Matt Redman on Romantic Language in Worship Songs

Ben Neumann, a member of my church, told me about an interview with Matt Redman that was recorded a couple years ago. I’ve had a number of opportunities to hang around with Matt, and each time I walk away encouraged by the grace of God in his life. He’s a diligent theologian, a devoted husband and dad, a brilliant songwriter, and a leader who is always seeking to direct your attention to the greatness of God’s glory in Christ.

I’m affected by his love for and understanding of the gospel, and his heart to see people pursue God with a biblically informed passion. In this interview he talks about how he’s revisiting the use of romantic language in worship songs. I appreciate the humble way he shares his thoughts. allowing for a different perspective, but not shrinking away from testing our lyrics against Scripture. One of my favorite quotes: “The church has been under-fathered and over-mothered.”

For more on this topic, you might want to check out these earlier posts:

Expressing Love to God
What Kind of Emotion?
More on Love Songs to Jesus
Should We Worship Jesus as the Beautiful One?
Do Men and Women Worship Differently?

20 Responses to Matt Redman on Romantic Language in Worship Songs

  1. Collin V August 28, 2009 at 11:51 AM #

    I think Matt has a great point. On another level you can listen to Christian radio and there seems to be so many songs that can count as a love song to the Lord. If you were to change out one lyric then all of a sudden you have a secular song for me to sing to my wife. I don’t think there is anything wrong with those songs I just think we shouldn’t just grab the latest hit from CCM and play it in church. Our Sunday morning songs should be inspired from Scripture. Thank you Mr. Redman for your insight.

  2. Paul Tucker August 28, 2009 at 11:59 AM #

    Thanks Bob (and Matt) for the honesty and transparency on addressing this tough question. I have always cringed as a “bloke” to some of the romantic expressions used in more modern worship lyrics. Not because they’re inherently wrong, but because my connotation as a man to “romance” is distinctly heterosexual… praise the Lord!

    I would hesitate to say that romantic expressions are wrong, but I do think we can do better by avoiding the connotation that follows romantic love and pursue the denotative meanings that follow awe, reverence, and truth. Good stuff!

  3. Kyle August 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM #

    This is excellent. Overly romantic language and imagery in worship songs is something that’s concerned me for a number of years. Interestingly, most people with whom I’ve shared that concern have a hard time understanding why I have an issue with it. Redman does a great job addressing the issue here.

    I’m also glad to hear him mention “Let My Words Be Few,” because as much as I appreciate much of Redman’s music, I’ve always been uncomfortable with that song (for the reason he describes). Hearing him honestly critique his own song in the light of biblical revelation makes me respect him even more as a songwriter, and as a follower of Christ.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Dr. Ransom (E. Stephen Burnett) August 28, 2009 at 12:11 PM #

    While language about loving God, and even more so what God has done for us out of His great love, needs to be in worship songs, I agree with Bob and Matt Redman that in many cases it’s gone overboard. In many songs, there’s too much Personal-Relationship and not enough Transcendence in how God is portrayed.

    As Josh Harris said at a conference some months ago: they are songs that “you could change the Name of Jesus to ‘baby’ and sing it to your girlfriend!”

    AMEN that the church has been under-fathered and over-mothered — thus, too little emphasis on action and too much emphasis on getting along and staying safe. Yet that’s a symptom of a greater problem: forsaking Scripture, getting out of balance, making the main point trying to correct Christian excesses (real or perceived) of the past rather than preaching the totality of the Gospel, the Christ Who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1). He is both grace *and* truth — not either/or, but both/and. And He is both personal and transcendent, and the better worship hymns and songs portray this.

  5. Peter Gagnon August 28, 2009 at 9:58 PM #

    Thanks Bob. An excellent segment. I must confess I’ve often thought the “beautiful” thing a bit overused, a bit nebulous, and not really on mark. Its good to hear someone of Matt’s stature as a songwriter articulate it. His humility helps to make it all the more worth a good think.

  6. Thomas Clay August 30, 2009 at 10:46 AM #

    We are all dealing with, to a certain extent, Christian songs that are being written with a broader market base in mind. In other words, more and more “industry” people are looking for songs that non-believers can also sing/listen to with their boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse in mind so that it will sell more. Thus, the language in songs has become more and more vague. I don’t mean to throw everyone “under the bus” on this. All I’m saying is that we must have great biblical knowledge and great discernment in our repertoire selections. I constantly ask myself in looking at songs this question: Does this song I’m considering, so unmistakeably declare biblical truths about Christ that it would be difficult to sing it to/about anyone else?

    To be transparent, we don’t lead songs at our church that uses the phrase “in love”. We do a couple that refers to Christ as “beautiful” but it is certainly not the bulk of our statements that we make.

    Thanks again, Bob, for helping us to consider more and more of what we do every week!

  7. Rich August 30, 2009 at 8:03 PM #

    I’ve recently posted the same link to the Redman interview on my blog. Looks like great minds think alike!

  8. Justin September 1, 2009 at 10:22 AM #

    My understanding of worship is constantly changing and I understand why my father never wanted to go on sunday mornings and why I have a hard time and both my mother and now my wife yearn to go. They can feel love, not just know it.

    Quite the polar opposite is how I connect with God, through the more traditional hymns and prayers. The more liturgical, the more I understand I am taking part in the redemptive process of God.

    As the good doctor commented above, the expression of love should not be dismissed but rather be checked at the door.

  9. Sarah September 2, 2009 at 12:07 PM #

    Great thoughts! I agree with what has been said here already, especially in how we have at times lost the trascendence of God’s majestic glory! He is more than beautiful, He is powerful, mighty, just, magnificant and greater than we can even imagine!

    Very thankful for songwriters who desire to write songs out of their hearts and minds which are stayed on Jehovah and His truth!

  10. Travis Deans September 2, 2009 at 4:09 PM #

    YES! We need more songs that men feel comfortable singing. Romantic language in worship songs is one reason men aren’t in church. We more songs in the spirit of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”. Songs that men can identify with. I’m not saying throw out the others – just more balance would be great.

  11. Pam Elmore September 2, 2009 at 4:58 PM #

    Thanks for this! We have this issue in the US as well.

    It’s not just the men who feel uncomfortable with this romantic imagery — I’m a woman, and this style of worship chorus makes me squirm!

  12. Dave September 8, 2009 at 11:57 PM #

    I fell in love with my wife — not Jesus. He is my Redeemer, my Rock, and my Fortress. I’m sickened sometimes when I hear Christians singing about being in love with Jesus.

  13. Robert September 12, 2009 at 8:03 AM #

    Appreciate the comments on “romantic” language in some of our hymnody. It’s not a new problem. John Wesley abhorred “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” written by his brother Charles, as it seemed sacrilegious to him to think of Christ as his “lover.” (In later years, this hymn came to be considered one of the finest in the English language.)

    To some extent, it may be a cultural thing. But even so, a little goes a long way. And if, as one has said, we can easily make the lyrics a love song to a boyfriend or girlfriend, then that is a warning sign. Our hymns should celebrate the uniqueness and transcendence of Christ, and not be so easily transferable.

  14. Marvin June 4, 2013 at 7:51 AM #

    We are commanded to love the Lord with ALL of ourselves.Lot of people nowadays love their significant others more than they love God.They love X with their whole hearts,minds,souls and strength.The Lord is also portrayed throughout the Bible as a Bridegroom and as a Husband.See the books of Hosea,Ephesians and Revelation.I can tell you about being in love with Jesus and His response to me was positive.He was pleased.I’m a man too and I do not feel uncomfortable singing to the Lord about my love for Him.

  15. Marvin June 4, 2013 at 8:03 AM #

    He has no problem expressing His passion,desire and love for us men.Why should we be ashamed to express our love to Him? We have to deal with some of our views as men.Romantic love is about making the other happy,bringing pleasure or joy to your beloved.Jesus delights in making us happy… why shouldn’t we requite in like manner? Yes,we should sing about God’s greatness,but love songs should not be excluded.David loved God (Psalm 18:1).God sings love songs to us.What keeps us from doing likewise? Our twisted views.He is our Creator,for God’s sakes. Yes,God wants to be praised,exalted and worshiped,but above ALL He wants our LOVE!

  16. Marvin June 4, 2013 at 8:21 AM #

    God allowed David to bring the Ark because he only wanted to love God.He desired and loved God so much and the Lord saw that and “overlooked” (for lack of better term) the commandment.Love is above everything.Whatever you do in order to express love to Him (provided it’s not wrong),He will accept it.Singing to the Lord how much you love Him is not wrong.Even telling Him that you love Him more than life,more than your wife IS NOT WRONG!.Showing Him your passion for Him is something He delights in.


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