Wednesday, July 18, 2001
vs. new songs?
By REV JOHN HATCHER
Churches are fighting music wars. The first skirmishes were seen in the 1960s as Jesus Freak music began to show up in church on Sunday nights. The youth liked songs like "Pass It On" because they contained contemporary lyrics and a little more beat than "Holy, Holy, Holy."
Now, with the giant publishing houses printing contemporary praise songs and choruses and with the popularity of Christian radio stations, churches are forced to incorporate contemporary music as part of their regular worship services. However, everybody isn't happy because in their own words "We like the old songs we know."
I have a few observations about the whole church music scene. Since I have been singing in church for more than 50 years, I look at myself as an expert so to speak.
Some churches are hymn churches. They only sing songs printed in their approved hymnal. That's okay. I like the old songs written by the Wesley brothers and Martin Luther and Fanny Crosby. But their words are a bit musty at times. "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I'm come, " is a line taken from "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." What's an Ebenezer? Who uses the word "hither" much anymore?
So, to those churches who only sing the tried and true blue hymns, does it not say somewhere in the Bible the really true blue book that we are also to sing a "new song?"
"To God Be The Glory" was one day fresh out of Fanny Crosby's heart. It was a new song one day. Should we not give opportunity to "new songs" today composed by believers just as gifted as Crosby or B.B. McKinney?
Some churches are strictly chorus churches. They never sing an old, dearly loved hymn. If it's more than 100 days old, they don't sing it. These churches have guitars, drum sets, and electronic keyboards. They project their praise choruses onto screens. You can't find a hymnal in the place. I like a lot of contemporary music. It stirs my heart. Its language can be easily understood. However, churches, which restrict their music offerings to the most recent, rob believers of a rich heritage carried along by the hymns. Whole generations are being raised in our churches never having sung "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" or "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" or "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord."
You respond, "So what?" What about the heritage of our fathers and grandfathers? What about the hymns that mother loved? What about the content of these great hymns. Truly, the great hymns of the church stand as giants in sight of contemporary choruses often with their limited theological and doctrinal content.
As some of our churches integrate, the issue arises as to what kind of music will we sing: black or white?
I believe churches seeking to minister to a multi-faceted culture must seek to develop an integrated music format. It will require our musicians to work harder and smarter. But it can be done. Each genre' and each tradition can maintain its unique identity, but come together as harmony. Harmony emerges out of the bringing together of distinctive parts like alto, soprano, bass, and tenor. People love harmony.
The music department can undo its reputation as the "war department" of the church by bringing together distinctives so the congregation can experience harmony.
And, good Lord, don't we need harmony in our churches?
The Rev. Dr. John Hatcher is pastor of River's Edge
Community Church in Fayetteville.