For many years, I played bass guitar in my church’s praise and worship band. Our worship leader was a big fan of Hillsong and Hillsong United, so we played a fairly large amount of their stuff during our services. One of his favorites for a while was a song called “Everyday.” In case you’ve never heard it before, these are the words to the chorus:
Everyday, it’s You I live for
Everyday, I’ll follow after You
Everyday, I’ll walk with You, my Lord
For a while, I thought it was a pretty cool little song, mainly because I had come up this really catchy, bouncy bass line that went with it. On top of that, our congregation seemed to really like it as well. Little did I know at the time that this would be the song which would kick off what would become a constant love/hate relationship between me and what we deem modern “praise and worship” music.
To explain as briefly as I can, I began to become very uncomfortable singing this song, basically because I was making a bunch of promises to God that I wasn’t keeping. I didn’t live for God every day; I didn’t follow after Him completely every day; and I didn’t walk with him every day. Now, that’s what I aspired to do every day, but in all honestly I can’t ever remember a day I walked completely sold-out after God. The chorus began to seem like arrogant, fleshly boasting on my part. God knew that wasn’t the truth; why was I standing there trying to convince Him it was?
In the years since then, I’ve struggled in the battle as a song leader to choose songs that still proclaim the glory of God’s promises but don’t do so in a way that redirects that glory back in my direction in the form of a bunch of promises about all the things I’m going to do for God. The more I study scripture, the more I notice the importance God places on us fulfilling promises we make. Just consider this passage from Ecclesiastes 5:
When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 ESV)
There’s also an abundance of characters in the Bible who made lofty promises and then got themselves into some pretty hot water further down the road. King David boasted numerous times of how he would abstain from sin prior to his fling with Bathsheba. You’ll also notice Peter was far and away the apostle who made the most promises to Jesus about never leaving him, and he was also the apostle who received the most correction about making such claims off the cuff.
So far in my searchings, it has been difficult to find an older hymn that makes some of the bold and daring claims of modern worship music. Most of the sentiments directed toward self in the hymns I’ve run across have been directed at how insufficient our best efforts to live a righteous life without God’s grace truly are and how only He alone can help us achieve that life. Compare that with the chorus of Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Follow”:
Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you
There’s certainly nothing wrong with making that the cry of one’s heart, and if Chris Tomlin is able to truly say every day that he has achieved this then I applaud him. It just doesn’t strike me, personally, as being very humble. Even worse, I believe the very real danger of creating a competitive atmosphere can be cultivated through songs which make these kinds of boasts. Back when we were singing “Everyday,” I remember having a very real fear that the people who were doing all those things every day were going to find out I wasn’t. I tried harder, but that totally flipped God’s grace on its head and left me right back in bondage to the law I had claimed to be set free from through Christ’s death on the cross.
I still sings plenty of modern praise and worship songs during our services, but I generally stay away from the ones that make big, bold, audacious proclamations. Right now, I’m grappling with trying out Aaron Shust’s “My Hope Is In You,” which contains this promise in its chorus:
My hope is in you ,Lord, all the day long
I won’t be shaken by drought or storm
A peace that passes understanding is my song, and I sing
My hope is in You, Lord
The verses of this song actually acknowledge dependence on God and His provision. In fact, if it weren’t for the line “I won’t be shaken by drought or storm,” I’d have probably introduced it to my congregation already. Perhaps I’m over-analyzing, but I truly wonder, though, if I wouldn’t be shaken in some way by a drought or storm. Can I honestly say that? And should I be encouraging someone else to sing those words when they’re not sure either?
I would welcome any and all comments you may have on this issue. I searched around on the Internet for someone who has addressed this topic (I’m at home stick today, so I have time to get all analytical like this.), and I came up empty. Where is the line between claiming a promise of God and arrogantly boasting of things we intend to do for him every day? I’m very curious to know what your opinions are.