encouraging a unified worship experience

“I” or “We” Worship

pronouns-300x232Pronouns...ah yes...those pesky little pronouns!

There is an interesting discussion in the worship realm concerning pronouns. You may be wondering how do pronouns relate to worship? Well, the discussion stems from whether "I" or "we" should be used in worship songs. For example, in the song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman, the first person singular is used:

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I worship Your holy name

Some view songs (such as "10,000 Reasons") with the first person singular pronouns to be self centered or exclusionary of the whole. This segment of people would argue that these lyrics should not be used in corporate worship where many people are gathered. Others would argue that this lyric is perfectly fine for corporate worship as the worshipper is singing from a single heart to God.

To understand the other side of the argument, let's look at the lyrics of Israel Houghton's song "You are Good":

We worship You hallelujah, hallelujah
We worship you for who you are
For you are good!

Those who subscribe to this side of the argument would view this song as appropriate for corporate worship because of the collective terminology used. Others view songs with the first person plural pronoun (we) to be impersonal and cold.

And, lest you think this argument is only related to modern music I set forth the following two hymn examples:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

What is correct?

To find out, let's begin at the foundation; scripture. Now you may be thinking, "Why muddy the water of a good worship debate with scripture?" However, if you keep reading  I think you will see that there is a biblical answer to this question.

The church is a tapestry of believers woven together to make a beautiful garment. These believers come from all races and age groups. While diversity in the local church should and will exist, one of the characteristics of a healthy church is unity among the fellowship. In John 17:1-21 (specifically verse 21), Jesus prayed for unity. This unity, modeled through the unity the Father and the Son share, gives proof to the world that God sent his Son. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the apostle Paul also urged unity and warned against divisions within the church. This mandate toward unity is clearly visible when viewed from the perspective of the church as the bride of Christ. Unity among believers from varied generations is crucial in corporate worship where the ultimate goal is glorifying God. Because believers have commonality through Christ’s redemption, love and a spirit of unification must be present as the church gathers for worship.

Now, you may be really confused thinking, "What did that theological tangent have to do with worship?" Answer: Everything! There is a prevailing thread through the previous paragraph. It is one tiny little word with a great meaning: unity. God is pleased when there is unity among His people in worship. I would even argue that corporate worship cannot be fully grasped if there is division among believers.

Let's take this one step further and look more in depth at the word "unity." Webster's Dictionary defines unity as "the quality or state of not being multiple: a condition of harmony: oneness." According to this definition, the unity that Christ prayed for is for us as His body, to be one.

So, let's assume for a moment that the local church has unity. The people are united together under the banner of Christ and are worshipping him corporately. Thus, the collective have become one. While there are still individuals (I)  worshipping corporately (we), the gathering has become one entity (the body)  worshipping One (God). If this applies to the congregation gathered in corporate worship, then theologically sound songs with the first person singular pronouns or the first person plural pronoun are acceptable for God honoring worship.

The ultimate issue is not what pronoun we are using, but are we unified as one when we worship corporately. If we are, Christ will be exalted and we will experience the joy of true worship.

These are my thoughts, what are yours?