The songs we sing in church have changed – and I’m not so sure I like the trend.
10 years ago churches were wrestling with the issue of what to do with ‘traditional’ services. Hymns vs. contemporary praise music was a divisive issue that church leaders had to wrestle with consistently. Today, the issue is all but gone. It is difficult to even find a church that offers a traditional service any longer. What happened?!
I think this up-and-coming generation (of which I consider myself a part) is responsible for this careless disregarding of tradition. In the 80’s and 90’s we began declaring that church was ‘boring’ and ‘not relevant.’ We threatened to leave in droves if the church didn’t change. What was one of the quickest and easiest ways to change? Out with the stuffy old hymns – bathwater and all.
We made it seem like our issue was with ‘style’ and was a matter of ‘preference.’ The quality would stay the same – we just wanted something with drums. Only, that’s not what happened. We certainly got our drums and guitars – the problem was we didn’t get Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley to go with them. Those men knew what my generation has decided to punt to the curb: the best way for church members to remember their theology is to put it in a song.
When we stopped singing hymns, we stopped singing about theology, God, and the truth of Scripture. We traded them for songs exclusively about our experience of God, our feelings, and our struggles. The way a song made us feel became more important than anything else. We were desperate for an experience with God and these new songs lifted us to those heights. So, we needed a new storehouse of songs that gave us goose bumps and caused our hands to lift high. Problem is now that they always have to be new. No one sings ‘Lord I Lift Your Name on High’ anymore. It doesn’t help me experience God because it’s ‘old’ and ‘cheesy’. We’d better get bigger storehouses.
Interesting that we don’t have that problem with hymns.
On behalf of my generation, I’d like to apologize for our foolish abandoning of orthodox tradition for the sake of emotional experience. The truth is, we were really insecure about our relationship with God and needed a way to make it tangible. Instead of relying on the truth, we fashioned for ourselves songs that made us believe that we were intimately connected with Him – even when many of us were not.
I don’t care if we keep our new songs or not, but I want our hymns back.