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Perhaps We Need New Spiritual Songs, for Non-Believers!
Posted by Clare
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Have you ever been embarrassed in church, because your teenage children were barely moving their lips when singing? Later, in the car on the way home, there’s silence or the all-purpose “whatever,” when you ask why they weren’t singing.

A decade ago, I was doing a series of teachings to the large high school group at our church. Before I spoke, we’d have a time of worship and I observed that at least 50% of the kids weren’t singing or sang sporadically – boys mostly. During the course of the year, as I got to know many of them in a small group study or on retreats, I began to notice an important correlation.

It appeared to me that the non-singers, tended to be the spiritually ambivalent. Most of them believed in God, saw value in the Bible, but were clearly not yet true believers. As I got to know some of them one-on-one, they confessed that the whole “worship thing” felt phony. They saw kids who they knew were sleeping with their boyfriends or girlfriends, or smoking pot, singing their hearts out in worship and the hypocrisy of it made them gag.

It was the same things for their parents. Their mother and father would be screaming at each other in the car on the way to church and twenty minutes later, singing with gusto about loving God. They’d rather keep their mouth shut, than sing something they really don’t mean.

New songs for non-believers?
So, at one meeting of our high school leaders I made this suggestion; “Are there any good spiritual songs written for non-believing teenagers?” They all look at me like I’d lost it! I wasn’t kidding.

I think we need some great new spiritual songs that address the doubts and questions of not-yet-Christians. I’d suggest songs that address these themes:

  • God, reveal yourself to me. I need to know you’re real and that you love me.
  • God, forgive my indifference to you and light my heart on fire for you.
  • Jesus, I’m afraid to follow you. It will mean the loss of my friends, the music and some bad habits I’ve grown to love. I’m scared!
  • I confess to you God that I’m a sinner and feel unworthy to be loved by you.
  • God, I’m angry at you for allowing children to starve to death, child soldiers to kill, and my parents to divorce. Where are you and why don’t you stop it?
  • Jesus, why do your people behave so badly? I hate hypocrisy! Why do they do that?
  • God, if there is a God, give me a sign. Help me in my unbelief.
  • God, help me to see what you want me to see. Do in me, what I can’t seem to do for myself – to believe. Truly believe.

New Songs
So, here’s a challenge; if you have teenagers or young adults who are musicians, discuss this idea with them. Perhaps they’d like to try writing songs for this group of people. They’ll probably never get recorded, because there’s no money in it. Non-believers are not likely to purchase music to “get themselves saved.” But I still believe music could be a powerful way for not-yet-Christians to voice their questions and even anger to God. Do we dare do that? These Old Testament patriarchs did;

“God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.” Job 23:16

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” Psalm 22:1

(I’ll bet you’ve never heard those words, straight out of scripture, in a spiritual song before!)

Both Job and David loved God, but occasionally questioned why they felt deserted by him. And they dared voice their frustrations. Do we think God would be dishonored by the honest questions of not-yet-believers who seek him? “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

This genre of song isn’t for worship services. They’re best reserved for gatherings where a good percentage of young people are wrestling with their doubts about the existence or goodness of God. Let’s give them a way to do that – to be honest before God and trust that if they seek him, he will be found.

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Comments (5)
  1. Rob Hendrix said...


    Thank you so much for your continued insightful thoughts. Upon seeing this week’s topic, I admittedly let out a sight of disappointment regarding the topic. After reading, I fully understand where you are coming from and thankful that you shared this. Through 30+ years of following Jesus I’ve struggled at times with internally being less than sincere in time of worship. As I thought through this idea I remembered a song from the late 70s, early 80s by a then-young contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Pete Carlson.
    There were times in my life when I would cry out this chorus, written by Carlson, to the Lord.

    “Lord I wanna believe you, I wanna be near you, but I keep thinkin’ where I’ve been.
    You see I don’t really believe you can heal me and put me on the road again.
    You’ll just have to take me, fill me and break me, until I can clearly see.
    That you are makin’ me”

    Songs should be and are often the cry of our heart. I remember some years later re-visiting this song and literally unable to sing it. I HAD believed the Lord, He HAD healed me. At that point where I was in my relationship to God, the song no longer had deep significance. And I guess that’s your point, that to marginal believers, deep love songs to Jesus, worship songs, aren’t very significant if the relationship isn’t there. In the meantime, we should meet young seekers right where they are, with relevant lyrics.

    Thank you! Here is a link to Pete Carlson’s website. The song is called “Dreamer’s Dream”

    • Clare said...

      Rob, I love that song! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. And yes, I too am hopefully some seeker no longer finds a “seeker song”relevant. Thanks!

  2. Chad said...

    I love this blog. It’s a very unique perspective. I’m still thinking about the kid whose parents were arguing on the way to church and then singing about how much they love the Lord. This disinterested teenager will still see this hypocrisy and wonder how it is possible to love God and then treat your own family members with unkindness and disrespect. This resonates with me because I think it is all too common. You can even see it in the parking lot before you get into church. Someone honking impatiently or cutting someone off. I think people need to check their heart condition before they enter into a time of worship. Perhaps we should have a moment of reflection when the service starts to examine our hearts and ask God’s forgiveness before entering into a time of praise. Or asking forgiveness of someone we’ve offended before we walk into church. Similar to the idea of not taking communion if you have a grievance against a brother or sister, you probably shouldn’t praise God if you made him look bad right before you walked into the sanctuary. I’m with the kid. It’s hypocritical and sets a bad example. Let’s live as godly people who proclaim the name of Jesus in word and deed.

    • Clare said...

      Chad, thanks for your thoughts. My blog of September 15, 2014 tries to addresses the problem of teaching children to worship. Check it out.

  3. Chad said...

    Yes. That nailed it! Great thoughts on how to worship in ‘spirit and truth’. Thank you.

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