The case for Blended Worship
by Steve Brown
If you are a regular reader of this BLOG, you know that I post on both Contemporary Music and hymns. The fact is that I see a place for both in worship. The following paragraphs describe reasons and advantages for each musical style.
God himself encourages musical variety, twice in fact, using the words of the Apostle Paul:
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Eph 5:19,20
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. – Col 3:16
We worship an incredibly creative, expansive and powerful God. I think that it’s safe to say that he has been offered god-pleasing worship in all cultures and throughout the centuries. This in and of itself implies that there is no one right way to worship. He can be worshiped with chanting by monks in monasteries at one extreme and by Africans to drumbeats at the other. We cannot even hope to capture all of his worth and majesty with one style of music. He simply deserves more.
- God deserves the best musical offerings that we have, and quite frankly, many of us have been gifted by Him in the area and instrumentation associated with contemporary music (guitars, keyboards and drums for example). We need to use our gifts to glorify Him.
- “God is not Western; God is not Eastern; God is not exclusively the God of classical culture or primitive culture; God is the Lord of the plethora, the God of the diverse, the redeemer of the plural. Likewise, God calls for responses in different languages, dialects, and idioms, accepting them through the Son. Pentecost tells us that one artistic tongue is only a start and a thousand will never suffice. There is no single chosen language or artistic or musical style that, better than others, can capture and repeat back the fullness of the glory of God. This truism cannot be avoided. No single culture can hold the wholeness of praise and worship or the fullness of the counsel of God.”
– Harold Best, in MUSIC THROUGH THE EYES OF FAITH, Chapter 3, “Musical
Pluralism and Diversity,” Harper Collins, 1993, p. 66.
Charles Spurgeon Quote: “Let us not present old worn out praise; put life and soul and heart into every song. Since we have new mercies every day and see new beauties in the work and word of our Lord.”
- Bob Kauflin quote: “Differing musical styles allows people of differing backgrounds, ages and experiences to worship God wholeheartedly together.”
- “The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work. This fact alone countermands the tendency to assume that if we could just find the correct or fashionably relevant system, all will be well and God will come down. This doesn’t imply that we have no responsibility to make intelligent and sensitive choices or to be creative. But whatever these choices eventually are, they are incapable all by themselves of establishing the superiority of one system over another.”
-Harold Best, in MUSIC THROUGH THE EYES OF FAITH, chapter 7, “The Nature of Worship, Faith, Grace, and Music Making,” Harper Collins, 1993, p. 146.
All music was at one time considered to be contemporary. Yes even hymns. In fact, Martin Luther, the writer of many hymns, used contemporary music of his time as the melody for many of his hymns.
- Contemporary music uses simple words and simple phrases that are easy to comprehend. Visitors, children, and those young in faith can often times relate better to CCM than to deeper, theological hymns with “churchy” words.
- Contemporary music offers an exciting approach to leading congregations in worship with a modern sound that might help the church to facilitate worship to a new generation of worshippers.
- Contemporary Christian music, usually brings with it a Lay “lead worshipper” to assist the Pastor in worship planning and song selection. Soliciting the laity in the works of the church and worship in general, is always a good thing.
- “The music of the strings makes you glad.” – Psalm 45:8
- “I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,” – Psalm 144:9
- “The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD.” – Isaiah 38:20
- As a practical matter, it is getting more and more difficult to encourage young people into learning to play the organ.
- “As a songwriter I can tell you that the greatest moment of encouragement comes not from awards or high numbers on some chart but from the singing of a new song for the first time. To sing new words that have never been sung just this way before, to play combinations of notes that have never been heard, to wonder whether they will have the desired effect on the listener, whether people or God – the sharing of the new song is an experience unlike any other. In the wisdom writings of the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) we see excitement about the singing of a new song. The simple act of writing and singing something new demonstrates that the truth contained in the Scriptures can now be placed in the heart of the community as they sing together the truth of who God is. By singing the new song, they have made this truth their own.” – Singer/Songwriter Michael Card
And now, the case for hymns (and it is strong I might add).
Hymns cover a broad range of scripture, which simply do not exist in all of contemporary music. Even the concept of the Trinity is hard to find in most contemporary Christian music (CCM) today.
- At funerals, at Christmas and Easter, and at Reformation services, CCM just doesn’t carry the weight that hymns do.
- Hymns teach doctrine and being better theologians makes us better musicians.
- Hymns connect theology to real life applications.
- Hymns are mini-sermons.
- Hymns have been passed down to us through the centuries. The bad and questionable ones have been eliminated. We are left with “musical gold.”
- Hymn texts are written by scholarly Pastors and theologians, while the music is often written by learned musicians. We get the best of both worlds!
- Hymns are our heritage. Some of our ancestors may have died defending them.
- Hymns are incredibly poetic.
- Hymns are making a comeback.
- You can find a plethora of hymns for any holy day, and Holiday, or any portion of scripture that you are interested in.
- Hymns are reverent.
- Scripture tells us that we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. – Col 3:16 To me, “dwell in us richly” has hymnody written all over it, as does “teach and admonish”.
- Hymns more than adequately cover both Law and Gospel. CCM concentrates more on Gospel.
- There are biblical examples of singing hymns:
Matthew 26:29-31 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Acts 16:24-26 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
I Corinthians 14:25-27 What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
- Hymns engage our minds and imaginations for more than a few minutes. One can actually spend hours on meditating over one hymn. That’s how rich the lyrics can be.
- There’s something endearing about hymns. My grandmother sang the same music that I sing today!
- Hymns remind us that the God that we worship is HUGE. Bigger than our denomination, and bigger than our country. He expands time and culture. Hymns are written in hundreds of languages and the “Thees” and “Thous” remind us that God transcends time as well.
- Hymns allow us to connect with something that is bigger than ourselves.
- Do you realize that “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” is over 800 years old? I think it’s still fresh enough today to be a hit on FM radio.
- Hymns aren’t easy to comprehend always. They engage our intellect and exercise our mind.
In the end, we cannot become too enamored with how we currently “do” worship. All of our worship and all of our musical offerings are but filthy rags in the eyes and ears of an infinitely holy God. Our job, is to offer him our best – instrumentally and lyrically.
I have heard it said that Lutherans, especially WELS people, are an immovable bunch. This just isn’t true. I remember as a young man – say 20 years or so ago, it was forbidden to use cameras or video equipment during worship. Now, most WELS churches are fitted with video and sound recording equipment so that they can podcast their services on the Internet or on local TV networks. Things change. God is doing something new today. So should we.
“This precious gift (of music) has been given to man alone that he might thereby remind himself that God has created man for the express purpose of praising and extolling God.” – Martin Luther
Might I add that we share the gift of music with angels as well! It says in Rev 5:13:
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
Now go sing with all that is in you!
These are my thoughts. No mud slinging at either side; just peace, oneness, harmony, fellowship and an understanding that resounds with love, obedience and honor towards Jesus.