Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Standard for Music

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

I like old hymns that bring honor and glory to Christ. I like new songs that bring honor and glory to Christ. When people ask me, "Do you prefer traditional or contemporary?" my response is that we should not care how old or how new a song is, we should care about the content of the song. The question that should be asked is "Does this song bring glory to Christ and is it theologically sound?" Unfortunately, there are songs, new and old, that do not pass this test.

But, this blog post is not really about new versus old, traditional versus contemporary. It's about a observation that have made through worship experiences in many different places. It's an observation that I have made for many years but was very obvious at a conference I attended recently where the majority in attendance were college aged.

During our time of worship through music we sang some new songs and the words were clearly displayed on the screen. Then we switched and sang two or three hymns in a row but for some reason the words were not displayed. Nonetheless, when we started to sing the hymns it was as if the size of the crowd had doubled. The singing got much louder and more confident and we sang multiple verses of each song without ever seeing the words on the screen. But wait, wasn't this a bunch of college kids? Don't they have a disdain for hymns?

Again, this is not a new observation for me. I noticed this often during chapel at Hardin-Simmons and at Grace Bible Study (a college bible study of about 700 students). When we sang hymns it just seemed like the voices were louder. Why does this happen? There could be many reasons. In most of these cases the crowd was made up of college students who, generally speaking, grew up in the church singing hymns. So, they are familiar with them and have sung them enough that they know the words by memory.

Another factor (or at least I hope it is a factor) is that my generation is not bound to new or old but to the content and to music that leads to true worship. We have an appreciation for old and for new. We want it to be done well and not to be something that is checked off as we move down the order of service.

Sometimes it seems to me that the "worship wars" will never be over. But I hope and pray that as my generation moves more and more into positions of leadership and influence in the church (as they already have) that the standard for music will not be age or style but content and theolgy.

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