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10 Minutes Peace

    by Susan McGrath

"Music for Life"
Date Posted: July 17, 2004

(This column is a bit different, but it's a subject I'm passionate about. I wrote it many months ago and it has been sitting and aging. I decided it was time to share it with someone and I hope it will touch you and make you think about true worship.)

Music is a way to reach youth - they listen to it more hours than we realize and its influence is intense enough it may even help determine whether they choose sin or salvation.

In a Billy Graham speaking tour held a few years ago the musical guests included Michael W. Smith and Third Day. Graham's ministry recognized the need to connect with America's youth and invited these musicians to help minister. (Since then, his ministry has continued to include bands and musicians who are popular with youth.)

Are most congregations today welcoming the culture, or even the music of youth into worship and ministry? (Perhaps it should not even be called the music of youth, but the music of now.)

This issue may hit hardest among smaller congregations, who perhaps have only one service, or do not have younger generations contributing to worship planning.

As a lover of all types of music, as well as director of youth in a small congregation, I am thrilled when the kids in my youth group get in the church van with their Christian Cd's and ask if I've brought mine. They even invite me to go to concerts with them. (I often do, and enjoy it!)

I won't say I love all the music they listen to - it's not all my style - but one thing I have noted (no pun intended) about much of the "new" music is how old it is. Most of the praise choruses written in the last fifteen years directly quote scripture.

This is more that we can say about many of the songs in our hymnals, as beloved and "sacred": as they may be. Most hymns were written about experiences or as witnessing tools, as indicated by their lyrics.

Not that this is a bad thing, it's just that some of the words are no longer even in our vocabulary and most people under forty don't relate to them the way their parents or grandparents did. (i.e. "A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing" -- and this is one of my favorite hymns. But just what is a bulwark?)

Many tell stories or remind us of Christ's wonderful sacrifice, but few are songs with words actually directed toward God, solely as a praise to Him. "The Old Rugged Cross", "At Calvary", "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" - these are wonderful classic songs loved by many generations. But what better way for kids to learn scripture than through one of David's psalms set to music, or stomping, clapping and singing to "Romans 16:19"?

It saddens me to hear older people in a congregation (and some not so old) say they don't like "that new stuff", or to define it as "their" music and "our" music.

They don't have to like any of the music, but I don't think in most cases they have sifted out the message in their minds. They should at least ponder the words and encourage the youth who choose to be in worship, praising God rather than somewhere else.

I happen to know that many of the kids don't like all the hymns. I'm not even sure I understand all the phrases we sing, so I know teens can't relate to terms like "dread array" and "onward to the fray" found in the popular hymn "Faith is the Victory".

And how many of us were confused as children by "Bringing in the Sheaves"? I never could decide if we were bringing in the "cheese" or the "sheets". Even when I learned the proper words, it was years before I understood the meaning.

I remember one year at church camp a college student helping lead worship that week spoke before the invitation song and said, "Don't sing it if you don't mean it." How can we sing with whole heart what we don't understand?

I don't think there's any doubt about the meaning of words like "step by step you'll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days" or "the heavens declare you're glorious, great is your fame beyond the earth".

There will always be a place for the old favorite hymns. But let's make sure we revere them because they praise our mighty God and not because we've always sung them. Let's read verses or give devotions to go along with them and help everyone to grasp the lyrics. Let's mix them in with some "new" music, or "now" music, which glorifies the Lord just as beautifully.

God knows our hearts. He knows if we are singing truly to him or just going along with the familiar. I doubt God even cares whether the tune was composed by Bach, Fanny Crosby or Mac Powell. But he does care that we praise Him alone and not be divided by something intended to honor Him.

Memorize one of these verses to help you keep the proper perspective in worship: Psalms 98:4,5; Psalms 149:1; 1 Chronicles 6:32; Ephesians 5:19; James 5:13.

As you find your ten minutes this week, sing a few of your favorite hymns or praise choruses, or learn a new one! Pray that your children and the youth in your congregation will learn to love worship through music. Pray that musical worship does not become a point of contention in your church. If if is, pray that the focus can shift to who is being honored rather than the format used.

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Biography Information:
Susan McGrath is:

a recovering journalist trying to encourage others and glorify God through writing;

living the small-town life with husband Tim and sons Lincoln, 12, and Sawyer, 6;

completing a few put-off writing projects while using chocolate for therapy.
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