Conveying His Story In Worship, Not Eating Cake With Lots Of Frosting

Guest Blogger:  Rev. Patrick Thurmer

When I attend a Christian concert or worship service, I am neutral about the "type" of music. To me, whether the music consists of hymns, country, gospel, rock, classical or any other genre is irrelevant to me if the message of the lyrics are understandable and theologically sound. In other words I attend an event to hear the message. If the message isn't sound or understandable, it's irrelevant to me if the guitar player was masterful or if the vocalists were American Idol quality.

The musicians at a concert I attended awhile ago came from another church in another town and were talented and sincere. I had no issue with them or their musical ability. I listened intently to the lyrics of the band. Unfortunately it was difficult to understand the words and no lyrics were provided in print or projected form. I listened intently to what lyrics I could understand and the message was fairly consistent from song to song. For the most part the lyrics throughout the evening were:

"You know MY heart..."
"You know MY desire..."
"I'M gonna lean on Him"
"Meet ME at the river"
"I will reach out to You"
“I'M leaving my doubts behind"
“I'M giving You..."
“I will follow..."
“Share the love”
“WE need to be His hands and feet”
“I'M lovin life”“I give my life”
“All I have is Yours”
“You are MY reward”
“I surrender all”

It's was all "good" stuff.. but it was very "me" centered as it dealt primarily with what I get or what I give. By the end of the concert, I was a bit discouraged by the message even though the 'music' was fine.

It strikes me that the message of the songs that evening began, continued and ended with the message of Romans 12. The first word of Romans 12, "Therefore", which refers back to all that the apostle Paul laid out as the foundation to chapter 12 was neglected in the message of the concert. Romans 1-11 was assumed and never stated verbally or vocally.

After the concert I felt like I ate cake and frosting for 90 minutes with no nutritional meal preceding it. The lyrics primarily focused on our response to all that Christ is and has done for us without ever really singing about Him. If I was an unbeliever, I would have left the concert thinking that these people are excited about someone, but I have no idea who or why. There was no law to convict and no gospel to save.

It’s a tragic mistake when the subjective side of the Christian life (our feelings and response to the Gospel) is emphasized with little attention given to the nature and character of God, His Holy law, the depravity of man, the objective message of Christ, the cross and the resurrection or other truths found in Romans 1-11.This is my criticism of too much of the music written in these times by Christian artists. There is a tremendous need for lyrics that effectively convey the whole counsel of God...

At a concert like this, one of two things need to happen: At worst, something should be said at the beginning of a concert as a qualification... something like: "We're assuming all of you are Christians and have been convicted of sin, convinced of your utter depravity and hopelessness, and amazed by the life giving message of the cross and overwhelmed by the grace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation provided by Jesus Christ and therefore we won't be singing about any of THAT."

At best, the lyrics of the songs themselves will explicitly tell THAT message with a small proportion of the songs dealing with how we may respond to that good news. It seems to me that if it took Paul eleven chapters to lay the groundwork for chapter 12, at least that proportion of our music should convey the objective truths of the faith and 1/12 as much should deal with our response.

My purpose for writing this isn't to say: "Lets not have concerts anymore" or "I hate contemporary Christian music" or "Songs can never deal with our response to the Gospel". RATHER, my purpose is to say, lets make it better, let's encourage sound theology in music, let's encourage musicians to write lyrics with theological depth.

I don't want to discourage the good efforts of those who organize concerts or lead music in worship. I simply want what we do sing to reflect the essentials of what we confess.

Also, the point of this isn’t to pit contemporary Christian music against traditional hymns. Both can be theologically sound or theologically shallow. The point is that whatever we sing, we should convey HIS story.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like ME.