Post of the Day: Open the Eyes of my (Face), Lord

We’ve probably all heard the jokes about Praise & Worship music. The 24/7 joke comes to mind—that a praise song is 7 words repeated 24 times (or 24 words repeated 7 times, depending on who you ask). Some of this reputation is deserved.

But fortunately, like just about everything else, the view that praise songs are all more shallow than hymns does have a few exceptions. One of the most notable exceptions is Sovereign Grace Music, a network of churches based in Virginia that has released quite a few original praise songs with solid Biblical lyrics.

Because of their reputation and their past work—and because the site is, quite frankly, fascinating on its own account—I added the blog of one of their leading worship leaders and composers, Bob Kauflin, to my daily reads.

I say all this as preface to an interesting post he made the other day, Open the Eyes of my (Face), Lord. It addresses something which is far more common in his genre than ours, but something we still see occasionally: Singers on stage going through major portions of a song (or entire songs) with their eyes closed.

It is a fascinating read—and the comments are hilarious. Check it out.

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41 Letters to the Editor

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  1. First thing I thought of was Mark Lowry always messing with Bill when he would close his eyes during a song. Haha…

    Pretty interesting read.

  2. I have to disagree a bit…I think there are many southern gospel singers who do the same things for the same reasons the article speaks of. Just because it isn’t southern gospel does not make it any less worshipful or praise-worthy.

    • I just don’t think it’s as prevalent in SG.

  3. I agree with the article 100 percent. The eyes are the window to the soul, the means by which we can see that we are connecting with our audience. As both a singer at church and a gospel music fan in the seats, I agree that visual contact with one another is important to the process of conveying the message.

    To me, if an artist is singing primarily with their eyes closed, I find it very distracting and difficult to receive what is being delivered. It’s like I’m watching a performance but I’m not allowed to participate as the receiver because the person who would be receiving my part of it can’t see my participation. They can’t see my raised hand or my tears or my smile or nod. Communication is a two-way process.

    I know there are a few blind artists that are very dynamic. They capture our attention and communicate effectively, but most of the time their talents are so exraordinary that I’d say it’s as much their God-given talents as much as anything that moves us.

    Thankfully, I can’t think of many major southern gospel artists who consistently keep their eyes closed.

    • If the artist is truly worshiping with their eyes closed, then what’s it to you?? Just asking.

      And, the last time I checked, worshiping was communication with Jesus… and it didn’t have anything to do with whether or not someone could see your hand raised, your tears or your nodding. You speak as if you are doing those things to be seen.

      If we could all learn to worship blindly and without pretense, then there probably wouldn’t be an issue here. Don’t ya think?

      • I’m not saying “Never close your eyes.”

        I just thought the post positing that it is sometimes overdone has a good point.

        Lots of things are good in moderation but not so good when taken to excess.

      • But what if that’s how that person worships? Do you think we should moderate our worship just so other people won’t find it strange?? Just asking?

      • It’s one thing to worship without thinking about it in the audience.

        But if you’re leading the audience, I think this is a factor that we don’t think about but should. Does it have a positive or negative effect on the ones we’re leading?

        By the same metric, what would we think of a pastor who delivered his entire sermon with his eyes closed?

  4. “But fortunately, like just about everything else, the view that praise songs are all more shallow than hymns does have a few exceptions.”

    I feel no need to defend “Praise & Worship” or CCM, I don’t have time to do so either. 🙂 However, why “slam” them? I am certain that there are more than a “few” meaningful songs with “solid, Biblical lyrics.”

    I’m just saying… 🙂

    • I agree with this premise. If the songs are bringing people to churches or concerts and lives are being changed, how are we to determine shallowness?

      No one wants to start the old rehashing of “biblical lyrics” in songwriting.

    • All I said was, “Some of this reputation is deserved.” I think that much is fair to say, but I intentionally did not go any farther than that.

      • Agreed…as a member of a church that is predominantly P&W (but coming from a mostly hymns background) I can really see both sides of the equation.

  5. I come from a hyper-consrevative Baptist background, where we used the old Broadman Hymnal as our primary source of music.

    “Mansion over the Hilltop” has no biblical basis. “Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland” has no biblical basis. And one soing which is found in the old Heavenly Highway Hymnal, “Ain’t it a Shame” certainy has no biblical basis.

    The truth is, there are negatives and postivies about both genres, but I much prefer the P&W format, sprinkled with some of the older hymns.

    I believe it was Warren Weirsbe who said, “The only thing wrong with what we do all the time, is what we do all the time.”

    • I’m thinking Stanphill’s basis for “Mansion Over the Hilltop” comes from Jesus’ own words: “in my Father’s house are many mansions…” I’d definitely call that a Biblical basis.

      I don’t know the “cabin” song, but it doesn’t sound very Biblically sound, which is probably one reason I don’t know it. Also don’t know “Ain’t it a Shame”.

    • Couldn’t agree more! I love SG music so much and at the same time have been moved to tears b/c of amazing moments worshipping God during P&W songs. I think Jesus loves them both!

      • I am with you on that. In our services, we have experienced great moving of the Holy Spirit through both types of “worship” music.

    • Every rule has its exceptions; any genre will have more than three bad songs, no matter how sound it is overall.

      • I guess that’s my whole point … Why is it the exception? Why is it “the rule” that “Praise & Worship” is shallow?

        Wouldn’t that be the same as saying that SG music is a bunch of country hicks screaming and hollering and trying to sing songs written 100 years ago? Some of this reputation is deserved, too. In fact, it is the prevalent opinion of people under 25. And of course, they would most likely give in and agree that there are exceptions to that rule, as well.

        The student that would make the above claim to me, and I’ve heard it, is every bit as wrong as the one that claims “Praise and Worship,” or even CCM, is all shallow.

        Again, I’m just saying… I think it’s wrong.

      • It’s the rule that is followed by the hymns/sg crowd. Most (certainly not all) of those folks view P&W as watered-down, non-biblical and shallow. I really do believe that a lot of times it breaks down by age and upbringing.

        As I said in an earlier post, if it brings lives to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, who are any of us to judge whether it is shallow or not.

      • Andrew, this wasn’t the point of the post, and wasn’t what I was hoping to talk about in the comments.

        I do not hold the view that all praise and worship music is shallow.

      • Please forgive me. I’ll do better at staying on topic. 🙂

      • Honestly, I do not think it fair to say that the way you spoke of SGM is the prevalent prevalent opinion of people under 25. As a general whole, it is a genre of folks of an older demographic, yes. But I think younger people have a great tolerance for various forms of music even though it might not be their favorite to speak of.

        This coming from 25 who has loved and appreciated SGM for much of her life.

      • I agree, Meagan.

        I didn’t grow up loving SGM, but even then I did not have that impression of it.

      • Meagan, you make a valid point. However, you are in the minority of your age group that grew up listening to and appreciating SG music. I have been around quartet singing all my life, but I can certainly see with some of the music that is played on our SG stations why younger folks would not be drawn to the same love and appreciation that you have.

      • If you mean that Meagan is in the minority in that she was fortunate enough to grow up listening to this music, I’d certainly agree!

        But I wouldn’t necessarily say that the screaming-hicks view is the majority view. I’d say that most young people have never heard of Southern Gospel, and if their first exposure to a group is a good one then they will have quite a different impression than if it’s not quite so good.

        But unfortunately, in our culture, unless something changes, many young people will never get exposed to the genre and thus will have no opinion of it.

      • Daniel, that is what I meant in regards to Meagan’s post. I am not necessarily saying that the screaming hick view is the prevailing one either. I will stand by the statement, however, that unless younger folks are presented a quality group with which to base an impression that they may not come to love and appreciate this music as many of us do.

      • And I think we’ve come to an agreement: “unless younger folks are presented a quality group with which to base an impression that they may not come to love and appreciate this music as many of us do.” I couldn’t agree more!

      • Then we have once again reached the age-old question of how to get younger folks (or the parents that bring them) to quality concerts. Daniel, I believe that you would agree with me that us northern folk do not get near the quantity of concerts to adequately accomplish this.

      • Yeah. Which just means that we have to make the most of the ones we have!

        A number of the groups I list as my favorites, I list as favorites simply because they put in the extra trouble and diesel fuel to come as far north as Ohio. There are many others that could be favorites if they would put in the trouble to come north!

      • I completely agree with your statement Daniel: “I wouldn’t necessarily say that the screaming-hicks view is the majority view.”

        The first Gospel music I heard growing up was a group called the Galloways. I was a teenager at the time. I had a new friend in youth group and happened to be staying overnight at her house the night her family went to hear their concert in Kankakee, IL. There are not a whole lot of SG group that came to northeastern during that time.

        After hearing the Galloways, I loved the music. I loved the message and the music itself. I had a decent musical background at that point, and could appreciate good music in any form. That was my first SG project that I purchased. I spent my childhood listening to country, folk, and oldies music because that is what my parents loved.

        Hearing the Galloways fueled my love for SGM. It was something I sought after on my own because my parents knew nothing of it.

        I say all of this to remind you that no matter what your demographics are (age, region, upbringing, etc.), things are what you make of it.

  6. Is “Ain’t it a Shame” the song that says it’s a shame to lie/joyride/gossip/etc. on Sunday when we have the other six days of the week to do so? 😆 I find that one hilarious … someone wasn’t thinking.

    My comment was going to be, I would think people would want to keep their eyes open so as not to fall off the stage, trip over something, or other calamity which I’d rather not happen to me in front of the whole church!

    • That too!

    • LOL That’s the one, “Ain’t it a shame to joyride on Sunday, ain’t it a shame, a joyriding shame. When you’ve got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday…”

      Even use “ain’t it a shame to lie on Sunday”, “gossip on Sunday”

      It’s alright to do it, just don’t do it on Sunday.:)

      On a serious note, as I sing with our church’s P&W band on Sundays, I often close my eyes. Helps to remember the lyrics.

      • That song is a shame! 🙂

        I’ve never heard of the song before. I don’t think it could well be called a prominent or well-known example of a Southern Gospel song. 😉

      • But it seriously is in a Stamps-Baxter hymnal, I think. It’s in one of my older ones somewhere; you ought to look it up. It sounds like it has a fun tune, but evidently no one has thought it worth while to bring it back out. 😉

        The first verse was fine – it was something about “working on Sunday” or whatever. But I guess they wanted to flesh it out, and it degenerated from there …

  7. If P&W works for you–wonderful. What I object to is young music ministers who are taught in Bible College that it is only thing, and, they have a mission in converting a congregation to their style which we all know is a band, several singers, and singing “off the wall”. Soon the songbooks will disappear etc.

  8. I usually close my eyes on a high note….I think….I’m not sure, I’ve never observed my eye-maneuvering skills very closely.

  9. I think it all goes back to the very fine line between worship and performance. When you’re onstage, you have to bring yourself to find a compromise. Because if you’re in front of an audience, they expect to be connected with you. I think it’s easy to want to close your eyes when you’re really feeling the Spirit move inside of you and you are in a very worshipful frame of mind. But when you’re onstage, you still have to remain mindful of your audience. It is somewhat unfortunate that aspects of “performance” have to come into play in a gospel music setting, but that is the reality of it.

    When it comes to Praise and Worship vs. Traditional Hymns, I think each one has their place. I was raised in a church that sang nothing but hymns. Growing up, it was pretty much ceremonial to me. You went on “autopilot” during the singing. Everyone knew the words and you just sang the words on a page.

    When I went away to college, I was involved in a campus ministry that used predominantly Praise and Worship music for their services. It is during that time and through that music that I really learned how to feel the Holy Spirit during worship and how to truly worship. It is easy to do that when you’re singing songs that base their success on an emotional response as opposed to solid theology and Biblical truths.

    But honestly, without my time spent immersed in the Praise and Worship music, I would have likely never gained such a healthy love and respect for Hymns as I have today. When I was through with college, it was out of campus ministry and praise and worship music, and back to my home church and the old hymns. At first, I felt like I couldn’t worship properly with that type of music. But God worked on my heart and helped me to see how truly wonderful those hymns are. They are timeless because they are filled with nothing but truths found in the Word. They are like portable little bits of theology that we can carry with us and draw from them when we need encouragement and wisdom.

    Nowadays, I prefer to sing and worship with hymns. I have grown to become rather frustrated with what praise and worship music has become, as a general whole. However, I still think each genre has its place. They both have had instrumental places in my life.

  10. Hm, okay I’ll weigh in here. I see Daniel’s point that if eye-closing is overdone, it can be distracting and can lead the singer/leader to become disconnected from his audience.

    But I don’t see a problem with it in moderation. Just so long as it doesn’t become self-indulgent.

    And it’s certainly ridiculous for people to look at, say, a Homecoming performance of “Amazing Grace” and say, “Oh, they’re indulging themselves” just because some of the singers are closing their eyes and have their hands raised. (Yes, I know of people who’ve actually said that!)

    So to those who really are being self-indulgent, I’d say, “That’s a bad habit. Try to control it and connect with the audience better.”

    To those who object to eye-closing prima facie, I’d say, “Lighten up!”

    • On reflection, I think part of the problem is of being unable – as “lookng on the outward appearance” – to judge the MOTIVE not just the ACT.

      If we; as a church audience, or a professional singer, or a worship leader, or whoever; close our eyes and raise our hands to initiate, or create an emotional response in out spirit [small ‘s’]…

      This may be outward show, and possibly a depending on the flesh and not the Spirit [indwelling Person]. Or, it may be to impress others with my ‘spiritual response’, which may be totally external in character.

      However, a closing of the eyes, a nodding of the head, a raising of the hand, or an ‘Amen’, whatever; which is a spiritual reponse from the heart, manifesting itself outwardly, is different.

      Both may be expressed IN the emotions, but the one is Spirit engendered, the other is flesh based.

      “God looketh on the heart”. We cannot tell which is what, so we should not be judgemental in our response.

      • I agree. It’s a delicate issue precisely because such widely differing motives yield the exact same outward manifestation. As onlookers, we can only guess what prompted the gesture. But I think Bob took the right approach, which was pointing out possible “non-spiritual” motives for eye-closing that a worship leader *might* have. And in fact, a lot of people commented saying they were grateful for those insights.