Fundamentally Reformed has a post on the Modern Hymn Movement, but the attitudes behind this movement are a mix of desire to please God and a disdain for the contemporary worship we’ve had since the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s in Charismatic churches. And so, I must rant.
1. Fundies think contemporary worship is “shallow”
One my least favorite terms used in non-charismatic circles is the use of the word “choruses” to describe modern contemporary worship. It is usually said with the purpose of demeaning the songs as repetitive and shallow in doctrine. They totally miss the value of repetition in worship, except when they re-sing the first chorus of one of their prized hymns from the 1800’s.
While I agree that our current contemporary worship songs are not doctrinal treatises, and could use more poetic imagery and deeper theology, the intellectually-oriented fundies are just taking pot shots at those who have been freed from the 1800’s King James culture of most fundy churches.
2. Fundies miss the fact that Charismatic worship leaders have been updating and integrating hymns for years
Fundies have missed the fact that many Charismatic worship leaders have been doing new arrangements for old hymns like Nothing but the Blood. And many of the hymns need new arrangements, because the music was often written for ease of singing, so they were often not musically interesting, often very simply arranged.
3. Desiring the power of the spirit, but not the Spirit Himself
I often have to sadly chuckle when I visit many non-charismatic churches attempting to do contemporary worship – though they mean well, their efforts are often tepid because they lack a few key features that birthed and continue to push the contemporary worship movement forwards – (a) a willingness to allow ourselves to get carried away emotionally in our worship to God, (b) a passion that causes us to lose our self-consciousness so that we openly pour our hearts out to God, and (c) the expectation of the manifest presence of God in our services.
Is it any wonder that churches that attack the Charismatic revival, resiting the work and spirit of God, have little ability to bring the presence of that spirit in their worship? It’s like saying “spirit we want you to come, but only in our understood and controlled way.” Sure, places like Brownsville are off track, but fundy churches ought to ask themselves if their worship lacks God’s presence because they don’t really want Him there – not really, he might uspset their “order” of worship. If you have never been in a service where the presence of God is so amazing that the worship leader keeps going into the sermon time, sometimes pre-empting the sermon entirely, you haven’t lived.
4. Disdain for modern instrumentation and musical styles
Fundies are going to have to get over their disgust for modern instrumentation and styles before any kind of awakening will happen in their stream that produces lively, doctrinally rich worship along with heart-felt, passionate, Christ-centered content. Listening to the examples of their music, I find the music peaceful and heart-felt, but not any more doctrinal than many of the best worship leaders in today’s Charismatic church – and it sounds like the contemporary worship from the 80’s. I guess that’s an improvement over the 1800’s stuff ;).
So to those in the Modern Hymn movement, I say, press on! And don’t be afraid to be passionate and out of order! Let God slay you with His presence and love, and experiment with your music.