I like the balanced view in this post by Matthew Starner, You’re Not Too Cool for Traditional Or Too Mature for Contemporary.
Those hymns are a gift given to us by our spiritual forefathers. Yes, there are weak hymns that get replaced by stronger ones. Yes, there are some that are better suited to your theological or denominational position than others. But to simply throw out all hymns is to say that these gifts from those who have gone before us are worthless.
So no, you’re not too cool for traditional. You need the depth of content that hymns bring to your worship experience.
If hymns communicate God’s truth, modern worship songs help us apply that truth. They both have a role to play in worship and help us grow as disciples of Jesus. There’s a place for both of them in worship.
Jamie Brown wrote on the Short Shelf Life of New Worship Songs.
Just when we’ve gotten a handle on introducing a new song to our congregation that was written in 2012, a newer new song comes along that’s even newer, making the new song we thought was new feel pretty old. Confused? You should be.
What “new” songs are already old to you?
A few links from this week that have been interesting and helpful to me.
Graham Kendrick has a great post on using the Psalms in personal worship. This is something that has been growing in my heart over the past year so it was nice to read his perspective on it.
“As Psalm phrases lodge in our memories they reshape our view of God and our circumstances, enabling us to make the connection between our human condition, and God”s priorities, purposes and provisions for us. Whereas my own prayer vocabulary becomes exhausted or narrow or the issue looms so large that my faith falters, for example when praying for a nation in turmoil or persecution on a large scale, we can go to Psalm 2 and very quickly God’s perspective and agenda become ours.”
Loved this post over at the Gospel Coalition: Worship is More Important that Your Small Group.
I love small groups. Don’t misunderstand me. They serve a real purpose in most churches, but their importance cannot and does not supersede our gathering together in corporate worship. We are the church. Worship is what we do.
Finally, Lifewayworship published two lists of songs for Resurrection Sunday: One of Hymns and one of Worship Songs. They’re both great lists but we’ll never be able to include them all! It’s a good thing every Sunday is really a celebration of the resurrection.
I just received a new personal worship book, The Book of Worship, compiled by John Randall Dennis, and the reading for today echoes the prayer I’ve been praying all month to find the stillness in this season of Advent. We read it tonight at dinner as we lit the fourth candle at home:
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces
to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward
to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for
the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
I still have so much to do before Christmas Day but I’m trying to find the quiet spaces of my day. To be thankful. To soak it in. To listen. I’m praying you find those moments too.
“Lord I Need You” was written a few years ago by Matt Maher, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, and Daniel Carson. I love the words and the message of the song. (My thoughts on using this song with a congregation are at the bottom of this post.)
Lord, I come, I confess.
Bowing here, I find my rest.
And without You, I fall apart.
You’re the one that guides my heart.
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You.
Ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness;
Oh, God, how I need You.
Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more.
Where grace is found is where You are.
And where You are, Lord, I am free.
Holiness is Christ in me.
So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way.
And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on You.
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.
So, a couple of thoughts on using this song with a congregation: Musically, this song is written as a solo — specifically, a male solo. It starts with the verse in a low register and midway through the second verse, it jumps up an octave to a high register with the male worship leader singing in unison with the women. It’s very effective as a moment of drama in the music. But the vocal range in the original key is nearly two octaves and as a worship leader, I have to ask, what do I expect the congregation to do here? Do I expect everyone in my congregation to have this vocal range? Do I expect the congregation to break up into two-part harmony with the men on a high melody and all the women on an alto part? Or do I expect all the women to sing the whole song in the lowest part of their voice? Or make the jump with the men? I’ve seen a couple of guys transpose it to G which makes most of the song more accessible but then the bridge gets awkward — either it is sung way too high or you have to jump down to sing the words “So teach my song to rise to You.” For our congregation, I transposed it to the key of E and skipped the octave jump. It puts the whole song in a nice range for the whole congregation..
Grace and peace.
I had family plans last weekend and was unable to find someone to take my place so by necessity and by design, I planned a service without music for last Sunday, focusing instead on worship through group and solo scripture readings.
Hymnals are a great resource for congregational readings and the one with the best contemporary readings that I have found is the Celebration Hymnal by Word/Integrity.
Another resource I used is the Daily Light Devotional which is composed completely of selected scriptures.
Here’s our service from last week:
Congregational responsive reading from Psalm 145
Daily Light reading using the following scriptures: Luke 1:49; Exod. 15:11; Ps. 86:8; Rev. 15:4; Matt. 6:9; Luke 1:68; Isa. 63:1; Ps. 89:19; Eph. 3:20-21
Congregational reading from Philippians 2:1-11
The church then celebrated the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper.
Sometimes it’s good to do things differently to connect to hearts in a different way.
On my facebook page on Good Friday, many of my friends posted something along the lines of, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!” And it bothered me. Not that it isn’t true, because of course without the resurrection our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). But, because on Good Friday, our focus should just be the cross. Good Friday is not a party. It’s a time to reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus. As one of our songs from that evening says, “It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has bought me life, I know that it is finished.” So our music focused on the cross.
Here was our order of service:
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53:4-6
The Power of the Cross
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
There’s a great post by Tsh Oxenreider over at (in)courage this week about some of the greatest hymns ever written and the impact these hymns have had on the church. She has most of my favorites on her list and I’ve enjoyed listening to the accompanying playlist.
1. Be Thou My Vision
2. All Creatures of Our God and King
4. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
5. Amazing Grace
6. Just As I Am
7. Holy, Holy Holy
8. Before the Throne
9. It Is Well
10. How Great Thou Art
11. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Click here to see more.
How about you? Are there any of your favorites that didn’t make her list?