Over the past several months, I have read and re-read multiple versions of essentially the same article that seems to take great delight in tearing down modern worship. Do these cliche phrases sound familiar to you? The music is too loud. Why do we need special lighting? Is it really necessary to make the auditorium dark? The worship team dresses funny. It seems like these new song writers wouldn’t know a good hymn if it hit them upside the head. I want to focus on the last one.
One of the biggest critiques that I have heard regarding modern worship involves the lack of theological depth, or to put it in layman’s terms, there are no new hymns. This is a very fair critique when you look at worship music of the past 20-25 years. There are a ton of emotionally driven songs and a smattering of good theological teaching in this generations liturgy of worship. Now let me try to explain (not defend) why I believe that is the case.
One of the most dominant forces in evangelical Christianity during the past 25 years has been the notion of being seeker sensitive. For the sake of attracting more people into the church (that’s an entirely different discussion there), we have simplified our songs, and offered a more ‘self-help’ approach to teaching from the pulpit and in our small group studies. For a season, this approach had some significant success, but then studies emerged showing that a lot of the new converts from this movement were not growing spiritually. Theology was viewed as archaic, outdated, and irrelevant.
I am glad to say that I am starting to see a shift in the church when it comes to the importance of theology. It is also starting to show in the writing of today’s worship music. I want to let you take a look at 2 songs that to me epitomize what is right with modern worship music. It would be easy for me to cherry pick ‘In Christ Alone’ by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend as that may be the most popular modern hymn out there. However, for the sake of impact, I have 2 examples from 2 of the artists that I have seen the most maligned for being ‘fluff’ writers. The first is ‘Man of Sorrows’ by Hillsong and the second is ‘Almighty’ by Chris Tomlin. Take a few minutes and listen to both of these. Those of you that love the hymns of the church, take heart. The hymn is not dead. Those of you who look at hymns as old, outdated, and boring, I think you’ll enjoy these.