songwriting

Worship and the Words We Don't Say

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For the past four (almost five) years, I’ve been serving as a worship director in a small church in a small suburb in Illinois. For those who’ve known me longer than that may find that surprising. Prior to my position in the church, I was labeled as a secular musician; and I loved it. I loved the freedom it brought. I was allowed to write and create as an individual with all my frustrations, edges, and dirt. I didn’t have the need nor the desire to mask the things that the church would have deemed embarrassing. While I certainly am not asserting that I celebrate my imperfection, I believe it is a sign of maturity to sit as I am before God, knowing that I am covered by His blood.

I remember a conversation I had with my wife a week ago. We talked about how the language in music labeled “worship” was often bland and repetitive. I noticed that the vernacular used in Contemporary Christian Music was judged based on how well it fits in its narrow spectrum, rather than the content or message of the song. It got me thinking – what is worship? Or what are the characteristics of worship? And most importantly, is my art worship?

At the heart of the matter, I believe that your view on worship is dictated by your view on your relationship with God. For example, should you view your relationship with God as a mere compartment in your life, and hence void of significance in other areas, then your worship may be sterile – a representation of a nice and neat factory-cut delivery of praise to the doorstep of God’s Sunday apartment. But if you realize that God is the god of your entire life, including the dirt and the areas you are yet to be fully sanctified in, then sing to God as such a person.

Create art that speaks of your brokenness, even if it isn’t “Church ideal”. Is true worship not honest and raw? Why would we sugar coat the truth to the God who knows and is the hard truth? If anything, labeling a song as secular (meaning void of God) because of arbitrary reasons such as the use of uncommon vernacular or a cynical take on the writer’s walk will make us guilty of diminishing God’s all-encompassing presence in life. So artists, don’t create as if your walk with God is perfect. We all know it’s not. Write about this bumpy journey with all the bruises and cuts – this is true worship for the artist. ~ Daniel Lim

Stephanie chiming in here. I know there are so many directions we could run in defining worship, so sorry this isn’t and exhaustive perspective. But what got me thinking about this topic was the fact that the type of music labeled “worship” has become smaller and smaller. I remember being so excited to hear a new melody played during a worship service a while ago. To my disappointment, the words were the exact vocabulary and lines from other worship songs, almost verbatim. There are the exceptions to this rule of course and I thrill to worship to these songs or different forms of worship. But I believe that as a Christian culture we are absolutely starving ourselves of true worship. And for what reason? That’s something to think about. ~Stephanie Lim