“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”
You’ve probably seen it too. Churches splitting over the style of worship songs. One group likes only contemporary, but the other prefers hymns.
The newer music increasingly dominates. Hymnals are becoming outdated, replaced instead by words projected by PowerPoint on large screens on the walls. A practice my dad appropriately nicknamed, singing off the wall.
Some churches try to solve the dispute by having different services for the types of songs. The early am crowd gets traditional and the later rocks to the new.
However, are alternate services, based on worship styles preferences, the answer?
Don’t they by default lead to division? Sadly, separate worship services rarely fix anything. The partitioned music preferences only widen divisions in local fellowships.
What is the solution, then? Do we develop an all or nothing approach, where only one type is used?
I don’t have any expert musical training on the matter, just an opinion. But I base it on discussions that I have had with both camps, through casual conversations over the years.
Here is what I’ve learned:
The Older Style Worship Camp
Those wanting hymns are mostly the middle-aged to elderly. Even though I knew that already, I discovered something that surprised me.
Most are not totally opposed to the new. Instead, they simply ask that since their generation is an equally important part of the body of Christ, the music they love be incorporated. And when sung, that the hymns not be changed, but kept as written, arguing, ‘Why fix something that is not broken?’
A compelling argument.
The Contemporary Style Worship Camp
The contemporary camp is quick to elaborate why they think the new is better. They point out that in the newer music, we are singing directly to God; however, in the old hymns, the emphasis is on singing about the Lord.
A point well made.
Also, many in the newbie camp are open to the older music, but just prefer changing it to a more contemporary beat, and adding new bridges.
Unfortunately, the hymn issue takes us right back to the drawing board in unifying the two groups.
Finding Balance Between the Two Styles
I don’t agree with segregating churches into worship style camps. As I mentioned above, I think that it only fuels division. Instead, why not a workable solution that honors both? A blend of both styles, and ideally at every service.
For the elderly, try having at least one original hymn and keep it as written. If there still is an avenue of providing hymnals, have these songs sung from a page number out of a book, and not off the wall!
This may seem like appeasement toward one disgruntled group, but there are certainly Scriptural grounds for honoring our elders. Besides, there is a generation of young people desperately in need of the truths found in the hymns.
Another option is to have regular times of highlighting the elderly singing solos and/or playing hymns during the services. There is something so moving about hearing an aging member passionately sing an original hymn.
We also cannot discard the contemporary. To disregard the new music is like telling God that He no longer inspires. Even the hymns were controversial when first written. We must allow for the new. Churches that completely dismiss them are in error, and they typically do so at the sacrifice of their youth.
The bottom line is balance. Out of love, we should consider the needs of each group. There will never be a way to please everyone, but letting love be the guiding principle with any issue is always a win.
I like both styles. I grew up with hymns, but do have a fondness for the new. However, I agree with my dad. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to singing off the wall.
I’d love to know ~ what’s your take on the issue?