Last night our church held a special meeting to discuss, among other things, a relaunch of the vision of the church and the adoption of a lengthy set of formal bylaws. It was just one of those steps in the life of a church. Before the meeting commenced we enjoyed a time of worship and were led by the worship leader from one of our daughter churches. It was a great time of music, prayer and singing and afterwards I took a few minutes to reflect on the way different people worship. I thought about the way different people worship in different ways. Off to my left was a woman who kept her hands in the air, swaying back and forth with her eyes fixed on heaven (more accurately, it was the ceiling which stood between her and heaven) as she soaked in the music and words. Beside her stook her husband, his hands crossed across his chest, but his eyes closed and head bowed as he stood in contemplation of the words he was quietly singing. It was a great picture of different ways of worshipping.
This morning, while I was doing my rounds on the net, reading all my favorite sites, I found an article which spoke of the 2004 nominees for the 4th Annual Praise Awards. These awards are distributed by Worship Leader magazine for the best worship songs of the year. It struck me that there was a bizarre element to these awards. How can we give awards based on worship?
The categories they give awards in are:
- Best Compilation
- Best Scripture Song
- Best Worship Project
- Best Praise and Worship Song
- Best Urban or Gospel
- 2004 Breakthrough Artist
I have to wonder, how can they decide which worship song, “When the Tears Fall” by Tim Hughes or “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin, is more pleasing to God? Is that not the purpose of worship and the goal of each worship song – to bring praise and glory to God? And further, I wonder how they can look at worship songs, as the expression of a person’s love of God, and judge that one person’s expression of love or admiration is better than another’s. Now I understand that Worship Leader magazine is not trying to cause strife. They say “It is the vision of this publication that the Praise Awards be a medium in which worship leaders can honor and acknowledge the excellence of the artists who have devoted their lives and talents to creating innovative ways for the Church to experience God…not a popularity contest that glorifies celebrity.”
I have to wonder, did Martin Luther or Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts ever receive awards for the songs they wrote? Or were they content to offer the songs to the Lord and let Him award them as He saw fit? I guess it comes down to this: I just do not understand how we can judge something that we offer to God and declare one better than the other. If we offer it to God it is for Him to evaluate and judge. You may write a song that no one ever sings but is an honest and beautiful offering to God of your love and affection to Him. It may just be that He prefers that over the most beautiful, most popular song honored with a Praise Award.
On the other hand, I do appreciate that people like to honor those who have made great contributions in the area of songwriting. Is there not some way we can do that without comparing one expression of the heart to another?