Quick, stop everything you’re doing! Turn off Netflix, put that jelly donut down, shut up you’re cat, and think of your top three P&W songs. (I’ll give you 30 seconds. I’ll know if you go over time. Continue below once you’re done…)
Now that you’re done: Was that fun deciding your top 3? Or did it hurt you in your innards? Do you feel like you betrayed all of the other songs you left out and Paul Baloche, being butt-mad about it, is going to hunt you down for leaving out his song Open the Eyes of My Heart?
If you’re like me then you absolutely, positively, without a doubt, hate it when someone demands to know your favorite P&W song. I usually default and give an answer along the lines of, “Well, uh… it changes a lot… and uhh… you see I’m in a weird funk with oldies P&W so, uhh…. yyyyyeah.”
For some reason I get really defensive and self conscious when that question is brought up. I begin to worry how my response will be received and I treat the question as if I’m exposing a side of myself that I normally don’t share; which is odd considering half of my job at my parish is music.
Personally I just don’t like being limited, especially when it comes to music. Asking me my favorite worship song makes me feel confined and unsure. Perhaps I’m just communicating a fault of mine in that I have weird commitment issues... with just music, I hope.
For example, those that know me well know that I have a problem, nay, an infatuation with rearranging rooms. I actually haven’t decided if I’m any good at it, but what I have found out is that I do have a fascination with pushing the boundaries of a limited space. Of course there’s only so many ways my office can be arranged, and I know I’ve surprised my co workers in doing so. In fact, after a recent rearrangement of my office, the Business Manager at my Parish once said to me, “You know, Nic, you’re probably changing up your office so much because there’s something going on in your life that you can’t change.” I just laughed it off after gathering myself from the floor, whilst almost having a midlife crisis, and having an inner dialogue telling myself “I don’t have commitment issues… I don’t have commitment issues…” But then again, maybe I do.
You see, I think there’s a feeling of “unsettling” that we all must possess. You can ask my wife, because she has said over and over, “Nic, you wanted to get married, we did that. You wanted a baby, we did that. You wanted a house, we did that. NOW YOU WANT A TRUCK?!?” Aside from the objective truth that every man inherently desires a truck to haul stuff in, while accompanied with his dog, (oh… btw, Emily, can we have a dog? Ok, sweet, thanks. I love you.) there is something beautiful in the fact that we all should always be wanting more in life. Though it is important to note that there’s a distinction to be made with an imprudent desire for more, which leads to materialism and maybe ultimately depression, and on the other hand, a disciplined and ordered disposition, which ultimately ought to lead one further into truth, which Dei Verbum eludes to truth no longer residing in propositions but something much more than a sheer argument, but rather a person; that person being Matt Maher… wait a minute, that’s not right. Uhh...
When it comes to the genre of P&W music, or whatever you want to call it, I tend to gravitate towards the musician who seems to be pushing the boundaries; doing something different, something new. Similarly to my desire of “always wanting more in life,” I also want the exact same in my music life.
P&W music has gone through some pretty drastic changes. I’m not claiming to know everything there is to know about the history of P&W music, but I’ve been around long enough to tell you that something happened in between the time Jesus Is My Friend by Sonseed came out and Pat Barrett’s Good Good Father was released. Granted, Sonseed might not have had the same intention that Pat did when writing music, but the question is: how did P&W get to where it is now? And how many “fads” did we go through to get here?
I’ve assembled some videos here for your viewing pleasure to show you just one fad I believe P&W is currently in, but also to see if you can notice the similarity I see in them. I can almost guarantee that one of your top three favorite worship songs you thought of earlier also has the same similarity that I’m trying to make known in the videos. GO!
To give it away, since the early 2010’s there’s been a weird draw to recording music videos while having every musician in a circle with people “praising” in the background. Yes, go back and watch all four videos, even Good Good Father, to make sure I’m not lying to you. Whether you noticed this or not, it’s a thing right now in the P&W world. The lighting, the filter… they’re all relatively the same.
My motive is not to come up with the next fad in Worship music. But I can’t help but wonder what’s next to push the boundaries? When is it going to get here? And who is going to be the one to introduce the new thing? What’s key here, is that hopefully someone doesn’t try to come up with a fad. The best Catholic Speakers out there right now became what they are because they felt called to share truth. For example, Jason Evert speaking on Chastity. Who else was the “Chastity Guy” before him? I’m sure there were other Chastity speakers out there, but none of them dominated the target audience like Jason did.
My point is that someone was called, not by their own will or prideful desires, but they were called to share authenticity to the world. What I see most in the “circle worship music” is a screaming plea to bring Worship music back to what it was meant to be. A lot of you are probably familiar with the song Heart of Worship by Michael W. Smith, and as much as the song is outdated, it still provides an enormously relevant message for all P&W Leaders and Praisers; that Jesus is the Heart of Worship. This is the very reason why Michael W. Smith wrote the song. He saw a shift in P&W music that was straying away from the real reason why he and other artists first began to write music.
God in the flesh through the incarnation, AKA the “hypostatic union” (if you want to speak like a legit Theologist), literally pushed the boundaries past its limits. What’s to stop us from doing the same? Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1) Whatever the next fad in P&W is, I pray that it be the same thing that Michael W. Smith prayed for; that Jesus be the focus.
You see, I’m not content with being limited, and neither is our true Worship. For, to truly Worship means to be receiving Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Yup, you guessed it, God figured out a way to stretch the confines of this world even more than becoming just a man. Talk about boundaries, dude.
So, now I’m calling on all of those who seek to push the boundaries to it’s limits with me. I’m not talking about rearranging furniture, but rather encouraging you to reveal truth, show Jesus, live an authentic life. Whether you’re a P&W leader, you raise kids, or you have a weird obsession with thrifting, Jesus desires no fads. Jesus doesn’t need our Worship. Jesus wants us. Plain and simple.
“I came so that they might have life, and have it to the fullest.” John 10:10
“You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5
***Originally posted for NET Ministries on Oct 6, 2015