How Empty is Your Worship?

I think worship music might be ruined for me. Don’t get me wrong – I love playing for praise teams and I love what a lot of the newer worship bands are doing to innovate, but there are times when I really have trouble enjoying it and worshiping to it like I used to. I could take responsibility and say that I’m just becoming another cynical college student, but I’m going to shift the blame to a book I read during my first year at college. Among other things, the author made the claim that a lot of modern worship songs don’t actually say very much of anything. Wondering if this was true, I started analyzing songs that I sang in worship services, and I realized he was right:

Too many worship songs today say almost nothing.

From time to time, when I’m singing along with whatever song the praise team is leading in church or chapel, I’ll ask myself what the lyrics are really saying. What truths are they expressing? What issues are they confronting? Too often, the summary I end up deciding on is overly simple. Many times I’ve concluded that certain songs can be summed up in simple sentences, like “Heaven is going to be great because I won’t be in pain anymore,” or “I love Jesus because he forgives me.” I really don’t want to name names and give specific examples, but give it a shot next time you’re singing at church. If you don’t get the same result I usually do, either your worship leader is really good at picking songs or you’re a lot better at analyzing lyrics than I am.

I do think there’s merit to meditation on one simple thought. I think a lot of great, complex insights have been arrived at after intense concentration on a seemingly simple idea. But I don’t see how a worship service filled with meditations on several simple ideas can be productive.

I’m not saying every song we sing needs to be lyrically complex and have all kinds of layers of deep thought. I’m just saying that we need to be conscious of the words we sing in church. I think sometimes we’ll find we’re singing a giant nonsensical string of Christian buzzwords, or, worse, that we’re singing something we don’t even believe. Besides, if you’re not really paying close attention to the words you sing, can that really be worship? Sure, you may feel a swell of emotion and raise your hands, but if the song ends and you’re not really sure what you were singing about, you’ve got a problem.

Maybe this is only a problem for me. Even though I try to analyze songs and make sure I mean every word I sing, I still love music, and a well-performed worship song can move me regardless of the level of complexity in the lyrics. But I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only person in the world who struggles with this.

Do you think worship songs today are too shallow? What are some of your favorite worship lyrics?


8 thoughts on “How Empty is Your Worship?

  1. I would agree in some regard but I don’t think you need to say a whole lot for it to be worship. Worship doesn’t come from the words we say. Afterall Psalm 117 is like two sentences. Worship is from the heart and is outplayed through our actions. I think most people become emotionally detached from the songs they sing because they aren’t living out what they say. If I wrote a 1 line poem that attempted to say what I was feeling does that make it unworthy? Even our best songs are pitiful attempts at worshiping our great God. I can sing la la la la la la and it be worship. Thankfully The Spirit takes our meager attempts to worship and lays them before the Father into something worthy.

  2. Good thoughts, Corey. I really like what you said about the emotional disconnect that happens when we start singing songs that aren’t true of the way we’re living. I know there are some songs that come up and I’ll really question if I mean what I’m singing sometimes. But I guess that can be helpful if we let it convict us and create change in our lives.

    I do agree that even the best and most compelling song we can write is still unworthy of God. So I guess that’s where it gets tricky judging what is effective and ineffective as worship – if we even have a place to judge that sort of thing. I think there’s a different standard for corporate worship versus personal worship. Your one line poem may be very worshipful to you, but it may not be quite as effective for a crowd of a hundred or so who may or may not be in the same spiritual and emotional place as you.

  3. Yeah, but if singing is the first and only place you experience worship of God then your heart will never be in the right place. Justice is at the center of worship. You should read Amos 5:21-27. It will rock ur world. While the “content” might not always be there, I would be more concerned about where the heart is. Too many people choose lip service over true worship. While singing is fun and moving, it’s not the core of what it means to follow Christ. That doesn’t mean it’s bad though.

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