June 10, 2008
I think that a majority of the songs that we sing in church will NOT be around in 50 years. The ones that we sing that are 100 years old, will probably still be around, plus a selective few, songs such as:<br><br>1. In Christ Alone<br>2. Before the Throne Of God Above<br>3. How Deep the Father's Love For Us<br><br>The small number of "current" songs that will be around in the future should not be a surprise because the same number of hymns have gone by the wayside in years past. There are hundreds and hundreds of hymns that never lasted beyond a few years just due to the fact that they were not great songs. Truly great songs will last. Great song were written a long time ago and endure to this day. Great songs are being written today and will endure into the future. <br><br>At our church we strive to pick good songs, theologically and melodically/harmonically. Some were written a long time ago and have been time tested. Some were written recently and our singing of them if the testing process that is necessary.
Excellent question. I doubt many of today's songs will last that long. Honestly, I'd be surprised if more than a few remain in prominence for more than a decade. Today's generation is adapted to changes in most aspects of life and easily distracted to the next big thing. Because of this, I have no doubt new songs will be cropping up. <br><br>Once upon a time, there were certain hymns that were sung in most denominations. If you were visiting a church in the next town, you would be able to join in with that congregation seamlessly in song. My question is this: are we better off with or without a core of songs that are sung in most churches and among most generations?
I wonder if people in the 1850's got really upset when people started singing "O Happy Day," "Just as I Am" and "Stand Up for Jesus" in church. The music to those hymns was probably more contemporary with the music people listened to in the 1850's. I'll bet some churches thought those songs sounded too "popular" for church. Some of those new hymns probably knocked some Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley out of the rotation. Those new hymns may have engaged some people who found church music distant from their musical experiences. Just like now.
I agree, in part. I think it's good when new music appears, because it keeps everything from staying too static. But when the new music replaces the old entirely, no matter the quality, or when the same new music is repeated ad nauseam simply to avoid older music, that is a shame.
I've been involved in church music ministry for about thirty years, all of that in contemporary-worship type congregations. Of course, thirty years ago, that meant we sang mostly hymns plus a couple of pieces from the then-new Scripture in Song collections. <br><br>Off the cuff I can come up with perhaps ten worship songs from the first twenty years of that time that are still widely known today. <br><br>We're eight years into the new milennium, and thus far I haven't heard a new piece that I expect to be in wide congregational use twenty years from now, much less 100. <br>
Elizabeth: this just sparked a question in my mind, do you think we'll know it when a song that can stand the test of time comes along? <br><br>It'd be really interesting to be one of the first to hear a song like that...
Awhile back Richard Large wrote "More information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000. About 1,000 books are published internationally every day, and the total of all printed knowledge doubles every eight years." In 2008 One Sunday edition of the New York Time contains more information than was encountered in an entire lifetime in the 16th century. Information is doubling every 12 months. On top of that new songs can be shared on a global scale, going viral on the interenet before it ever sees paper.<br><br>I guess I'm wondering if some of the old hymns which were written when printed knowledge was doubling every two hundred years or so would have survived if they had had as much competition as the newer worship songs do today. <br><br>
I agree that avoiding old music just because it's old is pretty silly. I songs written by Francis of Asissi, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fannie Crosby as well as those written by Chris Tomlin, Matt Redmon, David Crowder and lots of believers in between. <br><br>We can find great music and great lyrics written in any age. Ditto for really trite lyrics and really boring music. Whether something is great or trite is a matter of taste and sometimes even a matter of whether a song marks a "God moment" in our personal lives or the life of a congregation. <br><br>
The reason the old hymns keep resurfacing is twofold:<br><br>1. Their authors were generally more humble in that their praise was GOD-centered rather than the me-centered tunes of today.<br><br>2. The raw under girding of musical content is better crafted: Simple, singable, memorable melody and harmony with natural phrasing. Contrast that with the simplistic, repetitious and asymmetrical phrasing of modern 'praise' music. No one in my church sings to this stuff except the praise band. No one gets it! Not even the teens! <br><br>The problem with the Church in general is we are too inbred. On some level our 'culture' has managed to praise itself for finally almost sounding as good as secular production. I'm sorry to inform you, but as a long-time secularist producer who recently received Christ's grace, I can tell you that you are kidding yourselves. Your 'praise music' is merely derivative. You don't really mean it. You don't believe with all your heart. The lovely production is just white-wash on the outside of the tomb.<br><br>But Thank God for Black Gospel! A good rip-roarin' Baptist choir knows how to praise the LORD every single time. You know that these singers believe every single word and emote every single note from the heart. And by singers I mean the choir and the congregation. In the Black church, the body of Christ is one. God Bless you all!!!<br>
I suppose it's possible :-). But "standing the test of time" is, by definition, historical. By that I mean it's really only something we can see by looking back. <br><br>There have been many songs I've heard and used over the years where I thought, "We'll be singing this for decades at least," but they're mostly passe' now. <br><br>I predict that a hundred years from now, there will still be Gaither songs in use. Not only have they written some magnificent ones, but they have been such prolific composers that there are literally hundreds of their songs from which to choose.
As far as I can tell, my church doesn't even own hymnals. When we started going there nearly a decade ago, I wanted a church with contemporary music. But now I miss singing the old hymns I grew up with -- and for reasons not yet listed by others.<br><br>I miss the theological content of the old hymns -- those lyrics packed a lot of Scriptural ideas into a few verses! Then again, I also miss the contemporary praise songs of the 1970s whose lyrics were direct quotes from the Bible. (I memorized a lot of Scripture that way.) I don't think a single song we sing in our church today quotes a Bible verse.<br><br>I also miss the musical notations in the hymnals. As a high-school choir member, I enjoyed singing harmony, but I couldn't make it up myself -- I needed the written notes to show me what to sing. I'm sure that a fair number of people still know how to read music today, but the music is never up on the Power Point with the lyrics. Maybe that is why worship leaders have to teach new songs! (And maybe that is why so few in our congregation actually sing, especially in harmony!)
Outside the High Catholic traditions (RCC and the Orthodox Communion) a "fixed" corpus of hymns is a hugely new phenomenon (and one which isn't really in play that much in the RCC at this point in history). Any of the Protestant Traditions that used hymns wrote them prolifically - and wrote them without specific tunes in mind (this meant that hymns with the same words would be sung completely differently in different congregations, and why many hymns have different tunes in our modern hymnals). John Newton wrote new hymns at the rate of about once a month, and usually for specific sermons ("Amazing Grace" was one such hymn). The Wesleys likewise wrote hymns with great frequency. In fact, it might be that we write fewer songs these days, but those which are written are distributed more widely.<br><br>The biggest difference is that, because songs are written with tunes along with the words in mind AND because pastors now think of themselves as CEO's rather than theologians and teachers, we have no idea if the people writing our worship songs are able to communicate the depths of the faith - just that they are can write some memorable songs (though in the last few years I've been a bit encouraged).
It is not good for a pastor to make so much money because his will be where his resource is. His affection will be focus on things below and not above. Heavenly riches are better than worldly treasure. Thanks.
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