I knew a pastor in a church plant that would talk about the order of service like this:
“Happy song, happy song, sad song. Announcements, offering, sad song. Message, prayer, sad song, happy song.”
It was his quick way of describing the tempo of the songs from fast and exciting in the beginning to slower and moodier as it progresses (as if you can’t lead into a sermon with an exciting song, that would be CRAZY, right?). But I digress.
I recall him referring to songs as either happy or sad because when I listen to contemporary songs on Christian radio or in church services, it seems that we are a very depressed and hurting people. Just about every song these days is sad. The topic is often about how terrible life is, all the struggles and trials we face, our busy lives and how life is beating us down. God’s role in these songs is the comforter who will calm your storm and heal your wounds.
But there’s more to life than suffering and God is more than our nurse and counselor. I’m not dismissing the problems that people face and the need for music to be uplifting and encouraging. And it’s expected that during a recession and tough times, songs will kind of reflect that. But that’s not all there is to life, or to God. Have you ever woken up feeling pretty good and wanted to listen to something exciting and uplifting on your way to work or school, turn on Christian radio and find songs that make you want to see a counselor? Or sit in a church service and wonder if you mistakenly came to a funeral service?
What happened to victory? What happened to “I’ve got the joy…down in my heart?” What happened to “Our God is an Awesome God?” or “A Mighty Fortress if Our God?” There have been a couple songs in recent years like “Mighty to Save” and “Revelation Song” which are pretty good anthemic style songs that sing of God’s greatness. But those songs seem few and far between.
Song writers today seem to like writing prose with no discernable chorus, no hook to sing along with. Basically, a sad journal entry set to music. There’s room for all types of songs. Songs that reflect, songs that question or wonder, songs that encourage through the storms of life. But songs of praise, celebration, excitment, victory and exhalting God for all His awesome traits and works seems to be a thing of the past. (Notwithstanding the retro/vintage movement and drawing on older hymns that take place in some churches, or those that are doing it but not so much retro because they haven’t changed in decades).
I can’t post about this without mentioning The Book of Psalms, a great blueprint for worship. In the Psalms, you find ranges of emotion and themes. Some are sad, some wonder where God is during suffering, but others talk about God’s provision and might and are full of celebration and praise. It’s a balance that is often lacking in Christian songs today.
So come on song writers. Let’s stop being so sad all the time, and realize that we have been saved and serve an amazing God who is worthy of worship and praise…and creativity and diversity in song writing.