Saturday, January 16, 2010

appropriate for corporate worship?

So, tonight at church we sang a song that, to be honest, I am really not a fan of. I have never been able to sing it in a corporate worship setting. There is nothing that is theologically wrong with the song (which, for those who are very curious right now, I will not be naming this song in my blog because it does not have to do with what my point is), I am just not sure it is appropriate for a corporate worship time.

Which leads me to my reason for writing this blog tonight:
Are there songs that, while theologically sound, are not appropriate for corporate worship?

This is a question I have been wrestling with for a while now and I do not claim to have the right answer, because I do not know that there is a correct answer to this question. In the last few years, I have heard more and more songs being introduced in corporate worship (ie. church services) that, to me at least, feel like they are more appropriate as a personal worship song rather than a corporate one - whether it is because they are just plain hard for average, non-musical person in the church pew to even attempt to sing or because the language just seems to be so personal.

I am, by no means, a spectacular musician, but I can sing on key and decently most of the time, and I do play a couple of different instruments, and yet, there have been songs that have been introduced to us in church that I was unable to follow or attempt to sing. And I know from listening to the people around me, fumble through for a bit and then just give up completely, that other people were having more problems with them than me. Is there anything theologically wrong with these songs? No! Are they horrible songs to listen to? No! But, due to the way they are written, I wonder if they are the best or most appropriate choices for songs to sing as a gathered body of Christ in corporate worship. It seems to me that rather than draw people into the presence of God and lead them in praise of worship of our Savior, they do little more than frustrate people. I am not saying they cannot be a part of the entire worship service, but I do wonder if they would be better as some kind of a "special music" part of the service instead of trying to get everyone to sing them.

But, I guess that issue is not the main one that triggered this thinking in my brain again tonight. The song at church tonight really seems to fall under this second category. I realize that some very authentic praises and cries to God can arise out of a deeply intimate and personal time with God, and I would never want to discredit that or downplay it. I just wonder if sometimes what does come out of those times would be better off being left as something personal. Sometimes we will start a song in a corporate worship time that as I actually pay attention to the words I realize that there is no way I can sing those words and mean them. They seem to come out of such a deeply personal space that I do not completely understand what is being talked about. Is it really authentic for me to then sing those words to God? I am not sure.

I see there to be a difference between declaring truth and making a choice to praise God even in the midst of doubts and hard times, and singing the words of an incredibly personal song to God when you are not even sure you really understand what you are singing. For example, I have had times in my life when I was in a corporate worship service and I was singing the song "Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman, and what I was doing was declaring the truth contained in it during a time when I was having a hard time and had a lot of questions. It was like I was living out some of the words to that song: "You give and take away, You give and take away, my heart will CHOOSE to say, Lord, blessed be Your name." I felt like God had taken away some things, but even in the midst of that hard time, I was still choosing to worship God and declare His goodness. I do not think that is wrong. I think that sometimes that is exactly what we need to do.

But, then there have also been times where the song that was being sung was full of language talking about an intimate picture God had given someone of His love for them. As hard as I tried, there was no way I could relate to that picture. It was not something that I could read and study and seek to better understand in Scripture. And even if I asked God for that same understanding, whose to say that He would use that same picture to speak to me and help me to get that understanding. I have a hard time with singing those songs. And, those are definitely songs where I wonder about their appropriateness for corporate worship. I am not saying those things should not ever be shared. I believe there is definitely a place and a need in the body of Christ to share those things. I guess I just wonder if in a setting where people are generally expected to be (or at least feel as though they're expected to be) singing those songs is appropriate. I would definitely be leaning pretty far to the side of not appropriate at this point.

I wonder sometimes if the church (as a whole, at least North America wide, possibly further) has become so focused on self and on our own individual relationships with Christ that we have lost the concept of what it means to gather to worship together corporately and to corporately declare Who God is. And, I guess, I wonder if the main symptoms of this loss of the corporate part of our life as followers of Christ is what I see as the lack of appropriateness for the setting of the music chosen in our corporate worship times.

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