The article to which I am responding can be found here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2012/07/why-ive-stopped-singing-in-your-church/
A friend at church asked me to respond to this article, and I thought it would be good to post my response to him publicly. I am interested in your thoughts, both on Bill’s article and on my response!
The author’s issues are that modern worship songs are simple and repetitive, and that many worship leaders prefer using modern worship songs (and/or modern instrumentation). His patronizing language is unnecessary and hurts his cause—maybe he’s just trying to lighten the mood?—but I agree with his points.
These points, while true, are pretty vaporous to me. Of course modern worship leaders are going to prefer modern songs, and of course they’re going to take old lyrics/melodies and set them to modern music. Why wouldn’t they? They’re modern people. Regarding “truth-less” songs and those “written for children,” I’d say that while some songs are distractingly simple and repetitive, many are not. The recent explosion of Christian worship music is a blessing, not a curse, and his exaggeration injures his credibility.
To the issue of not using enough hymns, it sounds like he has an authority problem… either that or he’s making an incredible assumption about every church. If the latter, he’s just wrong. If the former, he should go to his church’s pastors/elders and ask what they think about the current song selections and work through their answer.
Regarding changing chords and tempo to make sense to the modern ear, I believe Luther, Wesley, and many others would roll over in their grave if they knew there existed a group of believers who pushed for hymns to be cryogenically frozen in the 19th/20th century—especially if those believers referred to that petrification as “timelessness.” (Usually people think the “right” way to do something is the way they grew up doing it… when related to church issues, I’ve heard it called “baptizing your preferences”).
Two responses outside of his particular points:
1. Corporate worship shouldn’t be a person’s primary outlet for Christian singing. I already assume it’s not their only outlet. He’d probably agree with this, but it seems like he has a lot—a LOT—riding on those 5 or 6 songs on a Sunday morning. If every person in his congregation expected to get what they wanted out of every service, then no service, pastor, or church could ever match up. Not in a 10-person church, and certainly not with a few hundred people.
2. Worship (and I don’t mean “music”) isn’t about what a person gets out of it; it’s what they put into it. He might argue he can’t put anything into it because he can’t sing, but that’s silly. I would tell him about a time I visited a Vietnamese church, and although I couldn’t read the words or understand what they were saying as they sang, just listening to the others was an act of deep, deep worship for me. One of the deepest in my life.
I would hope that Bill’s private singing and maturity in Christ would let his corporate worship times be similarly sublime. And I would hope that his church’s worship leader would draw from the rich bank of songs from today and from ages past.