Robert J. Morgan, an author who wrote several books dealing with the stories behind favorite church hymns, has a good article on church music. In his article he discusses the use of hymns and praise songs in church.
Morgan believes that Christians should use contemporary Christian music, but they should not abandon the traditional hymns of the church because those hymns combine “prayer with praise, keen theology with vivid imagery, and majesty of God with our daily needs. That’s something we can’t afford to misplace.”
In his article, Morgan mentions the “Song of Moses”and the “Song of Miriam”in Exodus 15, which he calls “the first recorded hymn in the Bible.” Below is an excerpt from Morgan’s article:
Nothing can replace the heritage of our hymns, for there’s a part of our spirits that only responds to God’s truth in musical form. A good hymn combines prayer with praise, keen theology with vivid imagery, and majesty of God with our daily needs. That’s something we can’t afford to misplace.
Don’t get me wrong. I love contemporary Christian music, and we sing it at the church I pastor. It’s important to keep our songs fresh and living, for if there’s ever a generation of Christians that doesn’t write its own music, Christianity is dead. Every generation needs to compose its own praise. But the popularity of today’s Praise and Worship music is threatening to do something that hasn’t happened in all of Christian history — sweep away the heritage of hymnody that represents a treasure trove of praise for the church. There’s never been a generation of Christians that sang only its own music while discarding all the songs of prior epochs. This isn’t the time to begin the trend.
I believe heaven will ring with songs from all the ages, so why shouldn’t we practice now? If worship unites the entire family of God — past, present and future — isn’t it appropriate to intertwine the ancient with the modern? When I sing the “Doxology,” I’m joining an exercise of praise known to my grandparents and great grandparents. When I sing the newest upbeat chorus from a praise-and-worship band, I’m joining voices with my grandkids. Our appreciation for the hymns doesn’t preclude us from embracing next-generation praise. But the freshness of today’s praise flows from a history stretching back to the first recorded hymn in the Bible, in Exodus 15.
Interwoven or blended worship is the standard operating procedure of church history.
Call me an old-fashioned Christian, but I prefer singing the great hymns of the church. How about you?
You can read Morgan’s article here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary