Anyone that has been around me for very long knows that I love music. There are few things as satisfying to me as singing really tight well tuned harmonies with others. That’s one of the reasons I love to sing the “old” hymns. They were written for harmony. With that type of music, you don’t need all the instrumentation: the voices are the instruments.
But, I also love the “new” music (at least some of it!) Technology has moved us past simple piano/organ accompaniments. We now have so many variations of guitars, drums, keyboards, etc. It’s fun to see all of the components fit together and the excitement often builds with the noise level.
I get amused when people start comparing music styles. The argument for singing hymns is often the history and the message in each of them. I jokingly refer to the blue Baptist Hymnal with which I grew up as “God’s Hymnal.” Between the King James Bible and the Baptist Hymnal, we had a lock on all things religiously important! I still love many of the hymns from that hymnal: #96 At Calvary, #240 Just as I Am. I knew the page numbers of the hymns we sang quite often by heart. I could also sing verses 1, 2 & 4 from memory for many of those.
But changes occur. The first ripple I remember was “The Good News for Modern Man” version of the Bible. It was easier to understand, but was still not treated as “THE Bible.” Then came the Living Bible and the New American Standard Bible. Newer translations and paraphrases were used more and more. The New International Version moved onto the scene as well as The Message and countless others. And none caused a bigger stir in the Baptist world as the introduction of the NEW Baptist Hymnal. The hymn numbers were different. They included some of the “new” songs like “Pass It On” and “He’s Everything to Me.” Some people still were lamenting the loss of the Broadman Hymnal with the shaped notes and the “real” hymns. I remember the comments at the time. But, we moved forward and the world as we know it did not end. We continued to have church, we continued to sing. We just did it differently.
Just as I use various translations and paraphrases of the Bible to study and learn, I use different styles of music to worship and enjoy. “The Old Rugged Cross” is still dear to me. “Victory in Jesus” will never go out of style. And the memories that these older songs bring up are precious indeed. My college years were filled with music by Amy Grant, Dallas Holme & Praise, the Imperials and other contemporary artists of the day. They were loud and new-fangled to my parents, but they are old-fashioned to my kids way of thinking.
I recently had a conversation with one of my daughters and she commented on the old music being played by the local Christian radio station. I couldn’t help but laugh. The “old” stuff was MercyMe, Chris Tomlin, and other artists I still consider relevant. But, the praise music we hear today is more often from Bethel, Elevation, or the newest Hillsong iteration. Within Contemporary Christian music, a new division has been emerged: Praise and Worship. The other stuff is just old and boring.
I will continue to enjoy both the old and the new. There are new versions of the old hymns introduced every year. Who hasn’t been moved by “My Chains are Gone” or “The Wonderful Cross” or “Cornerstone”. All use hymns as their basis. I can’t wait to see where music is in 10 years. Will “What a Beautiful Name” or “Oceans” join the ranks of “Because He Lives” and “Shout to the Lord” as “old” hymns? Will we continue our trek back to tighter harmonies and more unplugged sessions? Just as fashions seem to come back into style and translations change, what music will be popular again?
And in case you’re interested, there are songs that move me to tears in just a few notes: “The Strategic Air Command March”, “Under the Double Eagle” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”. All are marches (not hymns) that bring up some very bright and wonderful memories for me of my years playing trombone with my high school band. Music speaks to the soul. You may have a particular genre that you prefer and that is just fine. Please allow that others react differently. Just because it’s new (and maybe loud) don’t discard it immediately. Let God use His music of all kinds to speak to you.
19 Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. 20 Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:19-20 TLB