Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On Modern Worship Songs

I've taken more than a few trips around my favorite blogs the past week and I'm noticing a harsher tone from some about modern worship. There seem to be some in the conservative camps that see a disconnect between modern worship and the broader (in their view, historical) definition of worship -- total devotion that plays out in our lives every day.

First, part of me suspects this is a rash rebuttal to what was first a rash proposition in their churches to move from traditional hymnals to modern worship. That's a blanket statement to be sure, but I sense that tone in some. If I were in a traditional church and it made the switch solely for the church growth demographic benefits, I'd make some noise about that, too. That doesn't give a reason to condemn modern worship outright, however.

As someone deeply invested in modern worship, I'm also a bit offended (but not seriously injured) by the notion that modern worship is always about mindless yammering, that there is no theological underpinning, and the whole modern worship movement is ultimately self-serving. To me, this is an opinion from someone who either hasn't been paying attention or someone who has really heard all the wrong songs.

Personally, I am in favor of all methodology for corporate worship that glorifies God. I can't believe this is even a debate in the 21st Century Church. If we can agree David stole worship styles from pagans, I really don't see where style has any relevance on substance. If we can agree the early and mid-20th Century Church dramatically changed musical styles from the Church-ordained "Holy Threes" to beer-mug swinging bar room pleasers, where can we establish a historical methodology? (If you're not clear what I mean, put an imaginary beer mug in the air and sing any old hymn while swinging the mug from left to right)

There are plenty of songs with which I take issue with on theological grounds, and not all of them are modern. Is God really glorified with "Bringing In the Sheaves?" Or how about the post-Civil War inspired "Onward, Christian Soldiers?" These are the songs of my childhood church, and I can honestly say they did nothing to lead me to a better relationship to God. There are also plenty of old hymns I still hold dear, likely including some my critics might assume I don't even know or think less of them because they're old.

I think there are a lot of assumptions being made about modern worshipers, particularly assumptions made about charismatics. All I can say is my experience has not been about being emotional or vacuous. The full definition of worship -- obedience, submission, servitude -- has been taught from the pulpit of my modern worshiping churches. I hope some day we can put this away and focus on serving God's kingdom together!

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