Have you ever started a diet? Perhaps you’ve tried the “I’m only going to eat broccoli and drink water for the next month” diet. Or maybe you’ve attempted the Jim Gaffigan Fourth of July “It’s not every day that I eat a brat, a hamburger, and a steak… but hey, we’re celebrating America’s Freedom” diet (or lack thereof). Maybe “Oreos for breakfast” was your favorite diet. Many of us have gone to these kinds of extremes, in some fashion, embracing an imbalanced diet.
The truth is, we can actually do the same thing in our churches with our song selections and liturgies.
In the American Church, we sometimes have the tendency to portray Christianity in a “things are great all of the time” manner. We all know it’s not true, but we think we need to show up on a Sunday morning and have all of our stuff together. If, in case, we don’t actually have things all figured out, if there are things that aren’t right with our life and in our world, we’ll “fake it ‘till we make it.” I felt convicted of this a few years ago when I began reading a variety of books on worship, but I felt it most acutely when I began reading through the Psalms in their entirety (instead of only the traditional “call to worship” Psalms).
By focusing on this unbalanced image of Christianity, the American Church didn’t make room for people to lament. We didn’t have a time where people could show up to a gathering and sing out that they don’t have it all together. We didn’t have songs that spoke of hope in death. Death is not a fun thing to sing about. It’s morbid and it’s taboo, but for the Christian it’s only the beginning of the greatest thing ever: hope through resurrection, victory over death. A lot of our songs were “Oreos for breakfast.” Almost exclusively, we sang songs that were celebrative in nature and didn’t speak of the hard things. Except for a few hymns, we weren’t singing songs that prepared our people for death.
So we decided to embrace a balanced diet. People began writing songs again that included death, because the end of our days doesn’t just mean grief for those left behind. More than that, death, for believers, is a glorious thing, because we will see, face-toface, the One whom we have been singing to our entire reborn lives.
The grace of God is evident in songs that reflect the reality of our ultimate hope. I remember, during one particular service I was leading, seeing a recently widowed lady singing the final verse of a song that spoke of death. She had a simultaneous look of sadness and hope as tears streamed down her face. I also recall a man telling me how a certain song was his comfort after he buried his 28-year-old son. More than a false and shallow vision of a Church that is always happy and has it altogether, these testimonies of real hope that rise above our broken world encourage me.
As Mike Cosper says succinctly, “Sundays are one of the only times we can put words into people’s mouths.” Let’s make sure those words matter, and that the songs we offer are part of a well-balanced spiritual diet. Let us include songs that tell us to rejoice because of the gospel along with songs that remind us to be comforted in trials because of the gospel. The songs we sing should remind us that this world is not our home, and that we should be encouraged that there is a day coming where death will be no more.
Let’s have a worship diet where our covenant members can come in and sing of His goodness, lament of the brokenness of the world, and celebrate that the gospel is the answer to it all. Let’s have a healthy diet of songs that can comfort the broken, lift up the weary and just plain worship God for being God.
What songs do you have in your worship diet that a church member can sing when death or a heavy trial comes?
What hope do you offer in melodic form that can encourage the heart?