Changing Worship Lyrics

Jonathan lead worship this weekend. It was awesome to worship with him leading, but what I appreciated the most was singing “We Want to See Jesus Lifted High.”

At CFC they switch up the lyrics. Instead of

A banner that flies across this land

we sing

A banner that’s raised around the world

Every time we sang this line I stumbled over the words becuase I’ve been singing the original for 10 years. Normally this type of thing ticks me off, but I was totally moved by the intentionality of changing that line. My church is huge on missions so the words we sing are backed up by real actions. It’s such a better lyric to sing becuase God is not an American.

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27 Responses to “Changing Worship Lyrics”


  1. 1 Sarah Chia September 9, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Dude…you’re not allowed to post anymore until your editor-in-chief proofreads for you.

  2. 2 Billy Chia September 9, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I know! I’ve had typos galore since I started posting on my own. I need your help baby!

  3. 3 ThirstyJon September 9, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve sung that song around the world, with the words “across this land.”

    I want Jesus banner to fly around the world, and unashamedly want His banner to fly across this land, the U.S.A.!!

    God is not an American, but he loves the American People, and there will be Americans among the Great Multitude of Revelation 7!

    May America fulfill her purpose in the world, and may each of God’s nations of people around the globe rise up and worship Him, and fulfill their callings as peoples!

    🙂

    ThirstyJon
    freedomthirst.com

  4. 4 Billy Chia September 9, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I’ve sung that song around the world, with the words “across this land.”

    Jon,
    True dat. I not saying this song had bad lyrics. (cheesy clapping maybe, but not bad lyrics) I sung it that way for long time. I just like the CFC version better.

    🙂

  5. 5 ThirstyJon September 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Response to Billy Chia:

    Thanks for clarifying!

    I know you weren’t saying the lyrics were bad. I just love my country (I’m not even hinting that you don’t) and like to take opportunity to speak blessing.

    Zero criticism intended, just submitting thoughts.

    God Bless!

    ThirstyJon
    freedomthirst.com

  6. 6 Laura Anne September 9, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    I like your insight Billy. I once changed the words of In Christ Alone, so that every time it said ‘I’ we sang ‘us’ instead of ‘my’ we sang ‘we’, to make a point that we were in this together as one church.

    I too get annoyed when the words are wrong on the big screen, but sometimes it’s good to change the words to challenge us in what it is we are singing. It’s so easy to just sing the songs we know well, get caught up in the music and not realise what we are saying aloud!

    God isn’t Scottish either 🙂

  7. 7 alex mclean September 9, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    We change the lyrics to “Marvelous Light”…

    “Lift my hands and spin around” changes to “Lift my hands and SING ALOUD”. Why? because no one spins around at our church, and we felt really awkward singing that part. I know we’ll probably get crucified by the purists, but that’s just how we roll.

  8. 8 worshipcity September 9, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Ooo Alex, good idea. I’ve been wanting to break Marvelous Light out as well for our adult service but was thinking the same thing: “No one is going to ‘spin around! That’ll be weird.”

    It’s funny you mention the “American” lyrics. One of my old favorite songs from One Day was a Tomlin tune ‘Let Your Glory Fly’ (I think that’s right) and it’s real patriotic I think one of the lines is even: “the Lord is coming, coming to America” and I’ve always wanted to play it for the 4th of July but that always stops me. I’m not anti-patriotic IN ANY WAY! but there is a cheese factor a bit to it now and like you say, we’re trying to be more missional minded and it never fit.

  9. 9 tam September 10, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Alex, Funny! We used to sing Darrel Evans “So Good To Me” a lot. And there was a couple in our church who literally would spin when it said “You got me spinning” in the chorus. Not wrong…at all – just the only ones spinning 😉

  10. 10 Billy Chia September 10, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Jon,
    no offense taken. (I’m actually a fan of well done “MUCH criticism intended” and good disscusions that ensue)

    Laura Anne,
    I’m a big “we” song fan 🙂

    Alex and Tam,
    Great call, I think I can like that song now. Although have you ever checked out IHOP ? They actually lift hands an spin around – so all good in that context too.

    Conner,
    one of my fav Rich Mullins songs has the line “The Holy King of Israel loved me here in America”

  11. 11 JVP September 10, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    “Here in America” from “A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band”. I love that album, some of my favorite stuff from Rich!

  12. 12 Laura Anne September 11, 2007 at 3:33 am

    Do you guys sing the song ‘Over the mountains and the sea’ by Delirious? singer Martin Smith (I think).

    It’s quite a slow moving song, and the chorus goes ‘Oh I feel like dancing, it’s foolishness I know, but when the world has seen the light, they’ll be dancing here like we’re dancing now’.

    Never once seen anyone to dance to that, or for that matter smile as they’re singing it!! Always makes me want to giggle. I did once try to dance to that song, but it’s practically impossible to dance to the music they’ve written it to.

    Rant over 🙂

  13. 13 mario September 11, 2007 at 1:08 pm

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  14. 14 Peter Park September 11, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Personally, I don’t like to change lyrics. I feel that God had a special message for that songwriter and I want to keep to that. However, I do like to sing the spirit and add to the songs. But that sounds like a completely different topic.

  15. 15 Johnny Laird September 12, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Does it make any difference that Doug Horley, who wrote “We want to see Jesus Lifted High”…is actually English?! ;-))

    Peace & Blessings

    J

  16. 16 Billy Chia September 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

    J,
    lol, I don’t think it’s makes a big difference in terms of the point I was making. I’m just a fan of churches practicing what they preach. I know we can’t all do that all the time but I believe it’s beautiful when it does happen.

    I don’t know if this happens over there but here there’s such an arrogance in terms of how much better Americans are than everyone else. When you listen to people speak about their faith they are covertly saying, “God is an American.” So say overtly, “God is not an American,” just to clear up the confusion.

    I suppose God’s not a Brit either 😉

  17. 17 Johnny Laird September 12, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Nope – God’s definitely not a Brit! :-))

    In fact, the UK is a heck of a lot more secular than the US, so when I sing “We want to see Jesus lifted high”…I guess I do mean “this land” in a kind of a way, in as much as I want to see Jesus lifted high in the UK. That’s not out of any nationalistic, or patriotic fervour, though.

    I want to see him lifted high everywhere.

    Thanks for passing by my blog, Billy.

    J

  18. 18 Brent September 14, 2007 at 7:00 am

    First off … great blogging going on here!! I happened upon your blog from The Man Of Steel.

    I must caution a few of the above posters that it’s not legal to display different lyrics for a song than those that were penned by the author of that particular song.

    It’s plagiarism.

    I’ve contacted CCLI about this very thing because it was happening at the church I attend.

    Much love.

  19. 19 Billy Chia September 14, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Brent,
    You are right it is currently, technically illegal to display changed worship lyrics on a screen with out written consent from the copyright owner.

    However, it is 100% technically legal to do anything you want with a copyrighted work as long as you have permission do to so.

    Most worship leaders I know make large efforts and go out of their way to keep things legal and copasetic. They aren’t perfect (neither is the copyright law) but they make efforts everyday to improve.

    My assumption would be that you checked with your worship pastor before reporting him.

  20. 20 brunettekoala September 18, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Eek – we better all get songwriting then!!

    PS – Don’t know if you have it in the US but there is a great book by a guy called Nick Page called ‘Let’s move into a time of nonsense: how worship songs are failing the church’. If you haven’t read it, I really recommend it.

    PPS God isn’t Scottish either. But He loves us just as much as the Americans and the English.

  21. 21 Brent September 24, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Cool blogging Billy!

    Nah, I didn’t report anyone.

    But, my comment was (jokingly) “you better hope that [insert the writer’s name here] doesn’t show up Sunday morning.” To which to the answer was “it’s okay, he’s in England right now.”

    I kind of laughed, then kept playing guitar.

  22. 22 Billy Chia September 25, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Brent,
    My apologies, I should be the first person to pick up on sarcasm.

  23. 23 martin bullivant November 19, 2007 at 11:06 am

    er, guys, just a minute. All the debates aside, we aren’t actually allowed/supposed to alter worship lyrics-its illegal I’m afraid, and as a songwriter, musician I have to point this out. When I was Senior pastor of a UK Church I encountered this issue and had to require that lyrics be changed back or we drop the song-I checked on the legality and in (UK law at least)we are free to alter a song musical arrangement but expressly not alter the lyrics. Actually guys apart from being against copyright law(that’s why we have CCL numbers etc and churches pay for a licence), it is with all due respect to all concerned, dissing the original writer. I spend weeks sometimes months honing lyrics so that the original intent of the scripture is carried and to find other people making ‘on the fly’ changes would upset me. No wish to rain on your parade but please consider stopping this. Thanks.

  24. 24 Billy Chia November 19, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Martin,
    Thanks for your comments – please scroll up to look at what others have already said on this issue.

  25. 25 Martin Bullivant December 12, 2007 at 2:41 am

    Hi…yes I did…with respect! That’s why I made the post…let me quote: “it is 100% technically legal to do anything you want with a copyrighted work as long as you have permission do to so” That is my point-that we don’t have permission most of the time-I can’t get permission change a lyric if I don’t know the author, and I have no way of getting the permission referred to without chasing after them and would not feel comfortable doing so. I’m not starting an argument-I simply don’t understand your post. We really should not do this.Anyone got a view?


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