Lately I’ve been given the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of some worship songs. It’s a development that has me both trembling with anticipation and strangely melancholy.
In my youth I was caught up in the rapture of music born out of the Vineyard movement. I found myself dancing in the rain on the Oregon coast, my 20-pound Sony Walkman belting out tunes by Brian Doerkson. Through this music my heart was ushered from years of dusty academic theology into a living, breathing faith in a transcendent, holy God. More recently I’ve appreciated the poetic offerings of the Getty’s and the fire coming out of Hillsong. I grew up Baptist, so I don’t usually use the word “anointed”, but…well…there it is. These artists have the Gift.
Whatever else they have written, the songs that have become popular are the psalms of joy, victory and power; they tell the story of resurrection. We like those tunes. Seriously, nothing should give us greater pleasure than to lift our banners high and proclaim that our God reigns! Amen? Amen!
So why the sadness? Because in the midst of the glory of the Kingdom of God there is a part of my spirit that craves the sorrow of repentance, and music that reflects this fulcrum of Biblical restoration. I don’t think I’m alone in this; recent songs like “Need You Now” by Plumb and “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave testify to the heart’s cry of a whole demographic that feels broken and is crying for a way to express that reality. We sing with “arms high and heart abandoned” of Jesus, but so rarely have corporate moments where we are first driven to our knees.
Call me old fashioned, but something seems to be amiss when we can create ninety nine songs about God’s holiness and glory for every one that genuinely says, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”
We’ve decided it feels better to skip right to the forgiveness part. Jesus died so that we could feel good about ourselves again, right? Godly sorrow is a slippery slope that might lead to shame, correct? So let’s not give the devil a foothold. Instead, let’s camp out on Easter Sunday and let Good Friday take care of itself. (Insert loving slap here).
I suspect if we truly humbled ourselves before God, some of what we are currently composing and singing might reflect that humility. If we were convinced of our hopelessness without Jesus, perhaps then we could hope to create original music of a penitent nature instead of being forced to blow the dust off “Create In Me A Clean Heart.”
I miss Keith Green. His music helped make repentance a standard part of the Christian experience, and I think we’ve lost that. In our race to end our church services on a high and encouraging note we’ve relegated holy grief to a place with those things we find inconvenient and messy.