There's a surprising flaw in some of the Church's most popular worship songs, says DB Ryen
“Through you, I can do all things.”
My daughter Daisy was singing again.
“Stongholds ah boken.”
Her three-year-old voice still can’t pronounce “R” sounds, but that wasn’t holding her back from belting out her current favourite song. She mumbled another line or two before coming to the end of the chorus: “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!”
This song has been all we’ve heard this week, but you won’t hear a word of complaint from me. I can't fault a kid for singing worship songs, even after the hundredth time!
Planetshakers’ hit 'Nothing Is Impossible' is the latest theme song of our church’s children’s program. The kids watch the music video, perform the actions, and shout out all the words they can remember. Super cute.
The song is packed with biblical references: "Through You I can do anything, I can do all things" (Philippians 4:13), "Cause it’s You who gives me strength" (Exodus 15:2; Isaiah 41:10; Habakkuk 3:19), "Nothing is impossible" (Matthew 19:26), "Through You, blind eyes are opened" (Psalms 146:8; Luke 7:22; John 9:7), "Strongholds are broken" (Isaiah 25:11; 2 Corinthians 10:4) etc
However, I noticed something interesting about the lyrics: not once is the name of Jesus mentioned.
And not only that, the entire song doesn’t include any name or title of God - Lord, Saviour, Father, Holy Spirit, Messiah, Christ - nothing. And so, despite the clear biblical references, this popular worship song could potentially be sung to anyone.
This song is a prime example of a growing trend within worship music of not explicitly mentioning any name of God. Now, let’s just be clear this doesn't stop us from worshipping. We can worship God with virtually any form of art, even if it wasn’t intentionally created to glorify him. I’ve even heard a worship leader crooning out an Elvis Presley song on a Sunday morning. "Wise men say / Only fools rush in / But I can’t help falling in love with you / Shall I stay? / Would it be a sin / If I can’t help falling in love with you?" Once directed toward the Lord, this can definitely be sung worshipfully.
We can use nearly anything to pour out our hearts to the Lord. Thus, there’s nothing inherently wrong with worship songs that don’t include any names or titles of God. But when we omit the name of God in our worship songs, we may be missing out on an additional measure of blessing. That’s because God’s name is powerful.
Speaking the name of Jesus is like turning up the spiritual intensity. Evil spirits simply cannot bear the sound of it.
Consider all the worship songs recorded in scripture. Every single Psalm includes either Lord (Jehovah) or God (Elohim), among other names. The songs of Moses and Miriam are all about the saving power of “the Lord” (Ex 15). Moses and Joshua’s song, which God commanded be taught to the people (Deuteronomy 31:19), mentions various names: God, the Rock, the Lord, and the Most High (Deuteronomy 32). In every biblical song about God, there’s no mistaking who they were singing about because his name is used throughout.
There is great power in God’s name. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe." (Proverbs 18:10, ESV) "There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might" (Jeremiah 10:6, ESV). The 72 returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17, ESV)
Speaking the name of Jesus is like turning up the spiritual intensity. Evil spirits simply cannot bear the sound of it. Think of rats or cockroaches that scatter when the lights come on. Or Dracula in those old horror movies, how he sizzles in agony when exposed to sunlight. Now multiply that effect a hundredfold as a whole congregation of believers is singing his name at once - darkness has no place to hide. The names of other gods - Baal, Buddha, Gaia, Zeus - just don’t carry that kind of weight. It is Jesus who has “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
Even people who don’t follow God can get uncomfortable when hearing his name. You can talk about a “higher power” or “spirits” all you like, but speaking “Jesus Christ” is a different cup of tea. It instantly brings feelings of conviction, because sin can’t hide in his presence. As such, even Christians can get uncomfortable when Jesus’ name is spoken in mixed company. I'm not sure if we're being ashamed of Jesus (I hope not) or it's just empathy for others’ potential discomfort, but sometimes it’s not easy to speak God’s name to those who are avoiding him.
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Which brings us to the one potential benefit of not including the names of the Lord in a song: airplay on secular radio here in the US. Non-Christian stations are way more likely to play catchy songs if they don’t include any explicit references to Jesus. Biblical quotes, spiritual jargon, even “Christianese” are okay, just don’t use his actual name. For example, take the hit song 'Oceans'. Released in 2013 by Hillsong United, it was an instant success. And for good reason: beautiful melody, flawlessly produced, hopeful lyrics - it was the perfect song. And because it didn’t explicitly mention any of God’s names, it got played by secular radio stations. Sure, there’s reference to a “spirit” and “saviour”, but these terms aren’t exclusive to Jesus - it wasn’t “Holy Spirit” or “Christ our Savior”. The subject of the song was conspicuously vague. But isn’t it ironic that the singer crones “I will call upon your name” (a clear biblical reference, Romans 10:13) without actually mentioning the name she’s calling on?
I don't believe the writers intentionally left out Jesus’ name to get broader airplay. And I'm one of countless souls who have used this song to worship God. But do the demons tremble when 'Oceans' gets played like they do for 'Jesus Messiah' or 'How Great Thou Art'? I'm not sure.
Singing the name of the Lord has the potential to bring another level of power to our songs. It might not seem like a big deal, but there’s a whole world we don’t see, where angels and demons constantly battle. We rarely realise the full effect our words have on the spiritual realm. Speaking his name aloud is how we receive salvation (Romans 10:9), so let’s not downplay the power of Jesus’ name in any aspect of our life.
A growing collection of worship music doesn’t include any name of God. It's not a deal-breaker, but these songs may not be as potent as they could be. Pseudo-Christian, non-offensive or subtly-spiritual lyrics may be the only exposure some people get to any measure of the truth, but let’s be real: the world needs more Jesus. I love when my daughter sings church songs, but I love it even more when she sings the name of Jesus.