I need to confess something.
I love hymns.
And I'm not just talking about the classic 'high-culture' hymns like those written by Martin Luther or Isaac Watts (though I do love those). Nor am I referring to the wonderful hymns that arose from the Great Awakening and its aftermath, such as Wesley's "Where Shall My Wandering Soul Begin?" or Carl Boberg's "How Great Thou Art".
No, I'm confessing to enjoying the old fashion, "low church" hymns used in the rural churches and hill country. You know, the kind that your grandma from Kentucky requested to be sung at her funeral.
Yes, this is totally uncool. It's not exactly as if you turn on the local popular Christian radio station and hear "There's Power in the Blood". What hip 20-something or 30-something wants to listen to that when their driving to work, right?
Well, I confess that I do.
Don't misunderstand. I also love contemporary worship songs. I like me some Getty, Hillsong, and Matt Redman. I enjoy praise bands, electric guitars, and drum sets. Worship is supposed to be contemporary, because worship (by definition) involves living, breathing redeemed human beings worshipping God in the here-and-now. I don't want to worship like Martin Luther in the 1500's, or Isaac Watts in the 1700s, or Fanny Crosby in the 1800s, for the simple reason is that we don't live in the 1500s, 1700s, or 1800s. I want to worship like a Christian believer living in 2014, using our language, culture, musical instruments, and styles to the praise of God.
Its just that I also like singing the old stuff.
I guess part of it is that I grew up with these songs. A bigger reason is that I've come to appreciate the expressions of faith and hope of the prior generations and am not so naive as to think my own generation is the only one capable of beautiful expressions of worship.
In our church's worship service last night, as I was sitting next to my 13-yr old son, the worship leader had the congregation sing Victory in Jesus. It certainly wasn't hip. On the scale of coolness it probably registers in the negative. But it didn't matter. I sang it from my heart. So did my boy.
I heard an old, old story
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about his groaning,
Of his precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory.
The song tells a story about its writer, a man who heard the saving message of the Gospel and gave his life to Christ. But more importantly it tells the story of the Savior. That's a story that never gets old. When we sing contemporary worship songs I hear renditions of this story from modern-day writers. When we open the hymnal we hear this same story from sages in the past. Christian rap singers, Bluegrass artists, Classical vocalists, full scale orchestras, and Reggae bands can all share this same Gospel story.
Some like to fight about which musical style is most appropriate in church services. To me that's a little bit like my kids fighting over which kind of flower to buy their mother for Mother's Day. Does it really matter? Isn't the whole point the expression of love? Is Mom really going to get offended if her children offer her dandelions instead of daffodils?
You can decide whether Victory in Jesus is a lowly dandelion or an elegant daffodil. Honestly, I don't care. I was just glad that last night my boy and I were able to offer it to our Lord.