It’s all about the song
Recently Annie and I were involved in a meeting of several worship leaders from a midwest community, and although we spoke of many things relating to the current application of music in today’s Church “worship”, one comment has stuck in my memory. “Today, it’s not as much about Jesus, as it is about the song” someone said. Annie and I began to recall how “corny” some of the little choruses from the early years of our walk with Jesus were, and yet for the most part they only had one purpose, and that was to magnify the Lord. They weren’t anywhere near the level of musical sophistication of many of the songs that are sung in Church today, but there was a sweetness and simplicity that made them always available as a personal expression to the Lord, whether you were in devotions, walking through the park, or driving in freeway traffic. They were about Jesus, not the chord structure, or great melody, or danceable rhythm. They were about Jesus, not about a writer fulfilling a songwriting contract for so many songs each month. Most of them were written out of a need for someone to express what was in their heart , and were spred from fellowship to fellowship by word of mouth and interaction of believers in home meetings that were formed out of a desire to gather together ( rather than at the organizational promptings of Church leadership). The music we use for our expressions of worship today has become a commodity, and is distrubuted via recordings by publishing companies to churches, hoping to catch the ear of their song selector, consequently our “worship” has also become a commodity.
As people who’s financial needs God has met through songwriting, Annie and I are not throwing stones from our glass house, but saying “let’s write songs about Him, because He is worthy and we love Him more then we can contain”. The financial factor is up to Him who promised to meet all our needs, Phil 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.
In 1978, long before christian songwriters were getting paid for the songs used in Church, (there was no monitoring mechanism in place yet) a dear friend, the late Roy Hicks Jr. called and asked if I would publish a little chorus he had written that was being sung frequently in churches at that time. I did publish his song, although at the time there was no reason to do so, except his friendship. “Praise the Name of Jesus” has been sung hundreds of times in almost every non-liturgical church in the western world, and since the advent of CCLI monitoring, has been a financial blessing to Roy’s household as well as mine. God blessed us “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. CCLI has been a good thing, but it has also created a community of Christian songwriters that try to make a living writing songs they hope will be used in Church, as opposed to writing songs because they can’t contain the love and worship for the Lord and have to express it. I’m not saying these songwriters are mercenary, bad people, they’re not, but because worship and praise type songs are now more commodity driven than Holy Spirit inspired it ends up being more about the song than it is about Jesus, regardless of how many times His name is mentioned.
This might end up being a good thing, because we seem to act as though songs are the only way to express worship.
The Lord might get so sick of our musical expression which is less about His Son and more about the quality of the song, that He will take it all away from us and we will have to find more spiritual and truthful ways to worship.