Thursday, January 1, 2009 | By: Zachary Bartels

About worship music...

I've got a new favorite song. This is something that happens frequently. The current favorite is by Lecrae, an artist with whom I am nursing a budding obsession (much to my wife's chagrin). Not only does he produce incredibly tight, smart, catchy songs, but I just love the way he dashes to pieces the silly mistaken notion that Calvinism is just for crusty old white Dutch guys in Grand Rapids. This is less true every day (I won't even go on my tirade about how Augustine first laid out the doctrines of grace and election in Africa).

I mean, even putting aside theological and pastoral giants (like Dr. Ken Jones) for a minute--even just looking at the world of hip hop, a more and more diverse group of people is embracing the doctrines of sovereign grace all the time. Lecrae, Trip Lee, Shai Linne, Redeemed Thought... We've all seen how pathetic it can be when the white guys from Grand Rapids try to be cool and relevant (wow, those are really hip glasses, but you're still a dork). God didn't call us to try and be something we're not. Thankfully, some Calvinists don't have to try--they just are cool.

Anyway, check this song out:
(you can hear it if you go to YouTube and do a search)

It's Your World
I know I'm not fit or deserving to do this
But I'm foolish if I don't spit to give you godly influence
Like a student practicing prudence; will you walk with me through this?
As I give my feeble attempt at glorifying Yeshua
Cause He is the beginning--everything came into being
By His being, the being who created all other beings
We're emceeing, true to his benevolent freeing, decreeing
He's the almighty creator of everything that we're seeing
There is none like him; if you don't like him,
Then he'll use the lichen to liken himself to a choir just to delight him
That's why I write hymns
My right hand used to write sin, battle against Him like I was Shai-Linne
And now despite sin, I give praise to the God who made sunny days
The white lightening, it's quite frightening
To sing "Who's world is this?" without proper enlightening

Whose world is this? It's your world! It belongs to you, Christ Jesus

He used intelligent design, like eloquence confined
Life elements assigned by Elohim my God
He left his fingerprints--You thinking our origins are coincidence?
Our symmetry alone makes evolution look ridiculous
And since our complexity is more than irreducible
The fact our design had a designer is irrefutable
I use science too to make a statement like this:
The existence of an atheist proves God exists
He's the owner, holding the throne
But since he up-rose he told us to go on this road
Shown by a knowledge foretold, spoken by prophets of old
The total opposite role, chosen by populace goes
Down to the hottest abode--total apocalypse, bro
That's why we're rocking it, yo
Hand these sounds to the proudest men
God has brought you in this world and he can sure take you out of it

Whose world is this? It's your world! It belongs to you, Christ Jesus

You should already know who's running it, brother
You don't want it
He made it in six but he'll only take one to crumble it
The earth rumbles at the sound of his mumbling
He flooded it once but with Noah he made a covenant
So the next time he's gonna be coming with flames
His antagonists don't know what they're up against
Return of the last Adam, whose rapping
Will smash men now holds together every last atom
And that ain't even the sum of it
Matter of fact, you could handle the half--I'm only giving you some of it
But it's still enough of it for you to come to grips
With the fact that it's his planet; you own none of it
So please consider how dumb it is
To take comfort in the momentary status you have and the stuff you get
He blows it up in the end; you can trust it, kid
But we ain't bugging cause there's another one coming--you dig?

Whose world is this? It's your world! It belongs to you, Christ Jesus

The earth was so impressed with his defeat of the grave
The ground did the Harlem shake; the ocean did the wave
No longer enslaved now that I see the Lord
God is so deep he causes hurricanes when he brainstorms
I switched teams; me and 'Crae got traded on the same night
Same conference, same sermon by James White
The light of Christ is a blazing one
I'm evidence that his grace is amazing, son
Man continues to overvalue his worth
Spends most of his time trying to conquer the earth
That kind of action only leaves you empty or hurt
Then you see your true value when you return to the dirt
$5000 casket
$500 clothes
6 months for the grieving
1 year to decompose
I've yet to find a human that can outlive the curse
While God sits in the heaven, places his feet on the earth

Whose world is this? It's your world! It belongs to you, Christ Jesus

Then it fades out. That's right, it fades out and somehow, rather than making the song lame, it makes fade-outs cooler.

We need more music like this! I don't mean more Calvinist hip hop (although that suits me just fine). I mean more music that both GLORIFIES GOD and DECLARES TRUE DOCTRINE. I don't care if it's pipe organ hymns from 1550 or punkgrass from 2009, a song that edifies us and magnifies God is doing what songs were always supposed to do. And it accomplishes these things through the majesty of the music, the poetry of the lyrics, and the truth of their content. A prime example is Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." I get chills from those words, but the chills aren't the main thing I'm chasing. They're a byproduct at best. They're incidental.

I've got a reputation for hating modern praise and worship music (belonging to the Facebook group, "Praise Bands Annoy God" may have helped reinforce the notion), but I don't hate it by default. I just hate the namby-pamby junk that has been dominating the scene of late. I hate walking into a church and singing songs that could either be about a really great girl or a pretty good god.

In the mid-'90s, I attended a "seeker-sensitive" storefront church in Grand Rapids and played bass in their praise band (they have since built an office-park-style building) and most every week the "special music" was some rock song, either from the '60s (No Man Is an Island) or current (Pearl Jam got lots of play, ironically). The sad thing is that most of those songs had more in common with Scripture than most of the shallow and repetitive praise songs we played.

There are some amazing new worship hymns being written: In Christ Alone, Mighty to Save, Indescribable. These songs are unapologetically Christ-centered, Gospel-proclaiming, and biblically based. We sing them at my church and I'd like to get into them more. But the ultimate criterion for worship music as far as I'm concerned will never be if it's new, catchy, bouncy, uplifting, snappy, or popular. I don't care if it gives me a "Jesus buzz." What matters to me is whether a song lifts Christ up in worship and lifts me up in Truth.

Luther did this well. And I think Lecrae gives Luther a run for his money.

5 reader comments:

Joel Shaffer said...

Notice that none of these hip-hoppers are connected to the CCM capital of the world, NashVegas.....I mean Nashville. LeCrae, the Cross-Movement, Trip Lee, Flame are outside the mainstream CCM hip-hop scene where they have the freedom to develop their worship and art without the interference of pin-headed marketers who are mostly about the Benjamins.

ZSB said...

EXACTLY! If I'm not mistaken, rapping is Lecrae's sideline gig, which he does just for fun and to build relationships and gain a platform. Isn't his day job pretty much the same thing you do with UTM?

ZSB said...

However, I do wanna mention that there are some good Christian rap artists that are more mainstream: Knowdaverbs (who I think is just called "Verbs" now), Grits, LA Symph... I guess even through Gotee is based in Nashville and has a huge piece of the pie, I've always thought of them as more independent.

joel shaffer said...

Yeah, LeCrae, Flame, Shai Linne, Trip Lee, the ambassador, and anyone else who is part of or affiliated with the Crossmovement are all very involved in local church ministry. Here is their core values of their church, Epiphany Fellowship, courtesy of Youtube.

By the way, we've started to take are students to a discipleship and outreach conference put on by LeCrae's record label called Legacy disciplemaking conference. Here is the link to their website (your teens might want to come). LeCrae, Shai Linne, Flame, Da Truth, were the speakers, workshop leaders, and worship leaders. Our students felt it was the most spiritually beneficial conference they'd ever been to.

As for Grits, Verbs, LA Symphony they're good but to me they're to commercial.

Actually Flame is my favorite with his CD's Our world fallen and Our world redeemed. Then followed by Shai Linne. At Legacy, Shai Linne's first song dealt with Creation, the second song talked about the Fall, his third song dealt with redemption, and the last song covered the final consummation. By the way, whenever you are about to make the trip to G.R., feel free to e-mail me. You have the opportunity to get a free Lunch out of me and I promise I won't shed any more man tears.....

joel shaffer said...

oops, didn't pay attention to my grammer!!!!