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March 26, 2012


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Great post and analysis, Rusty, I appreciate the time you took to do this. Here are my (not very well organized) thoughts in response:

There is nothing wrong with injecting the personal into the corporate in worship as long as the personal is common to the corporate, and serves to truly worship God and not glorify anyone's personal feelings.

I happened to catch a portion of a sermon by Chuck Smith on the radio yesterday. He spoke of a pastors' conference for his denomination, where the bishop encouraged attendees to motivate church growth via competition, a carnal device, because "most church people are carnal, and carnal people need carnal motivation." (Something like that.) Smith demurred, and was not well-received by the bishop. Your discussion of contemporary corporate worship reminds me of Smith's story. It seems that many contemporary worship leaders are leading people to worship God not in Spirit and in truth, but in "authenticity" of personal feeling, which is, frankly, carnal. Not that personal feelings have nothing to do with worship, but they are not the means of worship. Singing, dancing, playing instruments, speaking, and other acts are. (It's possible that those who think they've met the Lord, or been saved, through McMillan's song don't understand what those things really mean.)

I read a defense of the SWK lyrics which used popular disapproval as proof of their rightness, and another which pointed to the numbers of people to whom the song has been so meaningful as proof of its rightness. Yet neither popularity nor unpopularity are true measures of the spiritual value of a worship song (or anything else); they are a carnal measure.

My general understanding of a SWK is: (1) the already-discussed amorous intent, and (2) something an innocent kid, or a dog, would give you. The problem is that none of these are what God, or heaven, would do. Heaven's (God's?) love for us is not of the SWK variety; it just isn't. Though none of us can begin to comprehend how deep and wide is Christ's love (Ephesians 3:18), it is not a human love. It may indeed come to us at times through a SWK, but is not like a SWK, and never will be. The SWK lyric is unbefitting, not to mention infelicitous, and the fact that so many are so moved by it has little to do with God's love.

McMillan's disgust with the criticism to his lyrics shows a lack of appreciation of this. His facetious treatment isn't a comment about Christians' view toward procreation as much as what he thinks their view is toward sloppiness or no-holds-barred passionate expression. It is similar to the response people make to those who believe in chastity, calling them prudes and whatnot, as if believers in chastity don't also believe in enjoying sex to its fullest in the appropriate situation. His asking of the church, "Are we in kindergarten?" seems much less apt than asking the question of himself! Yet he has also said, "As songwriters we need to expand our vocabulary so we can say things carefully," which would seem to contradict his defense of the SWK lyrics.

I can appreciate a wish to get away from a concern with "being correct" where it means "meeting someone else's standard simply for the sake of pleasing that person," but that doesn't mean there are no rules, or that we get to decide them. A self-conscious concern with meeting another person's rule, where what we say comes not from our own thought but from trying to think the way someone else does, is not required of us, and if such concern is what McMillan means, then I am with him. But anything-goes foolishness in place of that, just because it's honest, is not the answer. There is Someone whose standards matter. Our worship must be appropriate and wise; that is genuine worship of a genuine God. We are to bring to God what is worthy--as in the story of Cain and Abel, of Matthew 5:23-24, and the instruction of Romans 12:1.

Genuine is what God wants, but that's genuine truth, not genuine foolishness. Genuine feelings also, which can reflect truth, but feelings are not, in themselves, truth, nor do all true feelings represent true worship. Worship is adoration, reverence, awe, giving to God His due (Hebrews 12:28). It is possible to worship Him in vain (Matthew 15:9). Not that we must be perfect to come to God; we come as we are, yet, we do so for the purpose of worshipping a perfect God. We do so to be changed, to be made holy, not to stay in our kindergartenish (or any other less-than-mature) state.

God doesn't "know our worst thoughts and still think we're awesome," as McMillan suggests; He created us good and thinks we're corrupt, but loves us enough to redeem us through Jesus Christ. McMillan has said, "What if we took all the energy we spent faking and used that energy to enjoy the Lord instead?" Well, faking it is no good, but neither is expressing honest things in an inappropriate manner. There is no Scriptural reference to enjoying the Lord, but there are many to taking joy in Him, and our joy being made full in Him. I suppose joy can be enjoyed, but the scope of joy and enjoy are different: a person doesn't typically take joy in an ice-cream cone, but may enjoy one..."joy" is of a higher order than "enjoyment," which is a more banal experience of pleasure. There is a happiness and satisfaction in joy that the happiness and satisfaction of enjoyment cannot reach.

As far as worship leading goes, a leader is responsible to lead properly. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to "sing and make music from our hearts to the Lord." McMillan's comments have focused on the "from our hearts" part, but what of the "making music" part? Music is musical, meaning it has certain characteristics which make it melodious and beautiful, and harmonious with the good of God's creation, not with the way that mankind has corrupted it. Good music is not "weird" (and if God doesn't want us to get into weird situations, then He probably doesn't want us singing the SWK line!) If McMillan wants to bring his lyric to God for himself, no problem; he and God can deal, one-on-one. But that line is not what I would bring to God, so there is no reason that I should, even in corporate worship. It is not genuine for me to sing something that a worship leader is feeding me if it's not coming from my heart as well. Besides, no one needs a worship leader to "give them language"; there is nothing genuine in that. No worship leader has the authority to give congregants permission to talk to the Lord, either...God already did that.


Thanks for your comments, Bonnie. I really appreciate your take on the issues at hand here, especially the musical aspects. I like your thoughts about carnality and how it is applied in various avenues. And you touched on some points I had wanted to write about, but felt that I had already written too much.


Get over it!
it is a beautiful worship song that has touched hundreds of people in indescribable ways! And has even brought unbelievers to their knees in tears and brought them to Christ! SO GET OVER IT!


Thanks for your comment, Carmen, especially for taking the time to understand the various facets of my argument.

Lahoma Kinsey

I read your argument. I immediatly came up with 3 thoughts: 1) Unless you can become as a child.....I think of the sloppy, wet (joyous, abandon-free, unconditional love kiss of a child--have you ever been a parent?) 2) I think of creation, where the Spirit moved upon the waters..... 3) I think of the uncoventionalism of Christ spitting in the dirt, mixing it with his fingers, then applying that mixture to a blind man's eyes.....

I can envision all these things. And, I've heard the same criticism of "loves like a hurricane" (destructive) And, I see the movement of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Violent, mighty wind--some translations speak of a gale force. Wow, that's power! (But then, you may only accept the KJV--which still has a mighty, rushing wind)

I love the song. I don't care if we sing sloppy wet kiss or unforeseen kiss. I love how He loves me, and how everything pales in comparison to His love for me. Suddenly I'm aware of all of these afflictions......eclipsed by His Glory. (Even your analysis of the song)

Rusty Lopez


My sincere thanks for taking the time to read and understand my argument. Note that the concerns I have with this type of song go beyond a mere offense I may have with certain lyrics. I do not discount the fact that some people have had emotional experiences via the lyrics / music of this song. While we can exegete scripture (and literature, poetry, etc.), we cannot exegete someone else's personal experience.

However, the cautionary note I tried to explain in my post is that we, as a culture, tend to personalize our interpretive process to virtually all literature we read and, by extension, songs we sing. Once we start down the road of relativism it becomes way too easy to internalize how various songs and, unfortunately, Scripture applies to us individually - regardless of whether or not the scripture really says what we claim it to say! Hence my pointing out the multiple interpretations of the song in question (multiple meanings given even by the author himself!). That's fine for someone creating their own work of art, so to speak, such as a musical CD. But within the context of corporate worship we should not have lyrics that, by their very nature, conjure up multiple meanings most of which are based solely on how the recipient of the song happens to feel. It may engender a warm, fuzzy feeling during the worship singing portion of the worship service, but I think it's a dangerous romp into the world of relativism.

And, for the record, yes I've been and still am a parent - and, despite that fact, I've never appreciated slobbery kisses from my toddlers. ;^)

John Bodo

God does not have arms, either... but we talk about them all of the time. Some of you people need to relax and get over the idea that "worship" (corporate or personal) can be defined and follows a set of rules.

Rusty Lopez

Uh... is that a rule?


One of my friend just put up this lyric on Facebook. I had no clue it was from a song. I replied "gross!" She ended up deleting my comment. So I googled the phrase and ended up here. Seriously, talk about a bad metaphor. I hate songs that make it sound like Jesus is my girlfriend.


My daughter sent me this article because she knew my concern over the "sloppy wet kiss song" as I called it. I couldn't believe that there were others who expressed similar concerns. We left a church over this song. Please let me explain. I am 70 years old - definitely of the older generation. We attended a "come as you are, you'll be loved" Vineyard church. Supposedly, it was an inter-generational church. But the music was definitely a reflection of the youth culture of today. We tolerated the music until the sloppy wet kiss song came along. I felt like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, when he bent so much to accommodate changes in his tradition that he was afraid he would break! I told my husband, that the SWK song pushed me over the brink.

Not to be totally intolerant, I went on-line to find out the background of this song. You didn't mention it in your article but the composer had just lost a very close friend and was mourning his death when he wrote this song. I was touched by his story. Then I spoke with a young man who plays in a Christian band and he shared how prostitutes in Las Vegas poured to the front of the auditorium to accept Jesus after hearing this song. Again, I was touched. But I still felt as if I was being pushed out of Christendom because of my age and my personal experiences. Isn't the church supposed to be inter-generational? For us, we felt like we were discarded players because we couldn't get on board with the contemporary music scene.

Our generation was raised to respect our elders and to really respect God. My husband always says if we were invited to visit the President of the United States (no matter who it was), we would wear our best clothes, use our best English (obviously no profanity) and address him as Mr. President and respond with "Sir." It's the way we were raised. How much more should we respect our Creator!! We call our corporate singing "praise and worship" and that implies (to me) that we are to direct our songs to God, to focus on Him and His attributes, and to praise Him for what He does. That's why I like to sing Chris Tomlin's songs ("How Great is Our God," "God of Wonders," etc.); they are directed to God, respectful, and "worshipful." They praise God not mankind. Listening to contemporary Christian music in the car or on the radio is fine for songs like the SWK song. They help you put words to your feelings. But when we come together in worship, I want to worship God not man.

Thanks for letting me vent. We left the Vineyard and went to a Nazarene Church, complete with orchestra, choir, piano and organ. Beautiful music!! We never told anyone because we didn't want to complain. Mostly, I think we just felt disenfranchised from the youth culture of today, as expressed in their lyrics.

I'm really happy that many young people are finding Jesus today, through contemporary Christian music. It seems to me that an "intergenerational" church could include BOTH contemporary Christian music and some of the past praise and worship songs and even hymns!! Our new church does that.

I often wonder if there are going to be different choirs and bands and orchestras in heaven so we can sing with the groups with which we feel most comfortable. I'm glad that God meets us where we are and speaks to us in ways that we can understand! We are so blessed.


Thank you for your comments, Shirley.

To clarify, I was aware of but did not mention, in my post, the reason why McMillan wrote the song. I am in no way against songwriters writing songs based on personal experiences, events, feelings, etc. Most popular music is based on that paradigm. My concern is with personal songs, based on specific context, with vague metaphors, being used as corporate worship songs. In that light I wrote, in my post,

"A frightening turn in the singing of worship songs has been the introduction of self-expressive personal diaries - a sort of musically sung out version of one's personal relationship issues. It is not surprising to hear these types of songs described as being honest or genuine or authentic, which are the corporate buzz-words for many of the social-justice-artist types. I consider these types of songs to be dangerous to corporate worship singing primarily because they seem to be derived from the personal experience of the songwriter so much so that the songs themselves become reflections of what the authors happened to be feeling, at the time they were written, and usually are contextualized along those lines. This should not be when a song is sung to worship God within the setting of a corporate expression."

However, corporate worship songs based on personal experience are not wrong. Consider "It Is Well With My Soul," a song born out of personal tragedy - yet the structure of the lyrics do not lend to vague imagery or questionable meaning. That is the difference.

I'm also reluctant to be convinced by arguments such as that of the Las Vegas prostitutes. If, in fact, they became Christ followers because of this song, then Praise the Lord! However, because of the song's emotionalism, I'd rather hear that they believed after hearing the Word of God preached. But, that's my take.

I can appreciate and respect the choices you've had to make in searching for a *complete* church. I also share the opinion that the Church should be inter-generational, that it should cross the spectrum from developing unborn to those at the end of life's journey here on earth. Regardless of whether we achieve that here, though, perhaps we can at least understand the whys and wherefores of corporate worship.


Dear Rusty, I hope you didn't think I was disagreeing with you. I loved your blog and totally agreed. I was relieved to discover I was not the only one offended by this song. My comments re McMillan described my own attempt at tolerance because I was very upset by the SWK lyrics, and then convicted by my extremely negative reaction to his song. Your blog tackled this subject in an intellectual way which I appreciated greatly. You were able to put into words the issues which I was reacting to at an emotional level. Thanks again for articulating this topic so well; it helped me a lot.


Clarifying that I didn't think you were initially disagreeing with me.

Hi Shirley. No, I didn't think you disagreed with me, I understood where you were coming from. What I meant by addressing McMillan's reason for writing the song, as well as the Las Vegas story, is that I understand some of the arguments given in support of using the song as a "worship" song - and that I don't agree with them, within the context of corporate worship (that was the key).

Thank you again for your kind words re: my post. It's very reassuring to find out that my posts have helped others (whether Christ followers or those the Spirit is drawing). Contrary to what some may think, I don't write these posts simply to complain or criticize, but out of a concern for the body of Christ.

And don't worry if you ever think about disagreeing with me in the future... I've got plenty of people (some of them very close friends) who do that! Besides, many times it's through civil discussions, based on disagreements, that we can all learn new things. ;^)

Ron Jacobus

Personally, I love this verse. It's perfect. It's not hard to understand what "heaven meets earth" means. In theology we talk about the "now and the not yet." Jesus has won the war, but we are still in the world. The Kingdom of Heaven" is here - it is wherever God reigns. It's where there is healing, miracles, gifts of the spirit, prophecy, or Heaven. Since Jesus has come we have "pieces" of the kingdom of God, but we have also all had experiences where our prayers have fallen flat and we are left feeling powerless and alone. But in the midst of worship, when we connect with God, sometimes the kingdom of God is overwhelming - like a sloppy wet kiss!

It is hard, in the "now and the not yet" to understand God's love for us because our job, at this time, is to live by faith - to believe in what is not seen. The whole point of this song is to be overwhelmed by the love that God has for us. To recognize that he has this wild, powerful, amazing love for us. If you need everything to be proper, respectable, and totally in control - then you probably should be singing something else.

Thanks for explaining why this verse has been changed.


Hate hate hate this song. It always makes me think of a woman being ravaged in a field, even without the sloppy wet kiss line.


Read Psalm 63 and tell me how in the world there are "misplaced metaphors". David lusted after God. Seems to me you are just a bit jealous that you did not come up with the song yourself.


I never claimed there are misplaced metaphors, only confusing and/or contradictory ones.

Psalm 63 indicates David lusted after God? Show me, please.

Yeah, that's right, after my extensive explanation of how confusing metaphors do not help establish a publicly accessible worship song, I'm jealous about not having written said bit of confusion. In fact, I'm so jealous, I'm like a tree...


I am 63, soon to be 64, I like the song and with out going back to obtain the exact wording, Rusty mentioned about knowing the intent of the framers of the Consitution but that does not seem to have stopped the courts from defining themselves what the meaning is. I doubt the framers ever expected corporations to be considered people, we still disagree over the meaning of the second amendment and now we cannot ask them what they meant. But we have the author of the song explaining the meaning, some may not like it, okay don't listen... that works for me I don't like for the most part old gospel, traditional, choir type songs so I usually don't listen to them. What is traditional? I would like to hear some of old "Praise" band songs, my grand kids probably would think of them as traditional. As far as personal, aren't we supposed to have a personal relation with Jesus? Finally it seems that it is wrong for the author to crititze those who dislike, tear down his song, but it is okay to do it to him. Misplaced metaphor...he put where he wanted it, may not be to everyone's liking...okay don't listen...works for me.


Thanks for your comments, Bob.

Just to clarify, simply because people attempt to re-interpret the Constitution, or even that there is disagreement on certain points, does not mean there was no original intent.

It's not that I dislike the author's attempts at an explanation, but that I find them to be disjointed, confusing, contradictory, etc.

And I take no offense that he offers arguments in his defense, but that the manner with which he does so is belittling and/or demeaning to other fellow believers.

Yet I do agree with your last point... "don't listen". I try to not listen to that song every chance I get! ;^)


Found this page while searching for that song, because it appeared in news article recently. I recognised the song once I heard it, but not these particular lyrics.

I think that, rather than asking why the author is struggling to defend his art, we should ask whether it follows an acceptable pattern. Is vague, easily reinterpreted poetry (a) acceptable in God's eyes (b) for a corporate setting?

Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.

As I'm sure you know or can guess, that's from Song of Songs, 7:7-9. Of the many justifications given of why this book appears in the bible at all (God's love song over his people? His bride the church? The bible's equivalent of a theatrical interlude?) none really fills me with any sense of authority. Some bits are certainly beautiful... others wildly crude, yet others just bewildering. Yet it's there. In scripture. Breasts, body shots, brutality and breasts. Did I mention breasts? There are a lot of them. Solomon might have gotten a little fixated.

Is Song of Songs suitable for corporate worship? Certain bits undoubtedly are (He brought me to his banqueting table?) Some bits more uncertainly so - my church used to sing a song "Hold me" by Brian Houston. Very questionable imagery indeed, but not a million miles away from the above book. In fact, the more I think about it, the more that song makes "How he loves" look blander than bread and water.

There is a wider question about the proportion of "ooey-gooey" songs, love songs to Jesus with no real content, vs songs with a message. Christians with our heads firmly in the clouds. But there is no denying that these songs have their place in our corporate worship though I would like to see it diminish in some churches in favour of active expressions of God's love for us.

In case your were wondering, the image of a sloppy wet kiss personally makes me think something akin to one of the Bill and Ted adventures, where they're in hell and meet the archetypal granny puckering up to give her grandkids a massive kiss on the lips. The love and devotion of a God who wants to show his adoration for an undeserving, unwilling world. Heaven meets earth, though earth isn't sure it wants it. In it, we glimpse the desire of God for his church. It's a little comfort, as they'll be cleaning lipstick and saliva off the pulpit for days.

If the song gives you pause, pulls you out of worship and forces you to spend a second examining the remarkable and crazy relationship we have with our amazing creator, I can't see where the problem is.

May the wine go straight to my beloved,
flowing gently over lips and teeth.
I belong to my beloved,
and his desire is for me.

That's Song of Songs 7:9-10. One sloppy wet kiss, God (heaven) and his bride (earth), straight from the bible. If John Mark McMillan had claimed that was his justification, would this blog post have happened?



Thanks for your comments.

My reasons for objecting to the use of How He Loves in corporate worship are pretty well outlined in my post. It's not about avoiding singing about breasts, although I'm not convinced that Song of Solomon was ever used in corporate worship in Israel (much less references to narratives on visiting prostitutes, shoving daggers into obese enemies, driving tent stakes through the heads of same, etc.). As I stated, my concerns are:

I - Whether by design or by accident, the intended meaning of the lyric is vague and internally inconsistent. This, despite attempts by John Mark McMillan, the author, to define and explain the meaning of the words he used.

II - Much of the current corporate worship singing methodology, found in the contemporary evangelical church in America, is inconsistent with foundational corporate worship practice. The modern practice, in the West, of interjecting the personal into the corporate, reflects secular influences.

III - Those who hear, read, or sing the song, whom I will refer to as recipients of the song, readily misinterpret the author's intended meaning in both the HME and SWK lyrics.

That said, I suppose one could add yet another confusion to the metaphor by attempting to connect God as heaven and the bride in Song of Solomon as earth. Sorry - it's a no go for me.

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