Worship Music 1 (aka Shut up about Jesus Is My Boyfriend.)
So most of my readers know I’m a pastor… ish. I’m a youth pastor. Well, I’m a youth pastor when I’ve got a job as a youth pastor. Okay, I’m an unpaid volunteer with the skills and education of a youth pastor. So I know what I’m talking about… ish. I talk about God because he’s pretty important to me. I talk about faithlife because it’s what I’m immersed in. This is my place to ramble when I feel like rambling and respond to people that never knew I heard what they had to say and will never read my response. Mostly it’s rambling responses. So here’s the succinct intro to my rambling response: Shut up and stop complaining about “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs.
The above sarcastic demotivator is the kind of crap I see on blogs defending the “purity” of worship. The right way to sing. The right songs to sing. To some degree, they sometimes have a point, but more often then not it’s superior douchebaggery (kind of like this blog, but less mine). David Crowder, who is pictured above (and it should be pointed out that he hasn’t changed his hair-style since he hit the scene in 1998) gets cited for propagating songs like John Mark McMillan’s How He Loves, which sings passionately about (dun dun dun) how God loves us. It reminds me of the story of redeeming love found in Hosea. It reminds other people of singing like “Jesus is my Boyfriend” … songs like Arms of Love, or In Your Hands (so close, I believe, you’re holding me now, in your hands I belong, you never let me go), or The Power of Your Love (hold me close, let your love surround me, bring me near, draw me to your side) hold the hallmarks of what’s hailed as a “Jesus is my Boyfriend” song.
I was watching a youtube video that popped up on my FB feed (okay, I was listening to a youtube video that my wife was watching that popped up on her FB feed) from a friend that showed a pastor ranting about how in his church they don’t sing songs that make it like Jesus is my Boyfriend. They don’t “sing songs about us”. They sing songs about God, because that’s where the attention should be. They “don’t sing songs that go beyond what people are REALLY feeling,” like “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus tis now”. A lot of Evangelicals seem to be agreeing with this. Apparently there’s an underground backlash that our metrosexual worship leaders are unaware of, carrying the feeling that it’s inappropriate to sing songs to God that talk about our feelings, or our perceptions, or our commitments. Sure, it’s embarrassing when we’re singing “I’m falling on my knees” and we look around and notice that no one (including ourselves) is falling on their knees, or “As we lift up our hands” and see that most of our hands are firmly seated in our pockets. Hell, a few weeks ago I was leading worship at a small church and felt a rosy warmth spread across my cheeks as I began If We Are The Body (“It’s crowded in worship today”) with a congregation at about 10% of building capacity. But there’s a heart, a core of the song that touches Truth. We get mired in details so often that we miss the greater truth that God is bigger than the song. Any song. Anything we sing can only touch on the outskirts of who God is, as it’s reflected in our vision.
“We don’t sing songs about us”… why not? Is it unBiblical? Unspiritual? What Spirit do you sing to that’s unconcerned with you, or your feelings, or your experiences, or your desires? What Bible do you read that doesn’t give example after example of “I will”s, or “I am”s?, or “Please will you … for me”s? Take a read through the Psalms and checklist how many of them fail to go into, at some point or another, the situation of the author, or their feelings, or their desires. Then consider that these songs, sometimes national, sometimes personal, were held up as examples of worship for the Community of God, and YOU HAVE ALREADY ENDORSED THEM AS THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD OF GOD. Sure, most of the time when we’re singing “I could sing of your love forever,” we realistically, you know, aren’t. But someday we will, and isn’t that worth singing about? Maybe we’re not physically falling on our knees, but there’s a greater spiritual reality that reflects the humility that it takes to sing it. We’re not bowing down before our Lord and King, but, really, shouldn’t we be? What’s wrong with holding up the ideal? Waving the banner? Pushing us towards getting our hands out of our pockets?
Songs like this call us to identify with a moment of an artist’s heart. Those artists are sometimes super-spiritual people, but even they have days when they don’t feel like they could sing of God’s love forever; when they’re very firmly NOT falling on their knees. That can be tough, because what are us normals supposed to do with that? Most of us don’t have artist’s hearts.
Art elevates us. Art shows us something higher than ourselves. It’s not the songwriter’s fault – it’s not the worship leader’s fault – that so many of us need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the presence of God. I take comfort in knowing that King David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned. Then he wrote powerful praise music about personal repentance. Then he sinned again. Just because singing that we’ll never again turn away from God is patently untrue is no reason not to sing it. Because it should be true, and maybe, with the right music, just for a second, in our hearts and minds, it is.
We have a God that cares about US, and what WE think, and what WE feel. He doesn’t need to hear about himself, although I’m sure he appreciates it. Worship is about our relationship with our Redeemer/Creator/Sustainer/Lover. It should reflect a state of evolving relationship. If we’re being led, let it lead us towards a deeper, more intimate relationship that says I love you, because God wants our hearts more than he wants verbal statues erected each Sunday.