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Friday, October 23, 2015

Hymns or contemporary: bloody fight or unity?

Brother-in-law Bob Jackson, educated in classical music, says that contemporary choruses that survive 20 years are the ones with depth of meaning. Those are the ones that start to make their way into hymnbooks.

Two masterful writings capture the essence of the battle between contemporary Gospel and traditional hymns.

From MaxLucado: In 1976 tremors devastated the highlands of Guatemala. Thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands were left homeless. A philanthropist offered to sponsor a relief team from our college. This flyer was posted in our dormitory: "Needed: students willing to use their spring break to build cinder block homes in Guatemala." I applied, was accepted, and began attending the orientation sessions.

There were 12 of us in all. Mostly ministry students. All of us, it seemed, loved to discuss theology. We were young enough in our faith to believe we knew all the answers. This made lively discussions. We bantered about a covey of controversies. I can't remember the list. It likely  included the usual suspects of charismatic gifts, end times, worship styles, and church strategy. By the time we reached Guatemala, we'd covered the controversies and revealed our true colors. I'd discerned the faithful from the infidels, the healthy from the heretics. I knew who was in and who was out.

But all of that was soon forgotten. The destruction from the earthquake dwarfed our differences. Entire villages  had been leveled. Children were wandering through rubble. Long lines of wounded people awaited medical attention. Our opinions seemed suddenly petty. The disaster demanded teamwork. The challenge created a team.

The task turned rivals into partners. I remember one fellow in particular. He and I had distinctly different opinions regarding the styles of worship music. I - the open minded, relevant thinker - favored contemporary, upbeat music. He - the stodgy, close minded caveman - preferred hymns and hymnals. Yet when stacking bricks for houses, guess who worked shoulder to shoulder? As we did we begin to sing together. We sang old songs and new, slow and fast. Only later did the irony of it dawn on me. Our common concern gave us a common song. From "Outlive your life" by Max Lucado.

From Greg Asimakoupoulos:
Confessions of a Praise Song Critic
I grew up singing from a book. I loved those gospel hymns.
Like "What a Friend" and "Jesus Saves" 
and "Marching to Zion."
With dad and mother by my side we'd sing in harmony.
The lyrics to "Amazing Grace" would always comfort me.
That hymnal came to represent 
sweet memories of past days.
Its pages like old photographs were more 
than songs of praise.
I don't recall just when it was, it all began to change.
I just remember what we sang 
was fast and loud and strange.
I didn't know these choruses. I missed the good old songs.
And though the church began to grow, I doubted I belonged.
But then one day I looked around 
and saw my daughter's face.
I wept to see her worshiping; 
eyes closed and hands upraised.
That Sunday changed my attitude. I started to rejoice.
I asked the Lord to help me sing what I'd considered noise.
Through "Awesome God" and Famous One," 
He changed my heart, I guess.
I now can worship joyfully. But may I still confess?
I still would rather hold a book and sing hymns I recall
Than standing for a half an hour while singing off the wall.

by Greg Asimakoupoulos (pastor who endorsed my book)

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