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Jul 17 2007

Interview With Worship Leader/Songwriter Brian Doerksen

Christianity Today interviews worship leader/songwriter Brian Doerksen ("Refiner’s Fire" and "Come Now Is the Time to Worship") about contemporary worship, his new CD "Holy God" and the challenges of parenting two sons with fragile X syndrome.  A couple of questions and answers:

Your music has always had a strong sense of liturgy—a sense of awe and reverence. Why the classicist approach?

Doerksen: I’m a lover of the biblical foundations of worship. Growing up in the church, I learned from my parents to have a deep respect for God and a reverence for the Bible as a foundation. God is awesome and holy, but at the same time he’s trying to reach us to have this incredibly intimate relationship. I’ve watched some people in their desire to make this relationship so casual and intimate, they leave behind reverence. And there are others that try to live in a world that is all about respect and reverence, that they’ve lost intimacy. So much of our walk with God is a paradox or tension between the transcendence and the eminence of God, and [his relationship to his people].

That’s a great segue into your new album, Holy God. You’ve always held God’s holiness in high esteem. Why make an album focused exclusively on that?

Doerksen: Two reasons. The positive reason is, when I went to withdraw and seek God at the beginning of last year to learn what he wanted me to do, I had such a powerful encounter with him and his holiness. The more I meditated, the more it became the only thing I wanted to sing about. From all the days and weeks of doing that, I knew that that’s what I would have a story in—a public project with integrity where people would get a look at the private moments in my life.

The negative reason would be simply my deep concern about some of what is going on in the modern worship explosion—the shallowness, the man-centeredness, the banality. I wanted to do something that was about God and his core attributes. A song like "Holy God" is a God song, not a song about our feelings towards God. It’s not our response to God. So this was my way of saying, "Think on these things."

As one of the "forefathers" of modern worship, it’s interesting you’re not happy with the direction of the movement.

Doerksen: I guess I don’t see myself as central to the creation of the genre. But because it’s become so popular, a lot of people can connect with the form yet not fully understand the heart of modern worship. Some of these bands were more CCM-performance oriented, but all of a sudden sold more records because they released worship albums. So without understanding the heart and theology behind it, I’m actually not surprised that there are some things going on that cause many of us to [question it].

Of course, when the hymns explosion happened a few hundred years ago in England, there were critics saying they were too man-centered or to emotional. But today you smile and note that many hymns are full of truth. To critique something is one thing, but to do something better is extremely difficult.

So if I’m providing any critique on the modern worship movement, I feel like I then have to do something, and Holy God is my response to that. I know I didn’t totally get there, but hopefully I got there partway. How can you fully express the mystery of God in song, or even in an album? Everything is just a little glimpse or window that you’re seeing. One day we will step through that window and be immersed in the holiness of God. Then these things will be distant memories and we’ll say, "We barely touched it."

Read the entire conversation here.

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