by Tom Kraeuter
Not long ago I attended a large prayer gathering. Many hundreds of people from lots of churches all over the area also attended. The event was billed as a gathering that would exalt the Lord and allow us to intercede for our region and even our nation. No one who led in prayer would be identified by name, because the organizers wanted the focus to be on God alone. He was to get center stage. The Lord was to be preeminent in all that happened “start to finish” for the entire evening.
As expected, the event began with a time of singing. I immediately stood, prepared to enthusiastically give God the glory that He alone deserves. Oddly, though, the first song we sang was, “I Am a Friend of God.”
Does anyone besides me see the irony in that? This event was to focus on the Lord, and we began it by singing about us! God was to be the focus of our attention, yet we started off by making declarations about ourselves. And therein, I believe, is one of the greatest downfalls of the American Church: we are far more focused on us than on God. We have become the center of attention and God is relegated to a side corner. The great I takes precedent over the great I AM. Yet Scripture repeatedly declares that we should worship God, and God alone.
“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness…” (Psalm 96:9).
“You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
If we’re actually going to worship, then our attention needs to be focused on Him. We may make fine and trueâ€”even biblicalâ€”declarations about ourselves, but if it is not focused toward the Lord, dare we suggest that it is worship? The very idea is ludicrous!
Perhaps you think I’m overstating the case by suggesting that the Church in America is more focused on us than on God. If so, you may not want to actually try my next suggestion. But if you’re not among the fainthearted, look at the working song list of your church. If it’s anywhere close to average, there are more songs listed that begin with the word, “I” than any other word. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. I love… I will… I worship… I… I… I… It’s all about me and what I will do.
Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing inherently wrong with such songs. In fact, there is clearly a place for us declaring who we are in God, what He has done for us, and what that means for us as His people. (In fact, I actually like the song, “I Am a Friend of God.”) The reality, though, is that there is a disproportional number of such songs. Many “worship” songs today talk too much about us and not enough about the Lord.
Primarily this is because we have unwittingly bought into our culture’s mantra: It’s all about me. Even our “worship” (I find it distasteful to even use that word in this context because worship, in its truest sense, is directed toward God) can too often become focused on me, my needs, my wants, my desires. Too frequently, it’s all about me. And when it is so, it bears little resemblance to truly biblical worship.
As I recently was reading portions of John’s Revelation, it dawned on me how completely foreign some of the worship scenes in heaven seem to us. The twenty-four elders on their faces again and again, and laying their crowns before the throne of God. The incense and the great multitudes and the loud voices, so loud they sound like thunder. The rejoicing and the new songs and song of the Lamb.
The scene is breathtaking to try to even imagine. But the focus of everythingâ€”and I do mean everythingâ€”is on God Himself. It’s not about the worshipers. It’s about the Object of their worship, the Lord Almighty. Maybe we should learn from that.
Here’s a little test for you. Look at the verbs in the songs you sing, and ask, “What is driving those verbs?” In other words, is the action being done by us or by God? Are we singing about what we do, or are we singing about what God has done, will do or is doing? There is a vast difference between those two. Even if the song is sung to the Lord, if we’re saying, “I will worship You,” then it’s still primarily about what I’m doing, not about God. The focus, really, is on me, not Him.
I can see the scowls and hear the screams because I just dissed some of your favorite worship songs. Let me say this as kindly and gently as I can: Get over it.
The truth is that I’m not telling you to throw away songs that talk about us. Some of those may be very worthwhile. I am, however, suggesting that perhaps we need more songs that focus totally on God. It’s worth considering, isn’t it?
We need to return to a focus on the Lord Himself. Christ Jesus crucified and raised to life is the totality of our faith. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and get them off of ourselves.
Lord, help us to be less focused on us and more focused on You. We want You to be the center of all we do. Amen.
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