Wednesday, June 28, 2006

the question of laments

Many people today (musicians, worship leaders, authors, theologians, etc.) believe that every church needs to practice and embrace the act of lamenting as a part of its regular worship service.

In case you are unfamiliar with that word, here is's definition:

La - ment:
1. To express grief for or about; mourn: lament a death.
2. To grieve audibly; wail.
3. To express sorrow or regret.

4. A feeling or an expression of grief; a lamentation.
5. A song or poem expressing deep grief or mourning

(The last two are probably the best definitions for what we are talking about here.)

Now the reason why they believe this is simple: the Bible contains many laments. Most notably in the Psalms, Job, and Lamentations (I know, that last one's hard to believe). So if God's people sang them back then, shouldn't God's people sing them today? We certainly have much to lament about in this day and age. And if the world around us is so dark and fallen, then why are our church songs all so happy and in major key? And with this being true, how can the church be anything but delusional and out-of-touch? Thus, songs of lament are necessary for the balanced worship of any congregation.

That is thought process as I have seen/read/heard/ it laid out to me. But I am still not convinced it is necessary to write or lead congregational songs of lament. Good, appropriate, beneficial...okay. But necessary? I don't know. And the people who are saying this are people that I greatly respect and look up to. My friend Greg blogged about this over a year ago (if you want to read it, click his name and scroll down to Friday June 3, 2005 The Lost Art of is a short post, but the discussion among the 25 or so comments is definately worth a glance).

The reason it is on my mind today is that I am reading Inside-Out Worship by Matt Redman and Friends. And the last three chapters I have read (written by Tim Hughes, Beth Redman and Sally Morgenthaler) have all been about this very subject.

They are all convinced. I am not there yet. I'm open to it. And I'm definately interested in thinking and reading and talking more about it. But I am not yet ready to say that it is something we have to do with our congregations in order to be biblical, balanced, relevant, healthy or honest. It may well be. I just don't know.

But I would love to hear your thoughts on it?


greg said...

Michael Card has a book on this. You should maybe think about reading it...

I'm with you... I don't know that laments in worship should be a weekly thing, but I do think we should open ourselves up to the possibility of including them sometimes... for the most part in our happy suburban churches, it's something we have just completely neglected.

bill said...

do you think that the real problem is the lack of laments congregationally...rather than our individual, subconcious, clinging to masks and happy faces? that to me seems to be the problem, and while i think laments help in bringing about a certain authenticity...i think the teaching of giving up our facades should come first, or at least right along side. and that is out of my control as a worship pastor. unfortunately.

secondly, i always come back to this: is it my job as a worship leader to dwell on, or remind people of, how bad our world is? or is it my job to dwell on, or remind people of, how good our God is? maybe both? but i only have 30 minutes-ish a week to lead our congregation in worship while we are all in one place at one time. that just isn't that much time, so i am very intentional about what we are focusing on. i know God's goodness is a worthwhile theme...i don't know about laments.

i should probably read that book. what's the name again?

The Anonymous Human said...

What if lamets were a part of our service, but not the worship set? What I mean is look at your definition of lament. To express grief for. To express sorrow. A feeling of grief. To me, that sounds an awful lot like communion. Jesus said when you drink the cup you are drinking to the pouring out of his blood for many. That's pretty sad if you ask me. So when I have/do communion, that's my time of lamentating. Consequently, those I do it with are lamenting too. So, collectively we are lamenting as a church. I think that's all a part of worship obviously, but not a part of the "set".

Just a thought.

greg said...


I don't think it's your job to remind folks that the world is bad... but I don't think you have to do that... people know it whether you remind them of it or not. Lament is simply acknowledging and turning over to God what people already know to be true.

That may be a simplistic answer...

I think your question is a good one, but I'm not sure it's necessarily the right one if that makes sense.

And I think you're right about the part of people clinging to masks and facades... people want to come to church to feel good about themselves... that's why Joel Osteen is popular. If we coddle to that mentality I think we are failing as pastors... people need to be challenged and if that means coming face to face with a fallen world through lament sometimes, I think that's good for people, even if that's not what puts butts in the seats in our churches.

Of course, Joel Osteen is the guy with the 30,000 person church and I'm the guy with drummers who never show up so what do I know.

- Greg

Scott said...

i think a lament as a community would be really cool, yet it would have to be pulled off in a very close knit community, because our modern church is so a group of individuals who come together as individuals to praise God...a corporate lament could only be pulled off if it were personally touching the lives of each person and brought about corporate response...does that make sense?

I have not yet slept since going to work last night!