This may be a controversial subject I am approaching today, but I am a bit troubled over it, so I thought I would share it with you and see what you think. Over the last few weeks, I have been contemplating worship. Since I have been hearing about worship culture in our sermons of late, I have been really thinking over my own ideas and expressions of worship. What do I think about it? Where did some of my ideas or forms of worship come from? Why do I feel the way I do? And, are my ideas wrong? What is behind some of the comments that one hears quite often regarding this subject?
I guess to start with, one of the most important things to me is music. I LOVE music. Always have! I love to sing, make harmony, and move to the beat. It reaches places inside of me that nothing else can touch. God clearly speaks to me through music. Sometimes it makes me want to bust a move, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it makes me want to sing it to the top of my lungs, and it’s my way of telling the devil to bug off! I also enjoy all types of music. I love the old, I love choruses, I love contemporary, and I enjoy rhythm. So for me, it’s the whole of music that speaks to me. I grew up on hymns, and then ushered in the choruses and folk music, and then contemporary music. I changed with it and still sang all. It worked because we didn’t leave one for the other. We sang all forms of music, that way it reached all members.
Now I know I will date myself here, but I LOVE the hymns, gospel and scriptures put to a chorus. I enjoy them just as much as I do contemporary. I don’t feel that my worship is any less spiritual when I am singing those songs than if I sing a contemporary song with the radio. But I know that this very idea brings tension to any worship team and church that I have been a part of or worked with. I have a few thoughts about that.
First of all, that age group GREW UP with those songs. They know them, came to love them and appreciate what those songs say about God and His love for them. The songs have meaning to them when they hear them. They associated things to those songs as they sing them. Memories are powerful to speak to us! They can sing a lot of them by heart.
Second, they obviously have lyrics that surpass the generations because they are still very much a part of present day if we really look at the words. Try reading some hymns sometime. You will gain some awesome insight! Bill Gaither has proven how much people enjoy that music! It isn’t age discriminatory because there are just as many young as old singing those songs from various artists. These lyrics also tell a story and that’s why many contemporary artists are once again singing some of those greats.
Thirdly, if we are expecting our churches to meet the needs of ALL members, then we need to remember that just like we expect the “older” generation, for lack of better word and I don’t even like to use it, to learn to sing contempary music, we also need to remember that doing a song here and there for that genreation to sing because they KNOW it, is important to make them feel APART of a time of worship also. They can join in and sing along because it is familiar to them. It touches their hearts and it is what has ushered in the presence of God for them most of their lives.
Fourthly, as the older generation struggles to learn new songs, rhythms, lyrics and melody lines WITHOUT the music before them, I think we can sometimes share in the joy of a song they DO know so that they can take part in the corporate worship of their church. Just as those who haven’t been brought up on hymns, choruses and gospel, there are others that haven’t been brought up on contemporary. So when you don’t know it and can’t follow it, you may see that person sitting or standing and not taking part. Even I, who read music and usually follow a melody line, have difficulty following the music I don’t know. I don’t want to make a mistake so often I don’t sing until I know the music better. BUT that doesn’t mean that I’m not worshiping. I was never one to stand still in church. I always moved even singing hymns. The music is in me. My feet move a bit less now because of bad knees, but I will always be a mover, finger snapper, and a hand clapper with music, and sometimes a bit of sign language as a way to express myself.
Fifthly, those who are, let’s say the baby boomer age, don’t want to feel outdated or be labeled critical every time they express their desire for some of the music they are familiar with. They begin to feel forced into what IS and then tend to not take part as much. If they are not taking part as much here, what will that eventually look like in their participation in the overall activities of the church? We WANT them to continue to engage in all areas. That is also a sign of a healthy church.
I will sing any music that can bring me into the presence of God. But even I have to say that I would love to hear a church fellowship singing “Holy Spirit, What A Wonder You Are” or “It Is Well With My Soul” in beautiful harmony. Or now in this season, to sing Christmas music. It isn’t outdated. I don’t think there is going to be just contemporary music in heaven, so we better prepare ourselves a bit down here. I think God would like that. After all, those songs you call old, were Holy Spirit written also and our Bible mentors will be singing things you aren’t going to be familiar with most likely when you get to heaven.
So what is the bottom line? If we expect the “old” to conform to the “new” and learn it all, why can’t we expect the “new” to reach out to the “old” and pull them in with something they can really sing to once in a while, just because they KNOW it! I feel bad that anyone coming to church at any age would feel like they’re not a part of what is going on in worship. I have seen some pretty awesome worship times with those baby boomers. And I mean some great worship! Why? Because they KNEW it. They sang, they raised hands, they clapped, and they smiled as they enjoyed singing in the presence of God with music they knew. What are we afraid of? That we might have to learn a song we don’t know? They are learning new songs all the time! We can ALL do it. If you could see a room full of people and they were ALL participating instead of only a portion, what could happen then?! We would all have to move to the middle to be in a mode of learning at some point, but having a happy, thriving church would be a totally awesome way to go! The Holy Spirit will move regardless of songs, that much is true. But, when we can include more of all the worshipers at various times, that means ALL are content and that leads to contentment in the church, which leads to successful church culture overall. After all, that is what we want, right?
I hope you will still read my blog after this post! : ) But more then that, I hope that you will think on these things and ask the right questions. Walking the journey with you…