The idea of corporate worship has long been a key element in binding those who come together to seek a deeper knowledge of Christ. This was seen throughout the early church, the Reformation, and especially during the rise of Christian radio. There is something beautiful about singing and worshiping together, knowing that other believers who share your faith have sung these songs before, be it anywhere from ten minutes to five hundred years ago. There is also something beautiful about new music; the reality that almost anyone may write and incorporate a new song which could spread like fire throughout dozens of congregations is both stunning and a testament to how God is still very much alive today.
However, it is necessary for us to examine why (and what) we are worshiping. When we sing a worship song, are we doing so in humility and for the purpose of drawing near to God and praising Him for Who He is? Or are we simply looking to encounter an experience of some sort for our own gain? Over recent years, there has been a shift in worship music. Gone are the days in which men and women would toil for years over how to express themselves before God. Gone also are the days in which sound doctrine and theology were on display at the forefront of worship music, regardless of how emotional the song may be.
In light of last year's review of the mediocre Let It Echo, I was hoping that Jesus Culture's 2017 offering, Love Has a Name, would deliver a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, this album only compounds the issues from last year and highlights most of the problems with contemporary worship in one 16-track package. Love Has a Name opens with "Halls of Heaven," a surprisingly decent (yet average) track. This is also the best track on the album, it would seem. I usually prefer to break down and examine the individual songs on any album, but doing so here would be both depressing and nihilistic.
After listening to this album five times, I'm sorry to say that not one single song stands out. Without listening through as I write, I cannot recall a single melody/lyric pairing other than "can't stop running through the halls of Heaven." Yes, the message of that song is indeed bizarre, but sounds "super spiritual." Too many of these songs follow suit, with lyrics that contain popular Christian catchphrases, but are entirely lacking in any real substance. Nearly all of these songs are in relation to an experiential encounter with some sort of God.
I say "some sort," because there are enough oddities and theological indiscretions to call into question their view of God. Lyrics such as "meet us face to face" and "let glory invade this earth ... our eyes looking heavenward" diminish the true power of God that we see in Scripture, for we cannot yet see His face or look upon His glory. Another oddity is the concept that it is on us to "invite" God to be present ("I invite You, invite You"). In truth, almost all of these songs are about God loving us and about Who He is to us. And only to us. The great I AM seems to be diminished to some sort of personal totem, and even though His power is sung of, it seems hollow and for the purpose of serving humankind.
Theological discrepancies aside, the melodies are simple, but not in a beautiful or competent fashion. As I mentioned earlier, these elementary constructs are somehow entirely predictable and entirely forgettable.
The unfortunate truth is that this album is, at best, entirely unnecessary. Last year's live LP, Let It Echo, already demonstrated a lack of new, quality material. It is always my desire to temper any more critical review with words of grace, but the reality is that Jesus Culture should know better. They need to take a serious step back and look at themselves in the mirror. Good music is not often developed quickly, and worship music especially needs to take time. It must ferment and be reflected upon. The band has a history of producing some excellent work, but any merit they now possess has been cast into a machine that churns out nothing but formula, and one which is quickly growing old.
- Review date: 8/12/17, written by David Craft of Jesusfreakhideout.com