The desire for meaningful and deep worship experiences at New City is a no-brainer. I believe most churches would say the same thing. We all want to encounter God, to connect with God. So, how does this happen? How do I, as the worship leader, facilitate this? Can I? Should it even be my responsibility? I believe my responsibility is to plan a worship service that ultimately glorifies God, and provides a place for God’s people to be open to hearing from God. To minimize distractions. To provide opportunity to respond to God. The reality? I can only plan. It is the responsibility of each worshiper to come prepared to worship. To shut out potential distractions. To listen for God. To respond.
As a worship leader I have the privilege of listening to music and choosing what we will add to the “list” of songs we sing at New City. One of the recent songs that have been added is called “Open Up The Sky” by Jonathan Stockstill, of the band Deluge. This song was recorded on Deluge’s “Live From Bethany World Prayer Center” and released by Integrity Music. You can find it on iTunes. The song is a powerful cry from the heart of God’s people directly to the heart of God. The text is amazing. The tune is singable. The song, as far as songs go, works. However, there is one line in the song that made me think a bit deeper. And as the worship leader, I have the responsibility to make sure, as best I can, that the songs chosen are biblically solid. Sometimes a little more homework is necessary.
So what are the words I had issue with? “We don’t want blessings, we want You”. Really? Can I sing that? Can I ask the church to sing that? With conviction? Can this be the cry of our heart? Do I not want God’s blessings? Do I only want God? Confession time … I DO want God’s blessings! In fact, I believe I need his blessings. However, I want the Giver of these blessings FAR MORE than I want the blessings. Why? Because what good are his blessings if I don’t have him in my life?
I believe I understood the “essence” of what the songwriter, Jonathan Stockstill, was saying, but I still wanted to understand it deeper and introduce the song to New City with confidence. As I did my homework, I found a blog of another worship leader who had the same issue with the song. His conclusion was to change the lyric. He took the high road and contacted Jonathan Stockstill for permission. Here is part of the dialog from Jonathan Stockstill, which gives us insight into his heart at the time he wrote these lyrics.
… “What’s up man! I have no issue with you changing up the words. I actually considered saying that line instead, but really wanted to say what I said. I was in a season that God was really pouring out blessing after blessing, but my walk with Him lacked intimacy. I felt like there were all these traces of God’s favor that manifested in blessings, but I didn’t feel close to him. I would have traded every blessing for a deeper walk with him. I wasn’t saying that I don’t appreciate the blessing or even want them for that matter. I was simply saying “I am not pursuing you FOR blessings… It’s you that I want“. I can understand how that would be a tough line to sing, especially if you don’t know the heart behind it, but it is what I wanted to say, so I said it …”
So I decided to remain true to the intent of the author, and simply challenge the New City people to think about what they are singing. And the song was a hit! Sometimes keeping it simple works well. Getting out of the way of God always works well. Confirmation of this came on the day we introduced “Open Up The Sky”. While we were still singing the song, a young man walked over to our pastor and said, “I get it; God IS the blessing”!