The solution: authenticity in worship
In the last two posts, there has been analysis of both traditional and modern worship, showing both the positives and the negatives. This third and final post will aim to bring both of these together, discuss authenticity and finish off with showing a few examples of each styles.
I think it can be agreed that tunes are vital in order for us to sing a song properly. They can stir the heart and they have an important role in bringing words to life. It’s easy to read the words of a song, but if you are not stirred within your heart to sing then the words are pointless. We must also remember that instruments are just as important as words in worship. Music was created by God and it must be given back to him in praise. It is a way that musicians can also glorify God. Both traditional and modern worship followers get fixated by tunes and both will inevitably deny this; but rather than thinking this is wrong, we should think about tunes and should give our attention to such issues. What can be seen is that the church, old and new, has the same gospel and the same Saviour, just worships in a different style of music.
I think the biggest issue dividing modern and old churches and worship is the ‘style’. Ideally, this should be irrelevant anyway.
There are the two extremes, one that believes we should only worship unaccompanied; whilst the other brings in lights, stages, electronic guitars and all the razzmatazz. To be honest, both styles can be used to praise God; it doesn’t matter so much about the style, as long as they do not distract or detract from the real purpose of our worship. It’s about giving our all, with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might to worship our God. For many people worshiping unaccompanied or with an old organ makes worship difficult, and we must adjust to this, the same can be said that many find worshiping with all the modern paraphernalia difficult and again we must adapt to this. We must be careful to not impose our own styles or tastes on anybody, we need to get back to basics, keeping our worship simple and God-honouring.
We can praise God wherever we are and with all different styles of music, because that’s what we were created for, he doesn’t work in one particular environment that was decided by man. The real issue is that the style of music has divided God’s family, because we are sinners, perhaps it is time to talk to each other and worship in unity as we were meant to. There is a place for all kinds of worship. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to one particular form of worship. Unaccompanied straight-lace psalm-singing is really powerful, and so is modern worship with guitars and other instruments.
I think it can be safe to say that most Christians, whatever their views on worship, love words that praise and glorify God. In this vein, there is something to be said for all kinds of hymns and songs. Time-honoured psalms amaze us with their power. Old hymns are full of rich poetic truth. Newer hymns help us to live out our faith. Newer songs and choruses give a direct and simple upwards praise to God. We think repetition is bad, but it helps us grasp a single truth or allows us to remember a particular aspect of God which can be big-ask when surrounded by the world (Psalm 136 is a prime example of powerful repetition).
Unfortunately we seem to have lost the awe and amazement of how great God is, which then stirs us to worship God. This awe and amazement that put Daniel flat on his face (Daniel 10), and set lowly shepherds about rejoicing (Luke 2:20). Words are limited in this respect, they only go so far, so let us seek deeper experiences of God and the Holy Spirit, ‘groans that cannot be expressed’ (Romans 8:26).
Words have been and are still valued by both modern and old churches and I think we all need to see this.
After all of this, worship to God is not in the tune, in the style, or the words, but it’s in the authentic heart. If we are singing because of tradition, or because it sounds great, we are doing it wrong. It should be about Glorifying God, it’s about our hearts celebrating God, and it’s about so much more than us as individuals. Worship shouldn’t be sending us to sleep, and it shouldn’t be about putting a man or a band on a pedestal, but in fact, it should make us awake, and it should be about putting God on the pedestal. Are our hearts authentic? Are we really in love in Jesus? Are we letting tradition rule us? Are we too mesmerised by lights? Are we really awake?
New and old examples
To finish off my series on worship, I would include a few great examples from old and new songs that show just how great each can be.
So in conclusion, worship from any style, new or old is great if it comes from the heart. It is gotten to a point of utter ridiculousness where we are divided because we all like different songs and music. We need to draw close to each other to unity, as Christ prayed that we would be (John 17:20-23). Music is great, let us use it properly and worship our Heavenly Father with authentic hearts!