I have encountered a dilemma in leading people in worshipping God today. Perhaps you have, too. The problem is that it is becoming increasingly challenging to describe God, or even heavenly things, in our culture. Let me explain why I believe that, but I’m going to take a circuitous route to get there.
I love my wife’s apple pie. It’s a Dutch apple pie with a crumb topping. Her mom was born in Holland, so maybe the making of Dutch apple pie is inherited. I don’t know for sure. I do know that the pie is out of this world. It is unquestionably the best apple pie I have ever tasted. Now don’t get the idea that you can just pop by our house and have some. She doesn’t make it very often. It’s a special treat. If you ever have the opportunity to try it, though, you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about. Did I mention that I love my wife’s apple pie?
Now let me ask you a question. If, after that whole apple pie story, I said, “And I also love my wife,” wouldn’t that seem a bit strange? It could easily sound as though I am putting my “love” for apple pie on the same level as my love for my wife. In reality, there is no comparison between the two. (Just to be clear, I love my wife far more than her apple pie.)
Hyperbole. We all use it.
A guy sitting next to me on a plane recently told about a man on his last flight who was snoring raucously. “There’s nothing worse,” he declared. In my mind I wondered, Nothing worse? So, someone nearby snoring loudly – maybe even extremely loudly – is worse than all the people that ISIS has killed? Worse than the mom in our area who shot her three daughters and then turned the gun on herself? Worse than millions of Jews dying at the hands of a political leader gone mad?
I really don’t think so. In fact, it’s not even a close comparison. Yet we hear it regularly.
The movie was epic. The experience was the absolute best thing that has ever happened. It was the funniest thing ever. The meal was glorious.
We use grandiose terms in trivial ways. In doing so, such words and phrases become devoid of meaning. They lose all sense of relativity. Each experience, event, or even trinket is somehow greater and more wonderful than the last.
The problem, then, is that we as worship leaders try to describe God using the same words. We say that the Lord is “glorious,” “awesome,” or “great.” But, based on all that the people have heard in the last week, that means God is on the same level as someone’s new car or the fun ride at the amusement park.
It won’t work. We have gutted the words of their meaning. What a shame.
Here’s my recommendation. Dial back the hype. When you notice yourself overstating something, change the phrasing. Save the heavenly descriptions for heavenly things, not earthly ones. No food – even the best chocolate or the best bacon on the planet – can compare to what we’ll enjoy there. No experience here will be quite the same as what’s waiting for us. No human being is even close to what God is like.
So – especially for us as worship leaders – let’s save the superlative phraseology for the things that deserve such descriptions. I also make it a pretty regular habit of calling people – especially Christ-followers – on their overuse of such words and phrases. I recently asked someone, “Was it really the most awesome thing you’ve ever experienced?”
“Well, no,” came the sheepish response.
Let’s give God His true due and keep other things – like movies, athletic events, food, etc. – in their proper perspective.