Top Ten Bad Worship Songs

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Blasphemy! No worship song is bad!

Everyone approaches the Lord in a different way.  For me, it was solid Bible teaching. Well, it was a girl.  Then it was the Bible thing.

I also got hooked on youth group through a sweet combo of a loving youth leader and a truly rockin’ worship band.  They turned it up loud, and every song sounded amazing. I sang along, even if I had no idea what the song was about. So did everyone else.

Years later, I started playing guitar myself, and it wasn’t long before I realized the impoverished condition of Christian music. I’ve been told it used to be worse — and I believe it — but just like how my blogs treat Christians and churches at large, I believe we can do better. Christians and church can do a lot better in many ways, but some of the music we put out is embarrassing, particularly in the praise n’ worship sector.

If you start getting honest, anyone can write a modern worship song:

If you take a step back and begin to look at the lyrics to your Sunday anthems, some of them are really awful. Some seem to be a thoughtless smattering of phrases with no single direction; some contain seriously flawed doctrine; some are plain annoying.

Using a point system, based on my personal expert authoritative opinion of everything, I’ve ranked the top ten worst contemporary worship songs sung in modern church. I checked SongSelect for the top songs still rockin’ the pews (or cushioned chairs), then added some cringeworthy favorites of yore, narrowed the list to ten, and finally ranked them based on seven factors:

Doctrine. If it conflicts with the Bible, why is it a worship song?
Oversimplicity. We’re humans, but we’re not all four years old.
Redundancy. I guess some writers believe it requires 16 reps for it to really sink in.
Lyrics. If it sounds like nonsense, it actually is nonsense.
Structure. Writing a song is like building a house. It needs something to hold it up, besides a big ugly pole in the middle that everyone notices.
Who? Is this song about God? Myself? The church? My wife?
Annoying. The “Call Me Maybe” syndrome is applicable to church material as well. Sometimes, you just don’t want to hear it again. Ever.

10) Tell the World

The bridge of this song feels like sandpaper to the forehead. Well, most of the song does.

“C’mon, c’mon, we’ll tell the world about You.”

9) I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

Watch the congregation when they arrive at the “like we’re dancing now” part.  Awkward stuff.

“Oh I feel like dancing.  It’s foolishness, I know.”

8) God of This City

A fine concept, but this is most certainly not a worship song.

“We believe, we believe, greater things, greater things, greater things, greater things.”

7) Oh Happy Day

It’s already troublesome when the title suggests a children’s song.

“Oh happy day, happy day, I’ll never be the same, forever I am changed.”

6) I Am Free

Another song with an indirect prompt to dance. Even if you’re free to dance, it doesn’t mean you should.

“Through you my heart screams I am free.”

5) In the Secret

This is either a mixed up worship song, or a rather intimate love poem for a spouse. Yikes.

“I want to touch you… I want to know you more.”

4) Marvelous Light

An enigma from start to finish, written almost entirely in passive tense. Even the term “marvelous light” doesn’t really make sense.

“Your kindness wakened me, awakened me from my sleep.”
“My dead heart now is beating.”

3) All Who Are Thirsty

I’m thirsty for some variety.

“Dip your heart in the stream of life.”

2) Come, Now Is the Time to Worship

Now?  Right now?

“Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now.”

1) Friend of God

My buddy God and I even have a secret handshake.

“I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, I am a friend of God, He calls me friend.”

More awesome commentary on worship songs:
http://pomomusings.com/2010/01/06/bad-praise-music/

So, which ones did I miss?

Bonus:

onethingrickroll

21 thoughts on “Top Ten Bad Worship Songs

  1. I like your number one. One of my biggest pet peeves within religion is when people bring down the magnificence of God (don’t get me started on the phrase “the man upstairs”).

    1. But being a “friend of God” /is/ Biblical. John 15:5, not to mention Abraham in James 2:23, Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8. I completely agree that way too many people ignore the greatness of God and reduce Him to a loving pansy, but do remember that magnificence and accessibility are /both/ part of God’s character.

      1. Maybe biblical that God called Abraham friend but Abraham never dared to call God friend, calling him friend would put Abraham at equality with God which we know no man can attain. I think it a lack of humility or our sinful condition before an almighty all powerful, God because there is no way if God appeared before man kind that any of them would say hey friend how’s it going, no they’d all in fear fall before him and bow the knee. These songs and there are many many of them are man worship, not God worship, they are songs that give the tickling ear what it wants to hear, and nothing more. Feel good songs are not worship songs, true worship songs always come in a state of humility before an awesome, almighty, all powerful, God, we have tried too hard to make God our friend, instead of bowing before him in utter fear because of who we are in comparison to him. I can never call God my friend but if he calls me one then it is a privilege for that I do not deserve, that is where we should be coming from. Like the song what a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grieves to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer, its a privilege that none of us deserve, he calls us friend but we do not dare to even equate ourselves as friends of God, for equality with God is not something we can grasp or should even try to.

        1. Well, here’s the thing: logically, a one-sided friendship doesn’t exist. If one party in the relationship truly is a friend — as God labeled Abraham — then logically the other party /must/ be a friend also. It literally couldn’t be otherwise. Ergo, God implicitly gave Abraham the right to call God his “friend” (possibly even explicitly: the Bible doesn’t necessarily record everything they said to each other).

          Secondly, Jesus called the disciples “friends.” (Jn. 15:15, and elsewhere) By logical extension, /all/ of Jesus’ followers are his friends. And, as in the Abraham case, if Jesus calls his disciples “friends,” that automatically implies they can call him “friend” as well. And since Jesus is God, that means believers can call God “friend.”

          Third, the Bible explicitly states that Yahweh is a friend to His people (Psa. 25:14; cf. Job 29:4).

          Fourth, James asks his readers, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (4:4) This logically implies that the reverse is also true: enmity with the world is friendship with God.

          Conclusion: It is entirely biblical for God’s people to call Him “friend.” The problem arises when we forget that this friendship is entirely due to His grace. God Himself initiated this friendship.

          1. I think it lacks the reverence for who God is by calling him friend, he is not on our level and therefore it would be absurd for me to call him friend. It is like a parent child relationship you do not call your mother your friend because she is in authority over you, it kind of bashes her authority and puts you at the same level as her. I think doing this does what you mention in the end of your comment it causes us to forget God himself initiated the friendship and without that he would not be our friend but our judge and jury.

          2. You’ve completely ignored the reasons I gave as to why it’s legitimate – only through Christ! – to call God “friend.” How about grappling with those reasons?

  2. I’m not really familiar with the song “Marvelous Light”, but the phrase you said “didn’t really make sense” (“marvelous light”) is directly out of the Bible. Although it probably would never be my favourite worship song, it seems to be filled with various concepts about salvation that are directly from Scripture (God awakening us from sleep, bringing us to life, setting us free, bringing us from light to darkness).

    1 Peter 2:9
    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

    There is no doubt that there are some really bad worship songs out there. I’m not sure this is one though.

    1. Good call — I have been reading the NIV for so long, which avoids the use of that term, and it seems to make more sense in the context of other translations that use the term “marvelous”. Thank you for pointing that out!
      I think the problem for me with “Marvelous Light” has more to do with structure and clarity rather than Biblical concepts. Indeed, the concepts are borrowed from the Bible, but much of it feels clunky and unfocused, in my opinion.

    2. I don’t know what translation you are getting your Scripture from, but a simpler translation and truer translation is from the King James Version. 1 Peter 2:9; But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ; that you should show forth the praises of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

  3. Although there is a place for music about our worship of God, worship is not about us, but about God. I find it more conducive to worship God when, for example, the music is about God’s love for me (explained some detail) rather than my love for God. This is the main difference between the hymns that have stood the test of time and much of today’s worship music. Not that all the old hymns had it right and all of today’s songs got it wrong, but if it’s all about me, then worship becomes a mere experience.

    (http://dtjsoft.com/the-subject-of-worship/)

    1. Totally agree with you! I feel that every time I sing one of those type of worship songs and I can feel the difference between true worship of God and worshiping our love of God.

  4. I love the songs that try to teach theology to God…

    Us: “One day every tongue will confess You are God.
    One day every knee will bow.
    Still the greatest treasure remains for those
    Who gladly choose you now.”

    God: “W-wait a minute..that’s frigginawesome!!!”

    1. This isn’t a fair criticism. There’s a truckload of examples of prayer and song in the Bible wherein the writer expresses theological truths to God. The reason isn’t that we’re “informing” God of the theology; it’s that we’re _praising_ Him for it.

  5. Us: “One day every tongue will confess You are God.
    One day every knee will bow.
    Still the greatest treasure remains for those
    Who gladly choose you now.”

    This , I don’t believe is right theology for no man can choose God. He chose us before the foundation of the world. We respond in repentance through the beginning work of the Holy Spirit.

    1. ” ‘. . . [C]hoose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.’ . . . Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.’ ” (Jos. 24:15, 22)

      “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ ” (1Ki. 18:21)

      “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. . . . I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. . . . Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.” (Psa. 119:30, 112, 173)

      “These have chosen their own ways” (Isa. 66:3).

      “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:42)

      “So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ ” (John 6:67)

      “O Jerusalem . . . . How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!” (Matt. 23:37)

  6. In surfing for other things on the Web today, I rediscovered this blog, and rediscovered my own responses in the comment section. I see that no one’s bothered to respond to my comments, unfortunately. For what it’s worth, today I’ve written a fuller response to the article itself.

    As I often tell people, I’m a “freak for precision,” especially when it comes to theology. And I too have my criticisms of modern “worship” songs. That said, at the opposite end of the spectrum I’m also wary of pharisaism and a hyper-critical spirit. I detect more of the latter here than I do legitimate criticism.

    The one problem all these songs share is lyrical repetitiveness. To me that indicates endemic laziness on the part of songwriters. However, on the doctrinal front it’s a different story. My comments below are restricted to that dimension (with one exception). And I write in the interest of objectivity and fairness – not because I’m necessarily a fan of any of these songs.

    [[ 10) Tell the World ]]

    Not theologically objectionable. I consume theology on a regular basis – but not every song needs to be a theological treatise. For example, I find Michael W. Smith’s “Breathe” very moving, as simple as it is. The “simplicity” of it is purely in the wording; the doctrinal concepts expressed by that wording are unfathomable – the way the term “Trinity” can’t even begin to do justice to the wonder and mystery of the Godhead. Yet we don’t object to the term itself.

    [[ 9) I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever ]]

    Okay, yeah, this one grates on me as well. After several do-overs of the chorus, it feels like we’ve been /singing/ it forever. Theologically fine, but in this case the repetition drives me batty (along with the clunky verbosity of the verses).

    [[ 8) God of This City ]]

    Repetitive, but not theologically problematic. You assert, “A fine concept, but this is most certainly not a worship song.” Um . . . why not? There’s no basis for your claim.

    [[ 7) Oh Happy Day ]]

    Not seeing the problem here whatsoever; it’s theologically excellent.

    [[ 6) I Am Free ]]

    Theologically excellent.

    [[ 5) In the Secret ]]

    Doctrinally sound – albeit touchy-feely.

    [[ 4) Marvelous Light ]]

    Not familiar with this tune (and didn’t bother to listen to a recording while writing this response) – but it’s doctrinally superb. You complain about its “passive” expression, apparently overlooking the fact that this can be understood as an emphasis on the initiative of a sovereign God.

    [[ 3) All Who Are Thirsty ]]
    [[ I’m thirsty for some variety. ]]

    I’m surprised that’s your only criticism, given that the lines “Let the pain and the sorrow / Be washed away” are theologically and psychologically problematic. They seem to imply immediate victory over suffering or emotional trauma, which is biblically a false expectation.

    [[ 2) Come, Now Is the Time to Worship ]]
    [[ Now? Right now? ]]

    What’s the intent of the lyric? It doesn’t necessarily imply that other times /aren’t/ occasions for worship. It may imply that /now/ – i.e., when the congregation is gathered for corporate worship – is precisely the time for corporate worship. If that’s the case, then it’s true. Why do you presume to interpret it negatively?

    Doctrinally, as worded, this song isn’t objectionable. But notice that I said “as worded.” A trinitarian congregation singing these lyrics would, of course, interpret them as referring to the Godhead as He reveals Himself in Scripture. What bothers me about this song isn’t either the tune or the lyrics – it’s the fact that it was written by “oneness” proponents Phillips, Craig & Dean, and I don’t like to see cultists promoted in the Church.

    Really surprised you didn’t pounce all over that.

    [[ 1) Friend of God ]]
    [[ My buddy God and I even have a secret handshake. ]]

    First of all, there’s zero doctrinal problem with the lyrics. Secondly, you’ve chosen to construe them as if they’re presenting a “buddy” version of God, which isn’t how the lyrics, in and of themselves, merit being interpreted. You’ve chosen to be negative for negativity’s sake – which leads me to ask: Have you written any blog pieces about divisiveness?

    Overall, a pretty weak whine here.

  7. one comment friend negates buddy they are the same thing, so if you want to say God is my friend then you are saying God is my buddy and that is well to bring God down to our level to make him less of who he is. I think we lack respect for God if we think we can even approach him as a friend, he is far to bigger then that, he is our judge, he is the one who could at any moment strike us dead, he is far from my friend but he calls me friend I do not dare even think of calling him my friend. An example is this, like a parent child relationship I as a child did not call my mother friend if I did i would ruin her authority.

    1. You’re treating “friend” and “buddy” as if they’re exact synonyms. They’re not. The meanings of terms are dependent on how they’re used in a given context. Commonly, the term “buddy” is used to imply (a) friendship between equals, or (b) a neighborly call-out to a male we don’t know (“Hey, buddy, do you know what time it is?”).

      “Friend” is broader than that. It can include the “buddy” concept, but it’s not limited to that; “friend” simply doesn’t require equality between the two parties. In fact, as I pointed out, on a number of occasions in Scripture, God actually calls believers His “friend(s).” By your logic – God was calling them His equals! But obviously He wasn’t – and therefore the term “friend” doesn’t (always) imply equality. If it did, then God wouldn’t have used it.

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