We Need More Holy Spirit – Part 2

Several weeks ago I posted on the subject matter of a lack of reference to the Holy Spirit in our modern worship songs.  In summary, I was a bit surprised when it occurred to me that contemporary, popular worship songs made little or no reference to the third part of the trinity.

I am sitting in the conference hall of the Vineyard USA National Leadership Conference in Galveston, TX right now.  We just had a time of corporate sung worship and I will say that I stand in a position of humble revelation that the church still loves, sings to, and worships the Holy Spirit.  As we worshipped I furiously typed the words to the tune we sang with abandon:

Come Holy Spirit, Come in your power

Come inhabit our praise, Come now and reign in our lives

Come Holy Spirit, Come Like the Wind

Come be Lord of our hearts, Come fill Your church once again

“As Children” by Jeremy Riddle (copyright Mercy/Vineyard)

I had an opportunity to meet some great Jesus followers here at the event and have some discussions about the state of worship in the church and it’s future, which got me thinking about something:

From the perspective of a professional marketer (a worshiper first and a marketer second yes, but experienced nonetheless) I sensed there might be intelligence built into the trend to fill a growing need within the non-charismatic evangelical church market.

A couple of years ago I was at an industry worship conference in a deep conversation with the head of said conference he remarked, “yeah everyone wants contemporary now.”  In a chat with a long-time worship pastor from the Assemblies of God denomination (a guy who had labored for years in helping many churches move from plant to mega size) said to me “I guess that [contemporary worship] is what everyone wants now, so we have to do it.” 

Could it be that the lack of Holy Spirit in contemporary worship based in a marketing plan by the contemporary worship music industry to reach, or rather, feed the evangelical church (and subsequently profit from it)?  The charismatic church, and even the mainline denominations have sung of the Holy Spirit for decades, and in the case of the latter, centuries.  But the modern evangelical church that hugs the conservative side of the road to appeal to a broader audience is making a conversion from old school worship to contemporary worship and could it be that artists and songwriters are softening their message? (Read my post on decline in CD sales here).

The larger the audience the more distilled the message typically becomes in order to appeal to broader commonalities within the audience.  Specialty shifts and lowest common denominator comes into play.  Niche is replaced by “reach.” 

As I said before, the Holy Spirit is a bit controversial.  Is the mentality:  let’s just remove the controversy and leave the palatable aspects of God!  Heck if we do that more people will hear about Jesus right?

The cross is an offense and removing the offend-able aspects of Jesus has been a strategy of Satan for ages.  If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself how many “blood” songs have you sung lately?  The blood is an offense.  I wrote the lyrics “a body broken atoned for my sin” into the song “Savior of the World” and at first the people who heard it met it with chagrin.  They were not used to this kind of poetry.

Removing the blood is like removing the Holy Spirit.  It is a strategy to extricate the whole truth from the lips of God’s children.

I am guilty of man-pleasing.  I don’t think any worship leader can escape that.  With some perspective though I think I truly understand how far popular contemporary worship has strayed from the commands of the faith.  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength.”  If we leave out the Holy Spirit, we are not following the commands of God.

Worship and prayer being replaced by business and corruption.  Sound familiar?  Think about Jesus in the temple.  Let’s not let this next generation down by not writing about the fullness of God in our worship songs.  Let’s start a revolution.  No barrier between people and their worship of God.

5 Responses to “We Need More Holy Spirit – Part 2”

  1. May 14, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Mike, you wrote, “Could it be that the lack of Holy Spirit in contemporary worship based in a marketing plan by the contemporary worship music industry to reach, or rather, feed the evangelical church (and subsequently profit from it)?”

    Careful not to get cynical, Mike. While there is some doctrinal error (as there has always been), there is a vast “remnant” who love the Lord in spirit and in truth. To say that “Worship and prayer being replaced by business and corruption” is an unhelpful exaggeration, in my opinion.

    Perhaps the Church just needs to revisit the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps many songwriters are just unclear as to His role in the Trinity, His role in our lives.

    To be honest, I wrestle with some songs that reference the Holy Spirit. Some lyrics, such as the ones you quoted above, seem to deny the doctrine of God’s omnipresence, that if we don’t invoke the Holy Spirit, then He is not present. The truth is, though, that God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit; in a sense by invoking Him we deny this gift and take some credit for the Holy Spirit’s presence.

    Perhaps some songwriters are unable or unwilling to do the hard work necessary to be doctrinally precise in their lyric-writing, and so instead explore other themes. A productive solution might be to look to Scripture to determine who the Holy Spirit is, and how we interact with Him. Something changed when Jesus appeared on the scene, so we should primarily draw our understanding from the New Testament.

    We know, for example, that Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit (and with fire) and we are to then baptize in the name of the Trinity (including the Holy Spirit), the Holy Spirit inspires us in our defense of the gospel, we can be “filled” with the Holy Spirit (which can spur us to prophesy), the Holy Spirit can reveal things to us, we can rejoice in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the Helper whom the Father sent in Jesus’ name, we receive power and comfort and faith and joy and boldness and conviction and hope and sanctification when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, the Holy Spirit is a gift, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and so on. There’s a lot of richness to explore there.

    Colossians 3:16 sums up, in my opinion, the purpose of music in the New Testament era of the Church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Yes, may our songs teach us truths about the Holy Spirit, may they admonish us and our friends in all wisdom, may they provide an avenue for expressing our heart-felt thankfulness to God, for God’s sake.

  2. May 14, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Yup — got your blog in my bloglines account. 🙂

    Very cool studio, by the way. Very, very cool — lots of work and love put into that space. I look forward to hearing what comes out of it. 🙂

  3. May 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Yeah, on the studio: thinking of switching to a Mac Pro but running Windows on it for the time being. I.e. planning for the future. I won’t swap out being a Sonar user yet since I only want to handle a few learning curves at a time, but when I am ready or want to, I’ll have the platform to go to Logic or Nuendo. Plus, my studio PC crashed two nights ago and it highlighted the stability issues with Windows.

    Back on topic: I was responding to how incredibly refreshing it was to have someone really, earnestly wanting more of the Holy Spirit. It was such a breath of fresh air.

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May 2009

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