In a number of Thai churches, I have noticed that the songs fall into three general categories: 1. “I offer you my life”, 2. “Pour out your Spirit”, and 3. “I want to be close to you”. This emphasis is hardly unique to Thailand; much of what we sing here is heavily influenced by the West. These type of songs have a time and place, yet it seems that in some churches, these are almost the only type of songs that are sung. As we sing the same basic things over and over again, I have begun to wonder, “Where is Christ? Where is the cross?” It seems a glaring oversight not to have songs about Christ and his finished work on the cross as the mainstay of Christian worship.
When I come into the weekly meeting, the first thing my heart wants to sing is usually not “I offer my life to you” or “You are my every desire”. Why is that? Is it because I am not spiritual enough? Yes, in fact, that is exactly the reason. If I am honest with myself, my motivations are usually mixed, and Christ is not my every desire. When songs come up that require me to sing lyrics like “You are all that I want”, I will often go silent or sing very quietly, praying in my heart, “Oh Lord, make me desire nothing but you. This song is not me. Change my heart, God, and increase my love for you.” If I sing songs that say more than is really true, then I feel like I am lying to God and everyone around me.
When I come into the worship service each week, I need to come to the cross. I am a weak, ignorant sinner who has failed again this week. I have messed up: I was short with my wife; I yelled at my son; I checked my email for the fifth time when I should have been reading my Bible; my desire for God has been lagging. I need to sing songs that acknowledge that I am a weak sinner, worthy of condemnation under God’s wrath, but a recipient of the grace and mercy of God at the cross. I need to hear, say and sing the truth about who I am and about what God has done for me. I don’t want a mere token hymn or song that mentions Christ in passing in the midst of a steady diet of celebration and commitment. What am I celebrating? Why would I commit my life to God? Take me to the cross, show me the bleeding saviour who has died for me and who has risen that I might have hope. Show me the glorious saviour who is worthy of all devotion and praise.
What is Christ-centred worship? It centres on what Christ has done for us, not what we do for him. It is about exalting the excellencies of Christ’s work on the cross, not exalting the excellencies of our commitment to him. It is about the objective work of Christ on the cross that makes me right with God, not my subjective, fluctuating feelings about God that make me feel alternatively close to God or far from him. Most of all, it is more about Christ and less about me. I have nothing to offer or commit to God outside of what Jesus offered to me at Calvary through his commitment to do his Father’s will in accomplishing our salvation, to God’s glory.