As I was doing research for a Bible study, I came across some articles and commentaries about the hallel
. It was a collection of songs that Jews would sing during their festivals and holidays. These songs have been sung by the Jewish people year after year for thousands of years. They were written to commemorate stories of Israel’s past that she wasn’t to forget. They were written to praise God for His work during those stories. They were written to unite the people who sing them. Those songs, they would say, are “ours.”
I can’t fathom that. Aside from the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America there aren’t any songs that we, as Americans, can call “ours.” Some may say that the same is true for the Western Church, but I would disagree… for now. I think hymns are “our” songs, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I think hymns are quickly disappearing from our worship services. No one is wondering about “our” songs anymore. If anything, we are now talking more about “my” songs and “your” type of music. This reality doesn’t unite the church, it divides it. If it continues, I believe it will only continue to fragment the church and keep us from a unity that is only found in ancient cultures.
Can you think of one song that could be earnestly and rapturously sung in every church in the world (aside from Christmas carols)? A song that every believer would know by heart no matter what language you spoke or what country you lived in? A song that has been sung throughout the ages and handed down from father to son?
The sheer volume of praise and worship songs out there makes it difficult for any of them to become a song that unites the Body of Christ. Even if they do reach the heights of popularity, their stay there is typically short lived as the song is overplayed and then quickly replaced by the next song climbing the charts. And there’s also our ever-important preferences that drive our music selection. Instead of writing music that appeals to the entire church, we are now writing songs that appeal to ‘my’ type of church or ‘your’ type of congregation. And the fact that people write these new songs as part of their job and work for record companies that force them to write more music only complicates the matter further.
Though I certainly believe that any song, old or new, could very easily become one of “our” songs, I don’t understand why we would be writing new ones when we have perfectly good hymns that are gathering dust. We certainly don’t need to eliminate contemporary songs, I’d just prefer to not see “our” songs get lost in the litany of ‘my’ songs. I want our hymns back. We need our hymns back.
What do you think? Is this unrealistic or too idealistic? What would you say are ‘our’ songs?
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.
Here is a quote from Matt Chandler in the latest issue of Leadership:
“I’m unapologetically Reformed, but nine times out of ten I cannot stand the Reformed community. I don’t want to be around them. I don’t want to read their blogs. They can be cannibalistic, self-indulgent, non-missional, and angry. It’s silly and sad at the same time. Reformed doctrine should lead to a deep sense of humility and patience with others. How it produces such arrogance baffles me.”
He expresses what I have long-struggled to articulate. However, this kind of arrogance has been around since long before the Reformers ever showed up – and they are not the only ones who continue to act in this way. Where is the humility?