I heard an ad on the radio today that said "When it comes to worship, do you think of Charles Wesley before Chris Tomlin, is worship music more pipe organ than iPod to you?" Which started me thinking about timeless hymns of old like "How great thou art" and "Great is thy faithfulness". I know that that ad was directed at older people who would prefer the older songs to the newer stuff, but how do I feel about hymns and modern worship music?
First let me say that my parents took me to church since I was born and in that church we would sing an even combination of old hymns from the baptist hymnal and a selection of songs from the late 20th century, particularly the eighties from a number of sources such as Hillsong Australia (in the form of Geoff Bullock) and Vinyard. As a teenager I became very dissatisfied with this music in the light of my secular music tastes, experiences with a local youth group and churches I visited from time to time, and Christian music CDs I purchased from a local Christian bookstore. When I eventually left that church and joined the aforementioned youth group for other deeper and more positive reasons, I was also glad that I had left those songs behind me.
Nowadays, however I feel somewhat disappointed with the songs that I loved a few years ago and uninterested in the popular Christian worship songs being produced today. I feel a special connection with the timeless hymns of old who’s lyrical and musical genius are insignificant compared the the anointing that God has placed upon them. In a few years the world will forget "How great is our God" and "Here I am to worship" but I doubt we’ll ever forget "Amazing Grace" or "How great thou art". Something about these songs helps them to endure the tides of popular music as if unlike all other music they simply do not depend in any way on the musical taste of the culture or the listener.
So am I saying that modern worship songs are a waste of breath? Or that if you like them better than my favorite hymns you’re a bad Christian? of course not. God’s word is living and active, and part of that truth involves the writing of new songs. God is always speaking to His people and songs are a great way to cut past the intellectual barriers we put up. If Churches today sung only the old hymns then think of the many thousands of men and women who would not respond to the Gospel message and the many more who, though saved would struggle to connect with God. I am glad to live in an age where Christian music is being produced that helps ordinary people like me connect with God on an intimate level. On top of this, new songs often reveal something to me I hadn’t considered or help me believe in my heart something I already agree with in my mind.
Just don’t ever throw out my favorite hymns.