We’ve all heard the criticisms of the modern song.
“They are too repetitious.”
True. Some modern songs are very repetitious. But so are “Hallelujah Chorus” and Psalm 136. Most people who belittled “Forever” (Tomlin) a few years ago probably didn’t realize it was right out of scripture. Music has always been repetitious. As a matter of fact, music that lacks a pattern of musical and lyrical repetition has a hard time being remembered for very long with few exceptions. See Beethoven’s 4th .
True again. Many modern songs invoke lots of emotion from the worshipper. But, have you ever read Psalm 51 or Romans 11:33-36? How about Revelation 5? The emotion in passages like that is palpable.
“Holy Spirit” (Torwalt & Torwalt) is a very popular song right now in many churches. Some would question if this intimate expression to the Spirit is too emotional for worship. I wonder if those same folks were singing, “Breathe on Me” or, even closer, “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome” back in the day. Those hymns have the same message.
“I don’t like all those instruments.”
One reply: Psalm 150.
“The theology bothers me.”
And, when it’s bad, it should. The theology of every single song we sing should be of utmost importance to us. Any song – old or new – should have to meet a comprehensive and consistent theological standard.
But, there are times when we hold new songs to a standard we don’t place on the old ones. Read the lyric to “In the Garden” carefully – it’s hard to say it’s completely accurate, yet we sing it and love it. Now to be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t.
It’s okay to use poetic license to express something true. But, don’t apply a stricter theological standard to “Oceans” in the name of theological purity than you do “In the Garden” just because you want to disqualify it. You lose credibility when you do. Apply the same standard to all the songs you sing.
I could go on and on. Many criticisms of modern hymns and songs can be answered with simple logic and biblical examples. So, what is really bothering us about new songs?
It may just be as simple as this one thing – they just are not our songs.
They aren’t what we used to sing and aren’t what we know. Throughout the history of the church, every generation has collaborated with God to write new songs of faith and the previous generation bemoaned the disappearance of their songs.
The next time you feel a rant over the songs rising up, be honest enough to ask the question again.
Just what is really bothering us?
Instead of tearing apart each other’s songs, let’s apply a little “Romans 14:19-23” liberty on the songs of each generation.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.