Posted by: Nathan | October 23, 2006

No More Extraneous Choruses!

Any time Christians get into the subject of worship music, there’s bound to be disparate opinions, and that’s fine. However, having visited no fewer than five churches in the Denver area and knowing that churches back in the Midwest suffer from (what I believe to be) a common problem, I think it’s time I addressed it.

I grew up in a heavy-handed hymn church that was high on organ and low on percussion. As a result, I don’t mind a nice mixture of worship music. I’ve noticed the current trend in many prostestant churches (especialy non-denoms) is toward almost exclusively praise (i.e. more contemporary) music.* Okay, I can live with that. But when we do finally get the rare opportunity to sing a hymn in church, let’s not spoil it by throwing in an extrinsic chorus!

I don’t know how many times I’ve been forced to sing “Be Thou My Vision”–a beautiful and meaningful hymn if ever there was one–with that awful tag-on chorus: “Be the one thing that I see / Only you, Lord, before me.” Cut it! If you can’t figure out a little older English (note: it’s not Olde English) with a few thou’s an some inverted sentence structure, wait until another relatively brainless worship song rolls around; those of us who appreciate poetry and profundity want some meat to chew on!

Okay, that was a little mean and over-the-top. What I mean to say is, worship songs are high on emotion and music; hymns are better at meaning. Either one is cool for worshipping the Most High, but with the propensity toward worship songs, I would be grateful just to sing a hymn straight through without any dumbed-down chrouses. Can I get an “amen?”

*I’d say the forcast is mostly praisey with a slight chance for hymns by the third or fourth tune.

UPDATE: I’ve tried to comment on this post numerous times, and Word Press says I have already, but as far as I can tell, I haven’t. Here’s what I said:

“Let me be the last to divide the Church over music. I frequenly see the battle within myself to “get blocked by the vehicle of the message” as Uncle Lynn so eloquently put it. It’s hard not to get distracted, especially because J and I have been church-searching and every place is unfamiliar.

Dad, I have no idea whom you’re quoting, so I’ll Google it…Ah, St. Augustine! Very nice.

Thanks all for your comments. I really appreciate the input.”

If you can see this comment three times on your browser, sorry!

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Responses

  1. “I would be grateful just to sing a hymn straight through without any dumbed-down chrouses.”

    AMEN

  2. I appreciate the thoughts you have put into your comments — with grace I hope you will receive my agreement on your comment that you did go over the edge a little. We, Christ’s church, are very challenged in this area right now. I have been involved in many discussions on this topic — usaully as one who has to mediate and make some decisions on the direction we are going as a church. I love the hymns and realize that many of the intense times God has dealt with me have been in worship services where I have heard the Word spoken and a hymn has sealed the truth of God’s conviction of a need for me to change. I have grown to appreciate the energy of choruses as well and sense God uses them as well in our lives if our hearts don’t get blocked by the vehicle of the message and seek the message. I think both hymns and choruses have to be carefully reviewed and chosen for their message. I would hesitate to use a phrase such as “dumbed-down” but I know there are some choruses that seem empty and hollow to me, but there are some hymns that I would not find as challenging as I find “Be Thou My Vision”. Our debates will go on — what else can we do as humans seeking to be applicants of the truth and seeking to express our love to Jesus, who saved us for eternity and freed us from our bondage. The key is that we do it without alienation of each other and continue in loving one another and focusing on what worship is truly about — placing ourselves on the altar as living sacrifices, acceptable before God, eyes fixed on the author and perfector of our faith, with love in our hearts toward God and each other — in other words preserving the unity of the faith even as we seek to express our debate on the way we worship. It is a challenge! Nathan, I continue to appreciate your insights. I couldn’t resist a comment on this one — it is such a topic of division among a people called to be unified around the Truth and One who we know to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — three but still unified as one. Keep the faith!

  3. Like Nathan I love to sing the old hymns “straight up”, all the verses if possible. It was gratifying last Sunday that our church sang 3 verses of “Immortal Invisible” complete with organ. Usually we only get 2 verses of the weekly hymn. It was a bit disappointing to me that I was apparently the only guy in the bass section of the choir that knew the hymn well enough to sing harmony, since we had no sheet music in front of us for that song. But it was enjoyable nonetheless.

    Like Lynn I am always aware of the possible alienation of people who are strongly tied to a particular style of worship music. Our church takes a stand that I appreciate and believe that it builds harmony (pun intended) in our church. We do basically the same music all 4 services each Sunday, so everyone can share the same experience. You might argue that builds unison, not harmony. But each week of the month is designed to be a different style of music, with a hymn often being the only constant between them. So two Sundays ago we had an awesome brass line service, whereas last Sunday we had a great orchestra service. Hopefully before the month is over, there is something for everyone. It seems to be working, based on feedback from our national consultant whom we retain to periodically give us feedback on all of our church functions. He says that our surveys have exactly as many people wishing we would have *more* traditional services as we have wanting *less* traditional services. So he says we are getting it just right. Overall, the spirit of cooperation and mutual forebearance on this usually divisive topic has been gratifying in this church we still feel somewhat “new” to.

    Does anyone know who I am quoting as I close with this wise old saying: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, charity”?


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