Modern Christian artists have produced a lot of great songs, but occasionally, blending biblically accurate, pop-sounding, catchy lyrics into a three and a half minute tune can end in head-scratching results. Here’s our list of seven strange lyrics from major contemporary Christian hits.
‘Awesome God’ – Rich Mullins
Lyric: When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just putting on the ritz
If you grew up in the evangelical church, there’s a good chance you have sung the chorus “Our God Is an Awesome God” thousands and thousands of times. Aside from seemingly acknowledging the existence of other (less awesome) gods, the chorus is actually pretty catchy and even moving. The rapping verses, however, aren’t quite as timeless. Even Mullins later admitted that despite the song’s popularity, he considered it “one of the worst-written songs I ever wrote.”
Lines like When He rolls up his sleeves / He ain’t just putting on the ritz haven’t really held up since the song was first written in 1988. Mainly because no one has used the phrase “putting on the ritz” since The Great Gatsby was first published.
‘Breakfast’ – Newsboys
Lyric: Pretty much the entire song
The song “Breakfast,” off the 1996 Newsboys album Take Me to Your Leader is about a recently deceased fellow who really loves cereal. At his funeral, his friends say he is also glad he is not going to spend eternity in torment, presumably, because, “They don’t serve breakfast in hell.” Not only is the song eerily morbid, it also takes a pretty serious topic—dying and going to hell—and manages to weave in countless breakfast puns of questionable taste and cleverness. At one point in the song, the puns run so dry that an entire verse and chorus are simply whistled.
Here are a few examples of ‘Breakfast’ head-scratchers:
Back when the chess club said our eggs were soft / Every Monday he’d say grace and hold our juice aloft / Oh none of us knew his check out time would come so soon / but before his brain stopped waving he composed this tune
When the toast is burned / And all the milk has turned / And Captain Crunch is waving farewell … they don’t serve breakfast in hell.
‘The Great Adventure’ – Steven Curtis Chapman
Lyric: Saddle up your horses / We’ve got a trail to blaze
If it wasn’t for the music video, this song probably wouldn’t have made the list. That’s because if you listen to this hit single off of Steven Curtis Chapman’s 1992 album The Great Adventure, you would assume that the chorus, Saddle up your horses / We’ve got a trail to blaze / Through the wild blue yonder / Of God’s amazing grace is entirely metaphorical. The music video, however, presents a different perspective of the now-famous lyric. The video continually cuts back to a gentleman in a white T-shirt and black jeans, who just like the opening lines of the song, wakes up in the morning, distressed while looking a the clock: Chasing thoughts inside my head / Of all I had to do today. Then, after he Opened up the Bible / And I read about me, the walls of his tiny house are blown off, and he actually—completely non-metaphorically, saddles up a horse and begins blazing a trail. He also—literally—rides the horse into an active rodeo, bringing the crowd to their feet, before heading back out to blaze more trails “into the glorious unknown.” Head-scratching? A little. Great? Definitely.
‘Big House’ – Audio Adrenaline
Lyric: A big big yard / Where we can play football
Come and go with me, to my father’s house / It’s a big big house / With lots and lots a room / A big big table / With lots and lots of food / A big big yard / Where we can play football. They had us up until the football thing.
It’s unclear which came first, the
“Jesus is my coach” statues or the hit song from Audio Adrenaline, but both offer a somewhat theologically questionable view of the afterlife where God is the proprietor of a large mansion with a football field-sized lawn. Speaking of theologically questionable, who exactly are the butler and maid also mentioned that work in the big, big house?
‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ – Robert Robinson
Lyric: Here I raise my Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’ve come
Written in 1758, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” though not exactly a CCM hit, is one of Christendom’s great hymns. But as timeless as the song has become, there’s one line that may still leave some modern audiences scratching their heads. What exactly is an “Ebenezer,” and why are we so willing to sing about raising it? The lyric is actually a reference to 1 Samuel 7, when Samuel, after relying on God to defeat the Philistines, used a stone to memorialize the battle. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). So, as it turns out, this head-scratching line is actually a very sound theological truth. The more you know.
‘How He Loves’ – John Mark McMillan
Lyric: So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
The worship ballad “How He Loves” from singer/songwriter John Mark McMillan has become a staple of Sunday morning worship services, but depending on how comfortable (or uncomfortable) your worship team is singing about sloppy wet kisses, you could be singing a different version of the song. The original version, contained the line “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,” which for some reason, caused a stir in churches around the country. Even the David Crowder Band, who released a popular cover of the song, changed the line (with permission) to “unforeseen kiss” in an effort to make the song more Christian radio-friendly. But, when you think about it, an “unforeseen kiss” is actually a little weirder than a “sloppy wet kiss.” Was the kiss a sneak attack? Why wasn’t the recipient expecting this kiss?
McMillan later explained that he didn’t have a problem with Crowder changing the line, but he did feel the lyric had been misunderstood. “What I do have a problem with though, is that the condition of greater Christianity would be as such that he would even have to change it. I think the fact that a line like ‘Sloppy wet kiss’ could be controversial is ridiculous. Are we in kindergarden? … Please folks, I never ever, ever, ever, thought of this line as though it was talking about kissing God … HEAVEN meets EARTH like a sloppy wet kiss. The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy.”
‘Don’t You Want to Rap?’ – Bryan Duncan
Lyric: Pretty much everything following the line: OK, I’ll give it a SHOT! My name is Bryan D …
In 1989, Bryan Duncan was a CCM superstar, but this strange sort-of-parody song off the album Strong Medicine is the artist’s first foray into rap. The video and song start off harmless enough, until the 1:19 mark when Duncan gets into a rap battle with a TSA agent and transforms into a potentially offensive hip-hop stereotype to unleash rhymes like On a mission from God; I like to call Him a Friend / I think that people are sick, and He’s the med-o-cine, and this mind-expanding verse: Think I’m just a white man with a sheltered life / Nice home, two cars, two kids and a wife / Just look a little closer while you’re starin’ at me / ‘Cause sometimes what you get is more than what you see. Needless to say, Duncan’s career has a rapper was short-lived.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.