Why We Need to Lie in Church

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A problem with communal singing and communal praying and any form of communal liturgy is that at some point someone is saying or singing things they don’t mean. In church. I’m not sure I would call that lying in church, but I’m not not sure either. Maybe most of us have told worse lies than that we’re “waiting here for you,”when we’re not really waiting or that “We raise our white flag. We surrender all to you,”when surrender just isn’t happening at the moment. Or “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here,”when we would prefer the Holy Spirit not meddle so much in our business.

But maybe this fits with our whole approach to church—we put on our best clothes and our best facade and pretend like we are better than we are. Many of us are educated, whether through Sunday school or seminary, far past our level of obedience. We are better pretending than we are obeying. So why would we not expect to sing songs that make us sound like we are more godly than we are?

If we’re honest this isn’t just our approach to church. Many of us are in a constant tension between expressing who we are and expressing who we wish we were, and we have the tools to filter and photoshop our expressions into better versions of ourselves.

Are our worship songs like our Instagram filters, helping us express ourselves in a manner that is, well, better than we truly are? Are these songs that may be true of Charles Wesley or the Torwalts but are way beyond our level of spiritual maturity or commitment? Maybe. Probably.

Or maybe they are something else. Worship is certainly at times expression. We get that. Many of us have sung things like, “Spirit, lead us where our trust is without borders”or “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”and meant them as much as we have ever meant anything. They were true of us in the moment.

What may be less obvious is that worship can also be formation. Throughout the Bible we see instances where things change when God speaks—people healed, light created, hearts changed. But maybe some things change when we speak too. Maybe singing of God’s greatness allows us to experience it. Maybe singing of God’s grace helps us receive it. Maybe confessing our proclivity towards sin helps us to repent. Maybe singing of the joy of the Lord helps us overcome our depression. Maybe singing a song of hope helps deliver us from despair. Maybe singing that we were blind and now see actually helps us to see, and singing that we surrender all helps us to let go.

Maybe we need to lie in church with the hope that one day the words we sing might be true of us.

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Jason is husband to Melissa (herself a gifted worship leader), dad to Ella, and pastor and planter of Home Church Nashville, a new UM church getting started in Nashville, TN. He was a songwriter and worship leader before becoming a preacher and has a heart to invest in musicians, artists, and creatives. He has a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary with a focus on Biblical Studies and has completed extensive training in church leadership and church planting. You can find him and the new church on social media here: @jasonmcanally, @homechurchnash.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate what you mean in this article, but I think it draws attention to an important point about how we should think of the music in our worship services. It’s so important that we make sure our congregants are singing truths of God. If we are singing songs that proclaim the true attributes of God and clearly teach what the Gospel is, then our congregants don’t have to lie. If we sing that we were sinners, undeserving of forgiveness, but out of his abundant mercy, Christ came to save us and grant us eternal life, so that we can proclaim his mercy and goodness and love forever, we can sing those words in good conscience regardless of the position our hearts are in on Sunday morning. Those things are always true. If instead of subjective feelings about God, our music proclaims biblical truths about God and what he has done for His children, then the single mom struggling to raise her children, the college student new to the faith, and the elderly saint mourning the loss of his spouse all have the opportunity to worship in spirit and in truth. By God’s grace, there is an abundance of old and new music proclaiming these truths.

  2. Jason, thank You! Catchy title, deep and true meaning!
    Love this article! Let us all lie until our lies become truth!
    Dennis Carothers Co/Author of the ‘Truth Diary’.

  3. I heard a good sermon once on “talking to your soul” based on the following Psalm passages:

    Psalm 103:2 (NKJV), Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
    Psalm 42:11 (NKJV). Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

    The point was that we, in our souls, can be accepting the lies from circumstances and situations, while our spirit knows that God’s promises are true and overrule our perceived status quo. So, we must speak the truth to our souls. This is not dishonesty but therapy.

  4. Interesting read. While I would be hesitant to call people “liars” for desiring to better themselves, or see themselves as they want to be seen, there is certainly a projection of godliness involved during church services. We do have Jesus as a role model for what we hope to aspire to but will ultimately never reach (HE does set a pretty high bar!) – but with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the mustard seed of faith, we can experience full abandonment to the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem I see with using the descriptor of “liars” is that it takes on the worldly connotations of “Fake it till you make it” or “I think therefore I am”. And while we wish to see ourselves as holier than we really are- we are hoping to imitate the One who was total incarnate of holiness- which is in itself admirable and biblical.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post. Blessings.

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