Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's In It For Me?

“WIIFM” This is the sacred cow of our capitalistic culture. Do you want to sell a product or service? The simple formula is that you need to show a prospective consumer all the benefits they can derive from buying your particular product or service. If you buy my brand of hair gel, men, then the ladies will fight each other for the chance to go out with you. You will prosper in everything you do. You’ll be a money magnet. In fact, this hair gel will literally give you the appearance of being 21. So if you’re too young, this will scream “man” (even if you’re 12). If you’re too old, this amazing product will take you back to the prime of your life. However, supplies are limited, so stock up today!
So, maybe hype and benefits may be acceptable in the consumer marketplace (though I even tire of seeing it there). However, more and more we are seeing this type of philosophy invading the church. In the “Word of Faith” camp, from whence I came, the emphasis is on your own personal “power” supposedly granted to you by the Holy Spirit. You no longer pray for the Lord to heal someone. Rather you simply “command” it to be done, with the obligatory magic words, “…in the name of Jesus…” tacked on to the end. Personal prophecies abound promising children to barren women, financial gain to the down and out, and supernatural healing to those in chronic pain. What’s not to like about this message? After all, it’s all about me, isn’t it?

Unfortunately this “me driven” mentality is not isolated to the ”Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” crowd. It’s tentacles have invaded the song service of many Reformed churches. Traditional hymns, which declare the glory of God, such as A Mighty Fortress is Our God, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, or Man of Sorrows, have been replaced with “feel good,” “me affirming” modern “praise” songs.

Consider the chorus to the song, “I Am Free” by Jon Egar:
I am free to run
I am free to run
I am free to dance
I am free to dance
I am free to live for You
I am free to live for You
I am free
I am free

Who is the subject of that “praise” song? I am. Now compare that with the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded:
Verse 1
O sacred Head now wounded
With grief and shame weighed down
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns Thine only crown
How pale Thou art with anguish
With sore abuse and scorn

How does that visage lanquish
Which once was bright as morn

Verse 2
What Thou my Lord has suffered
Was all for sinners' gain
Mine mine was the transgression
But Thine the deadly pain
Lo here I fall my Savior
'Tis I deserve Thy place
Look on me with Thy favor
Assist me with Thy grace

Verse 3
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee dearest Friend
For this Thy dying sorrow
Thy pity without end
O make me Thine forever
And should I fainting be
Lord let me never never
Outlive my love to Thee

In this song we predominately hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I will admit that “I” do show up in this song as well. How so? “’Tis I deserve thy place…” That’s a far cry from “I am a free to run. I am free to dance,” don’t you think?
Some may accuse me of dissing all modern music. This is not so. Give me a song like “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Recently that song made headlines because the PCUSA wanted to alter it for inclusion in their watered down hymn book. Thankfully the authors stood strong and refused to remove the theologically sound line of “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.”

So then, what makes a song appropriate for singing in a corporate worship service? Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” If the music makes that clear, then it’s probably not appropriate. A question that is 1000 times better is, “What’s in it for Christ?” He alone deserves all glory, praise, and honor. We deserve nothing but hell.