Question: I have been disturbed for some time by the “praise and worship” music in my church—even to the point of looking elsewhere. But I seem to find the same thing everywhere I go. So much of it seems shallow and repetitive. I long for the old hymns that had doctrinal content and really bowed me before the Lord in worship and filled my heart with praise to Him. Am I just old-fashioned? Help me.
Answer: We are hearing this anguished cry from increasing numbers of people. Let me try to explain the basic problem as clearly as I can, hoping that some “praise and worship” leaders or pastors will at least give it some serious thought and prayer.
The abandoned hymns were composed by men and women of God who were mature in the faith, had often suffered much for Christ, and wrote from deep experience and biblical knowledge. Today’s church has substituted choruses composed by those who are mostly young both in years and in the faith. They have little to offer except catchy tunes, a snappy beat for clapping, loud noise, and very little of true reverence for our Lord—hardly appropriate for entering God’s holy and awesome presence. This is not true of all, but of most.
Sadly, today’s “worshipers” seem content to sing over and over, for example, “I will sing of your love forever,” or “I love to praise you, Lord,” or “We have come into your house to worship you,” or similar empty phrases. Why are they empty? The focus is more upon self than upon God—what I’m giving Him rather than His love and grace to me.
To repeat, “I will sing of your love forever,” is not singing of His love at all. You are only saying you are going to sing of His love. Stop promising to sing of His love and do it! Sing of His love! Recite what He has done, how much He has loved you, and tell Him how much you love Him and why.
The same is true of “I love to praise you, Lord,” or “We’ve come to worship you.” This is neither praise nor worship, but merely saying that you love to praise Him or are going to worship Him. If so, then let’s praise Him and worship Him! Praise is not saying you love to praise, nor is worship promising to worship. Let’s really do it!
How? Let’s express mature love and praise for Him, for His love, His character, and what He has done for our redemption.
There are so many powerful hymns that praise Him for His love and express our love and gratitude to Him! Here are sample excerpts: “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell; it goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell...to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky!” Or, “Son of God, ’twas love that made thee die our ruined souls to save; ’twas our sins vast load that laid thee, Lord of Life, within the grave....” “Down at the cross where my Savior died, Down where for cleansing from sin I cried, There to my heart was the blood applied; Glory to His Name!” “He is coming as the Bridegroom, coming to unfold at last the great secret of His purpose, mystery of ages past; and the Bride, to her is granted in His beauty now to shine, as in rapture she exclaimeth ‘I am His, and He is mine!’ Oh! What joy that marriage union, mystery of love divine; sweet to sing, in all its fullness, ‘I am His, and He is mine!’”
What about a current favorite, “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, O my soul rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear”? Is that any better? Slightly. At least it says, “I love you, Lord.” But to say, “I lift my voice to worship you” is only an empty promise to worship—not actual worship. Asking the Lord to take joy in what He hears and hoping it will be a sweet, sweet sound in His ear is offering nothing. How about singing words that would bring Him joy and actually be a sweet sound in His ear! But the song contains none of what it seems to promise.
In contrast, consider the following: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me who caused His pain—for me who Him to death pursued? Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, should’st die for me!” Or, “Down from His glory, ever living story, my God and Savior came, and Jesus was His name...a man of sorrows, tears and agony....What condescension, bringing us redemption; that in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight; God, gracious, tender, laid aside His splendor, to stoop to woo, to win, to save my soul...!Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance, He took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan. O glorious mystery! Sacrifice of Calvary! And now I know He is the great I AM! O how I love Him, how I adore Him! My breath, my sunshine, my all in all. The great Creator became my Savior, and all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him!”