Thursday, June 28, 2007

Praise and Worship

I miss singing hymns in Sunday morning worship. I miss the sound of four part harmony singing praise to God and the simple sound of a piano and organ guiding us along. It saddens me to think that in just a few generations, all of those old hymns have been lost. We sing along to the band now, complete with bass, electric and acoustic guitar as well as drums and keyboard. The music from the instruments all but drowns out the singing of the congregation and instead of feeling as though I am participating in corporate worship, I spend my time straining to hear my own voice so I can stay on pitch.

I know that this has become a rallying point for many people in churches around the country. I don't think that this is a reason to leave or split a congregation of believers. Sadly, music in worship has become a hot topic for debate and has been the source of many a split church. Don't we have more important things to tend to as the body of Christ? Is the type of music we hear and sing in church really that important? To that I have to answer yes and no.

Yes, it's important in the sense that we need to get the most out of our worship experience as possible. If the music is distracting to your praise and worship time, then what's the point? I've heard people say that it doesn't matter what kind of music is playing, what matters is that you are praising God. I wholeheartedly disagree with that philosophy. It matters a great deal if you can't open yourself up to true worship because of what's going on around you. Believe me, I have tried very hard to learn the lyrics to all the praise songs, and I sing them when I am in church. I don't stand there just refusing to sing because I don't really like the music, because that is just pure rebellion and we should be trying to fix our thoughts on God.

However, I just don't enjoy the music the way I want to and that makes me feel like I am not worshipping to the fullest on Sunday morning. The music does not prepare me for the sermon, it's just something that I have to get through and I hate feeling like that. I hate feeling like a complainer or that I am not willing to change, but it goes deeper than that. Those hymns that we used to sing contained important doctrine about our faith. It's a proven fact that we are able to retain information better if we put it to music. I can't tell you how many bible verses I know because I learned them in a song as a child.

"Victory in Jesus", "The Old Rugged Cross", "I Need Thee Every Hour"....the words to these hymns teach us something very important about ourselves and about the God we serve. I often laugh (on the inside, of course) during the praise and worship time in church, because I occasionally hear a phrase from a hymn in a praise song. I laugh because probably 80% of the congregation has no clue that they are singing part of a hymn. I think hymns have a bad reputation among the "new congregations" who either began going to church after hymns had been sort of phased out, or have never attended a church that sang them. They think that hymns are boring and preachy, but they sing phrases from them at the top of their lungs every Sunday without even realizing it.

One of the great joys of being a member of my family is that there is a overwhelming love for music and a talent for it as well. I can't think of anyone in my family (immediate and extended) who can't sing or play an instrument. Almost every time we get together, we gather around the piano and sing in four part harmony to all the old hymns. We pull out the Broadman hymnal and the Inspiration and sing "Mansion Over the Hilltop", "The Way That He Loves" and "Just a Little Talk With Jesus" until we are hoarse. It's a beautiful time of praise and worship and the lyrics help us to remember Who we serve. Those old hymns echo through my mind when I am in a dark and lonely place, and remind me that I am not alone.

On the other hand, I have to answer that no, music is not that important in the sense that our greater purpose is spreading the gospel as far and wide as we can. If the music draws people in and keeps them engaged and ready to worship, then we should carry on smartly and continue our ministry. Much of the praise music does reflect sound theology and doctrine, albeit a little "fluffy" sometimes. I would never leave my church because of the music program. If I was getting fed in other areas (Sunday School, small groups, preaching) then that one area that I was not entirely comfortable with would not be enough to send me packing. We could spend our entire lives trying to find a church home that aligns perfectly with what we want. What really matters is what God wants for us, and we have to keep that in mind.

So, having said all of this, the bottom line is that I miss the old hymns but not enough to leave the body of believers that I have come to know and love. I would suggest a more blended music service, but that is neither here nor there. I am content with the knowledge that my children will grow up knowing all of the old favorites and maybe they can teach me some of the new.


Kellye said...

Why not try early service? I'd miss yall, but maybe that would help!

Xandra said...

Been there, done that. It's hard to believe, but it's worse than the late service. Thanks for trying, though!

Lori Soard said...

Hi, Xandra. You make an excellent point about loving the body even if we don't agree with every little thing or always get things our own way, including the music.

We have the opposite problem in our church in that some Sundays I feel like I'm at a funeral singing old hymns that people don't even know (they aren't always the traditional hymns that are uplifting) and I'm in the choir and I say that. It is an embarrassment when the choir is stumbling over some classical sounding piece and no one really knows it.

I would really like to see more of a blended service at our church too, with some old hymns (that people actually know like Amazing Grace, In the Garden, and Blessed Assurance mixed with some more modern praise and worship music that the kids and those of us in the 30-something age group also enjoy.

We do work some of this in as solos but they tend to be few and far between and I know we have lost potential members over our funeral march music.

Anyway, I appreciate your perspective. You sound like a very spiritually mature sister in Christ and it's a pleasure to read your blog.


R Lyndel Littleton said...

I was searching for a picture of an old hymnal for my blog and came to your blog. Your thoughts and writing are excellent. I had one of the pastors at a former church pushing me to not do any hymns (I do a nice mix of hymns and new - doing the hymns in a more updated style so they don't sound like a funeral) and I said "so, you don't want your kids to know Amazing Grace?" and he said, "well, no, you have to do that one" and I kept saying that with different hymns and he kept saying we had to do that one so I told him to just sing and let me decide the music :) he agreed.

lynnsinger1 said...

Oh, how you've said everything that a lot of us here in Houston are feeling. Music is supposed to usher in the prescence of God. I like some of the praise and worship songs but, others I can do without. So many of our older members are just getting left out because of the new phenomenom. I am 43. My mom passed away in 2005. I so long to hear a hymn that was so close to her heart. My 25 year old son told me that he can't stand the p&w songs. They reming him of a high school choir rehearsal. Why are music directors so selfish that they only want to do what they want.I will not leave my church but, I only get there in time for the preaching. I am thinking about starting a "rebellion" in my town if I can find any supporters. Anyone in Houston, Tx.? Email me at