One of our favorite games as a family is called Oh Heck. You might know it as Up and Down the River. The reason this simple card game is so great is that while the rules of the game remain the same, every hand there is a different trump and a different number of cards. Throw in the fact that you can play the game with anywhere from two to seven players, and every game is different.
That feels a lot like parenting a child in 2019. The only thing that is the same is that everything is always changing.
In April our fifteen year old daughter asked if she could create an Instagram account. We said yes.
When is the right time to let your child engage in social media? More broadly, how do you parent children relating to technology?
How good are you? That is a question we all wrestle with in different ways and at different times. But we almost all answer it with the same methodology: comparison. But if the age of social media has taught us anything, hasn’t it taught us how destructive comparison is? Hasn’t it shown us that comparison reveals the basest version of ourselves? Hasn’t social media taught us how fragile and finicky the rubric of comparison is?
How then can we know how good we really are? Maybe the answer lies in some time-tested standard outside of ourselves and outside of our neighbor? Maybe there is a standard outside ourselves to evaluate ourselves by.
“God isn’t your boyfriend!” It doesn’t take much Googling to pick out an assortment of articles skewering intimate love songs inappropriately parading as worship. “He is the almighty God, not your lover,” the criticism goes. “Don’t trivialize our holy, incomprehensible God.”
Is it really appropriate to sing, “I could sing of your love forever” or reprise again and again, “your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”? Or how about “Revelation Song” where we sing, “You are my everything and I will adore you”? And of course, the most obvious offender: please tell me we should nix the embarrassing “How He Loves Us,” where we belt out, “And I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me,” and then the cherry on the sundae, “And heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.”
Let me stand up against the pitchforked crowd in defense of the modern worship love song. That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of songs out there that are weak theologically or that our diet of worship should be comprised primarily of love songs to God, but I do believe there is a place for us to sing love songs to God.
If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, the phrase “your own personal Jesus” is heard channeled through the distinctive voice of Martin Gore of Depeche Mode whose massive 1989 hit democratizes the first century Jewish Messiah. Gore tells us to “reach out and touch faith” through whatever experience we can create that makes us feel as though someone hears our prayers and cares.
Martin Gore’s vision of a personalized Jesus is truer today, thirty years after his song hit the charts, than it has ever been. JD Greear wants to lovingly but firmly let us know that You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus in his thin volume by the same name. “Sometimes I hear people talk about ‘my God’ or ‘my Jesus’ as if he were their possession,” Greear reflects. But strangely absent of our personalized visions of Jesus are Jesus’ own claims of who he is. Unhappily for those who like to shape Jesus in their likeness, Jesus tells us that he is, in fact our Lord.
It makes sense that we think we can remake Jesus in our own image. Why shouldn’t we? Our social media feeds cater to our desires, my Amazon webpage is distinctive to me, your Netflix suggestions reflect your tastes. Why shouldn’t we be able to craft a Jesus who suits what we would like in a Savior? Greear reflects, “Those of us who have grown up in a consumeristic Western culture envision an Americanized Jesus who is one part genie, one part fan club, one part financial advisor, one part American patriot, and several parts therapist. Our ‘God’ makes us more narcissistic and materialistic, not less.” In Voltaire’s words, “God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
It was during a family dance party to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” that our patriarch commented about the vapid lyrics. “They just don’t make them like they used to,” he concluded. I teased back: “Sure, because ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Duke of Earl’ were so profound!
Musical preferences are profoundly etched into us. One generation’s trash is another generation’s treasure.
Modern worship has a bullseye on it. It’s a fairly regular occurrence that I read a blog or a reflection in a book decrying the insipid lyrics we sing in our churches or hear a complaint from a congregant about modern worship.
Last week I defended the treasure of hymns for the church. This is my defense of modern worship.
A few disclaimers:
1) I am not claiming that all modern worship is good: there is a plenty that isn’t good;
2) I am not making an argument that modern worship is any better than any other era of music;
3) I am not making an argument that your church should primarily sing modern worship; there’s nothing wrong with a church that chooses songs that are several decades or several centuries old.
With that said, here are four reasons that we should enjoy modern worship: