Goodbye Sister Donna
As much as you need: An invitation to Kirchentag

'Mighty to Save' and other worship songs that annoy me

Sorry if I sound grumpy today. It might be my age.

I am not usually a huge fan of contemporary worship songs. I don't like extended chorus singing. This is the stuff of nightmares for me. I can pull off a few tunes with everyone else but then my mind wanders. Sometimes I sit down on the pew and read my Bible until the songs are over. Sometimes I scan the introduction to the hymnal, looking for historical inspiration. Or even trivia.

Perspective critic

In moments like these, I prefer Anglican churches because there are more books available to read than Baptist churches and certainly more than Pentecostals churches that offer no reading material whatsoever. But if a solid hour of voice-lifting, arm-swinging, anthem-bashing is not your bag then you shouldn't be in a Pentecostal church anyway. Right?

It's even worse when the worship songs are lame or badly written or have sentences that just hit me wrong.

The old chorus "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord", for example,  always striked me as being just  . .  plain DUMB! Hallelujah is a command, a call to action. It means "publicly acknowledge Yahweh" and is used in the Bible to spur on acknowledgement of God's great acts in a public fashion. It's never used towards God. How do you command God to praise Himself? 

Last month, while fully immersed inside a thousand-strong-crowd of teenage Baptists, I found myself closed-lipped while the song "Your love never fails" was belted out by the band. The offending sentence went like this:

"You cause all things to work together for MY good"

Where did that word "my" come from? It's not in the flipping' Bible passage! Here is the original, unedited version from the BIble. 

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose". Romans 8:28


Not 'my good',  just 'good'.The passage in question is NOT talking about our own personal satisfaction but of God's greater good  - of which everyone will eventually benefit either directly or indirectly.  When did we stop seeking God's good purpose and substitute it with our own? Are we silly enough to think the two things are the same? Am I the only person that noticed? Am I taking crazy pills?

Another annoying song is Hillsong's "Mighty to Save". The line that bugs me is this one:

"Saviour, he can move the mountains"

It's not that the statement is untrue because actually, God can do whatever he wants, including the relocation of mountains. It's just that the particular idea of moving mountains, which occurs most strongly in Isaiah, the minor prophets and later in the Gospels, is almost exclusively in relation to people moving mountains and not God. Jesus told his disciples that they could move mountains. The Isaiah passage [Remember Godspell's "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord"], as Jesus enlightens us, was in reference to John the Baptist who would level the mountains and fill the valleys. 

Mountain moving is the job of God's people!

Yes, our Saviour could move the mountains if he wanted to, but he has commissioned us to move them so let's get on with it, not in our own might or by human power, but by God's Spirit (Zech 4:6-7)

INewImageThe idea behind this lyric, in my opinion, is the same lazy "let go and let God" philosophy that inoculates the people of God from doing anything practical or hands-on because we assume if we just sit back and sing some more songs then God, who is somehow energized by our inaction, will stand up, bare his almighty arm and get things done.

This song is from Hillsong, an Australian church. That surprises me. The Aussies are doers, aren't they? Diggers, Stickers, People of Action rather than talk? [I am speaking to Baptist pastors in Australia next week] But here it sounds like "Hey, there are a whole lot of mountains that need moving but there's no need to bust our guts; God will sort it out, so just be still and chill, let go and let God, say your prayers and then . . . Bob's your uncle. Or in other words, no worries, mate, lets just pass the buck on to God again.

This is Hakuna Matata theology.

Jesus did not say to his disciples, "If you want to remove the mountain, host a city-wide worship evening and when people have reached a heightened sense of spiritual well-being, have them pray that God will do something and then return home feeling like they have done well."

No! "YOU say to the mountain 'Be removed!', said Jesus.

The orders have been given. We are called. We are sent. We look up at huge mountains and we feel intimidated because of their size, and we feel scared because shifting centers of corrupted power and leveling mountains of injustice do not make us friends with those caught up in the institutionalized powers of Babylon. But we act anyway, in faith, because this is what Jesus had in mind for us to do. It's all part of training for eternity and its something that God helps us with but choses not to take on by himself.

Martin Luther King understood this and used the mountain moving imagery from the Scriptures to move some actual mountains, with the help of God.

And so, until someone can tell me a good reason to sing along with everyone else, I will keep silent on these lyrics and continue my historical research in the hymnal book intros.

 Related on TSK: Bible Study: Jesus and the Loony