A few days ago, I was discussing spiritual problems with a friend, and he told me: “Your issue is that your focus is on you… And as long as your eyes are there, you can never see God.” My friend was absolutely right, and he’d finally put a personal focus on some of the ideas about Christian culture that have been floating around in my head recently. So I’m going to do a more thorough examination of the ways in which Christians –myself included – can accidentally place an inappropriate focus on themselves instead upon God and His glory. I’m going to start with worship music (because the other areas will require more research). Although it doesn’t really matter what sort of music you use during worship (unless it is Satanic or something), trends in music reflect a larger trend in the way in which we collectively think about God.

A popular modern worship song is Brian Doerksen’s “Today.”

The lyrics are:
“Today I choose to follow you
Today I choose to give my ‘yes’ to you
Today I choose to hear your voice and live
Today I choose to follow you

As for me and my house
we will serve you
as for me and my house
we will spend our lives on you

Wonderful Counselor , Everlasting Father
Eternal King , Lord of hosts
Willingly we follow”

Now I have nothing wrong with a song like this. But the overwhelming focus is on what the speaker is doing: I choose to follow, I choose to give, I choose to hear, we will serve you, we will spend. The emphasis is the individual’s choice and decision, with little room left for God or God’s character. The listener (and singer) is left with very little idea of who God is or why He is worth being followed. Even the bridge, the only part which explicitly describes God, ends with “willingly we follow.” If this song was used in worship, I’m not sure who I would be worshiping besides myself.

Compare this to the traditional hymn “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

“Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Here the hymn is focused on Jesus, describing both who he was – a man of Sorrows, the Son of God, a spotless lamb, a glorious king, our Savior – and what he did – reclaimed sinners through his blood upon the Cross. This song does not simply proclaim God to be worthy of worship, but explicitly demonstrates why He is worthy of it. In this song, too, there is reference to the speaker. Yet the brief moments of first person perspective emphasize the nature of Christ’s atonement, our personal imperfection, and our glorification of God.

Applying this characterization to all contemporary music and all old hymns is perhaps unfair; I have selected two songs particularly suitable to my purpose. Yet I think when we look at the majority of modern Christian music, we will see that the focus has become increasingly upon us, what we are doing, and what we are feeling, rather than upon God, who He is, and what He has done. The lyricists’ words reflect our contemporary concern with ourselves, and their popularity suggests that the culture widely accepts these solipsistic sentiments. When we surround ourselves with music that is misdirected, it is no surprise that we find ourselves to be misdirected as well.