Thursday, May 31, 2007

Opening a Can of Worms

I know that this entry is going to open a proverbial can of worms and get me in some trouble but sometimes you just got to live on the wild side. A little while ago I talked with a couple who were "church shopping." The wife told me that the church they had been attendeding was now singing praise choruses instead of all hymns, which she had grown up with in church. She went on to very eloquently express her displeasure in churches that sing anything more than hymns. As a result, they were beginning their search for a “hymns only” place to worship.

I really had to bite my tongue as I listened to her. I wanted to ask, “Ma’am, just out of curiosity, when you get to heaven, if they sing anything other than the traditional hymns that you grew up on, are you going to go search for a new “hymns only” place to spend eternity?” As far as I know there will only be one other eternal option and something tells me that she wouldn’t like the music there either.

Now before you get too fired up please know and understand that I am a lover of hymns. I grew up on them too. As a kid we sang every verse of every hymn in the church I attended. I know and love them all. But perhaps you do not realize that although hymns were what many of us grew up on, they have not always been the music of the church. In other words, as wonderful as hymns are, they are not the only forms of lyrics and melodies that people can use to worship the Lord. We went through the same controversy in the church years ago when newer translations of the Bible became popular and so many were hanging on to the King James Version (KJV) as if it were the only version that God could use. The KJV is not the only translation of the Bible that is valuable for the church. In the same way, hymns are not the only style of music that is valuable for the church either.

I think it is time we got a little more honest. For example, I often hear people mock praise choruses by calling them “7/11” songs. This is because it seems that you repeat the same 7 words 11 times. Now I will admit that in many cases there is lots of repetition in the praise choruses. But what makes that wrong? When was the last time you read Psalm 136? I guess we could call this the “5/26” Psalm because the same 5 words, “for His loving-kindness is everlasting” are repeated 26 times. And how about in Revelation where the phrase of worship is repeated, “Holy, Holy, Holy”? Folks, listen, it is just intellectually dishonest to divide the church over “repetition” in singing.

That’s just one example. I am simply pleading for one thing. I have no problem with those who prefer hymns over choruses or those who prefer choruses over hymns. Frankly, I love them both and I am very pleased with how Matt McElravy, our Interim Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church, mixes both hymns and choruses around the theme of the morning’s message. He is doing an outstanding job. I am simply asking that we take away all of these weak arguments for elevating one style over another and call it what it really is…a personal preference. Praise Choruses versus hymns is not a Scriptural absolute. One is not more spiritual than the other. It is a preference. Enjoy the worms!

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