Changing the Heart of Worship

I’ve observed a trend over my 12 years as a member of Christ’s body that has increasingly raised my ire. Worship leaders have been exercising their freedom to change hymn and praise & worship song lyrics that they don’t care for. For example, I recently heard of one such worship leader who didn’t like a particular verse in the popular song ‘The Heart of Worship.’ Here is the offending verse:

King of endless worth, no one could express

How much You deserve

Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours

Every single breath

The worship leader bristled at the thought that people are weak and poor, so he desired to alter the lyrics a bit to reflect a more positive, self-affirming view of fallen man. He wanted to change the line to:

Though I’m weak I’m sure, all I have is Yours

Well, at least he didn’t quibble about the ‘weak’ part. But what’s his beef with ‘poor’? Did he take this to mean poor as in finances and material possessions? Was he afraid of offending those in his congregation who are poor? Or perhaps he didn’t want to upset the wealthy? Did he think the rich would fail to identify with the song because of this word? I think he has misapprehended the meaning of the word ‘poor’ as used in this song. Notice how the songwriter coupled ‘weak’ and ‘poor’ together. The story of God’s grace to us is about him saving us by his strong arm because we are too weak in strength and poor in spirit. Jesus taught this truth in the beatitudes. What was the very first one he mentioned?

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:3)

All people are born into sin and are depraved throughout. They are dead in transgresses and sins. They are spiritually bankrupt of the life of God and cannot revive themselves by any means. I’m certain this is what the songwriter had in mind when he wrote this tune, and we have no right to omit scriptural truth from our worship, even if it is for the sake of those in attendance.

I certainly hope he didn’t discard ‘poor’ because of the meaning Jesus ascribed to it. What would he be saying then? I’ve heard people disdain the weak and poor view of humanity with remarks like, ‘Believers are no longer weak and poor. We are now strong and rich in Christ.’ That’s true as far as it goes, but it is ‘in Christ’ that we have any strength at all. Apart from him we can do nothing. We must never lose sight of who we are in Christ and who we once were without him – that God’s grace be magnified. It is shameful to desire to hide biblical truth, no matter how unpopular it is to unbelievers.

Sadly, this is not the only example I have witnessed. I remember as a new believer I attended Wednesday night services at my old Pentecostal church. It was a men’s group meeting and we always opened up by singing a couple of songs. At one service the guy leading the worship decided we should sing ‘Amazing Grace’. However, he made a slight adjustment to the lyrics to better suit his tastes (or perhaps his man-centered theology). The original verse goes like this:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

The new lyrics went like this:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a guy like me

This change didn’t bother me at the time, but upon reflection I realize the worship leader was offended at the idea that men are considered wretched in the sight of God! This thought is the antithesis of sound biblical doctrine. Of course it is offensive – to the carnal mind! But for those of us being renewed in heart and mind – we glory in it. It is a magnificent, awe-inspiring truth. John Newton put it so beautifully in word and in music. To change this one word transforms the meaning of the song completely. In fact, if sung this way a person could probably beg the question, ‘so why is grace so amazing? I just don’t see it’. The new lyric would imply that we’re basically good at heart and God found us so worthy that he gave his Son just for us! How special we must be! You may think I’m exaggerating the point, but given the human condition, man will take every opportunity to heap praise upon himself.

God save us from a positive self-image! May the truth come to light that though every man is made in the image and likeness of God, we have been blighted and marred by the effects of sin to the extent that in our natural state, we cannot do any good whatsoever – that it is Christ’s righteousness we must depend on for justification before a holy and righteous God.

Ok, if those lyrical alterations haven’t raised your hackles, keep reading! From the same worship leader who believes ‘though I’m weak I’m sure’ comes a truly jaw dropping story. While practicing the song ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ he mentioned to the worship team he didn’t care for part of the chorus. For those not familiar with the song, the chorus lyrics that displeased him go like this:

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say

Lord, blessed be Your name

His proposed new lyrics go like this:

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and give some more

You give and give some more

My heart will choose to say

Lord, blessed be Your name

A pleasant sentiment, to be sure. The problem lies in the fact that the original lyrics ‘You give and take away’ are based on scripture itself! They come from the book of Job.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe changing the very words of scripture around to mean something else entirely is a big time No-No! The context of this passage is that Job has lost his home, his material wealth, his children and his health through a series of calamities wrought by Satan through the permission of God. In response, Job proclaims that God, who has the power to give blessings, also has the authority to take it all away. He says God took away these blessings. The author of Job states that ‘in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.’ (Job 1:22) Though Satan was the agent which through these calamities happened, God was responsible for them. God is sovereign and works all things according to the counsel of his will. That is the meaning of the song, as well. Though the Lord gives and takes away blessings, those redeemed by the blood of Christ will rejoice in the salvation that has saved them from his wrath. We will leave this world naked, none of our earthly possessions and blessings will amount to a pile of dung in the big picture. Saints persevere through all trials and tribulations because of the peace and joy we have in our eternal salvation. This life is but a short space and the suffering we endure is not to be compared to the glory we shall receive as children of the living God. Truly, believers can say at all times, no matter their circumstances – Blessed be the name of the Lord!

To say ‘You give and give some more’ is contrary to the testimony of scripture. It sounds like this fellow must be getting a healthy dose of Joel Osteen’s health, wealth and prosperity gospel if he desires to espouse such shallow and false sentiments. Does he not realize changing these lyrics is tantamount to altering the scriptures themselves? I pray he turns from this course and decides the testimony of scripture is enough.

Why do worship leaders feel the need to alter the lyrics to long cherished songs that have been sung by multitudes of saints over the years? I think the answer lies in the dominating methodology of Evangelicalism today. The seeker-sensitive model of doing church teaches us to be sensitive to people seeking God out. We must not offend them with scary truth! We must feed them lies and half-truths while avoiding doctrine and theology so they can become comfortable in our midst. We must create an environment conducive to influencing their delicate psyche and fragile self-esteem in making a positive decision for Christ.

I thought Jesus told us to be fishers of men, dragging the gospel net through the sea of humanity, bringing people into the kingdom. This seeker model is more akin to deer hunting. We must tread lightly, careful not to snap a twig or rustle the bushes, lest the nervous seeker darts away into the wilderness – an opportunity lost.

From the above examples it is clear people think that if we portray ourselves as poor and wretched and God as sovereign we will scare unbelievers away, never to return. Instead, we need to think biblically. The word of God itself sparks faith in an unbelieving heart, not our carefully crafted worship services, felt-needs preaching or repentance-free sinner’s prayers. The Father draws the fearful doe to his bosom. The Holy Spirit gently removes the heart full of fear and hatred and grants a heart of flesh. The Son lovingly washes anew with his blood. The Trinity does all these things. We must present the word fully and purely, trusting in God to call his own to himself. God has ordained both the ends and the means. Preaching is the means by which his chosen people are drawn to him. So I advise all worship leaders and purported preachers of the gospel to quit taking away from the word of God and just preach what it tells us to preach. Hold nothing back and God will not fail to bless your efforts!

Soli Deo Gloria



5 thoughts on “Changing the Heart of Worship

  1. I actually served in a church where our PPT guy changed the lyrics for ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ exactly as you record it.

    The leader of Bible school the guy went to just sent a newsletter out that says Acts 2:42-47 is an example of early Christian Communism. He goes on to write: “later in the book of Acts the church had to send food to the church at Jerusalem. They were all ‘broke’ because Communism has never been endorsed by the Bible and it has never worked.”

    It definitely changes the heart of worship & the heart of Scripture. Peace…Stew

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