Lots of worship music is lame, but it doesn’t have to be.

Lots of modern worship music is bad. Bad lyrics, bad music, bad theology. But that’s not my point.

My point is it doesn’t have to be bad. There are excellent, deep, beautiful, honest, spiritually rich worship songs being written today. I wish to offer two examples and an observation.

Example 1: Aaron Keyes. Listen especially to his 2011 Dwell. Now I’m partial to hymns, and the ones of these I like the best are hymn-like (“Sinless Savior” and “Song of Moses” are my favorites). But not all of them. Look at “I Am Not The Same”:

You restore the wasted years
You build the broken walls
Your love replaces fear
Your mercy makes us whole

Adopted, healed, and lifted

I am not the same; I’m a new creation
I am not the same anymore
I am not ashamed; I will not be shaken
I am not the same anymore

This is simple without being shallow, light without being vapid, celebratory without making us sound like cheerleaders. “Adopted.” We get lots of “child of God” in modern worship, which is great, but not much about adoption, which is how we become children of God.

Example 2: Sandra McCracken. I cannot recommend In Feast Or Fallow enough, and I also recommend you follow that link to read her comments on the songs. The album has a beautiful little song anticipating the birth of her daughter, immediately followed by a treatment of Psalm 88, the only psalm of lament that doesn’t move toward praise at the end. She explains:

When we decided to include “Hidden Place” on the album, I was a little concerned about the one-sidedness of this story.  By including a song about having a baby, you touch a nerve of many women who are not able to have a baby, or couples who have lost a baby, and all manner of grief of this kind… And since honest joy and honest grief are both recorded in the prayers of God’s people throughout church history, I wanted to give a fresh voice to both on this album.

This is aesthetically beautiful, theologically rich, personally thoughtful. The whole album is excellent. From the title track:

In the harvest feast or the fallow ground,
My certain hope is in Jesus found
My lot, my cup, my portion sure
Whatever comes, we shall endure
Whatever comes, we shall endure

The harmonies on that song are also exquisite. I’m a pretty quick study when it comes to learning songs, and I had to walk around listening to it for about 3 days to get them right. Again: Truth, non-trite encouragement, musical excellence. This can be done.

Observation: I know from Sandra’s history with Indelible Grace that she has spent years absorbing great hymns. I don’t know what Aaron listens to, but I know he reads lots of Scripture– his songs are thick with it. Same for Sandra. In both cases, the quality of their influences shows through quite nicely. So here’s the point: Feed on good things, and your output will be good.

If you want to write songs that help us worship Jesus, thank you. Please soak yourself in Scripture, in the words of faithful saints throughout church history, in things that are beautiful and lovely and true and real. We can tell the difference when you do.

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  1. […] is a nice perspective on worship music from my friend Jake Hunt, a pastor in Prague, CZ…and fellow RTS […]

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