I’m teaching a face-to-face class on basic Christianity now, and last night the topic of worship came up. Here is what one of my students said to me in her weekly reflection (used with permission):
“There are a few things that struck me from class on Wednesday but there is something that really stuck with me. It was our discussion about hymns versus praise songs. I agree with you that when I go to a worship service that I like hymns better than praise songs. When I am by myself, I really like the praise songs and other forms of Christian music like the Christian Rock, etc. I think there is a time and place for all kinds of music and that traditional hymns are for worship services. It also meant a lot to me that you said you sing hymns to your children. When my brother and I were little, we spent Friday nights at my Grandma’s house and she used to sing us church songs because that was all she knew so that was all we knew. :o) We knew more hymns than some of the older people in our church did. We really enjoyed her doing that as well. I am just sad that she is not here anymore to sing them to my kids that I might have some day.”
I replied, in part, as follows:
“Such wonderful words from you about the hymns and your grandma. Wow. I’m sure you remember it well.
“I am not convinced that many ccm songs are inappropriate for worshipping God – even corporately. The words of some (a few) of the songs are particularly good (poetry). The question of the appropriateness of music (which many construe, rightly or wrongly, to be first and foremost emotionally manipulative, and make the case that this is largely a bad thing) is another matter – sometimes, perhaps this can be dealt with depending on how the tunes are played (i.e. electric guitars, synthisizers and drums vs. simple piano accompaniment). Certainly, some of the Psalms do seem to have some emotion behind them, and it makes sense to me that the Church, the bride of Christ (yes, the men to…), might occasionally want to sing a love ballad to the true Man and Husband, Jesus Christ.
To say this does not mean that these [modern praise] songs should be used however… For the more elderly believer, for example, who finds this style of music and expression off-putting, should we disregard their concerns? I am uncomfortable suggesting that we should, even if our motives are simply to be more relevant to the persons who we are trying to reach and bring into the Church (which I can understand, and even agree with to a certain extent). I ground my reasons for this in Paul’s words in the New Testament about being concerned for the “weaker brother”. If we perceive someone’s unwillingness to accept certain songs, for example, as weak, should we not be willing to accommodate them, so as not to upset their [perhaps simple] faith?”
I recently re-discovered this hymn, which I then remembered as one of the ones my mother had sung to me at bedtime when I was little: