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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What is a hymn?

How would I define a “traditional hymn” in contrast to a “contemporary worship song,”?  Well, here are a few points to consider.

The difference has nothing to do with when the song was written, which is why I actually don’t like “traditional” or “contemporary” as modifiers. I prefer to call what I’m describing here “classic hymns.” 

First, a classic hymn is strophic, that is, it has multiple stanzas with the same melody. This aids congregational singing rather than being a performance. Refrains are not common in classic hymns, but they do exist.  Also, a classic hymn does not have a “bridge” or other pop conventions.

Second, the lyrical content of a classic hymn is doctrinal and theocentric. Even more, subjective texts are more directed toward God or about God rather than self-oriented. 

“Contemporary hymns” could rarely fit the two previous characteristics, but they fail the following.

Third, the tunes of classic hymns are objectively singable.  The vocal range of the melody is typically around an octave, where the melody mostly stays and not too high or low. Again, this makes the hymn congregationally singable rather than a performance. Even “contemporary hymns” have huge ranges that are not objectively accessible.  Singability is a huge key difference and it can also greatly affect the unity, or disunity, of a congregation.

Fourth, rhythmically, the tunes of classic hymns are simple. I think this is one of the key differences between classic and contemporary tunes, and again this aids singability. The interest in a classic hymn tune lies in the melody and (if present) harmony. Classic hymns have interesting and singable melodies and simple rhythm with a lot of interest in the harmony. Contemporary songs have boring, static melodies and practically no harmonic development at all, but an emphasis on the rhythm and where they (most christian bands and songwriters) have to create “interest” is in very complicated rhythm. The problem is that people can’t sing it. People can sing simple melodies with simple rhythm, and then the interest is in the harmony. But if the only interest is in complicated rhythm, they’re not singable unless you already know it (from radio). I think this is an essential difference between classic hymn and contemporary worship songs.

Finally, classic hymns can be sung without technology or even instrumentation. Contemporary songs require them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The value of hymns and what they teach the Christian.

One of the many benefits of children growing up with a hymnal and singing from it, is that it allows to continue Christian education. In addition to reading from Gods word, doctrine-filled hymns instill biblical truth in a way that makes it easier to remember.  Words are always easier to remember when set to music, and if those words are biblical doctrines and scripture, a lot of the bible could be memorized.  Bible truth forms the Christian's world view, thoughts, and actions.  Bible truth that is set to music----- God-honoring music---- forms a good portion of the life of the Christian.

Creating a Visible Identity

From our modern vantage point, some see hymnals as outdated accessories of a worship service, but the doctrine filled hymns of the faith serve a larger purpose. These hymns are a great way for congregants to apply a sermon, a way for families to instruct their children, the start to appreciating great poetry, and the way that individuals become the worshiping people of God.  Hymns help to bind the people of God together and hymns in worship nurture a biblical unity in truth.  Author Christopher N. Phillips in his book "The hymnal: A reading history" traces the history of this sacred genre and its use in three sacred spaces: the church, school, and home.   It is not simply the content of hymns sung, read, or memorized that informs our thinking and spiritual appetites, but the hymn-tunes themselves—and even how they’re read and sung,—shape us. To put it quite simply, we are formed, not only by what we read but by how we read, sing, and regard what we read and what we hear.  We must consider what Christianity has lost by neglecting the timeless and doctrine filled hymns, and the music of that sacred genre.  But what is our experience of worship? Are we being formed into the family of God with the Bible on our phones and words on the screen in most evangelical churches, are we being molded into the church by the feelings and emotionalism created by worship teams singing the Christian top 40?  Perhaps it's that way because it is too easy to be a group of loosely networked individuals, where devotional practices and worship are experienced in such an individualized manner, isn't that what the Bible says is taboo?  The Bible says to walk by FAITH.  Basing the filling of Holy Spirit, or an act of obedience on feelings, isn't very wise.  Abraham's flesh did not FEEL like obeying the Lord's commandment to sacrifice Isaac.

The Furniture of Worshipping Christians

Hymnbooks were so well-worn prior to 1820 that many haven’t survived—they were touched, held close, and their covers, spines, and bindings show what Phillips, quoting another scholar, calls “hand piety.” The hand piety we exhibit most often today manifests in sore pinkies from holding our phones and hunched backs from staring at screens. It might seem easy to harken back to a “golden age” of hymnals or pews only on special occasion, but instead, believers today should begin to consider the larger questions about how the truths found in hymns inform us. After all, there is form and content, both in the music and in the lyrics that teaches a message when properly married to the other. 
I wonder if such a concept to have furniture, so to speak, to disciple Christians into worshipping Christians would be so welcomed into churches today?  Would the reciting of scripturally specific prayers, like the apostle Paul, or returning to doctrine-filled hymns, and responsive readings grow repetitive and monotone? Or would they create a texture and tapestry to faith that grew in resonance the more we returned to them? How would the weekly flipping of pages, with a “small brick of a book” (Phillips) nestled in one’s hand, inform my spiritual practices? Would faith become more solid and more assured with timeless, perhaps more scriptural, practices? These practices may have been the “furniture of worshipping Christians” a century or two ago, but perhaps today, what we have lost can once again become what can be gained by trading out our new furniture and "hand piety" for the old "hand piety" of ages past.

Monday, July 2, 2018

What worship music is not

As this blog's title states, this blog will be about worship music.  To be clear, the bible does not use "worship" and "music" interchangeably, or even in the same verse together.  Music is not worship and worship is not music, but that concept has been ignored so much that, it seems to be lost. This is mainly due to all the Christian bands that promote their music as necessary in worship and therefore convincing the Christian that worship does not take place without their music, or any music. The Bible, of course, mentions both worship and music, but never together in the same verse.  Why?  Well, worship and music are 2 different acts.  In today's church culture however, music has been made so prevalent in worship services, that it seems that some churches exalt music more than the preaching of God's word.  So, for those that see using music as their worship, let's look at 5 things that worship music is not.

It is not music theory

The purpose of our worship is nott to teach musicianship or make great music. Learning to sing parts, follow a melodic line and internalize rhythms are all skills that can enhance our worship. But those skills are a means to the end, not the end.  The theoretical study of the elements of music including sound, pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, time and notation can enrich our worship, but understanding those elements isn’t necessary for worship to occur. So worship service music that focuses on theory alone without moving to the application may be great music, but not worship.

It is not necessary

The sole emphasis on music as our only worship offering may have actually hindered our worship understanding and exacerbated our worship conflicts. Music and worship are not exclusively synonymous. One is mandatory, the other is not.  Music is an artistic expression given to us so that we might offer it as a gift to God. But it is not THE expression. So considering the examples of worship in the Bible or concentrating more on the Lord's table, or fellowship, or other practical ways to express worship could alleviate the pressure on music to serve as the primary driver of worship.

It is not a substitute

Biblical text must be the foundation from which our songs spring forth. Prayer is not just a song connector; it is a divine conversation that gives us a reason to sing in the first place. And two relationships we try to create with our singing are available at the Table: the vertical communion with Christ and the horizontal fellowship with each other.  So music is an addition to, not a substitute for these relationship moments.

It is not an inviter

He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light that we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9). If God is calling and we are declaring, then the invitation to show up is from Him not us. Our music can acknowledge His presence but it can’t generate it. It can respond to His presence but it can’t initiate it. It can celebrate His presence but it can’t create it.

It is not a starter or stopper

If our worship starts when we sing the first song and stops when we sing the last one, then what are we doing the rest of the week? Loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength and also loving our neighbors as we love ourselves means worship must be continuous. The Greek translation of John 4:24 strongly indicates that the Christian must continually worship in Spirit and in Truth.  Worship can not be contained in singing, a single location, context, culture, style, artistic expression or any vehicle of communication, so it doesn’t matter how good we think our worship is when we gather, it is incomplete until it continues when we scatter.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

More than a blog.

Did you know I have another blog and a facebook page for my book?

Please feel free to check out my bible study blog, and follow my book's facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/PleasingDeceiving/

www.ablogblessing.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

1 Samuel 16: 14-23

I came across this article and thought id share it here.  The MUSIC, apart from lyrics, matters greatly.  This 2 part blog post and analysis of 1 Samuel is very well written and Biblically accurate.

https://www.faith.edu/2006/09/davids-musical-therapy-i-samuel-1614-23-part-1/

https://www.faith.edu/2006/10/davids-musical-therapy-i-samuel-1614-23-part-2/

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Angels worshipped God INTELLIGENTLY and ACCEPTABLY...

...and so should we.

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney

Notice also in Revelation 5:8, these angels joined in the song of redemption. They had to learn redemption by watching the church and observing God’s plan unfolding. Notice as they sang their, doctrine was pure. They sang about redemption. They learned these truths, but they learned them accurately. They worshipped the Son of God intelligently. They all said Amen to the great song of redemption. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 14:15, that if we are going to pray, we should pray with the understanding. Do not just babble on. Do not just recite little clichés that we have heard. Pray with the understanding. Paul says if we are going to sing, sing with the understanding. If we are going to worship God it has to be with the understanding. The Lord Jesus told us that He loves worshippers. He seeks worshippers. He seeks men and women and children that will worship Him in spirit, with great enthusiasm and excitement over God and in truth – those whose worship lines up with the Word of God. I suppose it is possible to go off on a tangent and have our worship become doctrinally sound, but nothing more than cold, dead orthodoxy. It is also possible to have our worship go into another direction and to be all human emotion and enthusiasm and no doctrine. The Lord Jesus said, here is how I want to be worshipped, "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:24). There has to be both: a heart that is, on the one hand, on fire for God and enthusiastic for the things of God, and also on the other hand, a heart that is controlled by the Holy Spirit and bound by the Word of God. When that takes place, God is delighted with our worship.

As one reads through the Scriptures, it becomes obvious that it is possible to worship God and yet have Him be displeased with our worship. It is possible to worship God unacceptably. (Gen.4:3-4) It is possible to worship God ignorantly. (Acts 17:22-23) It is possible to worship God in vain. (Matt.15:9) It is possible to worship God and in fact, nauseate Him! (Isa.1:11-15) It is possible to worship God and actually anger God! Uzziah was smitten with leprosy for attempting to offer a sacrifice to God (II Chron.26:16-20) Nadab & Abihu were burned with fire for offering strange fire (Lev.10:1-2) It is possible to worship God and actually be despising God! (Mal.1:6-10) It is possible to worship God hypocritically. (Matt.15:7-8) It is possible to worship God half-heartedly. (Jer.3:10) It is possible to worship God contrary to His Word. (Lev.10:1-2) It is possible to worship God & be weary of it. (Mal.1:13)

What God wants is worship from the heart. Worship is a very simple thing. It comes from a heart that is in tune with God, a heart that loves God, a heart that is in harmony with God and His Word, and a heart that is bowed down before Him in reverence and humility. It is something I cannot give to you. The choir is not going to make you excited about God. This is the individual responsibility of each and every one of us. I am responsible for my heart. I am responsible to stir up my heart every single day in the things of God so that I do not get drawn away by the things of the world. That is the responsibility of all of us. We need to be provoking one another and encouraging one another. The whole world is designed to drag us away from heavenly, spiritual things. But when our hearts are right, God delights in our worship. Is not that exciting? The Creator of the universe can be pleased by a little hunk of clay and dust like me and you! And He delights in it. And there is nothing more thrilling than knowing God and worshipping Him - HIS WAY.

Angels worshipped God in Unity...

...and so should we.

This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney

Another thing about angels’ worship can be seen in Revelation 5:11. "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." That is a lot of angels! But, they praised God with one voice. Voice is in the singular. What we see here is that angelic praise and worship is in unison. They praise God in harmony. There was no chaos. There was no disorder there. When they praised the Lord, it was with one voice, one united voice. "Worthy is the Lamb," and it was the same song on every single heart of each one of those angels. They were in perfect agreement that the Son was worthy to be praised. That is what worship ought to be about here too. When the angels worshipped God there was no rivalry among them. There were no feuds. There was no strife. There was no politicking for position. There was perfect unity, perfect harmony. They praised God with one voice. There was no room for discord in Heaven. As we gather together to worship, we need to leave all the baggage that does not belong here, outside. We need to come here as like-minded believers to worship God with one united voice. "Worthy is the Lamb!"