Then and Now; The Music

It’s been a long day today. But a great day. A wonderful time at our bible study this morning and a wonderful evening with family and friends as we celebrated another birthday. All the kids in the pool and the adults on the deck with several different conversations going on. Hamburgers, hot dogs, birthday cake and ice cream. Boy, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Well, enough of the family stuff. Let’s get back to our series.

We have been looking at the differences in what the Christian world and church life was a few decades ago as opposed to how it is today. We’ve discussed the messengers (preachers), the message and the members to this point and tonight we are going to move on to another subject, the music. I think we can all agree that there has been a significant change with the music that is now the norm in many churches today. Possibly the majority of them. But let’s first go back a few years and see what the music looked like.

When I was child and even as a young man the church was filled mostly with traditional hymns of the faith and on some occasions what we know as southern gospel. When the congregation stood to sing they were prepared to put everything into it and the sound of many voices filled the sanctuary from the floor to the ceiling. At the same time you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in a mighty way. It was apparent that the people not only loved the music but cherished the words themselves. The words meant something. Songs such as Amazing Grace, It Is Well With My Soul, When We All Get To Heaven and Just As I Am held a special place in the hearts of the people. If you go back and look at the writers you find that the words came to them out of some kind of life experience where God’s presence or His intervention was the basis for the song. There was no emphasis on having a catchy tune but a great emphasis on expounding words of truth. The music was an instrument of worship that set the stage for what was to come. And that was the message from the pastor that God had laid on his heart for the people and the pastor himself. It wasn’t a time for entertainment but a time for honoring God with true worship and hearing Him Speak form His written word as the pastor proclaimed it. What a wonderful time that was!

But what about today? What can you expect in most cases? It seems that there has been a migration to a style of music for many churches that is nothing like before. Most of the time it is referred to as “praise and worship” music and is usually let by what we now call a “worship leader” and in many cases a “praise team” There is very little involvement by the congregation and those who do participate are most likely to be the younger group who probably have never been exposed to what we grew up with. It is becoming unheard of to use a hymn book and actually sing an old hymn. Most of the music has been written by folks who have previously been involved in secular music and has brought that style into the worship service. It is easily accepted by the younger generations but you can hardly tell a difference between it and the music that the world outside the church is used to . And some times it is even enhanced by strobe lights and fog generation equipment. It looks to me like it is more entertainment than anything else. It is a good indication that there is as much world inside the church as there is outside of it.

I recently visited a local church on a Sunday morning and it is one of the older churches in the area with a lot of history. The congregation was a mixture of senior adults and a number of young couples with children. The music was led by a young man with a guitar and the music he had chosen was mostly contemporary with a lot of repetition. There were no hymns although an attempt was made to use some of the words from an old hymn that were embedded in the contemporary. As I observed the congregation during this time it was obvious that the older folks were not singing probably because they didn’t know the words and many had sat back down because the repetition of the song lasted so long they couldn’t continue in a standing position. There was no sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit although the “worship leader” tried very hard to sound and act very “spiritual”. What a shame! My God deserves much more than that. God help us.

Again, I must admit that I write these things from a biased position because of how I was raised. And I’m afraid that the folks this style appeals to has never experienced “the way it was” as I have. But the real question is this: Is God satisfied with our worship? Is He glorified with our efforts? I want to remind each of us that it really is all about Him and not about us. So you can make a judgement on which is really more likely to give Him the honor and praise He deserves; the then or the now?

May God richly bless you this coming week.

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