry at the idea that hundreds of young people who could be worshipping God, but learning nothing and singing nothing exclusively about Him. I started feverously journaling about my frustration with the lyrics and the deep need to be teaching songs rich with many truths about God. In high school these students are studying psychology, and physics, and philosophy, and trigonometry-we stretch their minds in all sorts of ways scholastically, but when it comes to theology all we can have them sing is an indie version of Jesus Loves Me? They can comprehend so much more than that! We need to give it to them.
I let my thoughts roam a little bit. I sat there with my legs and arms crossed and after writing a while checked my phone, probably facebook, and looked around. I saw students with their hands raised high, and their voices raised higher, I saw some disengaged, but most had their eyes fixed on the words on the screen.
I realized I should probably pray.
So I learned forward, elbows to knees, to pray. I’m not sure what I was going to say, probably something about God working in hearts in the midst of milk-like theology, but I didn’t even get a chance to get the words out because I was immediately convicted.
This thought came to my mind:
“You know who God is, you have the ability and opportunity to worship Him in song, and you are deliberately choosing not to.”
I instantaneously stood to my feet.
After standing there for a second I began thinking about/processing what I had just thought. How dare I stop worshipping God. All truth is God’s truth and worship is such a matter of the heart. My focus on what I would change, instead of the God who has changed me is (another!) clear reflection of my foolishness and immaturity.
Though, it was NOT wrong to think those things of wanting the songs for corporate worship to have more depth, its timing was misplaced.
I thought about my amazing earthly father. What if someone where to stand on stage, boasting of how sweet and kind and gentle he is. Would I get annoyed, or outraged and say, “That is not even the tip of the iceberg! How dare you only talk about those things! He was also fair in the way he punished us and showed us what righteous anger looked like. He has loved my mother so well, and is selfless to her-not just to you!” Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Isn’t that not the place or the point?
My desire for worship lyrics to most wholistically and reverently represent the triune God of the Bible is not wrong, but my desire to stop worshipping Jesus Christ and complain about it was wrong. I know I could have still worshipped, and after my stubborn heart was revealed to me I did!
I praise the Lord that at both the college I work at and the church I attend, our leaders do a great job of mixing songs of “childlike faith” with songs lyrically rich to help us grow in our understanding of the gospel of Christ. But next time there is a worship song that is played that is not heretical, but simply shallow, I’m not going to have a seat. I’m going to engage my heart and mind, even add words of praise of my own, to worship the only God who is worthy of all adoration, praise, thanksgiving, honor and glory.
What do you think? Right response? Wrong response? Additional thoughts?