Editor’s Note: The content of this article was developed in Advanced Studies in Youth, Church and Culture taught by Andrew Zirschky at Memphis Theological Seminary in partnership with CYMT. To learn more about the CYMT graduate residency, visit cymt.org.
by Tess Frohock
Can we really do anything to the glory of God? One might assume this to be the case from hearing the recent song entitled “Do Everything” by contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.
“Do Everything” declares that everything matters as long as you “do everything you do to the glory of the One [God] who made you.” The lyrics assure us that if we do everything to the glory of God then we will bring a smile to God’s face with everything we do. The first verse begins by describing a woman who is picking up after and taking care of her children. She puts her baby on her hip and puts on lip stick before heading out the door. The second verse makes reference to men and describes a well-dressed man, continuing with the different jobs men might have such as “cooking up burgers” and “making mergers.” Later the song says that no matter where you are (i.e. a five star restaurant or on a mission trip in Africa) you can still bring glory to God as long as you “do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you.”
When I first heard “Do Everything” I was quick to censure the lyrics (and singer) based on my interpretation of the words. But my recent study of cultural theory has challenged me to throw out my criticism and instead analyze the lyrics of the song in order to discern the theological foundations that led to its formation.
There are important theological implications explicit in Chapman’s song that reveal a contemporary Christian view of God. First, the song suggests that God made us to do everything to bring a smile to God’s face. Beneath the lyrics we sense a call to please God—a call to make God happy. The lyrics portray God as an emotional God who is happy when we do things for “his” glory and who we assume must be sad when we do not. The song says we are made to do everything to God’s glory and to bring a smile to God’s face, projecting the image of God sitting on “his” throne waiting for us to bring “him” satisfaction rather than a God of grace and love who compels us to live our lives in such a way that expands God’s kingdom, ultimately bringing God glory.
Secondly, the song implies God values the same things as white middle class culture. For example, the lyrics suggest men are made to work and provide for the family while women are created to stay home with the children and complete household duties. Can a full-time working mother work for the glory of God and make God smile? Can a homeless man beg for money to the glory of God and make God smile? Can a homosexual care for her partner to the glory of God and make God smile? The singer and intended audience of the song would likely be uncomfortable with such ideas. The lyrics affirm that God smiles and values the same things the white middle class culture values.
The final theological implication is that the song leads us to envision God’s grace as “cheap grace”—grace we receive that does not consume and transform our lives. In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance…grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” According to the song, doing everything we can for the glory of God is just a mindset and not a way of living for Christ.
When we take a look at what Jesus says about discipleship we find the opposite at work in nearly every case. Take for example the rich young ruler whose heart was in the right place and yet Jesus responds to him that the one thing he lacks is to sell all his possessions. Jesus confronts an attitude with a call to action. While Scripture tells us to do everything to God’s glory (Colossians 3:23) the lyrics give no specification as to what is meant by bringing glory to God but instead just tell us to bring glory to God. Jesus’ consistent way of discipling was calling people into action, a journey of faith that involved the surrender of much more than an attitude. Bonhoeffer calls this “costly grace”—a gracious call to follow Christ that comes to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. The song “Do Everything” contains no demand for such discipleship.
In our youth ministries we can help magnify the theological myths of contemporary Christian cultural that “Do Everything” unveils. We need to affirm that God inspires all of humankind to do everything to God’s glory and then show them with our words and our lives what it means to actually live out the call to discipleship, or “costly grace.” We can teach them about the life of Jesus who clearly shows us that not everything we do can bring glory to God because there are acts within themselves that are not glorifying to God. Lastly, we need to expose our youth to diversity and encourage diversity in our ministries by connecting with other cultures and making our ministries a safe place for students of all race, religion, economic background, gender, and sexuality. We can overcome the naiveté, complacency, and separatism of Christianity in middle class American culture that produces the ideology of “Do Everything.”
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. (New York: Macmillan, 1966).
Chapman, Steven Curtis. “Do Everything.” Re:creation. (Nashville: Sparrow Records, 2011).
Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (5th Edition). Harlow: Longman, 2009.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. (New York, NY: Biblica, Inc., 2011).
Tess Frohock is a graduate resident at the Center for Youth Ministry Training, the youth minister at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN and also serves on the staff of Preston Taylor Ministries. Tess and her husband Kyle live in Nashville with their two daughters.
Our youth want to be engaged and challenged with race and justice issues. And, we need to provide them a theological framework and opportunities to do so. Here are some resources that have come to our attention we recommend as you explore these conversations with your youth, families, and congregations:
Racism in America is a tragic reality. It’s part of our history and unfortunately, it’s still evident in today’s world. One of the things we can do as faithful Christians to fight racism is to grow in our own knowledge and understanding of those with different experiences than our own. To help get you started, check out these resources...
The Center for Youth Ministry Training joins the millions of people around the country and the world crying out for justice. We are praying for the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, for all impacted by racial injustice, and for all who are experiencing anger, fear, sorrow, and pain from these horrific incidents. We are concerned about how these killings and the deep divisions of our country are impacting all young people.