There seems to be a great chasm in contemporary Christianity with regard to the use of music in worship. More orthodox Christians favor hymns and condemn contemporary songs for being too emotional, drawing the worshipper away from the richness of the lyrics found in hymns. More contemporary Christians despise the archaic hymns for failing to relate to the individual during emotion, thus less effectively connecting the worshipper with God.
This issue has bugged me not because I favor hymns but because it is dividing the church. In other words, the church is arguing over something that is relatively trivial to the theology of Christ. As long as we agree to disagree, we don’t let our disagreements ruin our unity.
Worship transcends words and music, and yet includes both. While I have a preference for the theology-laden hymns of old, for helping me meditate on the glory of God, I have come to realise that words are not the only form of worship. The highly controversial Bethel Music has often been accused for promoting emotionalism and sensationalism, yet one can’t help but commend their incredible instrumentation.
Clearly, their musicians have a talent and they use their mastery of their instruments to present to God worship in the form of musical art. I feel that disregarding such merit completely is unreasonable, even though the criticism of little theology is fair.
If I had to choose, I prefer songs or hymns chock-full of theology like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and even Hillsong’s modern rendition of the Apostle’s Creed, “This I Believe,” pointing me to the nature of God. Even recent hymns like “Victor’s Crown” remind me that Christ is the ultimate Victor, and in Him I can be victorious in any situation. The wordy theology in these songs help me contemplate about the glory of God, a recently predominant spiritual pathway of mine.
I’d like to add that the power of God is not restricted by songs that are simple at best and simplistic at worst. Yet, simple songs like Bethel’s “No Longer Slaves”, Tomlin’s “Good Good Father” and Israel and New Breed’s “I Know Who I Am” release a wave of comfort snd assurance that however great God may be, He still cares for our puny, insignificant lives. In Him alone we find our significance, and this is the simple beauty of simple songs.
This leads us to an even bigger issue. Worship transcends the very essence of music, and really refers to a daily choice to honour God. Music is the most apparent form of worship, and yet the attitude we have when we learn, the perseverance we maintain when we endure an arduous task and the humiliation in denial of self-right when offended are all also manifestations of worship unto the Lord.
God gives us His undeserved grace, completely on the basis of the finished work of His Son, and we use the grace that God gives us to express excellence in everything that we do, that the works of our hands may prosper and God alone be glorified. Worship is thus, I propose, using the grace of God to honour Him and bring Him glory by having a spirit of excellence in everything that we do.