Do you have a “God-centered” or “man-centered” view of God and the Christian life? Your first response may be “of course, it is God-centered!” – But I fear that this is not actually the case in many situations. It seems that a subtle self-centered, even narcissistic, approach has invaded much of the modern church. And sometimes subtle things can be more damaging and destructive than things more blatant. Subtle things can sneak up on us, and influence us without us quite realizing it. This “man-centered” approach has affected how we worship, the topics of our sermons, how we present the gospel, how we live out the Christian life, and our general approach to God.
Although there are certainly many reasons why the church in the USA seems so weak and lacking in “salt and light” influence, I believe that a “man-centered” theology is the underlying or core reason for it all. We desperately need a return to “God-centered” theology! (And, on a positive note, I believe we are actually starting to see a swing in this direction.)
My dear readers, I hope I won’t lose you. This is definitely going to be a whole series of posts! One reason I write is actually for my own benefit (narcissism, you see! haha!) – to help myself work through a critical issue. Thanks for taking the journey with me.
Perhaps a way to begin might be to address some of the songs being sung in many of our evangelical churches. The point here is NOT to bash “contemporary” music! Contemporary music is just a style…it can be good or bad. The point is actually NOT about music at all… But to use it as one example of how a man-centered or self-centered approach has invaded the church.
I was looking at the CCLI list of the top 25 songs (sung in churches) for 2006 and 2010. On a positive note, there does seem to be a shift in the right direction…from more man-centered to God-centered lyrics.
But what do I mean by man-centered lyrics anyway? Songs that seem to define God based on our experience of Him. Songs that are more subjective, than objective. The first-person singular (I/me/my) is used, with God as the direct object. “Draw me close to You”, “You are worthy of my praise”, “I give you my heart”, “I enthrone you”, etc.
In too many of these songs, it seems ultimately about us…instead of about God! God is an “object” out there, that needs or wants my love, my worship, my heart. Instead of singing objectively or generally about God’s great love (which is worthy to sing about!)…we sing more subjectively of “God’s love for me” or “our love for God” or “my love for You, God”. Do you see the progression and problem here? Yes, God loves us!! But we have made ourselves the center of the worship experience. Worse yet, our experience has become the focus. We have experienced God and found Him worthy. However…GOD IS WORTHY. Period. Whether our experience has revealed that or not!! When we make ourselves or our experience the focus, we limit God and make Him so much smaller than He is.
We are also placing the emphasis on our own abilities. We sing lyrics along the lines of “I offer my life to you”, “You are my every desire”, “You are all I want Jesus”. Oh, really??! If we are honest, our desires, at best, are often mixed and diluted and lukewarm. We desire many things besides the Savior, and our actions in life clearly reveal that. Not a day goes by where I don’t squander time or fail to put God first in all that I do.
When we come to worship we need Christ-centered songs, not self-centered songs. We are already self-centered enough all on our own, without songs that only further put the focus on us! We are already prone to self-deception as it is, without songs that further delude us.
We need songs that focus on the excellence and faithfulness of the Savior, not on our own supposed excellence and faithfulness. We need songs that give us an honest appraisal of ourselves – that we are often weak and lukewarm. It is the objective work of Jesus Christ (in His life, death and resurrection) that makes us right with God and gives us hope! That is what we need to focus on. More of Christ, less of me! We need songs that help us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
Much more to come… Part two.