Straining at a gnat? The answer...

** Update. As of 7/30 the original video was removed from Youtube, so the one below is a substitution, which does not have the same arrangement (it began with 'On Christ the solid Rock I stand')**
A worship leader who I know, at a church that I respect, posted a video the other day. It is a video of a Lakewood Church service, and the song is called
‘I’m still standing ‘ by Israel Houghton & Cindy Cruse Ratcliff . The lyrics are below as well.
I asked a question about the song, and got varying responses, all of which were thoughtful, and I am glad that those who took the time did...
Specifically, I said this:
Take a few minutes, please look at the video, read the words below, and tell me if you see anything amiss. Please note that this is NOT about performance, musicianship etc.
Here is the video:


Here is the lyric
:
Opening:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.
(Words: Edward Mote, 1834; first appeared in Mote’s Hymns of Praise, 1836.
Music: Solid Rock, by William B. Bradbury)

Chorus:
If not for your goodness if not for your grace I don't know where I would be today.
If not for your kindness I never could say I'm still standing.
If not for your mercy if not for your love I most likely would have given up.
If not for your favor I never could say I'm still standing but by the grace of God.

Verse One: You gave me courage to believe that all your goodness I will see and if it had not been for you standing on my side where would I be

Verse Two: To you I lift my offering and set my heart on higher things for if it had not been for you standing on my side where would I be

Vamp:
I'm still standing I'm standing I'm still standing but by the grace of God
(Written by: Israel Houghton , Cindy Cruse Ratcliff)

Ok, Here’s what’s wrong:
It is important when leading people in worship that we consider several things, among them, lyrical content, subject, object, focus, tempo, place in the service, singability, congregational participation, etc.

Where this song fails is in the area of subject/object. It begins with a horizontal focus, meaning that it is being sung not to God, but to other men/women. Later, it moves to a vertical focus, in that God appears to be the one being sung to. So far, so good. However, when the vamp comes, the focus switches back to men.

This is a BIG NO-NO in my book. I believe that the temple model is a good one to follow when planning/writing/leading Worship, and as such, to shift focus away from God mid-song is extremely problematic. We live in a time when too much of our ‘worship’ music is ‘me-centered’ and ‘I-involved’ as it is, and in reality it is not really worship at all. That is a conversation for another time, unless of course you'd like me to come to your church and explain to you... If that is the case, please clink the link to visit the ministry's website:(www.repfel.org)

We must, as leaders, be care-full (purposed spelling) when dealing with Worship...
People's lives are literally at stake...

Imagine that you are God for a moment. One minute, you're in a wonderful exchange with your beloved child, the next, in mid sentence, after telling you how grateful they are to you, they suddenly turn to speak to someone else about themselves, while you are standing there. Awkward isn't it.
Well that's kind of what this is like...

Am I nit-picking? Not in the least. Worship is a Holy, wholly serious business. There is nothing more purposeful or powerful that a Christian can do. Therefore,
it must be approached seriously, fervently and with intention. Too often it is not.
In my travels I have seen a lot of good intentioned but powerless Worship because the people made mistakes just like this one.
I'd like to know what you think...
Peace,
CTJ

Comments

Anonymous said…
There is a flaw with part of your lyrical analysis. As you noted, some of the lyrics were written in 1834, 175 years ago. Your critic of them is done out of context of the time that they were written. Putting them back in context might put a different spin on things.

The church and the world back then was a very different place, so I very much doubt that church leaders of that time considered “lyrical content, subject, object, focus, tempo, place in the service, singability, congregational participation, etc.,” hence the problem with using a “contemporary” mindset to analyze them.

Church leaders were considered educated members of in a largely uneducated society, whose passion was the “saving of souls” with as much fire and brimstone as they could find. People did not “praise and worship” God, they simply obeyed God, based upon what the minister told them.

Also out of curiosity, since there is an issue the attempt to “modernize” the original song with the addition of the new verses, how should the newer add-on verses and chorus have been worded
Thanks for your comment Sasanda, but I would ask that you re-read the piece. I offered no critique of the hymn at all. In fact I have no problem with either song (the hymn or the Houghton piece) when taken separately. In fact, the hymn is one that I still use regularly, when I lead Worship. My issue is the focus shift in the vamp. The point is a simple one. Worship is not Worship unless it is directed at God. This song, as arranged, does a good job of following the Temple Model of Worship initially, but then the vamp redirects the focus and the progress is lost.
Praise can be directed either laterally or vertically. For example, my telling you that God is wonderful is Praise, my telling God that He is wonderful can be Praise as well. Worship however can ONLY be vertical, ie: God is both the subject AND Object of one's attention.

This song attempts to do both. It has nothing at all to do with when the hymn was written, and noting at all to do with the music itself. The issue is the focus of the lyric. We cannot, as Worship leaders, lead people to God, and then back out again.
There is a very simple lyrical solution, which would maintain focus, simply change the wording of the vamp to:
"I'm still standing, but by YOUR Grace Oh God."

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