Popular Culture Meets Popular Worship Song

There is a Chris Tomin (Update: or perhaps it actually by Darlene Zschech, as Paul notes in the comments below) “Worship Song” that song that was performed on the aptly titled show, American Idol.

In a move that shocked and disgusted some watchers, the word “Jesus” was replaced with “Shepherd” in the song’s chorus. As far as content changes, that was it. Why was it done? I can only speculate that it would done to avoid offending people who would be offended by a song about worshipping Jesus (such as Muslims).

The song is steeped in Biblical terminology, but the composition is a human aggregation – it’s not even (as far as I can tell) a paraphrase of any particular Psalm. It is a beautiful piece of music, and very dramatically performed in this example, but it’s still not inspired or appointed by God for his worship.

Here it is, with comments continuing below:


As noted above, some people don’t like that the name of Jesus has been removed from the song, to the point of being disgusted. If someone had taken Psalm 46, and gone through and had substituted “God of our Fathers” for “God of Jacob,” I think I’d be similarly upset. But then, I think I have a good reason to be upset: Psalm 46 is inspired, “Shout to the Lord,” is not. It doesn’t really even change the meaning of “Shout to the Lord,” since we all know that Jesus is the Shepherd. I respectfully submit that people are offended by the change partly because they view it as an attack on Jesus (which it is not) and partly because they view the song as somehow sacred (which it is not). Possibly some are offended because it is a comprise made for purposes of political correctness … but it is hard to imagine that a reaction of shock and disgust would be generated by people who don’t mind calling the person who delivers their mail a “carrier,” the person who brings them refreshments in-flight an “attendant,” or the person who brings them food in a restaurant a “server.”

I think it might be good to reconsider our attitudes toward these merely human compositions that have crept into religious life. Consider going back to the book that God gave us for worshiping him in song, the Psalter.

Here are some examples of Psalm 46:

Choral Arrangement

Guitar Arrangement

Chanted Arrangement (Questionable [2d commandment] images included)

Dramatic Reading

I’d be remiss if I omitted what I believe to be the best English-language presentation of the Psalm I could find (though there is no video, and though it is incomplete) (link).

James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


5 Responses to “Popular Culture Meets Popular Worship Song”

  1. Turretinfan Says:

    Beowulf2k8 wrote (in a comment that was partly off-topic, but has been addressed here): “As for replacing “my Jesus” with “my Shepherd” in that song on American Idol, their motivations probably were political cowardice. However, I would suggest that the phrase “my Jesus” is itself a bad phrase. Is he just your Jesus or is he Jesus? Praising “my Jesus” as opposed to Jesus himself sounds fairly idolatrous to me, not to mention someone effeminate almost like treating Jesus as your boyfriend rather than God. I think the change to “my Shepherd” actually improved the song, but that’s just one man’s opinion. They could have just as easily taken the word “my” out and said just Jesus, but that would have required removing a note.”Obviously there are some worship songs that are more guilty of irreverance than others. Scripture doesn’t use the phrase “my Jesus,” although does liken Christ to our husband, with us as the bride.I can see where you might feel that this song gives my Lord the boyfriend treatment.That’s just one more reason to go with inspired songs, songs God-breathed and both suitable and acceptable for His worship.-TurretinFan

  2. Paul Says:

    Turretinfan, I realize that this isn’t directly related to the point you make in your post, but to the best of my knowledge, “Shout to the Lord” is not a Chris Tomlin song (although he may have recorded it). I believe it is by Darlene Zschech. Just thought you might like to know

  3. Turretinfan Says:

    Thanks, Paul! I’ve updated the blog article.

  4. Paige Says:

    I found your blog because my husband is the composer and conductor of the choral arr of Psalm 46 you have embedded in this post. Interesting thoughts, thank you!

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    Paige,Wow! Small world. Please pass my kudos on to your husband.-TurretinFan

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