The last two weeks we looked at some aspects on the Christian life in general and the life of the church in particular. My intent was to raise some of the challenges we face as evangelical Christians, without diminishing the strength and integrity of our tradition.
We looked at liturgy and how the public reading of Scripture challenges the faith community to listen to the Word of God in a corporate setting. Last week we devoted our time to look into the ministry of catechesis (i.e., the teaching ministry of the church) through Gospel-centrality. By the way, our church (First Free Church) on Berwyn and Ashland (http://www.firstfree.com/) is offering an Alpha Course (http://alphausa.org/Groups/1000065342/Alt_Home_page.aspx) for those interested in the Christian faith, starting on January 18th (if you are interested just contact us via the comments option below).
Today we briefly want to take a look at musical worship. We purposefully are writing musical worship, since the whole life of the believer and the church is an act of worship to God (and is not defined by the musical aspect alone!). Before we delve into this we do want to restate that our goal is not to clobber any musician or Christian in general, nor the Christian tradition we are taking part in. But we do want to challenge and grow into maturity of Him who calls us and therefore need to take a close look at any area in our private and corporate life!
We have been dissatisfied with some of the contemporary worship songs for a while (we are well aware that we are not doing justice with such broad generalization and that there are wonderful contemporary Christian songs!). This does not mean that everything which is old or ancient is therefore good – that would be utter nonsense. But we do see (along with Ralp C. Wood “Outward Faith, Inward Piety: The Dependence of Spirituality on Worship and Doctrine” in For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality; edited by Timothy George and Alister McGrath) that good theological songs and hymns are “rapidly replaced with religious vacuous praise songs” (107).
We are not saying, “let us get back to the Gregorian chants” (though we do enjoy listening to those as well) nor that we should stick to the tunes of old (though they also communicate beauty and reference!) but we are saying that we need to reclaim deep theology to our songs.
If hymns are our sung creeds (cf. Wood, 107) then we need to take care and be careful what and especially whom we are proclaiming in our musical worship.
It is also interesting to observe the close connection between the liturgy of the public reading of Scripture, catechesis, and musical worship. Through the public reading of Scripture and theological profound songs we are already practicing some form of catechesis. Also, if thoughtful hymns and songs are brought corporately before the living God, the Word of God is also “read” in a more canonical way. Good developed poems and lyrics incorporate many themes of Scripture as well as Scripture references and thus the people of God hear the Word of God being proclaimed – to them as well as to the world.
May God be glorified in everything we do!