Hymns and contemporary worship songs: principles & preferences (2 of 3) — Hugh Wetmore

With the changing musical cultures, the Church of Jesus Christ is in danger of dividing along generational lines. The natural driving force is the people’s preference for the kind of song they like. If they don’t like another style of singing, they avoid it. People’s preference prevails.

But what about principles? As we saw in last month’s column, preferences change with changing cultures, whether these are ethnic or generational. Principles have deeper foundations, unchanging, strong and secure. Preferences are subjective. Principles are objective.

As Christians, we have nailed our colours to the mast. We are disciples of Jesus. We have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. His teaching, His word, is our command. We will obey.

Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of our music, He is Lord of our congregational singing. What does He say? Does He want us to sing hymns, or contemporary worship songs (CWSs)?

The short answer is: “Both”. He doesn’t mind. Twice in the New Testament we are told to sing both hymns and spiritual songs … and psalms as well. See these styles, these genres of song, listed in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Jesus is open-minded about our preferences. He does not want our music preferences to divide the Church. He prayed for believers right down through the generations “that all of them may be one, Father, in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one. In this way the world may believe that the Father had sent Him.

Do not allow our musical preferences to divide the Church. We disobey Jesus when we allow our preferences to erode the unity for which Jesus prayed. Young and old, black and white and in between, all are one in Christ. Worship together. Sing together. Serve together. Witness together.

Because this column is all about “congregational singing in our worship services” (aka ‘worship’), pay special attention to the principle of unity – singing each other’s styles of song. Instead of separating hymns and contemporary worship songs into blocks of song, mix them up according to their lyric-themes. Then sing with and against your personal musical preferences. Others will like what you don’t like, and vice versa.

Plan your Song-lists in such a way that every person in the congregation can say, as they leave, “We sang my kind of song today.” “I didn’t enjoy all the songs, but some of them were really good.”

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