Monday, September 10, 2007

Open Mic: All Day Singin' & Dinner on the Grounds

This time around, we'll deal with a more "church-y" kind of questions... as always, if you'd like to see all of the Open Mic questions, you can check them out here.

Some background is necessary for this question: the selection of congregational music is an issue for almost every church - regardless of whether they are liturgical/high church or a bunch of "holy rollers" meeting in a storefront. At the church I pastor, we've been transitioning from a "classic" Southern Baptist style (mostly hymns sung from a hymnbook with piano) to a more "contemporary" style (with a variety of choruses, hymns & songs sung backed up by a band.)

For those of you without church background, consider this a peek behind the curtain. (The Great Oz has spoken... he he.) The discussions that occur are not dissimilar to discussions about the relative merits of FLGS vs online stores or (shudder) space operas & "hard" sci-fi.

Why can't we sing some of the old gospel songs out of the hymn book?

This answer is going to sound a bit flippant - but it's not meant that way.

There is nothing stopping you from singing & enjoying whatever kind of worship music you like. Thanks to CDs and video, you can listen to any style of music that is meaningful to you. You just may not get to sing the music you like during every NewLife Community worship service.

Again, I don't mean to sound snide or flippant in that response - you see, the music we do on Sunday morning is not my preferred worship style, either. (The best worship band I've ever experienced was at The Origins Experience in 2004... they played a blend of funk, rock, and R&B with solidly Scriptural lyrics that absolutely spoke to my soul.) I play CD's in my office during the week that resonate spiritually & musically with me.

My first suggestion for anyone who's a part of NewLife is that they should find ways to hear the music that ministers to them, whether or not that happens during the worship service they attend.

But the heart of the question is, I think, "Why don't we sing the songs that I connect with on Sunday morning?" Which, honestly, is a very good question.

The music that Aaron choooses (under my leadership) is chosen with three things in mind:
  • lyrics that honor God & reflect the truth of Scripture
  • accesibilty to non-Christians & new believers (can they understand what we're singing about and is it in a style that appeals to them?... keep in mind that the median age of our congregation is 29.)
  • connection with the theme of the message for that morning
When a hymn out of the hymnal does those things, we're more than happy to use it. I'm equally happy to use something offbeat than no one has ever heard of IF it will help people connect with Scriptural truth.

Aaron & I are emphatically NOT "anti-hymn" - every Sunday morning during Senior Adult Sunday School, I enjoy singing hymns with the folks. We've also done Hymnsing services - where we've spent 90 minutes (or more!) enjoying those older songs together. They are important parts of our heritage of faith.
My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary... Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. Martin Luther
But, long before most of us were alive, they were the "flashy new songs" that were replacing the "good old songs" of the faith. (In our denominational background, the vast majority of what we call "hymns" are actually "revival songs", written in the late 19th & early 20th century. ) We need to sing with hearts turned toward Christ... whether it's the latest song of praise (like "Blessed Be Your Name") or the oldest hymn (like my personal favorite, "A Mighty Fortress is our God".)

Heck, just read Psalm 150.

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