The evangelical church has a long and well-documented history of singing worship songs that could also double as love songs. You know. Jesus is my boyfriend, and such. But things got really weird for a brief period in the mid-90’s. More on that in a minute.
I suspect the love song to Jesus thing originated with the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s, which was an amazing work of God but also produced some pretty weird stuff. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us given that many people in the movement, including my dad, smoked a metric ton of pot and ate LSD like candy before getting saved.
Now, you might think this is going to turn into one of those ranting, raving, frothy, “Back in my day worship songs were good, and we didn’t have any of these fancy fog machines, and all we had for instruments was rocks to bang together,” blog posts.
But it’s not. In fact, one of the most moving, profound things I ever heard came when I asked my dad why he would sing incredibly schmaltzy songs like “Love Is The Flag On The Castle Of My Heart”.
Now, you have to understand something about my dad. He was a true rocker (Rocker? That sounds like a homeschool kid trying to describe what kind of band he’s in). He grew up on the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Kansas. Before he became a Christian, he played in a rock band, drank boatloads of beer, and tried to make a living as an artist.
Here he is in his glory days:
This is the kind of music he listened to:
He even wrote songs that mocked cheesy, positive music (one was called “Assassinate The Postive”).
But then God saved him. He got connected to other believers and ended up in groups that sang incredibly, overwhelmingly, staggeringly cheesy – seriously who approved this? – songs. Here’s the one I mentioned above.
Be honest – where would you expect to hear that song today? I’LL TELL YOU WHERE: MY SIX YEAR OLD’S SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS. Right? If we sang this in the adult service, I would think it was a huge joke.
I asked my dad how he could possibly sing songs like this given his passion for rock n’ roll. His answer actually brought tears to my eyes, which, if you know me, doesn’t happen much (the feeling part of my heart doesn’t work very well).
We knew it was corny, but in a way, I was just so glad to be saved.
Man. That blows me away. He was so grateful to be saved he was willing to forgo his preferences for rock and sing cheesy songs. I want that same level of gratefulness.
Now, let me make a hard left from the simultaneously cheesy/profound to the straight-up weird/racy. There were at least two popular songs in the mid-90’s that pushed the envelope in the “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” genre.
The first, milder song, was “I Want To Know You More”, which was made popular by Sonic Flood (and their name is most definitely not a rip-off of “Sonic Youth” – how dare you think such judgmental thoughts?).
The lyrics for the first verse are:
In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness You are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for You
‘Cause, I want to know You more
I mean, not that bad, right? Sounds like it’s describing a morning devotional time. Quiet, Bible reading, prayer, industrial strength coffee, my kids waking up three minutes after I do and immediately demanding everything immediately, now, this second, “Dad, WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?” Sorry, that went further than necessary.
The chorus is where things start to get kinda…weird.
I want to know You, I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more, I want to touch You
I want to see Your face, I want to know You more
Hang on just a second. What exactly are we talking about here? I mean, I could see hearing God’s voice as he speaks through his word, but after that…
How exactly does one touch God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit? And honestly, the only people I feel comfortable touching are my wife, kids, and family members. I mean, I’ll give the stiff, awkward hug every now and then, but that’s about it. I’m starting to feel slightly uncomfortable here.
And how do we see God’s face? Are we talking about in heaven where we see Jesus? I kinda get that. But the whole thing just has weird, intimate undertones to it.
Now let’s move on to a really creepy/racy/why are you putting these images in my head song. The lyrics of the first verse in Darrell Evans’ song “Your Love Is Extravagant” are:
Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate
I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
‘Cause Your love is extravagant
OKAY WHAT THE HECK? Moving to the rhythm of your…grace. That only sounds like one thing, and it’s definitely not worship. Your fragrance is intoxicating? Ummm, Darrell, buddy, who exactly are you talking about here?
At any point during the writing and recording of this song, did anyone pull Darrell aside and say, “Darrell, this is most sexual worship song ever written. Seriously. What’s going on here?”
Okay, I need to move on from this song because I’m getting weirded out.
Of course, this brings me back to where I started. Why do we sing songs like this? Yes, there are theological problems with them, but I’m not even talking about that. Why do we sing songs that could be used as love songs?
One reason is because church is weird.
But another, more significant reason is that the salvation offered in the gospel is so staggering, that love is only right response. Do many songs take it too far? Sure. But Mary “took it too far” when she poured nard on Jesus. Her gratefulness to Jesus was so intense that manifested in overflowing love.
I obviously think we should be thoughtful and theological when choosing our worship songs. I’m a big proponent of sound doctrine. But I don’t want to discard the impulse that drives these worship songs.
Stay weird church.
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