So this post is one of those trips to the Freudian couch… a “what does it all mean?” exploration of my psyche and my recent thoughts about worship leading. Good times. We’ll get back to the boxer shorts in a bit…
I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten conflicting reports back on the same day from people I have led in worship over the years. “It’s a little bit loud…” “Crank it up guys!” “We love those hymns…” “The hymns feel so SLOW to me.” “Man, I could have worshipped another hour… Why stop after three songs?” “Do you have to do so many songs?” “Love the new songs… keep ’em coming!” “Can’t we sing some of the old favorites?”
That’s why over time I have tried to take every oportunity to teach people about worship in those moments, but I don’t generally let individual comments steer the ship of my decision making when it comes to worship planning. Unless those individual comments are coming from my Senior Pastor or my wife (can I get an Amen?!), of course. I figure that for every individual opinion expressed, there is most likely someone with the oposite preference in our congregation. Therefore, individual opinions and preferences do not steer worship planning policy… Biblical principles and a Biblically constructed philosophy of worship do.
But I do remember one exception to that rule. Only once do I remember making a significant philosophical decision about worship planning after only ONE concerned comment. After debuting a new song in our corporate worship setting, a concerned congregant talked to me after the service, and we never used that song again. I had no problem with it doctrinally or we never would have used it in the first place. It was personally very effective for me as a worship expression. But after one conversation, I pulled it from our set list.
Maybe the best way to set this up for you is to ask you to watch and listen to a worship setting that invokes a similar tone. This is a different song and a different church. The song itself is equally beautiful, and I believe it is effective as a worship tool. But it has been publically criticized – written off as emotionally trite, as a sappy “love song to Jesus,” and even as blasphemous. Listen, think about it, and then we’ll get back to my boxer shorts dream…
What do you think? Opinions vary. “Makes me weep – it’s so beautiful.” “Makes me sick – it’s so sentimental.”
Think about the text of this simple chorus:
I wanna sit at Your feet, Drink from the cup in Your hand, Lay back against you and breathe, Feel your heartbeat. This love is so deep, It’s more than I can stand. I melt in Your peace, It’s overwhelming…
Songs like this one – and the one I discussed with my friend from our congregation a few years ago – are very very intimate expressions of love and adoration to Jesus. They invoke the kind of closeness that we see between Jesus and the apostle John, who would recline with his head against Jesus’ chest at times. They call up a picture of Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, adoring Him. I think about David, writing “ONE THING I ask of the Lord, and this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”
Honestly, I think about the kind of intimate love relationship that only a husband and wife know. Jesus’ Bride, longing to be in His presence. And that kind of intimacy is meant for private expression – not public display.
So to those who write this kind of expression off as sappy emotionalism, I would say no… not at all. If that’s ALL a worship setting has to offer, then maybe. But I know the ministry of Kari Jobe and Gateway Church. This is part of the worship expression puzzle, in a mix of Biblical teaching and response, hymns and choruses. Don’t criticize the slivered carrots as an incomplete meal when they come served with steak and potatoes.
I am grateful for recorded (and written) songs like this – intimate expressions of desire to be near and bask in the mercy and goodness and love of Jesus. They move me. They help me express worship. When I am alone with God.
On the other hand, as a worship leader, I have chosen not to lead songs that are this intimate – this private – in a group setting. I don’t judge others for doing so. But to me, I feel like I am violating the honesty of the moment by sharing it corporately. There are songs for the congregation and songs for the prayer closet.
And that brings me back to those quiet dreamy moments, when I’m exposed before the congregation in my boxer shorts. I’m always scrambling to cover up. I think a lot of people have those “naked at work” dreams… I suppose they uncover some psychological truth about our insecurities. All I know is, I feel exposed. Vulnerable. On display.
Songs like this make me feel vulnerable, too. But that’s OK when I’m alone with God. It’s safe to be honest in an intimate relationship. But in a group, a song like this can make me feel… uncomfortably exposed, on display. This one – for me – is a song for the closet.
I’m interested to know what you think. Sentimental or Serious? Private or Public?
“jesus, love songs, and intimacy in public :: the boxer shorts dream” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.