Sometimes change can make us very uncomfortable. It can make us feel totally out of control, it can rob us of things to which we feel entitled. Let’s explore this for a moment in terms of church music.
We Christians develop a real attachment to the songs of our faith. They become associated with the ups and downs we have been through, or the exciting time of our youth, or the time we first came to faith. When we sing them the songs instantly conjure the emotions of those times. This is why some people just can’t sing songs from the funerals of dearly departed friends and family, without being overwhelmed by sadness.
So should we learn new hymns and spiritual songs, especially when such change can cause great angst? I had a conversation with a lovely friend over the weekend who was frustrated with a lack of interest for changing and updating the songs they sing in their church. Many of her congregation are still attached to the ‘Scripture in Song’ repertoire which became popular in the 70s and 80s. The musical style of these choruses hark back to this era . . . and make some people really cringe!
I have found a great rationale for new songs from Rick Warren, author of the “Purpose Driven Church” (1995). “If you study church history you’ll discover that every genuine revival has always been accompanied by new music. New songs say ‘God is doing something here and now, not just a hundred years ago’. Every generation needs new songs to express its faith“.
Another great insight comes from a Presbyterian minister Rowland Lowther (2002). He says that his favourite Christian song is “When I survey the Wondrous Cross”, to the old hymn tune, “. . . but for the sake of the Gospel I would be willing to change the musical style so that those wonderful lyrics could impact on the next generation. . . What matters to me more is not that I be moved, but those in the next generation has those wonderful old lyrics to a music format that can lift their spirits to worship the same living God that the writer of this hymn worshipped hundreds of years ago”.
Great point. I think it also comes down to the concept of “renewing our minds”. By hearing the gospel explained by new people, in new and fresh ways, our understanding of God and the gospel of His grace is strengthened and deepened. That has got to be a good thing.
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