WILL YOUR WORSHIP MUSIC LAST A LIFETIME?

HPIM1336.JPG Through more than forty years of ministry I have had occasion to share music in assisted living residences where some tenants had lost much of their mental acuity. In my early years I was uncertain as to the value of singing in such environments, but over time grew to realize that not only did music sometimes brighten an otherwise obscure existence for some, but that at times it would be a hymn or a tune that held the final connections to the real world for some participants. I remember a resident who could not recite her own name, but who joined me in singing five verses of Amazing Grace and never missed a word or note. For me it was a heartwarming reminder that the Lord has final victory, and this dear saint would someday soon join the song of paradise, and was well prepared. What a rich joy has been mine to have been singing from days of childhood, singing Jesus Loves Me This I Know to teen years singing a contemporized version of For the Beauty of the Earth to anxious parental moments clinging to the prayer, I Need Thee Every Hour, to the Sunday after September 11, 2001, joining with congregation to declare the Psalm 90 paraphrase O God Our Help in Ages Past, to the more recent joy of joining brothers and sisters victoriously singing In Christ Alone.

Think about the songs you currently sing in congregational worship. Do you anticipate singing those songs throughout your life? Do you, or will you teach them to your children and your children’s children? When we send children to worship in another location and in another way, a la “kid’s style,” are we abdicating our responsibility to demonstrate worship singing, and teaching them songs that are meaningful to us? In our rush to sing the latest tune from the radio, are we forfeiting passing along the songs of our lives? I understand the arguments for some of these methods of ministering with children, and the removal of “distraction” from parents and other adults. (Personal note: I sit with grandchildren when I can….I get it!) I know that mumbling along with words they do not understand or coloring while sounds fall around their ears may seem meritless to our over-utilitarian mindsets. Could we not admit, though that many of us have certainly sung hymns we did not fully comprehend at the time, but that we grew into understanding as faith took root and matured. In my experience the taking root has itself often served as evidence of the Spirit’s work in transforming and renewing of mind and soul. I have noticed that pastors who quote song lyrics as poetry, most frequently reference the texts of hymns they have known from childhood, or have learned along the way.

It was a great honor and privilege last week to be a part of hosting a Leadership Luncheon for worship leaders and pastors featuring our friend and modern hymn writer, Keith Getty. Keith offered a refreshing and convicting reminder of the high value of the role that singing plays in our lives, in the Church universal, and in the local church body. He did not mince words in the challenge he laid before those who choose and lead songs in worship. I will not attempt to rehearse his talk or the interaction that followed other than perhaps a very general outline. If you are a pastor or worship music leader I highly recommend you seek out an opportunity to encounter the material, or even attend a Leadership event offered through Getty Music should you have such an opportunity. Three primary areas that Keith spoke about included: 1. God’s people learn their faith in large part through song. 2. The holy act of congregational singing is just that, holy. 3. Songs need to stick with people.

Reflecting on some of the music and singing that I hear in churches, conferences, and events, I confess a real ache for leaders to give more substantive lyrics couched in singable and memorable melodies for congregations to sing in ways that advance acts of worship and encourage communion with the holy, living God, not only for the given moment, but songs that, in fact, stick with us through our lives. If worship in our churches is characterized by throw-away music and cycles through songlists every five to eight years, what will our children sing in years to come? Could our impatience to develop a richer palate of material possibly even have played into the exodus of so many young adults who have left the church once they left their youth group? Will words flashed on screens in eight-unit increments stand the test of time to reside in our minds and ignite our passion into our most senior years, even our last days?

I am grateful for writers who are crafting new hymns and worship songs of sufficient maturity in theology, music, and poetic interest to call us to feast in their riches for years and generations to come.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Hymnals, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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