Random Thoughts: Words, Cliches, and What Matters

Normally when I write out a post I try to have it be organized. I have a pretty standard outline that I follow on this blog. But today, instead of one big topic, I’m gonna throw out a few random thoughts about worship leading written in a stream of consciousness. After writing this post mostly I found myself talking about words and lyrics, but there is also a bit about community and active participation. Here goes:

WORDS MATTER

More and more I care less about what style of music a church does. Since worship is about Jesus and worship in church is about the family of God coming together, what I like or don’t like musically is mattering less and less.

But what I do care about it the words. Are the words well written? Are they biblically correct? Can I understand what the song is talking about? etc. If your band is lame (my opinion only) that’s not important. But if I can’t connect with the lyrics in my mind so that my spirit can respond, that’s no good.

SHOULD YOU HAVE A LOT OF WORDS?

If you’ve read this blog for a while you might have picked on the fact that I would identify myself as a “modern hymns guy”.  So you think I’d be all for set lists that are packed why lyric heavy songs, but not so fast. I like to find that happy medium. I’ve noticed recently a trend in the music of certain churches to have very wordy songs, but they are A.) full of tired cliches B.) Using a lot of words to not say a whole lot.

Here’s the thing. It’s good if a song has something to say. You can only sing “I love you and stuff (12x)” so much. Lyrical depth is a great thing. But too often we confuse lyrical depth with lyrical length.

The other reason to find a balance between lyrically long and short songs is a functional one. What do you do when there’s no overhead projector? When you’re around a campfire. In a living room. At a BBQ. What do you do then? A healthy worship ministry will keep a certain amount of “simple songs” in the church’s repertoire for events that need simpler songs. But it’s also nice as a worship leader to link a very “wordy” song like Come Thou Fount or How Deep The Father’s Love with a lyrically simple song like “Create in Me a Clean Heart” or “We Exalt Thee”. Notice that those songs are both old Maranatha/Vineyeard  songs. Truthfully there haven’t been a lot of simple choruses written in recent memory. 1st off, both of those songs still work, but I will supplement them around the campfire with the chorus/bridge parts of songs like “Cannons” (Phil Wickham) or a familiar hymns like the chorus to “How Great Thou Art”.

CLICHES ARE GOOD AND BAD

I mentioned that a lot of the wordy songs are full of cliches. I think there is something good about taking familiar lyrical tropes like “Amazing Grace”, “Nothing But the Blood” “Falling (or some other action) before the Cross (or Jesus’ feet, or whatever)”. It’s a point of reference that is also solid in doctrine. But cliches can also be bad. We cover a bad song by adding some riff on Amazing Grace in the chorus. Additionally, while repeating lines about “nothing but the blood of Jesus” is good, because it’s at the center of our faith, we can also repeat cliches that are either wrong or imbalanced. Wrong could be presenting the idea that we initiated relationship with God (it’s out there folks… see the song “Hey” by Leeland) or imbalanced in that we only sing about one aspect of God’s character or his relationship with us. We only talk about God’s mercy (don’t you know it never lets go) but ignore his holiness, or power, or justice, or wrath and anger.  I won’t write a song off if it’s cliche, but I’ll give it a closer look.

THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE DOING

With all of this I was thinking there is something in the doing. It’s one thing to read the lyrics to a song like “Holy and Anointed One” and it’s another thing to sing them. It’s one thing to hear a recording of a song like “Breathe”, and it’s another thing to belt out “i’m desperate for you”. I think sometimes we get locked into what the lyrics look like on screen, or how it sounds on a record, and we forget the participatory nature of worship music in the church. We aren’t watching, we are doing. Which brings us full circle. While I don’t care as much what music your church does, I do care that it engages your church.

 

These are just some thoughts that have been passing through my brain recently. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

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