What is it about Matt Redman‘s song “The Heart of Worship” that makes two of my blogging friends, Alastair and Eddie, list it as one of “The Worst Worship Songs Ever”? I am glad that at least Lingamish has jumped in to defend it.
Matt Redman writes amazing worship songs, which are for good reasons very popular at my church. One of my favourites is “Blessed Be Your Name”, which is especially helpful for those who are going through a difficult time; as explained here, Matt and his wife Beth wrote this in part in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Now I can understand some of Alastair’s criticisms of “Heart of Worship”, and especially the irony of a song including the line “Though I’m weak and poor” being a favourite of “all those well-fed, Middle-Class White Christians”. But before he or anyone else criticises this song they should be aware of its background. I found an interesting short article on the history of this song. This, like “Blessed Be Your Name”, is a song which was written in a particular context, in this case of a church which was focussing too much on the musical and technical side of worship and tending to leave God out of it – something for which Redman and his congregation did need to apologise to God. This explains the otherwise strange lines which Alastair quotes. Presumably this song remains appropriate for use in similar contexts, which may be quite often, especially for worship leaders and bands who easily lose sight of the one they are supposed to be worshipping.
Of course the song has become popular not only where it is obviously appropriate to the context. Worship leaders may have chosen it because this message is needed for themselves and for their bands, so I can’t condemn them for doing so. But if it is being used inappropriately, that does not make it a bad song, but just one that does not fit the occasion.
So, what is the heart of worship? As Redman reminds us in this song, it is not the music, or the words, or the technical excellence of performance. Nor is it judging a worship leader or band, or a song writer, for deficiencies in any of these. Yes, we can all be distracted by a bad song or a bad rendering of it and start judging it, but this is not what we should be focussing on in worship. Instead, as Redman writes, “It’s all about You, Jesus”. The heart of Christian worship should never be anything but Jesus.
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