Nancie’s Blog

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What Shall We Sing?

2

The delicious Sunday lunch was over, and we sat at the table, relaxing. I had been the guest speaker at my host’s church that morning. It was then that the pastor’s father-in-law, a vigorous 86 year old, leaned his elbows on the table and fixed me with a laser beam: “So. What do you think of the ‘ditties’ they’re singing at church these days?”

I shot a glance at the pastor, who had a half-grin on his face. It seemed they’d discussed this before. I made a lame response, “I guess if they’re singing about Jesus, its good. But I miss the hymns too.”

No matter where you live these days, and no matter the sign over the church door, solving the dilemma of what and how we sing on Sunday mornings can be as big a challenge as brokering peace in the Mid East.

Worship wars are nothing new. In the revivalist era, people were scandalized by music leaders putting music to tavern songs. But the truth is that “Times, they are a-changing,” and we must change too. It is the way it always has been. Blacksmiths and bonnet makers went out of business long ago, and the world wide web is here in all its complexity to make life easier, faster. And possibly emptier. Time will tell.

When my husband Bill and I were very young and he was a music and youth leader, an older member of the church asked Bill if he could meet with him to show him a few tips on leading worship. Bill was taken aback, as he frankly felt he was doing an OK job, but he humbly listened, and actually did learn something: Everyone who comes to a worship service should, as much as possible, be included in worship. Not always easy.

Both generations can share the blame for the dissension. Young people can be impatient with older people’s tastes; and older people complain about the loud and strange new songs, about standing 30 minutes to sing. And sometimes we older people forget that we too sang a few “ditties:” We sang, “I’m so happy, so happy as onward I go.” Well frankly, we’re not happy all the time. The theology in some of the old songs can be weak, in spite of their enthusiasm.

We tend to love the songs of our youth. In the Jesus People movement, many people came to the Lord, and the music reflected it: “Jesus people, come together, let your light shine!” And then were the Youth for Christ songs, the Gaither songs and the Andre Crouch songs. Nostalgia for an era can cloud our memory.

We all have our biases. I confess, here’s mine: What will become of all the hymnals? Will they end up in a massive warehouse along with encyclopedias and textbooks, done in by Google and PowerPoint? Probably. But I still have my hymnals on my piano and play out of them. When I play “‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” I hear my Grandmother Olson’s voice. A widow raising four children in the Great Depression, she knew about trusting Jesus. When I play “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I see my father, a man of the soil who depended completely on the faithfulness of God, season after season.

Often great truths are handed down through hymns and anthems, and I hope we don’t lose them, at least the good ones. At our family gatherings, we sing the Doxology before meals. Every Christmas, the men in our family sing “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…” More than anything, I want Jesus’ message  proclaimed and handed down to the next generation.

Because…The people of God sing. We always have, and we always will, according to Revelation 19. But what shall we sing? David the Psalmist wrote songs of praise that we sing today, but each generation has a different spin on them, from chants to the latest rendition of Hallelujah. Consider the band U-2 and their magnificent rendition of Isaiah 40.

As a young person, I sang, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,” and meant it. But this morning I listened to this: “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders…”[1] Same convicting truth. Different packaging. I had to listen to hear it, but once I did, I melted: Yes!

Before Jesus and his disciples left their Passover meal to go to Mt. Olives to pray, they sang a hymn.[2] What was that hymn? I wish I knew, but it doesn’t matter. It most likely was a song of praise and trust. Songs come out of our deepest selves. And sometimes the simplest songs stay with us: “Give me Jesus,” or “Amazing Grace.” Songs of our faith remind us of our common bedrock faith that has kept us in the past. It is comforting to sing of His love, and as people of God, we are called to unity and love as we worship.

 

 

 

 

Suggestions to help bridge the generational differences:     

  • There is no substitute for good music and preparation. Good music with a good message appeals to everyone.
  • Throw in an occasional oldie-but-goodie (doesn’t have to be a hymn).
  • Consider adding diverse age groups and abilities to the worship team in order to add depth and talent.
  • Plan a “Community Hymn Sing” with favorites. One local college annually puts on an evening of hymns with their full choir and orchestra and there is standing room only. Think of the “sing-along” Hallelujah Chorus events.
  • Encourage the younger people in their worship. Music is important to our kids and nothing is better than to have music lead them into God’s presence.
  • Be willing to be stretched, to try something new.
  • Let go of longing for the past and worship God where you are.

 

 

Nancie Carmichael is an author, speaker and works with her husband, Bill, in their publishing company, Deep River Books in Sisters, Oregon.

She and her husband Bill have five married children and 11 grandchildren—who keep them on their toes with great music.

 

For questions and comments: nanciecarmichael@yahoo.com

website: nanciecarmichael.com

 

 

[1] HillSong

[2] Mark 14:26

The delicious Sunday lunch was over, and we sat at the table, relaxing. I had been the guest speaker at my host’s church that morning. It was then that the pastor’s father-in-law, a vigorous 86 year old, leaned his elbows on the table and fixed me with a laser beam: “So. What do you think of the ‘ditties’ they’re singing at church these days?”

I shot a glance at the pastor, who had a half-grin on his face. It seemed they’d discussed this before. I made a lame response, “I guess if they’re singing about Jesus, its good. But I miss the hymns too.”

No matter where you live these days, and no matter the sign over the church door, solving the dilemma of what and how we sing on Sunday mornings can be as big a challenge as brokering peace in the Mid East.

Worship wars are nothing new. In the revivalist era, people were scandalized by music leaders putting music to tavern songs. But the truth is that “Times, they are a-changing,” and we must change too. It is the way it always has been. Blacksmiths and bonnet makers went out of business long ago, and the world wide web is here in all its complexity to make life easier, faster. And possibly emptier. Time will tell.

When my husband Bill and I were very young and he was a music and youth leader, an older member of the church asked Bill if he could meet with him to show him a few tips on leading worship. Bill was taken aback, as he frankly felt he was doing an OK job, but he humbly listened, and actually did learn something: Everyone who comes to a worship service should, as much as possible, be included in worship. Not always easy.

Both generations can share the blame for the dissension. Young people can be impatient with older people’s tastes; and older people complain about the loud and strange new songs, about standing 30 minutes to sing. And sometimes we older people forget that we too sang a few “ditties:” We sang, “I’m so happy, so happy as onward I go.” Well frankly, we’re not happy all the time. The theology in some of the old songs can be weak, in spite of their enthusiasm.

We tend to love the songs of our youth. In the Jesus People movement, many people came to the Lord, and the music reflected it: “Jesus people, come together, let your light shine!” And then were the Youth for Christ songs, the Gaither songs and the Andre Crouch songs. Nostalgia for an era can cloud our memory.

We all have our biases. I confess, here’s mine: What will become of all the hymnals? Will they end up in a massive warehouse along with encyclopedias and textbooks, done in by Google and PowerPoint? Probably. But I still have my hymnals on my piano and play out of them. When I play “‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” I hear my Grandmother Olson’s voice. A widow raising four children in the Great Depression, she knew about trusting Jesus. When I play “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I see my father, a man of the soil who depended completely on the faithfulness of God, season after season.

Often great truths are handed down through hymns and anthems, and I hope we don’t lose them, at least the good ones. At our family gatherings, we sing the Doxology before meals. Every Christmas, the men in our family sing “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…” More than anything, I want Jesus’ message  proclaimed and handed down to the next generation.

Because…The people of God sing. We always have, and we always will, according to Revelation 19. But what shall we sing? David the Psalmist wrote songs of praise that we sing today, but each generation has a different spin on them, from chants to the latest rendition of Hallelujah. Consider the band U-2 and their magnificent rendition of Isaiah 40.

As a young person, I sang, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,” and meant it. But this morning I listened to this: “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders…”[1] Same convicting truth. Different packaging. I had to listen to hear it, but once I did, I melted: Yes!

Before Jesus and his disciples left their Passover meal to go to Mt. Olives to pray, they sang a hymn.[2] What was that hymn? I wish I knew, but it doesn’t matter. It most likely was a song of praise and trust. Songs come out of our deepest selves. And sometimes the simplest songs stay with us: “Give me Jesus,” or “Amazing Grace.” Songs of our faith remind us of our common bedrock faith that has kept us in the past. It is comforting to sing of His love, and as people of God, we are called to unity and love as we worship.

 

 

 

 

Suggestions to help bridge the generational differences:     

  • There is no substitute for good music and preparation. Good music with a good message appeals to everyone.
  • Throw in an occasional oldie-but-goodie (doesn’t have to be a hymn).
  • Consider adding diverse age groups and abilities to the worship team in order to add depth and talent.
  • Plan a “Community Hymn Sing” with favorites. One local college annually puts on an evening of hymns with their full choir and orchestra and there is standing room only. Think of the “sing-along” Hallelujah Chorus events.
  • Encourage the younger people in their worship. Music is important to our kids and nothing is better than to have music lead them into God’s presence.
  • Be willing to be stretched, to try something new.
  • Let go of longing for the past and worship God where you are.

 

 

Nancie Carmichael is an author, speaker and works with her husband, Bill, in their publishing company, Deep River Books in Sisters, Oregon.

She and her husband Bill have five married children and 11 grandchildren—who keep them on their toes with great music.

 What do you think?

 

 

 

[1] HillSong

[2] Mark 14:26

About the Author

Nancie CarmichaelNancie lives in a tiny mountain community in Central Oregon. She has written many books including "Selah" and "Surviving One Bad Year." She speaks at a variety of conferences and retreats. She and her husband Bill are publishers and parents of five grown children and 11 grandchildren.View all posts by Nancie Carmichael

  1. Glen Mickel
    Glen Mickel05-29-2014

    Nancy: so enjoy your blog. I really related to this current posting. My father was born in 1888 and I grew up with his generations music. He struggled a bit with what he was hearing when I was born 1943) but had this instruction to me, that might offer another solution to our preferences. He told me that I didn’t just go to church, I was the church. As I prepared to join with all the other people of the church, I must prepare myself to worship BEFORE I went to the building known as church. The reason he gave was that we “go” to church to receive and to give. As my heart was prepared before I left for the building I found myself more accepting of what was to occur in the building and became a participator, not a spectator. He also said that true worship happens when it moves off the stage and into the “pew” (another vanishing item:). He taught me to worship at home, during play, at work, in school, wherever I found myself. Another thing he taught me was the difference between praise and worship–well that is for another time. Keep up the good work!!

    • Nancie Carmichael
      Nancie Carmichael05-29-2014

      Glen,
      Thanks! Great insight. Your father was a wise man! Worship is all about perspective.

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