On the subject of Hymns: What’s your opinion on the modern day version of “church music”. Which is to say, do you think that the music has become more representative of the modern church and, if so, is that something that should be avoided?
Great question and timely. I’ve been thinking and talking about worship with some of my close friends lately and wrestling through my thoughts on the subject and what I want to role model to the young adults I lead as a person who believes that worship is very important.
I’ve experienced worship in many different settings; from the extremely conservative to the rock concert variety to the ancient traditions to the super emotional… I could go on…
If I’m being honest, I have to say that I have a lot of frustration with the idea of boiling worship down and making it all about music and singing. That’s not to say that I don’t like music, music is a very important part of my life, it’s essential to my personal creative process when it comes to writing, and God has often used music, with lyric and without, to speak to me in ways that have pulled me out of very dark places. Music is powerful, it’s a language of its own and it’s something that, I believe, is linked to the soul of humanity and the essence of being made in God’s image.
That being said, I strongly believe that worship is something we do with our lives and not just about the songs we sing on Sunday morning and how we sing them. And I know that’s not exactly addressing the question being asked here, but stay with me, I’m going somewhere.
The biggest complaint I hear from young people about current praise and worship music is that it’s self-indulgent and too emotional, and I get it. I do. And I have been right there with them at different points in my life thinking, “I’m singing ‘it’s all about you Jesus’ but it sure feels like it’s all about me and what I’m getting out of this whole thing.”
The truth is, at least in my opinion, even when you look back at old hymns, and I love old hymns, if you consolidate them into everything that encompasses worship, then they don’t really come out looking much less indulgent than the stuff we have today. So there’s this thing that happens in Christian music where we work out what we’re going through in these songs and it is emotional. I found it really hard to relate to until several years ago while I was living in Dallas and going through what were some of the most desperately sad times in my life. I’d lost my mom, my job was falling apart, and I was facing people saying horrible things about me in a way I had never experienced before in my life. And in that pit of a place that my life was then I started reading through the Psalms and where I used to think David was the whiniest guy in the bible suddenly he was reading my mind. And at that time in my life those songs that had seemed indulgent and over-emotional to me before were suddenly my prayers, they gave me words when I didn’t have them and God spoke back to me through them.
So after that I couldn’t see those songs as not having a place and I couldn’t honestly say at that point if I was worshiping God so much as having a conversation with him through song.
In the midst of that time I also was introduced to ideas about worship being a way of life, worship being something we do with our time and our attention and our obedience, worship being about our lives.
So maybe this doesn’t answer the original question at all, maybe it does, but I don’t think, if worship is only going to be about music, that we can get it right. There wont be a type of song, or a way of singing that will be holy or reverent enough.
Yes, there will always be crappy Christian music. And it’s just crappy because it’s poorly written or maybe it’s intention is to force you to cry. That happens and I support people avoiding crappy music as much as possible.
What I know is this, personally I can’t tell you what kind of song God prefers coming out of your mouth more… traditional, mainstream, chanting, or anything else you can think of. For me whatever the words or style, worship has a lot more to do with why we’re singing and what we’re doing with our lives to honor God, than it has to do with the style of our songs.
I hope that in some way answers the question. =)