Our discussion can hardly be complete without a reference to Lutheran scholar Marva Dawn's oft quoted tome, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down. She's concerned about the long-term effect of too much self-centred worship:
Particular behaviours arise out of the same kind of persons we are. If we habitually concentrate on ourselves, we will be more selfish with others. If God is the subject in our worship, our behaviour will reflect God’s actions in us. Paul writes that as we behold the Lord’s glory we are all “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another "(2 Cor. 3:18).Brian McLaren (pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church and a leader of the emergent movement ) surveys the current trippy-happy worship scene and issues a friendly call to songwriters to embrace deeper biblical themes. What would a Martian think if it would pay our church a visit?
"If you doubt what I’m saying, listen next time you’re singing in worship. It’s about how Jesus forgives me, embraces me, makes me feel his presence, strengthens me, forgives me, holds me close, touches me, revives me, etc., etc. Now this is all fine. But if an extraterrestrial outsider from Mars were to observe us, I think he would say either a) that these people are all mildly dysfunctional and need a lot of hug therapy (which is ironic, because they are among the most affluent in the world, having been blessed in every way more than any group in history), or b) that they don’t give a rip about the rest of the world, that their religion/spirituality makes them as selfish as any non-Christian, but just in spiritual things rather than material ones. (That last sentence may be worth another read.)"Follow this link for more.
John Mortensen adds his two bits to McLaren's piece with the following advice to write lyrics, melody, etc worthy of our Creator. Very hard work, surely, but absolutely critical.
"Many are noticing that contemporary praise music seems increasingly lifeless and artificial. It may be possible to work toward a more authentic expression of worship but it will come at the cost of much creative effort. The noisy products of masspopcult need to be shushed so that writers from within the community might have a voice. The community itself will need to encourage its writers, bear with them, and (probably) forgive them.Read the rest of his response here.
Both music and texts need to be taken far more seriously; lyricists must craft their meaning, imagery, and rhyme until they are worthy expressions of worship. Composers need to match such texts with finely-wrought tunes of unique singable beauty."