Update, Tuesday, April 11: Oh the shame. How could I have possibly missed my misuse of the word "affect" in the title of this post? "Affect" is a verb. I should have used "effect." Oh well, maybe my error was only noticed by a few. Mea culpa.
I don't like the song "Good, good Father." It's one of those songs which is so vague, it could be sung about a human father. I was wondering yesterday as we sang, what kind of spiritual truths the song actually teaches. He's a good father. Okay, fine. What does that mean? The song doesn't really delve into specifics. In fact, it doesn't use the word "God" at all.
There has been much written about worship songs. Tim Challies had an interesting article recently about the impact of digital technology on the use of the hymnal. People are divided over the matter. He doesn't think we should go back to hymnals. I don't know as if it's a matter of "shouldn't" or "can't" go back. What would happen if we did go back to them other than just a barrage of complaints? His observations are worth considering.
The reality is that worship music is influenced by the nature of popular music, so that when we get tired of singing a song, we need to find another. And if we must keep producing new songs every few months, is it any wonder they may not have a lot of depth?
At one time, literacy was not universal. The ability to learn about God had to be found through the preached word and through hymns. For someone who could not read a word, he could hear a word and learn a spiritual truth. These days, it isn't really a matter of can't read, but don't read. There is a reason why literacy programs are pushed forward. If a child can sit in front of a device which reads to him, is there any incentive to be a good reader? I love audio books, and it is often a much different experience to listen than to read, but I only listen to them when I can't hold a book; like while driving, riding the stationery bike, or knitting.
What happens when people don't read a lot and are faced week by week with worship songs that tell them little about God? Or only emphasize the subjective, personal aspect of our faith? We won't learn objective truths about God; we will learn about our experience of God or how we feel about God.
I would like to suggest something which is probably shocking: I think that potential worship song leaders should expose themselevs to a lot of good literature; especially poetry. Seeing how great writers used words helps us write good material.
And what about learning to read music and understand theory? These days, if you can strum a few chords, read a chord chart, and find a YouTube video, you can proclaim yourself a song leader. A pastor goes to seminary to get biblical training. If we are going to add someone to the leadership of our church who focuses on the music, why not expect him to have training in that area? It is false to say that all someone needs is sincerity. To believe it is one or the other is a false dichotomy.
When my daughter was about seven or eight years old, she loved the song "Wonderful Grace of Jesus." In those days, people knew the parts, and it was a really enjoyable song to sing. My daughter actually said one Sunday that she hoped we would sing it. If worship songs are less about what God has done and more about how we feel about it, what are today's seven and eight year olds learning? It's worth thinking about.