Music has a long shadow.
With that shadow, we’ve drawn a line in the sand-between the old, traditional hymns and the new, “trendy” music. But, really that line should be in a different place. It should be between “good” hymns and “bad” hymns and we should be able to objectively distinguish between the two.
Let’s first define good and bad. In my humble opinion, good is theologically sound, singable hymns versus bad-hymns that are neither musically nor theologically sound.
Among conservative Christians, there are many musical preferences. But each believer’s goal should be to cultivate a growth mentality. Be willing to learn music other than your personal preference-whatever that preference happens to be.
Have a plan
It has been proven that the music that humans hear and sing as children and teens is the music they prefer as adults. And it’s the music they remember when they are old.
It’s short-sighted to shrug off the latest music, relegating its suitability to the young people and their gatherings. Instead, we need to have a solid vision for our musical future and a practical plan for implementing it.
This plan starts with the music the younger set are hearing, learning, and singing. We need to systematically and intentionally teach our kids good music. Our end goal should be to teach every believer in our assemblies why and how we sing by what we sing.
1.We teach our kids the good old hymns to preserve a rich hymnological heritage. Good old hymns are a blessing, and it’s good to remember that. The old hymns are the stories of previous believers’ lives.
These hymns are packed with each author’s beliefs and experiences of the attributes of God-love, faithfulness, holiness, sovereignty, glory, mercy, grace. These hymns are written as the believer encountered the fulfilled promises and goodness of God. They are personal testimonies put to music. As we sing these older hymns, they resonate in our hearts because we have found comfort and encouragement in their themes.
2. We teach our kids the good hymns because music will inevitably become the sound track of their suffering. And we’d like that music to be profitable music.
We need to be equipping our kids with hymns with good theology so they can sing in their darkest nights. – Laura Story
When my daughter had retinoblastoma and had her left eye removed, and six rounds of chemotherapy, the hymns were precious to us. But for a period of 3+ months, I couldn’t sing. And I always sing and hum. I would choke up on the hymns and it was all I could do to listen through my tears. But I heard the lyrics, and they ministered to my soul. They reminded me of promises I know, but that I couldn’t exactly see in those moments, during this trial.
One of my few good cancer memories is the day we drove to the hospital for Meredith’s last chemo treatment. The song playing in my van was a mash up of Fight Song and Amazing Grace. I bawled. There were no words-it was just instrumental. But, because I knew this hymn, because I was taught it from my youth, I knew the lyrics. In my heart I heard these words:
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. His grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. -John Newton
What a comfort! What a promise! What hope to cling to in my darkest night!
3. We teach our kids good music, realizing the important fact that what they are singing in youth group now is what the church will be singing in 20 years. Thus we should evaluate musical and theological quality, and then keep or discard, based on that. If it is not good enough musically or theologically to sing in the meetings now, it is not good enough for the young people to be singing.
There are so many good old hymns. Amazing Grace. Jesus What a Friend for Sinners. Crown Him with Many Crowns. It is Well with My Soul. There are so many good new hymns. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. In Christ Alone. When Trials Come. Still, My Soul Be Still. The Lord is My Salvation. These are hymns with deep theology and sound lyrics that will stick with your soul in every day life and in trials.
Singing is more than just singing. We are building deep believers through what we sing. Do you really believe that? That’s why as congregations, it is of upmost importance to remember the old hymns and embrace the new hymns. And teach both-as long as they are good.