In the World

Worship: It is and it isn't about you

I’m not much of a Rick Warren fan, but I’ve always appreciated his best-known catchphrase: "It’s not about you."
The evangelical worship life I grew up with was chock-full of “I”
language, with less room for substantive statements about God. (An
occasional “we” would have been welcome as well.) A hobby horse among
evangelicalism's critics, these individualistic songs and speech
patterns have been much criticized from within as well, resulting in some real improvement. (The most recent Top 25 Praise & Worship Songs album leads off with the theocentric "How Great is Our God.") The Purpose-Driven Life, whatever its problems, played a significant role in this shift.

I agree with CCblogger Debra Dean Murphy, however, that the “it’s not about you” argument as applied to worship presents an incomplete picture. She offers James Alison as a counterpoint to Warren (a not altogether fair fight), drawing from Undergoing God:

needs no worship, no adulation, no praise, no glory.... It is entirely
for our benefit that we are commanded to worship God, because if we
don’t we will have no protection at all against the other sort of
worship [one invested in the world's violence].

”Yep,” concludes Murphy. “Worship: It’s about us.”

do you think? Are the two ideas in conflict, or are they talking about
different things? Is it simply a question of balance?

Steve Thorngate

The Century managing editor is also a church musician and songwriter.

All articles »