Traditional worship versus…?

Over the last 20+ years, the face of music in worship has changed drastically from what, I would imagine, most of us grew up with. One of the first denominations to address music in worship was the Roman Catholic church, beginning in the 1960’s, with the Second Vatican Council. Much of the way the Eucharist was celebrated changed in a number of ways; priests were no longer facing the high altar, but they faced the congregants. Gregorian chants were replaced with more familiar hymns, often “borrowed” from Protestant hymnals. Folk masses, with guitars, drums, piano, and singers replaced choirs of men & women, or men & boys.

This drastic change set about a firestorm in houses of worship all over the world. Much of it was downright bad music, with bad theology. If you were to ask any church musician who were actively working in the 1970’s and 80’s, many would tell you the texts of hymns or songs shifted a focus from speaking about God or Jesus Christ, to songs whose texts were written to be sung as if the singer was God or Jesus Christ. Here is an example:

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. She is His new creation of water and the word.

A popular Catholic “song” came into their repertoire in the 1970’s (and is still sung in many churches today, particularly at funerals):

Be not afraid. I go before you always.
Come follow me, and I will give you rest. 

The entire song is based on several scriptural references. Instead of singing about God’s great mercies, compassion, and support, the singer assumes the role of God, as if to say “I [the singer] will give you rest if your road becomes too weary and burdensome.” Not exactly the role we should be embodying, right?

The various styles of church music, since the 1960’s, has probably been the most controversial talking point in every church. In fact, some have called it the battlefield for many clergy/musician rifts. This topic came to my mind by way of a post on Facebook over the weekend. Take a read and see what you think.

Everyone will have a different reaction to this article, and it’s a good thing. To be clear, I’m not saying there is only one way to worship, in musical style, content of the service, or how we enter into worship. How a congregation chooses to worship should be authentic, in word, music, action, and most important, evangelization. More about evangelization in another post!

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