(pic credit: ©2017 by crisbaj. Used with permission)
In English grammar, it is called the ‘perspectives’ or ‘point-of-views’ when speaking or writing. Author-educator Brittney Ross simplifies:
- First person is the I/we perspective.
- Second person is the you perspective.
- Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.
Two important things:
<>the second and third-person-perspectives don’t ‘include’ the speaker; they are outside the person speaking.
<>the first-person-perspective has two distinct voices that include the person speaking:
^^the first is the singular, individual voice, which only includes the person speaking… there is only a self-focused, individual, personal sound that comes from that voice, a singular identity. It speaks to and from the life experiences and events as seen through, and having effect on the individual speaking.
^^the second is a plural, group voice, where the speaker is including himself/herself within a group of people. When speaking, it is identifying as a part of the group, and sharing the experiences of the group. It gives voice to belonging, being a part, sharing in the history and future of that group.
(thanks to https://www.grammarly.com/blog/first-second-and-third-person/ for the Grammar lessons)
Why are these distinctions important? Well, the Lord hinted for me to examine the lyrics being sung by the Church in times of worship… and I was surprised to find:
-The most commonly used ‘focus lyric’ of worship songs were
I, me, my, mine, myself (the singular first-person perspective).
-The uncommonly used ‘focus lyric’ of worship songs were
Our, we, us, ourselves (plural first-person perspective).
I went to the Scriptures, and found that the Gospels were written in third-person narrative, but Jesus quotes were always clear in regards to His first-person self-references. The New Testament Letters were written in second-person, which scholars are quick to point out that the ‘you’ is the plural you of all those in the churches to whom the letter is addressed to, the exceptions being the personal letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
In the Revelations, as well as the Old Testament, there are both singular-first-person-perspectives (stories, prayers and Psalms), and there are plural first-person perspective (stories, prayers and Psalms).
Regarding what is written in Worship, it would be hard to say that the first-person singular perspective is BAD, but the driving theme of Scripture (both Old and New Testament) is God’s Church, the Bride, and the individual person is always seen in the context of the Corporate Body in God.
So, I embarked on a sampling of the worship songs being sung by Churches these days, and was the personal lyric-focus singular or plural? I went through the 20 top CCLI song list for August 2017, read through the lyrics, and assigned a first-person perspective percentage (%) of [a] first-person singular references, and [b] first-person plural references. Here’s what I discovered:
(Song, Composers) (First Person Perspective)
- Good Good Father 80% Singular 20% Plural
Anthony Brown, Pat Barrett
- This Is Amazing Grace 100% Singular 0% Plural
Jeremy Riddle, Josh Farro, Phil Wickham
- 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord) 100% Singular 0% Plural
Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman
- Holy Spirit 34% Singular 66% Plural
Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt
- Great Are You Lord 0% Singular 100% Plural
David Leonard, Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan
- Lord I Need You 100% Singular 0% Plural
Nockels, Carson, Reeves, Stanfill, Maher
- Cornerstone 100% Singular 0% Plural
Mote, Liljero, Myrin, Morgan, Bradbury
- How Great Is Our God 34% Singular 66% Plural
Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves
- In Christ Alone 100% Singular 0% Plural
Keith Getty, Stuart Townend
- Amazing Grace (Chains Are Gone) 100% Singular 0% Plural
Chris Tomlin, John Newton, Louie Giglio
- Revelation Song 100% Singular 0% Plural
Jennie Lee Riddle
- Our God 0% Singular 100% Plural
- Mighty To Save 100% Singular 0% Plural
Ben Fielding, Reuben Morgan
- Blessed Be Your Name 100% Singular 0% Plural
Beth Redman, Matt Redman
- One Thing Remains 100% Singular 0% Plural
Johnson, Gifford, Riddle
- Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) 100% Singular 0% Plural
Houston, Crocker, Ligthelm
- No Longer Slaves 66% Singular 34% Plural
Brian Johnson, Joel Case, Jonathan David Helser
- Forever Reign 100% Singular 0% Plural
Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan
- How Great Thou Art 100% Singular 0% Plural
Stuart Wesley Keen Hine
- This I Believe (The Creed) 80% Singular 20% Plural
Ben Fielding, Matt Crocker
(end song list)
Of the 20 songs (N=20) examined, the first-person perspective references came out:
[a] Percentage of singular references: 79.7%
[b] Percentage of plural references: 20.3%
^^This was a small/limited sampling, not comprehensive to all the songs and hymns ‘out there’.
^^I am not saying that this is a bad or wrong or outside of Grace… ‘it is what it is’…
^^The first-person singular usage is employed within the body of the Scriptures; however, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t weigh in at almost 80% of the conversations with God, as do the songs we sing when the Church gathers together.
Many pastors and leaders have lamented that the primary song being sung in the world outside-the-Church is, ‘me-me-me-me-ME!!’ Self-focus is a major hallmark of modern Western culture, and it has permeated the life-orientation of many in the Church. ‘How do we change the hearts of people in the Church from self-focus to God-focus and other-focus?’, ask those pastors and leaders.
May I suggest we may want to begin writing songs, and preferentially choose hymns and spiritual songs to be sung in our congregations and churches that employ increased use of lyrics from the ‘our, we, us, ourselves’ perspective… let’s increase the fuel mix that more ‘us’ songs and less ‘me’ songs are used…
…what about a season from ‘me’ to ‘us’ in Worship?
written by crisbaj
© 2017 by crisbaj/AdoreTheLord.blog All rights reserved.
All Scripture references from New International Version unless otherwise indicated.
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