Wiki Worship

17 04 2008

I like Wikipedia. It is limited in its scope, and sometimes the information can be a little hazy around the edges, but by and large I find it to be a good resource. One of the things which I most like is the element of interactivity which it allows. Readers can look up a topic, and add their piece of information or research to the existing base of knowledge – thus enhancing the usefulness and accuracy (hopefully) of the site.

Recntly I’ve been thinking about what wiki worship would look like.

At the moment, the way in which we receive the hymns we sing is a pretty one way affair. Hymnwriters and musicians pen the pieces which are then passed on to the Christian public to employ in their praise. Interactivity is limited to a group of end users (believers gathered together) to use the production of one or two people.

Now, that arrangement works very well. Most of us are neither lyricists nor musicians, and we are happy to pass on the task of writing quality material for public worship to those who have been gifted by God to do so. For my own part I feel like I’d run a thousand miles from writing a hymn, given the responsibility that it entails. If I make a theological error in my preaching it may only be heard once, and I can retract statements if my ministry has been unbalanced. But if I write a hymn it will be found in the mouths and written on the minds of God’s people for months, years, even generations to come. That’s a big responsbility.

This is where my idea of wiki worship comes in. There are occasions – and they are few and far between – when an excellent hymn, with good theological pedigree puts a foot wrong doctrinally. It might simply be a matter of phrasing and emphasis, or it might be the writer’s way of seeking to express timeless truth in novel language, but sometimes a hymn just slightly misses the mark. On those occasions I think that it would be good for the people of God to exercise some corporate editorial rights over what they sing.

Here are a few examples of what I would like changed through wiki worship.

‘And can it be?’ – the lines ’emptied himself of all but love’, are a very problematic way of describing Christ’s incarnation. Surely the way in which the ‘Praise’ hymn book has phrased the line is to be preferred ’emptied himself in all his love’. Wiki worship at its best.

‘From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable’ – this is part of Stuart Townend’s back catalogue, and a very worthy hymn. But are the following words really true ‘He fights for breath, he fights for me’? Did Jesus fight for breath? Is the wonder of Calvary not in some way connected with the intentionality of Christ’s death, with His self surrender, with the fact that no one took His life from Him, that He laid it down? How about this suggestion in wiki worship: ‘He yields His life, as He fights for me’.

‘O Church Arise’ – another great one from the Getty/Townend stable, full of inspiring truth about the basis for and obligation of the Church’s mission in the world. But is the following line the best way to describe the Resurrection: ‘And as the stone is rolled away/And Christ emerges from the grave/A victory march…’? Does Matthew 28:2 not suggest that Christ was already risen before the stone was rolled away? The wiki worship way of phrasing this couplet might be something like ‘And now that sin is put away/And Christ is risen from the grave/Our victory march…’

This all may sound like pedantry, but given the nature of the world in which we live, and the communication of information which is viable between Christians worldwide, would it not be possible to refine the pieces that we sing so that they are as close to biblical truth as possible?

Got any wiki worship suggestions of your own on the pieces I’ve mentioned, or on other hymns? I’d love to hear from you.

*After writing the above article I discovered someone else using the term ‘wiki worship’ here, but it is in a different context, and makes a radically different point from the one I make here.




One response

5 01 2009
Richard Maclannan

I’m with you here! You could see my post on “Above all” by Paul Baloche here – which is less well presented than your argument, I feel.

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