Prime Cuts: Heartbeat, Tremble, How Beautiful
The protocol these days is that most mega churches will get an offer to release a worship album. Marketing research has demonstrated that if a mere 10% of such church attendees were to purchase a single copy of the release, the record company would have recuperated the album's cost. And even if the album never sells a copy outside the church's walls, they still will not incur any loss. All of this may work brilliantly as far as profit and loss statements are concerned, but they never do justice to the worship of our Almighty God. Are all worship teams of huge churches capable of producing quality worship songs standing the test of time? As a result of such a money-eyeing ploy, many talented worship leaders of smaller churches are sadly sidelined. And what we end up is some ropey worship albums released by churches just because they meet the numbers quota.
Mosaic MSC's "Glory and Wonder" is grievously such an example. Mosaic MSC is the worship team of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. The multi-site mega-church was founded by cultural pioneer and best-selling author Erwin McManus whose books have had been best sellers. "Glory and Wonder," the church's sophomore album, was recorded in front of a live, sold-out audience at their church home in the heart of Hollywood. Mosaic MSC represents the versatile sound of the city and growth of the church in worship expression.
With all the hype and hoopla aside, let's delve into "Glory and Wonder." Basically, there are three major fault lines in this piece of sonic mosaic. First and perhaps the most obvious, none of the songs here have melodies that catch the listener on the first or second or third or the tenth hearing. Despite the slick and often polished production to guise the songs, the emperor still has no clothes. The melodies are non-existent. Unless you are part of the worship at Mosaic where you get drilled on these songs Sunday in and Sunday out, you might get some acquaintance with them. However, if you are not part of the church, the songs sound so alike in tempo and melody that you feel like you are listening to a slow worship song that never ends.
Second, the lyrics of the songs are far too colloquial. Many of the songs are essentially love songs to God. "Heartbeat" for instance finds the team singing, "I wanna know your heart... heart... Show me your heart..."There's nothing intrinsically wrong in relating to God in everyday language of love after all God has often revealed himself in Scripture as husband both to Israel and the Church. Further, in many portions of the Hebrew prophetic books, we read of God expressing his love for Israel as a forlorn lover. However, the Bible also speaks about God as transcendent and it also uses poetically rich and resplendent images for God. Why isn't this aspect reflected in the songs? As a result of expressing God's love in a worship song as one would express human love in a love song, many of the songs here are as shallow as their titulars, "Heartbeat," "The One," "Not Afraid," and so forth.
Third, worship songs need to canvass a gamut of theological themes mentioned in Scripture. Most of the songs here hover around a small handful of themes, trust, worship, God's glory, and so forth. The songs keep recycling around the same few themes that one wonders if the songwriters are afraid of branching out or are they just mere lazy? Even when they deal with the issue of faith in "Not Afraid," they never get deep enough in their lyrics to make the song affirming. Perhaps, they would do better to craft their words more through the prism of Holy Writ than getting inspiration from love songs crafted by Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber.
Sorry to say, "Glory and Wonder" is what gives modern worship songs its tainted image that songs these days are repetitive, boring, and trite.