One of the easiest targets in the church music scene is surely the 'Jesus-my-boyfriend' songs.
It seems so straight forward to make fun of inane lyrics and an indeterminate object of affection.
A good example of this kind of critique comes from an interview in Leadership magazine with Kristyn and Keith Getty. (Getty wrote 'In Christ alone' along with other church songs).
Keith says: "If I've got non-Christian friends coming to church, I'd far rather give them four verses of comparatively heavy theology with some theological words which explains the gospel, than give them twenty repeated words that could be said about your per horse or your girlfriend." (Leadership, Winter 2009, page 24)
The trouble I have with this position, is that many of us take up this argument up without thinking through the consequences. We have set up a false comparison between songs that express devotion (Jesus-my-boyfriend style) and songs that are true and therefore safe (a new doctrine for each verse, or the entire life of Jesus in one song).
A quick survey of the Psalms reveals that the LORD God is mentioned by name in all of them, which surely delivers a knock-out blow to the songs with an indeterminate object of affection.
Yet, the expressions of emotions, and even repetitive phrases in the Psalms suggest that clear theology is not the sole aim of approaching God in song.
In fairness to Keith Getty, he explains in the same article, his own understanding of the job of a song, ".it has to teach the truth of God in a way that is emotionally engaging and poetic."
I just hope we aren't making the mistake of loading each song with the full responsibility of encompassing all that we want to say to God and about God, when we are gathered as God's people.
Wouldn't it be great if our range of songs included the kind of emotional and theological expanse we see in the book of Psalms?
Indeed, maybe where we have gone wrong is to give up on singing the Psalms.
A friend of mine once pointed out how this, once rich, Anglican tradition, of sharing a Psalm in our gathering, had almost vanished for want of easy and adaptable tunes.
Recently, I tried to put a Psalm from the NIV to a tune that would not sound out of place in a contemporary church, yet be easy enough to pick up and sing along to. Maybe this effort will be rewarded with people who judge songs from the theological and emotional content that we might learn from in God's word.
Jonathan Holt is a church planter and Anglican minister in Canberra. He will be speaking at the Twist Away Conference in June this year.