I tried to simplify what I thought the worship songwriter's mission should be into a tweet. Here is what I came up with:
The worship muse's calling is to be a student of men, a student of the Word, and to strive to illuminate God in the hearts of men through music.
I think this simple statement encompasses both the responsibility of the writer as an artist (to speak to the heart of man) and as a 'theologian' or, better stated, a student, for even the best theologians among us are just fellow students.
Screen Shot 2012-06-27 at 7.58.41 AM.jpgGreat thread here - thanks to our "Morning Edition" email, I saw it --- would've missed this completely if it weren't for the little link that caught my eye in that email. So yeah, shameless plug here, if you're not already receiving TheWorshipCommunity.Com's ME (Morning Edition) email, signup for it on our homepage.
Now, on to this discussion ... very good points. Generally, I have two thoughts to add:
#1: I think the real problem here isn't JMM or his writing, but the sick way our culture wants to award and recognize people (top songwriter, best album, blah, blah, Top this, Top that). Recognizing peers is OK but it becomes a bit ridiculous to have all the various places shouting out who is the best this or that of the year.
#2: I wholeheartedly agree that our corporate songs should be theologically correct and Scriptural; however, I also wholeheartedly advocate the use of emotional songs and expressions in our corporate worship. LOOK AT THE PSALMS! They are not a bunch of theological mini-sermons or poetic recaps of the Gospel ... they are often gut-wrenching cries of the heart. God cares about this.
If my only communication with my wife is fact and philosophy, constant recapping of the vows we made and our promises to one another, that won't quite do it. I need to tell her how I love her, why I love her. I need to tell her why I'm upset and I need to vent appropriately.
A lamentation is not necessarily theology, and a modern one doesn't come from Scripture, it comes from the heart, but I fully believe it can have a place in corporate worship.
Like Mike said earlier on, balance is key.
And that's my $.02!
Perhaps I should clarify my picture of a theologian being a PhD-level student of the Word, above most pastors, teachers and leaders. Most singers and songwriters are not at that level.Unlike a poster above, I do believe that Christian songwriters should be theologians. But, of course, I believe every Christian should be a "theologian" in the sense that he/she seeks to please God and understand and obey His Word in all he/she does.
I do agree that we should all be the best 'theologian' that we know how. I just expect that songwriters will have different interpretations of scriptural issues, as the rest of us do (hence over 5,000 Christian denominations who think they are 'right").
I agree. This whole "Consumer Christianity" culture is getting to the point of being shameful.I think the real problem here isn't JMM or his writing, but the sick way our culture wants to award and recognize people (top songwriter, best album, blah, blah, Top this, Top that)
My pastor preached a series based on a book (I can't remember the title) but the author works for a large ministry organization and traveled to many parts of the word. He discovered that many people he encountered abroad knew who wrote the Gospels, knew all 10 commandments, knew the Bible stories such as Exodus and Noah's Ark, but did not go to church. In America, many people he talked to didn't know the 10 commandments, didn't know who wrote the Gospels, but they go to church. I believe this is a direct result of our 'seeker friendly' church culture, where we don't preach about sin, we don't preach about discipline or righteousness, we don't make disciples, but we have awesome bands and coffee bars.
I am not against amenities and great bands, but our first and foremost responsibility is to win souls, not fill seats. I wonder how many people would stay if some of these churches removed the coffee bar, light show, band, and stadium seating...
Mike (Or for Nate "A Poster Above)
I think part of this issue may be what is suitable for corporate worship in church meetings, versus what may be good for solos, listening on CCM albums, radio stations, etc. The criteria should be tighter for the former: styles you can do well, nothing in the lyrics that your church disagrees with, and more scriptural references than in a typical Dove award song. And IMO that choice should be made by the worship leader/pastor rather than by the music industry or church culture.
The more spiritually vague 'inspirational' songs may be good for occasional solos, or outreach situations...