In discussion about worship with a youth group recently, we compared different secular song lyrics that expressed love, and the group put them on a spectrum of how usable they were in worship to God.
Some struggled with the ‘cheese factor’; some pop songs have a more obviously different style to the songs we may be used to singing in church, whilst others grappled with the content and meaning behind the songs. Some felt that a bit of cheese and some ‘ooohs’ may add to mirroring David’s undignified approach to worship!
Take a look at the following lyrics. How comfortable would you feel about using them in worship? Why/why not? What makes something appropriate/inappropriate to sing in worship? Do you think God would feel as uncomfortable about hearing these words as you would singing them?
And all the roads we have to walk along are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would
Like to say to you
I don’t know how
You’re gonna be the one who saves me?
And after all
You’re my wonder wall
‘Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you
Yeh are you diggin’ on me
Yeh yeh yeh
I’m diggin’ on u now baby
Yeh do u wanna little bit of my love
Yeh wait a minute wait a minute
You give me something
That makes me scared all right
This could be nothing
But I’m willing to give it a try
Please give me something
Because someday I might know my heart
There ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you
I’m a slave for you. I cannot hold it; I cannot control it.
I’m a slave for you. I won’t deny it; I’m not trying to hide it.
Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you
I’ll write a symphony just for you and me
If you let me love you, I’ll paint a masterpiece
Just for you to see
If you let me love you, let me love you
These words are my own
From my heart flow
I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you
There’s no other way
To better say
I love you, I love you…
Love you, oohh
My darling you
Got me hoping you save me right now
Lookin’ so crazy your love’s got me lookin’
Got me lookin’ so crazy your love
It could be even more fun to play a game…worship lyric or pop song! A friend of mine recently told me about the ‘Mandy Test.’ This is where if you substitute the name ‘Jesus’ with ‘Mandy’ and it still works as a lyric, then you’re stepping into the love song zone!
I wonder if part of why we compare worship songs to romantic songs is that part of romance is about being showy and explicit about your love; we come across much fewer songs about how you love your grandparents or you love your peers platonically. Is it that worship songs share a link with romantic songs on this, or is it that there is something of this romance that we recognize in worship, too? Is this where Songs of Songs draws this link? Is there something about being captivated by that one special person?
However, in an earlier comment to another post on this site, I loved how the idea of worship becoming like a romantic getaway with God was expressed. Maybe we need to be more founded in what it means to love God and what that looks like if it’s not just romantic and about feeling ‘in love.’
Maybe this discussion is even bigger than what words we use in worship but more about how we worship. Maybe words are always going to be problematic for some people. To look at learning styles and multiple intelligences, we understand that because we are made up differently and are intelligent in different ways (or ‘gifted’ at different things, if we use more typically evangelical Christian language), then some will find it easier to express themselves with words than others.
Some of Gary Chapman’s theories on love languages tell us that people give and receive love in different ways and so maybe we need to learn a wider vocabulary of worship that is bigger than what words we express. He suggests that the five love languages are:
• Words of affirmation
• Quality time
• Receiving and giving gifts
• Acts of service
• Physical touch
Maybe here we find ways to worship that men in our cultural climate may feel more comfortable with. For example, I recognize that a huge way my dad shows his love for me is helping me with finances and tax advice or washing my car. We can recognize that God loves us in more ways than just the words he uses with us, but also in the things he provides for us, for example.
Or to look to Howard Gardiner’s multiple intelligences, we see that there may be other ways to get us expressing our desire to worship God at our best. The multiple intelligences he suggests are:
• Linguistic intelligence (the intelligence that we focus on when looking at lyrics)
• Logical mathematical intelligence
• Musical intelligence
• Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
• Spatial intelligence
• Interpersonal intelligence
• Intrapersonal intelligence
• (More recently added intelligences are Natural intelligence, Existential intelligence, and Spiritual intelligence).
Some of these intelligences we may be able to derive an easy link to. But maybe we need to get creative about what it looks like to use the fullness of our potential in worship. For example, logical-mathematical intelligence must hold a wealth of untapped ways to worship God.
Maybe this conversation is just a little part of a wider conversation about thinking about what we sing in worship. In our consumer culture, maybe it is just too easy to engage with what is fed to us, rather than more actively engaging with worship and choosing carefully the words we mean and why. Maybe there is a challenge here to begin thinking about what words we’d choose for God, whether we are worship leaders or simply worshippers.
These ideas are inconclusive, but we are not just called to be led in worship by leaders, but to be communities made up of participating and worshipping individuals, who together build on a corporate identity of a worshipping community. The more we enter into conversation and discussion about these issues, the bigger a picture of both worship and God we begin to build in dialogue together.
Becca Dean is a youth worker at Carpenters Community Church in Chorleywood, England. She has particular interests in humor, creativity, theology, and working out what it means to be a Christian in today’s culture. She is currently writing a book for young people on creative ways to help them pray.