Saturday, August 23, 2008

please allow me to clarify...

I feel it necessary to clarify the harsh words in my previous post. I usually don’t choose to write something SO opinionated and mean spirited. I prefer to temper my cynicism and bitterness, at least a little, before publishing it for the whole world to see.

But I wrote the last post in about 20 seconds. I wrote exactly what I felt…not what I thought I should feel.

I had just watched the music video for the song “Healer”; a video in which the gentlemen I referred to in my previous post is standing on stage, in front of thousands of teenagers, with oxygen tubes up his nose, eyes closed, singing…to God, “Nothing is impossible for You. I believe it. I believe it. Nothing is impossible for You”. He was singing those words to God while pretending to be dying of cancer. And everyone in attendance was crying because of the power of seeing such astounding faith. My guess is, God was crying too, but for an entirely different reason.

So, yeah…I was angry. I was upset. I was absolutely sick to my stomach.

But my issue isn’t with this guy. I mean, he is a total d-bag. I don’t apologize for calling him that. He is. But I am, too. I am no better than he is, and I’m not pretending to be. No. My issue is with the current culture of “worship music”.

And by “worship music”, I am specifically referring to songs that are written for the purpose of being sung congregationally during church or worship services.

What made me sick, watching that video, is that I wasn’t all that surprised.

His story is absolutely indicative of the culture surrounding worship music today; a culture in which marketing and imaging reign supreme; a culture in which a guy feels like he has to wear the right pair of jeans or have the right product in his hair in order for people to sing his songs; a culture in which scores of people are financially dependent on the radio play and CD sales of songs written to God, and supposedly for God.

It is an industry. It is a business. The bottom-line is “moving product”. The bottom line is making money. And it’s not the fault of Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman or Darlene Zschech. I don’t question anyone’s sincerity in the worship songs they write. I don’t. But the fact is, there are a number of people who need Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Darlene Zschech's next CDs to sell; they need them to write the next big worship anthems; they need their names and their images and their brands to stay front and center in the worship scene. It is a business.

You might be thinking, “Bill, you are just bitter because you never got a record deal.” But I promise that is not the case.

I am bitter because I wanted one.

I am bitter because I have bought the right pair of jeans, and I have put the right product in my hair. I am bitter because I bought the lie that I had to have the right image in order for people to sing my songs. I had to have a cool website and press photos and throngs of adoring fans on Myspace. My songs had to be radio friendly and catchy.

And I know that I am not the only one who has fallen into that trap. How unhealthy is that for the church? How unhealthy is it for the writers of the songs we sing to have their own names in mind and not God’s?

Listen…there are amazing songs of worship out there. There are songs that are both inspired and inspiring. But there are also many songs that are neither.

Just because a song is sing-along-able and refers to God in the second person doesn’t mean it is a worship song. And there are plenty of songs out there like that. I know, cause I’ve written some.

I used to want a record deal. I used to dream about it. But now I have a different dream. Now, my dream is that my son might stumble upon my songbook one day and know that his old man really did love Jesus.

Would I take a record deal if one was offered? I’d like to pretend that I am truer to my convictions than I probably am. But in all honesty, I am human and I enjoy writing songs; and if told that I could support my family and earn a living by writing songs…yeah, I don’t know what I’d say.

But I do know that I don’t want to be the next Chris Tomlin anymore. I don’t even want to be the next Matt Redman. If anyone, I want to be the next Jane Crewdson.

“Who?”…you might ask. Exactly.

I actually know very little about Jane Crewdson, other than the fact that she was a poet and lyricist that lived from 1809-1863 in Manchester, England. I came across a number of her songs online this past year and was absolutely blown away. I posted about her back in March.

As I said, I do not know much about Jane Crewdson, but I do know one thing. I know that she wrote many of her songs in the midst of dying a very long and painful death. And the knowledge of that adds another level of depth and beauty to her words.

The gentlemen from my previous post pretended to do the same thing, in a self-centered attempt to garner fame, money and success.

And the saddest part of that is: it isn’t the only fraudulent thing in the culture surrounding worship music today…it simply is the most obvious.


Rafael said...

Bill said,

You might be thinking, "Bill, you are just bitter because you never go a record deal." But I promise that is not the case.

I am bitter because I wanted one.

The italicized line is what I respect most about you. I know this post isn't about you, and I apologize for drawing attention to you. But God has used you and the gals and guys behind you to draw us into worship of him. We didn't (and don't) need you in order for us to worship him. But he has used you nonetheless.

ragamuffinminister said...

one of your better posts...thanks.

Taylor said...


michaelCODY said...

Really good, honest post. It's like where I wanted to be last year, people to be singing my songs and to be the next Marvin Gaye. But something just happened a few months ago and I don't need that anymore. Just outgrew it. Now I just want to write for my Father. Aaaaand of course that cute little burnette somewhere out there. That 'Pastor' Michael though... Ugh!