Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Day the (Church) Music Died

No wonder I end up with diarrhea during me 60-second drive home. A dainty humble church-going lady came to me after a worship service and kindly stated, "Bryan, I hope we never lose the hymns." I smiled as we shook hands and parted ways. Right behind her, a bushy-haired teen with a cross-pierced ear 'shook' my hand and said, "Bryan, I love that edgy music we do." That’s when I get the diarrhea. But here's the bigger question. What about all the other music? Where did all the music go? You know...the Gregorian Chant and stuff. Allow me explain.

New songs are baby songs. What are new songs? In the scheme of history, it’s basically, anything written in the past 20 years. These songs aren’t in our hymnal (the hymnal we select some of our music from for services was published in 1986). We don't know if they'll survive into to their ‘teen years’ until they prove themselves like some hymns have. Some will become the hymns of tomorrow. Most will die out.

Hymns are in mid-life crisis. Allow me to explain. Our hymnals today contain music mostly written from 1800-1900. There is, however, the occasional exception. Take for example the melody that "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" is derived. It's a Gregorian Chant. Or the 14th century Christmas carol "Good Christian Men, Rejoice." But our hymnal doesn't represent all of musical history. It only spans 500 years.

So where are all the senior citizen songs? You know, the rest of the Gregorian Chants...where are they? How about the music that the Psalm were originally sung to...where are they? Let me ask again, WHERE ARE THEY MY TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY FRIENDS!? Why doesn't anyone ask for the ancient music of old? It's because they've been lost and forgotten by the church. We no longer sing the ancient music. Maybe we sing to the text of Psalms and lyrics written in the 8th century, but the music is long since vanished from the church.

The fact is, the music we use in church today (both hymns and new songs) is extremely narrow historically. If we truly want to be "blended" or prevent losing our musical historical roots - I need to sign my children up for the nearest Chant school. The question is, are we ready for that? Do we really want that? Will it help us or hinder us in our worship? Does God want it? Do we need it, or any style of music (or music for that fact) to demonstrate to God what He's worth?

I suddenly don't have diarrhea any more on the drive home as I find myself switching from Top 40 Radio to NPR Radio and back again. For my birthday, someone please get me a subscription to satellite radio. I promise to leave it on the Bluegrass hits station every day as I leave the office, just for Scott Distler to listen to at Grace Church (Lititz, PA).


  1. Anonymous5:06 PM

    You make some good points. However, the point that seems to be missing is the "doctrinal content" of the songs. The hymns you are talking about are rich and full of theology and doctrine. Most (not all) contemporary music has very weak doctrinal content.....That should be the main point in selecting music.

    You do realize that there are tons of moderen Hymns being written today? James Boice (who just recently died) wrote a ton of new Hymns full of Biblical truth. I'm sure there are many more.

  2. Anonymous10:29 AM

    You forgot to mention the hymns that are based on tunes that were commonly used as drinking songs. That's the real reason I like hymns :)

  3. Josh, thanks for your post and your opinion. I agree with lyrics should ALWAYS trump music style. However, the point of my post was a response to those who feud over MUSIC STYLE (not lyrics). If you are going to hang your hat on music style, it's not a good peg to hang your hat on. For example, someone desiring to leave the music style of hymns alone is hanging their hat on this peg.

  4. Chants...YES!!

    Blue Grass...NEVER!!

    Your Senior Pastor