Pew Review: Tim Hughes’ Here I am to Worship

To read what I’m doing in this Pew Review series, click here. I’ve come to #3 on the charts, “Here I Am To Worship” written by Tim Hughes. Lyrics can be found in a quick Google search and you can get a feel for the song by listening/watching at YouTube. This song was difficult for me to review. I pray that what is right and true here might resonate, and what is not will be quickly and easily forgotten.

Good:
There are some good, biblical lines like “Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness / Opened my eyes, let me see” and “Humbly you came to the earth you created / All for love’s sake became poor.” Good stuff there, with the latter phrase reminiscent of Philippians 2:5-8.

Not as Good:
When singing this song, it seems like the singer is singing about worship and what the singer is doing instead of actually doing it or explaining why he is worshipping. Here I am! Similarly, most of the song is individual-centered. Take a look at the chorus, for example:

Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God.
You’re all together lovely,
Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

Because of the heavy focus on the individual, this song is like a clanging symbol in a corporate worship context. With the emphasis on I, me, my, it effectively necessitates a bunch of individuals singing at the same time, yet separate and isolated from each other. There’s no communal or covenantal focus. This song is a good example of what R.C. Sproul, Jr. describes as quintessentially postmodern, individualistic worship (in the Highlands Study Center’s Basement Tape on liturgical worship). This type of focus is not conducive to the corporate worship of the people of God which should not be focused on ourselves and our pious worship actions.

Lastly, just a few words about the music of this song. To be blunt, it sounds like a boy band ballad. I can see the Backstreet Boys or 98 Degrees crooning the song in earnest while wearing silly clothes and performing cheesy dance moves. Plus, the chorus words could easily be switched from “Here I am to say that you’re my God” to “Here I am to say that you’re my girl” and poof! you have a pop ballad.

Nitpicking:
The main nitpick I have is the phrase “King of all days, oh so highly exalted / Glorious in heaven above.” My problem with this phrase isn’t that the words are wrong – they aren’t. But I’m not sure how these majestic, glorious, transcendent descriptions of the Triune Creator of the universe fit with the pop ballad style.

Overall:
Doug Wilson writes at his blog:

“We must reflect on the music, and we must reflect on the words…But we must always remember that in worship the two form an artistic whole. The words are not just filler, acceptable just so long as they don’t say anything positively wrong. They are as much a part of the artistry as the music, and they are part of what we are called to grow and mature in.” [emphasis mine]

Further, the music we use in worship represents our attitudes toward God: “Liturgical culture drives all other expressions of culture. The culture we exhibit in the presence of our gods is the defining element of every culture…Our praise of God should glorify the Lord both in the music and the lyrics, and one test of whether this is happening or not is whether our music and lyrics result in a true cultural antithesis.” (from “Manifesto on Psalms and Hymns“). In other words, are the songs we sing in corporate worship songs that we could find on the pop radio station (words and music)? Do they conform to culture for the sake of relevance and the promotion of positive feelings, or do the songs conform to biblical standards? Do we bring the culture of the world (in this case, overly individualized lyrics and subpar pop music) into our worship of the Almighty, or does what the Almighty has revealed in his Word form our worship?

The corporate worship of God’s people in his throne room should have appropriate music for the setting. Would we choose this song if we were with the heavenly beings in the throne room of God in Revelation 4? Given God’s command to us to present our best to the Him in worship, the heavy individual focus of this song, and the pop ballad style, I argue that this song should not be used in corporate worship.

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8 thoughts on “Pew Review: Tim Hughes’ Here I am to Worship

  1. I'm totally with you in your criticisms and conclusions. In addition, this is just another example of poor writing. The phrases might be all "good" or at least not objectionable, but they are mostly hodge-podged together. Even the chorus seems like two independent thoughts sandwiched together: "Look at me, I'm worshiping" v. "Jesus is beautiful."I'm also confused about the phrase, "Beauty that made this heart adore you." Isaiah 53.2 states that Jesus "had no form or majesty that we should look at him, he had no beauty that we should desire him." No one has ever turned to Christ because he was found to be lovely, relevant, or charming.Did you watch the You Tube video in its entirety? It's labeled "for personal worship." Also, while the chorus plays for the sixteenth through nineteenth times, they use picture-in-picture to juxtapose a dramatization of the crucifixion with black and white video of 90's Michael W. Smith and some other guy roaming around a barn looking forlorn. Huh?

  2. This used to be one of my favorite songs and I have come to realize mine was an emotional reaction to the music. I completely agree with your thoughts about it especially regarding its place (or not) in worship. Well said!

  3. I agree. It is postmodern. individualistic, self-centered, obscure, choose your own meaning. We can't really decide what worship is really supposed to be, so we'll just sing about worship kind of thing. You hit the nail on the head with the boy band comment. It is a cheesy love song mentality. That's what Pop music is. Christian and non-Christian. It's cheesy love songs evoking lust and warm fuzzies. This is not how we should approach our Lord in corporate worship. It's one thing to write a song like this in your personal time with the Lord, but it's another thing for it to pass the test and be used on the Lord's day for corporate singing. I think your criticism of it is fair.

  4. Joel, I like your pew reviews. Have you read Marva Dawn's "Reaching Out…"? I assume you have, because you write like her. If not you should check it out, you seem to be kindred spirits.Also, I wonder if you might further strengthen your review by adding a "suggested uses" section. For instance, might this song be well used in personal worship? Or even as a special music sort of call to worship in church?Jeff Tell (friend of Ken's)

  5. Good comments, all.Scott – I didn't think about that; that's an interesting point (about the "beauty"). I had taken that phrase to refer to general revelation, but it might make more sense the way you're describing it (which makes it worse).Jeff – I have not read Marva Dawn, I'll check it out. Thanks also for the suggestion about "suggested uses" – I'll see if I can incorporate that sort of thing in the future, though I've been trying to come from the perspective of corporate worship. Adding another facet might be tough. But it is a good thought. For this song, I wouldn't be comfortable recommending it for many uses at all, given that I'd probably put it in the "Jesus is my boyfriend" song category (a popular phrase not coined by me), songs which I rarely think are appropriate in any context. But that could just be me.

  6. I was researching this song and came across your blog. I am in our church's choir and we sang this song recently and I just knew there was something wrong with it. Your criticisms are very helpful and I hope to engage our Pastoral team on some of these issues.Furthermore, I would just like to add that the lyrics sent a cold shiver down my spine when I realised that they could just as equally be sung in worship of Satan as Jesus! Light of the world – Lucifer – opens the eyes – illuminates…saying that you're my God is really scary….

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