Stop It with All of the Happy Worship Songs!

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unhappyWorship Leader, if you really want congregants to be transparent, vulnerable and real in their worship, then stop it with all of the happy worship songs.

It’s not just inconsiderate…it is also dishonest.

A façade of musical superficiality may seem innocent and economical, but it is actually very costly. When we consume a steady diet of happy worship songs it alienates those of us who are suffering, broken, marginalized, angry, depressed or mourning. The appearance that all is well with everyone else in the worship service exacerbates our hopelessness instead of helping it.

One-dimensional singing about how happy we should be can condition us to believe it is more spiritual to avoid expressing our deep-seated emotions of grief and pain. Worship that never addresses those realities often communicates that we must not feel that way, or at least not here.

If you really want our worship to be authentic, then our singing must reflect authentic life. That reality means we need a safe venue to publicly cry out to God in despair as a therapeutic act of worship.

We are asking you to facilitate an atmosphere of acceptability and permission for us to voice our pain corporately. We are encouraging you to add songs to our repertoire that will help us sing our emotions of lost jobs, cancer, miscarriage, broken marriage, death and other dark nights of the soul. We are asking you to help us not just with our thanksgiving and praise but also our confession, contrition, petition, lament and yes, even our anger.

Henri Nouwen wrote, “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares.”

So Worship Leader, as our friend who cares…please help us to ask God why in our singing. It is not a language that He is threatened by so we shouldn’t be afraid of it either. In fact, our authenticity actually demands it.

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3 Responses to “Stop It with All of the Happy Worship Songs!”

  • Donna Patrick Says:

    David, love your article! You really bring it full circle concerning “worship music.” We can be too one-dimensional in our song selection. You are absolutely right in that someone who’s hurting isn’t going to be ministered to in the way they should expect to be in the service, when all we produced was happy, make-me-feel-good music. Everybody DOESN’T feel good on Sunday and everybody’s NOT happy.

    Thank you for being honest and showing all of us another side to worship music ministry.

  • David Manner Says:

    Thanks for the response, Fred. I think you are misunderstanding my use of the word therapeutic. The foundation for my statement was based on the definition of therapeutic as the process of healing and restoration. Many of the Psalms of lament move through a therapeutic process from an address to God, to the complaint, to a request and then to an attitude of thanksgiving and trust. So it movement toward restoration is a therapeutic act of worship to a God who understands. Continuing to focus on God in worship, even in the dark times offers healing not available on our own. So the focus is more on God, not ourselves through those times.

  • Fred Alford Says:

    I agree with the idea of having a wide range of music used for worship. The theology and doctrines in music tends to stay with the worshippers. The idea of worship being therapeutic to the worshippers is a new concept for me. This concept seems to redirect to a different object of worship, namely the one who is worshipping and not God. The therapeutic aspect comes from a personal encounter with God. He is the object of worship. Is this concept the “new hermeneutics of hymnology”?

    The old hermeneutic is embedded in God’s Word. The preacher delivers a message from God’s Word and it is the power of God’s Word that changes lives. The new hermeneutic is therapeutic but is embedded in the perceived needs of the people and not the power found in God’s Word. This places the focus on felt needs and not the revelation of God. Sounds like therapeutic hymn singing does the same. Unfortunately, both lead to a focus on humanity and not on the Creator of humanity. Is not worship to be focused on the Creator?

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