Friday, October 29, 2010

Worship and Music

Since posting the previous blog, I have been doing a little reading on the subject of worship and music. In fact the document mentioned in passing in the previous post, which by the way is sixteen pages long, has been a wonderful guide to understanding the nuances of worship music. I have, however, not become an expert in this field since my last post by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Much of what Leonard R. Payton writes in “Congregational Singing and the Ministry of the Word" certainly strikes a resonant chord in my understanding of worship and music. My desire is to glorify God as a member of a congregation through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. In addition, that we sing with gratitude in our heart for our great God and Savior, and that we may be teaching one another and admonishing through the words we utter in melodious unison.

Leonard Payton makes the following statement: “If our song texts are not overtly stating objective facts of Christ-centered redemption we are depriving our congregations of true joy.” I couldn't agree more.   Perhaps that is why a large group of us prefer the older traditional songs. Many actually teach, admonish and express gratitude....yes, all three. I remember, on an internet discussion forum, I had mentioned something that the Lord had done in my life and I stated that I would now raise an “Ebenezer”. One member of the forum asked me what the Ebenezer thing was all about....which opened a great teaching opportunity.  Now, how many in our churches and hymnal producers today have removed that line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”? I have a hymnal in front of me, “Hymns for the Living Church”, dated 1974 and that strange "Ebenezer" word is not even recorded. I dug a little deeper into my hymnal file and found one, the “All American Church Hymnal”, dated 1957. Let me quote, from it, the second verse: “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I’ve come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home; Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” But, you say, our young people won't know what were singing about. Exactly! What an opportunity we have to teach, admonish and show gratitude through the words we sing. Of course, all my readers are aware that this second verse is based on I Samuel 7:12.

I will finish this blog with a direct quotation from Leonard Payton in his above mentioned article. He says it so much better than I can. “....great old hymn texts are what we should be teaching, For until sometime during the eighteenth century the overwhelming majority of Christian song texts were written by ordained ministers of the Word. The texts reflected the depth of their theological training. Since that time, there has been a steady decline in the proportion of song texts produced by ministers of the Word to that of lay people self-ordained to the task. So extreme is the case now that anyone who knows a half dozen chords on a guitar and can produce rhymes to Hallmark card specifications is considered qualified to exercise this component of the ministry of the Word regardless of theological training and examination. For the spiritual well-being of our children they must learn the great old pre-revivalist hymns. It is amazing how many children enjoy Mr. Rogers' operas. Children will acculturate to what is placed before them. Remember, worship music is an issue of shepherding.”

Go HERE to read Payton’s article.

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