Friday, May 25, 2007

Worst Worship Songs Ever

Things are getting a little heavy round here (theologically speaking). Its Friday today, so to lighten it up a little, lets talk about the worst worship songs. You know, the ones you hate, the ones you don't sing, the ones which either the music or the lyrics make you want to puke up all over the lady next to you in her Sunday best. The songs that enrage you so much, you almost think for a minute about changing teams and joining another religion. You get the picture :-)

Inspired by this post, I want to list my own top five worst worship songs ever. Please feel free to comment and add your own lists, just remember to give a reason why you nominated each song.

  1. His Banner Over Me, by Kevin Prosch. No offense Kevin, but I don't know what you were smoking when you penned this one. Its just awful. Musically, it makes me sick to the stomach. Not only that, but the theology is just terrible, and in fact, down-right wrong. Taking verses out of context left-right-center, the song demonstrates an utter failure to grasp the basic meaning of the message of the Song of Songs. What the KJV or NIV means by the "his banner over me was love", is quite plainly, "He desired to make love to me.". Basically, under the guise that we are singing about the Father's Love, we are really singing about How's your Father? Please. If that doesn't want to make you hurl, this trite line will: "You do all things well, just look at our lives.". Saint Paul, when looking at his life, said he was the chief of sinners. If there is one thing that does NOT give God glory, its the flippin' mess we make of our lives!

  2. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, by Delirious/Martin Smith. I Know, Martin Smith is an amazing guy, and I don't want to offend him, but this song is plain pish. Its trite, its silly, and it has three main flaws:

    • "I could sing of Your love forever" -- maybe so, but I sure couldn't. I'd get bored after a while, and get a sore throat as well.
    • "Oh, I feel like dancing - it's foolishness I know" Really? Try telling someone in a nightclub how foolish it is, and then run out before he chucks his pint over you.
    • "they will dance with joy, like we're dancing now." One truly hopes that the world categorically DOES NOT dance the way most people dance during this verse. Every time I sing this, I look around and see people nervously fidgeting and perhaps tapping a foot or nodding their head, usually out of time to the beat. If anything, lets pray the world will dance with joy UNLIKE we're dancing now.

  3. Come, Now is the Time to Worship, by Brian Doerksen. OK, before reading further, let me just say that Doerksen is Da Man, and my wife and I even used some of his music at our wedding. But this song is just plain daft. Instead of getting to worship God, we just look around at each other, inspiring one another to come to worship. But since we are all assembled to worship, why the heck don't we just start praising God, rather than telling everyone to start worshipping! Its catch-22.

  • Heart of Worship, by Matt Redman. Now Redman has written some amazings songs, no doubt, but this one is a stinker. I'll cut to the chase:

    1. "For a song in itself Is not what You have required". Here we have the absurd situation that we are required to sing a song telling God that he doesn't want to hear us sing the very song we are singing. Genius! Only a Christian song could come up with this logic.
    2. "I'm sorry, Lord, for the things I've made it" Why in Flaming Hell am I apologising to God now? Rather than getting on with praising Him, the song makes you mumble a half-hearted apology about some supposed "thing" that we have made worship. I love worship. The only "thing" that gets in the way is the triteness of the lyrics we are forced to sing!
    3. "Though I'm weak and poor...". The irony of all those well-fed, Middle-Class White Christians singing such a line...

  • There's some song about the Father's Love that has to qualify as one of the worst songs of all time, Christian or otherwise, but thankfully I can't even remember its name.

    There's loads more, but that's all I can think of for now.

    What songs would you nominate? And why?

    Paul B said...

    I don't know any of the songs you mention. And if I did, I suspect I'd have thoughts similar to yours. But let me poke around a bit on this:

    Come, Now is the Time to Worship. ... [T]his song is just plain daft. Instead of getting to worship God, we just look around at each other, inspiring one another to come to worship. But since we are all assembled to worship, why the heck don't we just start praising God, rather than telling everyone to start worshipping!

    Couldn't you level the same charge against, say, Psalm 95?

    O come, let us sing to the LORD;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
    Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

    I used to be against "horizontal" hymns (in which we address one another) as opposed to "vertical" ones (in which we address God). But the psalms do both. Sometimes they do so even within a single psalm.

    Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! ...
    O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    (Psalm 130)

    Sometimes the psalmist even turns from addressing God to address himself.

    As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God. ...
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
    (Psalm 42-43)

    Granted, there may be other reasons not to like "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship," but I don't think its "horizontal" orientation is enough to dismiss it.

    James D said...

    Yep i'd agree some of those lyrics are a bit odd and some with questionable theology. But i actually quite like some of those songs.

    Anyway, isn't any song just a medium used to help facilitate worship?

    I think this is maybe the point in the lyrics "though a song is not what you have required".
    If the song helps people to connect with God and open their heart to him, then it's doing its job - even if some of the lyrics are a bit guff.
    Also, the last bit about "weak and poor" is probably more likely to refer to being weak (eg resisting temptation), and poor in Spirit - relevant to middle class white folk as much as anyone else.

    Alastair said...

    Paul & James - you make some valid points, especially the Psalm 95/130 thing. But don't you guys really hate some songs? Maybe not the same ones? I know that many people love some of the songs I have mentioned, I liked them myself once...

    Adam A said...

    "The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth"!!!!! lol

    Alastair said...

    Yeah, that's a good one, and if I remember correctly, its a misunderstanding of the Hebrew found in the King James. I remember reading a NET bible note on that one. So the hymn is based on a mistranslation. Good one :-)

    paul said...

    thanks alastair - there are many songs that i don't like - maybe its cos like the redman one you mention they were written in a particular time/reason - in this case soul survivor stopping worship because it had become the god and not starting it again til people could start worshipping God without the music. So we sing a song that expresses the truth for a particular community at a particular time.

    Alastair said...

    Paul - thanks for the comment. I didn't know that was the background. Makes sense of the song a little.

    Lincoln Rozelle said...

    I don't know masses about music but I think as well as being excellent lyrically, songs should also be excellent musically. It is true that this is often a subjective area but there are some objective standards as well. One of the reasons some of the old hymns have been around so long is that they are technically very good as well as being full of propositional truth and bible verses. It isn't always a matter of taste.

    "Anyway, isn't any song just a medium used to help facilitate worship?" I would gently disagree with this statement. I would say your voice is the medium the song is how you use it. Does the melody glorify God? Do the words glorify God?

    Just a couple thoughts.

    Alastair said...

    Lincoln - thanks for your comment. I would generally agree with you. Worship is more than just a fuzzy feeling inside your heart towards God...I do think we need to look at both what the lyrics are saying, and what the music is saying. Music is a language unto itself. This is not to say all our lyrics have to be dense theological mini-sermons, but only that we should be mindful of what we sing, and not just a song that seems to string "glory / name / lord / highest" together in seemingly random order.

    Having said all that, I have had a profound "worship moment" when one of the lead worshippers simply starting whistling a tune. Somehow, the presence of God was powerfully in what he was doing.

    I suppose ultimately there are many different "vectors" in modern worship: it is a medium to facilitate personal devotion, but its also much more.

    Oh dear, I am getting serious again...ultimately, some songs are rubbish, and we shouldn't be afraid to say so. I enjoy some secular pop songs which are also pure rubbish. I enjoy the song, it "blesses me", but its still a load of nonsense... :-)

    Si said...

    re. His Banner Over Me, I remember people objecting to the "You do all things well, just look at our lives" line when it first appeared. However, I have never quite understood the problem. It is saying YOU do all things well. What God has done with my life He has done amazingly well. I believe that what God has done in me is EVEN greater in its greatness than what I have done in my life is "great" in its depravity, and I believe that, yes, despite our awareness of our sin, God's greatness should be visible when we look at our lives.

    re. Heart of Worship, when I come to God, yes I do come weak and poor (though I am materially well-fed, white and middle-class), and the idea that I come to Him with anything of my own is worthy of Him is very silly. Remember, the context is worship, and even the comparative much I do have is little compared with what Jesus deserves. And I definitely don't see how being white should make the words stick in my throat.

    re. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, the main problem is it makes no sense. "Over the mountains and the Sea, Your river runs with love for me"? I have never seen a river flow UP a mountain. And over the sea?! Surely the river by this point is the sea. Unless of course, some kind of viaduct is involved... But I think if this is the case then strictly it should be called a canal...

    Alastair said...

    Si, thanks for your comments. The only thing I would say is that even though there may be some twisted logic behind "his banner over me" when it comes to the line "you do all things well - just look at our lives", I cannot bring myself to sing it. In fact, it makes me feel sick. Maybe I don't understand it, but to me it like: God, you are so cool, because, LOOK AT ME, aren't I so good and special? LOOK AT ME - HOW DO YA LIKE ME NOW?! [to quote Kool Moe Dee] So yeah, I am so sorted so therefore, God you must be kinda cool as well.

    So personally, that is how the line comes across, and why I am so averse to it.

    Regarding the river flowing up hills and across seas - well spotted - I have never noticed that one!

    Chris said...

    Hi Al!
    I cannot help but agree with you in relation to Over the Mountains & The Sea. When we sing the line "We will dance for joy, like we're dancing now" I usually look around and think I jolly well hope not! I hope we will dance with passion and joy and love on that day. A more appropriate line would be "We will stand still with ...?, like we're standing still now..."

    Also do you know that song with the refrain "This is the season for singing" I don't know what it's called but its awful. If you read the words you would know why!

    Alastair said...

    LOL! "we will be standing still"... THanks for posting Chris, and welcome to Obscene Beauty! Hope you drop in again.

    Pammy said... may want to check out Delirious' new book which explains the stories behind the lyrics, ironically titled "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever"!!!

    Drew said...

    Hey team, this is an interesting topic dear to my heart...

    I am privileged to be worship leader in Parramatta, which is in Sydney, Australia. We have recently put the cleaners through several of our songs for varying reasons, the main being questionable theology or quirky double meanings...

    Recently we canned I Could Sing because we realised how daft the song was. I love Martin's writing in some songs but this one continues to baffle me. I am all for people writing songs based on the moment between them and God - I myself write songs for worship. Some of mine in such moments of personal devotion never make it and for good reason! They're just my expressions toward God!

    The same may be said of Heart Of Worship - it was appropraite to Redman and perhaps to his church during that time... and yes we surely do come weak and poor to God, but surely it goes without saying that a "song in itself is not" enough... then again, our western worship culture suggests we need reminding so I'm not hellbent on banning that one yet...

    Come Now is the Time is also non-sensical. Ps 95 surely does invoke people to come but it doesn't STAY there and keep repeating that opening call to praise... but the psalmist progresses... and that's another point... praise should generally have some content - after all why do we sing songs of worship? "Praise with the Spirit and with UNDERSTANDING"

    Just my 2 cents worth

    travis ham said...

    Here's a citation for Paul's comment about the Redman song.

    I absolutely love Redman's heart that he showing in his songwriting. At the same time though, knowing the story behind this song gives me this feeling that something must go off-base or dysfunctional to some degree before it makes sense to use this song. It's one of those songs that I certainly love the heart behind, but at the same time I pray that our corporate worship will never become so out of focus so as to need to "come back".

    redeemed said...

    I will admit that I am of a certain age. My congregation just started a traditional worship service and I am absolutely delighted to be leading the singing for it. Last week we sang "Take Time to Be Holy" and "In the Garden." Ahhhhh.

    But to the point of this blog: I no longer have to be exposed, involuntarily, to "Heart of Worship" and "God of Wonders." I want to just sit with my head on my knees when those two songs are sung. (I never listen to CCM radio; I have only been exposed to them during my congregation's worship service, and I no longer have to hear them there.)

    Worship is a "thing." It does not have a "heart." There. End of that discussion.

    As concerns "God of Wonders": Ah, yes, "God of wonders, beyond our galaxy. You are holy." Bad theology. He is NOT beyond our galaxy; he is right here with us. ("Where two or three are gathered ...") Even if he was, being "beyond our galaxy" does not make him holy. In that case, wouldn't Andromeda be holy?

    I once sat through a CCM worship service where the same phrase was repeated 26 times in one song. I think the songwriters need to work a little harder. Thanks for listening.

    (I am a journalist. The best thing that I have ever written but no one has ever read is a point-by-point dissection of the inferiority of contemporary worship music. I'd love to be able to share it with you ...)

    Alastair said...

    "reedemed", thanks for your comment. I'd love to read the "best thing you have ever written" - it sounds fascinating. One thing I would say is that there is validity in both pop music and classical music - I listen to both. I also like both gourmet food and McDonalds. My point? There is a time and place for cheesy Christian worship songs, as long as we are not completely swamped by them :-) Yes, they are not deep, the lyrics are silly, but often they seem to capture the heart of the congregation, perhaps the same way a catchy pop song becomes, well, popular :-)

    If you want to privately email me your "point-by-point dissection of the inferiority of contemporary worship music" - then please do, send it to Cheers!

    Kayla said...

    As concerns "God of Wonders": Ah, yes, "God of wonders, beyond our galaxy. You are holy." Bad theology. He is NOT beyond our galaxy; he is right here with us. ("Where two or three are gathered ...") Even if he was, being "beyond our galaxy" does not make him holy. In that case, wouldn't Andromeda be holy?

    redeemed; i believe he is saying God of wonders beyond our galaxy. Not that God IS beyond our galazy, but that he is a god of wonders, which continue beyond our galaxy.

    MB said...

    Wow, am I so glad I found this site! And trust me I'll be back! This has been a frustrating topic for me as of late. The church that I used to attend sang a blend of hymns and relevant worship choruses in a passionate and contemporary manner. We moved to a different state and can no longer attend. We found a new church where I LOVE the preaching even more than our previous church, but there is one problem - the worship. The worship leader continues to harp on people who aren't worshipping in the manner he imagines that they should be worshipping. I leave church every week feeling guilty that I wasn't dancing when he told me to dance, or lifting my hands when he told me to lift them. Doesn't everyone worship in a different manner?
    Also, the songs that he chooses to sing are extremely empty and dare I say pointless. We sing a song where the entire chorus goes "I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God. I am a friend of God He calls me friend." My goodness gracious. Contrast that to "Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control - that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own blood for my soul." I love my husband to death, but imagine if the only things I was ever allowed to say to express my feelings about him were "He's nice, he makes money, he's friendly." All true statements, but I think my head would explode if I couldn't exercise my full vocabulary to tell him what I think of him - how much more so my heavenly Father??? Also, some of the songs we sing are along the write lines lyrics wise, but musically are WAY off. One of the songs we sing is "One Way - Jesus - you're the only one that I could live for." I have no qualms with that lyrically wise, although again I feel it is a bit weak, but I object to the music to which it is set. The only way I can describe the tune is it reminds me of a jingle or something - very trite and corny. It doesn't match the words at all! How can I be saying "you're the only one that I could live for" to a tune that is along the lines of "I love you" from Barney?? I couldn't agree more with the person who posted that music in itself is a language. It is, and some of the music we sing makes no sense!!
    Thanks for letting me give my two cents. Still wondering what to do about the worship at my church!

    MB said...

    Sorry, RIGHT lines, not write lines :) Also, sorry for the lack of paragraphs! Wasn't apparent in this little text box til it was posted for everyone to read! Ha!

    Alastair said...

    Thanks for your comment MB. Perhaps you could offer to join the worship team if you have the skills and spirit to drive the team in a different direction?

    Also, there's never going to be a church which always does great songs all the time.

    In my experience the best solution is for a church to a have different worship bands, with freedom to chose their own music. That way, with three or four different bands, at least once a month there should be something to everyone's liking.

    Anonymous said...

    Robin Mark - nice guy I'm sure but Days of Elijah. I feel like one of those foie gras ducks being force fed but with the old testament rather than grain (if you get my metaphor)...

    And we are the labourers in your vineyard
    Declaring the word of the Lord!

    Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds!
    Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call
    Lift your voice! It's the year of Jubilee!
    And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!

    There's no God like Jehovah! (repeat until the worship leader deems right)

    don't know about you but trying to define salvation is hard enough without trying to picture it as a concept coming out of "Zions hill". As for picking grapes and declaring Gods word at the same time can i with a straight face really sing that.

    Christopher Trottier said...

    I think you should add "You Spin Me Right Round, Jesus" to the list.

    I mention in my own blog why I think this is so bad. The song itself is inconsequential pop. Rick Pino has added nothing profound to it. He's making the act of worship into an act of the mundane.

    Anonymous said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Kent said...

    So glad to stumble on this discussion and find others that can't stand the invasion of trite pop music into the church. This was a major reason why I stopped going to church in my twenties. Music in itself is indeed a language, and the church culture simply parroting the modern-day top 40 garbage the industry has been producing for the past several years is a tragedy indeed.

    Sam said...

    Hello, critics! If you don't like a song...don't sing it. The truth is, you may hear it again someday in a different light. I used to groan every time I heard "Shout to the Lord"--it was so overdone. Then, at a low point in my life, KLTY in Dallas played it again, and "my Comfort, my Shelter, Tower of refuge and Strength" lifted me up and actually brought tears to my eyes...I couldn't believe it was the same song I had always sung. I guess I'm just saying, worship songs aren't written to be chart-toppers...they are an expression of praise from the heart of an individual believer, and if you can join in, wonderful--if not, find songs you can join in worship on, and don't judge the others.

    JesusFreak said...

    I agree with Sam... Not all worship songs appeal to everyone. That's okay, as long as the lyrics of the songs are theologically sound.

    Nevertheless, some of my least favorite worship songs are:

    "Days of Elijah" -- I just don't get it. Its imagery is complicated, too hard to grasp in the four minutes in which it is sung. I'm sure at LEAST half the congregation will come away not having any clue what they had just sung. And the bridge, "There is no god like Jehovah," is repeated WAAAAAYYY too many times.

    "Your Love Is Extravagant" -- A little bit too corny for me. Especially the line, "Your fragrance is intoxicating"... Really? Are we smelling God? Is He making us DRUNK?

    Can't think of any more at the moment... Again, sorry if you actually like these songs. That's fine if you do. :)

    Anonymous said...

    True worship comes from the heart. One could sing Old MacDonald had a Farm off-key and in reggae style but if that person was singing out of an unconditional love for God, it would definitely be worship.

    Anonymous said...

    True worship comes from the heart...if the music determines what you get out of worship then perhaps the better question would be, "What did you bring to it?"