Well, I haven’t, but Bill Blankschaen has in the churches he attends. We still sing hymns in my church and I love them. Hymns offer a lot of great theology, they are singable without the need of a melodramatic worship teams and boy wonders on the guitar. They also connect us to the church that sang them in the past. No, you won’t hear them on the local Christian radio station. But you won’t hear any great truth about God on Christian radio stations since most of the songs are written for dreamy eyed 14-year-old girls, and nerdy 16-year-old boys.
Enough of what I think, here is what Bill has to say on the topic. He has written his article to those who insist on the latest praise tunes to come out of Nashville:
To be candid, I know how to behave in your church. I’ve been raised in it my entire life. So I know how to fake it when necessary. Lately, it’s been very necessary when the music is playing and we’re supposed to be singing, you know, to God. Frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe all the “seekers” are enjoying it, but I’m finding it hard to sincerely engage in anything resembling worship.
Instead of feeling the joy of joining with other believers in offering praises to the Almighty, I often feel insulted, bored, and disconnected from 2,000 years of worship history. And just when I think that maybe it’s just me having a selfish and sinful attitude — a very real possibility — a flamboyant electrical guitar solo breaks out. I’m left deciding whether to waive my iPhone and buy the t-shirt or just shut up and go home.
This was the beginning of the end for me when it came to praise music. I always felt like the praise teams in worship were trying to rip me along emotionally, but never gave me any other reason for being moved emotionally except that we were supposed to be emotional. There was never any real content to the praise tunes, just repetition and drivel. But let’s get back to Bill since he puts it much better than I do.
As best I can sort through my own muddled and messy thoughts, I think there are three things that really bother me about the worship music in many Evangelical Christian churches today:
1. They’re really, really simplistic. There, I tried to keep the words small. You certainly put a lot of work into doing that for me each Sunday. It’s not just that most of the lyrics are simple — as in easy to understand. It’s that so many of the songs remind me of the ditties we sang at camp — when I was ten. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the theology in some of those camp songs was more advanced than the ones I’ve heard in some of your services. But, hey, everybody else seems to be really, really enjoying it so maybe it’s just me. Unless, of course, they’ve also learned how to fake it.
2. They’re all pulled from the latest Top 40 Worship channel. Or so it seems. Most songs I hear in evangelical churches of late have been written in the last decade, if that. I know I’m painting with a broad brush here because there have been some really, really (is this helping?) awesome songs written in the last two decades that deserve a place on the all-time worship songs list. We just usually don’t sing those. Maybe because they’re so three years ago.
What ever happened to the previous 2,000 years of church music history? Oh, I know, every so often you toss a token “hymn” (meaning within just the last century or so) into the mix. But even then, it’s a remix that requires melodic jujitsu to keep up with the quicker pace and fancier chord progressions. One distinguishing mark of the worship music of centuries past is that it generally focused more on content than today’s simplisitc style. Songs like “Arise, My Soul, Arise”; “Immortal, Invisible”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; or even the simple “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” typified a depth of doctrine that taught us as it revealed the glory of our Lord.
3. They repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And rep — all right. See what I mean? Really, really annoying. Really. The first time we sang the simplistic ditty, I could tolerate it though I thought the infinite God of all creation deserved better. By the fifth time, I was hearing echoes of Jesus warning about vain repetitions. But once you went softer and slowed it down on the seventh time, it really began to resonate with my soul.
I love the comment about good praise songs that have come on the scene but are no longer sung. He writes “they are so three years ago.” That is what I tried pointing out to a lady in charge of worship at an area church. She won’t be singing the same songs in three years. It’s all about what is cool and hip. When that drives your worship, you probably are not worshipping in Spirit and Truth any longer, since you are not concerned about what the Ancient of Days might have to say about how we worship Him.
I confess I don’t have a well-developed strategy for modern worship. I’m just a guy in the pews, a husband, father, and former pastor, frustrated that I just don’t feel like singing by the time the worship music ends. It seems that focusing on three things would at least be helpful so take it for what it’s worth.
So here’s what I’d like songs in church to be:
- Truthful. Rather than trying to get dumber than a fifth-grader in the worship service (no offense to my fifth-grade daughter), offer truth that grows my understanding of God as we glorify him. He is truth, after all, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.
- Written for adults. We’re not camp attendees giddy about it being our first time away from home. Well, maybe some of us are — but the rest of us don’t always want to have to choose between clapping our hands in rhythm with the group or wrestling with the guilt trip you put on us. Go ahead. Give us songs with deep doctrine that excite our souls. We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never was.
- Timeless. Let’s sing songs that reach back into the archives of songs proven to have been used by God to edify His people. Mix them in with modern songs, by all means. That’s fine. But don’t feel as if you have to make them sound like they just hit the airwaves last week. Imagine Mayberry today on MTV. Modern? Yes. Watchable? No. Sometimes classic is really cool. Really.
I could mention the need to play the music well, of course, but, frankly, I can live with the best you can give on that one. Make it as excellent as you can, please — just don’t make us sing it ad nauseum or worship your musical talents instead of our musical God.
I think Bill might be on to something. Maybe we should be more selective about what we sing in worship before the Almighty God of Creation. Maybe our worship songs should actually be based upon Scripture truth, that deepens our understanding about Him, His grace towards us and our need for Christ. I would say that it should deepen our understanding of His love for us, but we have so abused that attribute of God for the past 30 years that we should probably give it a rest for a while. Maybe we should focus on His holiness for a while. After all, the attribute of holiness is mentioned in the Bible far more than His love. (I know, this disappoints the love-sick 14-year-old girls, but they don’t read blogs like mine anyway).
Therefore let’s stick to the hymns, or at least not forge them. The church might actually learn about God again if we start singing of His rich truth. You can read the rest of Bill’s article here.