Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Worship--why we were created. Worship service-what you go to on Sunday mornings, right? Worship regulations--why churches split, older generations are offended, and younger generations left confused.

In the Middle Ages the battle was tempus perfectum verses tempus imperfectum. Rhythm division of three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) verses division of two. There's since been the battle of instruments-electric guitar verses pipe organ. The battle of lyrics-doctrine verses emotion. But, if you are truly worshiping and as long as the lyrics are theologically sound, it doesn't matter if you're singing "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" or "We Fall Down."

Personally, I enjoy meaningful hymns and some contemporary worship (as long as it's not too wild). I've grown up in everything from Word of Faith/Pentecostal to Reformed Presbyterian. And, no matter what church setting I'm in, it's never the drums, the organs, or the hymnbooks that turn me off or set me on fire.

It's the lyrics. Am I learning something? Is this theologically sound?

It's the worship. Is the congregation actually worshiping--am I worshiping? Am I forgetting about me, my problems, my whining, my flesh, my opinions, and focusing my all on Him. Him, the Star-Breather, the Savior--the God who made us for His fellowship and glorification.

That's our whole purpose on this green earth. If we are not fellowshipping with our Holy Creator in every word we say, in every reaction of every relationship, and in every deed every day--we are running from true existence. We're forming a lie for us to live inside of. If we do not lose ourselves and gain Christ every day, when we meet with Him in our quiet times, and when we assemble with fellow believers, we've forgotten purpose; we're hypocrites.

It doesn't matter if Chris Tomlin or Isaac Watts wrote what I'm singing. What matters is if I actually mean the words I'm reading off the wall or hymnbook. It doesn't matter if there's a drum beat thrown in or if the sweet little lady is playing straight out of the hymnbook. It's what sweet fragrance Almighty God is delighting in-- or not.

Worship--it's purpose, it's existence, it's a state of heart.


Stephen Boyd said...

Very interesting!

One thought on music..... I once heard a pastor say that, at one time, the old hymns we sing today were contemporary songs. While this may be true, I think the focus of the songs has changed completely. The focus of the old hymns is Christ, while contemporary music focuses on the singer or instrumentalist(s). I think it's much easier to focus on the lyrics of the old hymns than on the lyrics of more contemporary songs.

Those are just some ideas I had. What do you think?

Ana Smith said...

Yes, the old hymns were contemporary songs. When Isaac Watts began writing his wonderful hymns, such as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and "Am I a Soldier of the Cross," the church had mainly sung psalms set to music. Watts was different for his time.

I agree with you that the focus has changed some, but not completely. Contemporary music does not always center on the musician. Contemporary Christian music didn't really emerge until the '80s. And, it has changed since then, including the focus. My parents have been involved in the progression of contemporary worship, and they've noticed the shift as well.

The following are snippets from some of my favorite oder contemporary worship songs, tell me what you think:

"I love You Lord, and I lift my voice
to worship You, oh my soul, rejoice
Take joy my King, in what You hear
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear."

"He is exalted the King is exalted on High
I will Praise Him
His is exalted forever exalted and I will praise Him Name
He is the Lord, Forever His truth shall Reign
Heaven and Earth, Rejoice in His Holy Name
He is exalted, the King is exalted on High."

My most favorite is "We fall Down" by Chris Tomlin:

"We fall down
We lay our crowns
At the feet of Jesus
The greatness of His mercy and love
At the feet of Jesus
And we cry Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the Lamb."

Now I could also quote many others that are theologically shallow and "me" focused. The last one I quoted is a rare gem in the newer songs. But, there are also many contemporary songs (most of them are older) that are Scriptural and focused on Christ.

Sure, contemporary songs are simpler, and sometimes nothing more than a Scripture chorus. But, is there anything wrong with that?

Personally, I don't believe worship should solely be made up of contemporary music. I love the old hymns, they make me think even more. But, simply sticking to straight hymns isn't the answer either.

While at music camp, I attended several services at a large independent Baptist church. Almost every hymn related to personal salvation experience and heaven. They were mostly old hymns and I don't have a problem with singing about salvation and heaven--but not every other song.

I enjoy the hymn selections at our church because in one service we usually sing about dominion, our fallen nature and dependence on Christ, praise to God for who He is, etc...

I think what a church sings about reflects that church's focus. So, yes Stephen, many modern churches reflect self in their worship. Others, existential salvation and the after-life. But I don't see those as reasons to restrict to hymns only.

And, I have been in worship services that kept their focus on Christ that were a mixture of hymns and contemporary worship. Although few and far between, there are modern-day hymn writers:http://gettymusic.com/hymns.asp

Thanks for the comment!

Stephen Boyd said...

I guess it just comes down to personal preference and although I loooove Southern gospel and artists like Michael Card, I find that my attitude toward God is quieter and more open to His word when we listen to sacred hymns on Sunday morning, preparing our hearts for worship.

And those are very non "me" centered lyrics but, as you said, I acknowledge there has been a "shift" in the emphasis of music.

Kelli said...

I have been facing this debate a lot it seems lately. My husband is writing a series about "what is worship music" for our youth class. They were shocked to see that so many of the songs our choir sing only promote self(I Have Decided To Follow Jesus) , or the rewards God will give to us(example-Mansion Over The Hilltop), rather than focusing on God and His glory. However, older people think that because it is a gospel song (although I wonder how some of them became such seeing as how they do not mention God) it is worth singing. Do not misunderstand me, I think there are many CCM groups who are very unworthy of their labeling(Skillet, Hawk Nelson, Flyleaf). If they do not magnify God, how are they a Christian band?