“Mighty to Save” is now a well-worn mainstay in most evangelical churches of modern worship styles. It’s appeared repeatedly on CCLI’s top lists. And why not? It’s got all the trappings of a great worship song…singability, a resurrection-oriented chorus with stirring melodic rise, accessible chord progressions, driving rhythm to match the song’s simlutaneous intimacy and explosion. We use it in our church on a regular basis, and it’s obvious that it’s a favorite among our people (worship leaders know what I’m talking about when a song really gels with your community…it lights up the room).
However, at Creek, we’ve chosen to amend the second verse, for reasons of theological precision. The second half of that verse originally reads:
I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in
Now I surrender
We’ve changed it to:
I’d given my life to follow
Everything I’d believed in
But now I surrender
It’s a subtle change…present tense to past tense (the pluperfect, to be precise). And some of you will no doubt think we’re being nit-picky here, but here’s the rub for me with the original text. It’s a bit too triumphant and boastful for my taste, given that we’re worshiping before a God who sees all–especially all the ways that we, even as blood-bought Jesus-followers, don’t give our lives to follow Him. Even more, “everything I believe in,” apart from God’s prior work to give me faith (faith is an extrinsic gift, according to Ephesians 2), is anti-God, anti-Jesus, faithless, and destitute. If I truly “give my life to follow everything I believe in,” I have to be honest that I’d head down the wrong road (think of the mantra of the book of Judges: “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”…scary). I don’t think the statement, as it stands, is theologically wrong (which is why I use the term “imprecise”). Many sing it genuinely as a kind of ideal to commit to, even knowing (like me) that they can’t really live up to it. It just strikes me as too triumphant for me to sing with an honest heart.
So our emendation toward the past tense makes verse 2 more confessional, more humble, more needy–and before Yahweh’s presence, that’s the side I want to err on. It exposes weakness as opposed to boasts strength. It says, “I don’t have the power…I need Yours, Lord.”
Worship leaders, if some of the songs you use cause some “theological itchiness,” don’t be afraid to amend the words. Hymn-writers have been doing it for years with the nifty little tag “alt.” (short for “altered”). And when congregation members ask why you hacked to pieces their favorite worship song, give them a humble reply, and use it as a pastoral-educational moment to infuse some biblical thought into life.