For starters, I’m a little older—turn 82 in December. I became a Christian in 1960 when the Jesus movement was just getting underway and, musically, Maranatha Music from Calvary Chapel was the rave. Prior to that it was pretty much piano, organ, robed choirs and hymnals with very old songs that characterized church/Christian music. A lot has happened since then.
I find myself caught between two worlds and, quite frankly, want both.
I worship at church and at home with the latest from Bethel, Hill Song, and Elevation music. But I also love the old hymns and have them at home in an old hymn book and on sheet music. I play the piano and have a small electronic key board next to my desk in my office that I often go to when I feel led to play something to worship with.
I see a distinct difference between the Christian songs that were sung in church in the 60’s and the songs that are being sung today. Admittedly, some of the old songs were awfully slow, but we can fix that.
I sense something is not quite right with our current music!
Let me try to explain my thinking.
The older songs had a great balance between what God did for us in the person of his Son and our responding to that by way of trust, surrender, commitment and obedience.
The newer songs seem to be focused too much on what God did with not enough mention of my responding in some way.
Some of the “older” songs such as
- Channels Only
- Jesus, I am resting
- May the mind of Christ, my Savior
- Take my life and let it be
- Like a River Glorious
- Come Thou Fount
- He Leadeth me
- I surrender All
- All the way my Savior Leads Me
- Day by Day
- When I survey the Wonderous Cross
couple both the grace offered and my spirit-led obedience to that grace.
From the list above, my most favorite is “Day by Day.”
I fear that having a steady diet of music saying much about grace but not enough about responding to that grace is producing weak and anemic believers. Could it be that our churches are filled with people who have a lopsided view of what it means to live the Christian life? Have we lost sight of the fact that God initiates and we need to respond (with the enabling of the Holy Spirit) in loving adoration, confession and obedience to his revealed truth?
I love Philippians 2:12 in The Message, “When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.” I pray regularly over the idea of “Responsive Obedience.” I don’t want to fall prey to the “Terrible Too’s.” Lord, I’m too tired, too old, too busy, etc.
I gravitate toward music that includes both what God has done and what he desires me to do in response to that.
A few years ago, I came across two theological words that put all of this in perspective for me:
Indicatives speak of what God has done while Imperatives are what we are expected to do in response to that. For example, when you read through the Pauline letters in the New Testament, he seems to always begin with a set of Indicatives and then moves to Imperatives. In Colossians 3:1-17 you will clearly see this pattern—and the same pattern is repeated in all of Paul’s writings. Martin Luther referred to this as Gospel and Law. Gospel without heart-felt obedience can lead to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “Cheap Grace.” I fear our music today is offering cheap grace which may be contributing to theologically weak Christians. I often hear church leaders complain about the lack of maturity in their people, in spite of good teaching they are receiving. I sometimes wonder what a more robust and theologically balance (Indicatives and Imperatives) worship experience could do to address that issue.
I’m not suggesting that the current music is all bad, much of it is amazingly beautiful and worshipful, but just maybe we could work into the worship sets some of the older hymns, speed them up a bit, add in a good drum backdrop and be more biblical and theologically balanced when we worship.
My favorite Christian worship leader and recording artist is the late Keith Green. Most everything he has recorded moves me to tears and ushers me into worship, thanksgiving and adoration and conviction leading to obedience. One of the saddest days for me was when Keith died in an airplane accident.
Two newer worship songs that combine both indicatives and Imperatives and give me unspeakable joy are:
Yet not I but through Christ in Me—Selah
Raise a Hallelujah—Bethel Music
I don’t want to choose between George Beverly Shea and Bethel, I want them both! Do you want to join me?