The Music of the New Millennium
Pastor, Shady Grove UPC-Jena, Louisiana; Chairman, Louisiana District Music Department; Director, Louisiana All State Youth Choir
What is the next generation coming to? What will they do with our precious doctrine? What will happen to our Biblical standards? To our long accepted lifestyles? What will happen to our traditional church structure? What about our beloved organization, where is it headed? And where in the world is this generation going with our MUSIC?
As you contemplate the seriousness of these questions, please be reminded that you are not the first generation to doubt the ability and the commitment of the next generation to carry on an appropriate manner. As you read this article you might be quick to point out what a splendid job you have done in preserving the important and essential issues, changing only that which it has been necessary to change. The leaders of today must trust that they have done as good a job instructing the next generation as they have done in directing an entire movement.
Music! What could possibly be more controversial than music? Especially music in church. What’s acceptable? What’s unacceptable? What’s best? What is expedient? Where are the boundaries? What will music be like in the New Millennium? I know I’m raising more questions than answers, so we will proceed with caution.
Generally, there is a slow evolution in our music. It seems to gradually take on the hue and complexion of the predominate culture in our society. While we say, “Society should never influence our message”, let’s be honest and admit that society has always influenced our methods and our styles. I have heard T.F. Tenney say that one’s musical style and preference is set by the age of 14. With that comes a tendency to stay within the boundaries of that musical framework.
Allow me to take it one step further. Sometimes in an attempt to contend for our personal taste in music, we try to spiritualize our musical preference. For instance, “Well, God really seems to move in the Southern Gospel songs” or “God’s presence can really be felt in those ‘Good 01’ Hymns”. Neither of these statements are false, but to infer that God likes Black Gospel better that Blue Grass Gospel is trying to spiritualize one particular style. Doesn’t it seem just a little peculiar that God just happens to like what I like? He just happens to enjoy the same style I enjoy?
What is His favorite style? Is it progressive gospel, or is it more traditional gospel? Perhaps it’s pop or country that He likes the best. And God forbid, what if He has developed a taste for gospel rock?
Here’s a dilemma: What about the Jewish sounding stuff-you know-music in that minor key? What if that’s His favorite? If it is, then we are all in big trouble! Just think for a moment. He has listened to that style a lot longer than anything else. David was a shepherd, but did he sing Blue Grass? Nehemiah, David, and Solomon all appointed orchestras. Was their music Big Band or Classical? What hymn did the disciples sing in Matthew 26:30? Was it “The Old Rugged Cross” (page 252), or was it “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” (page 45).
Both of these are in our hymnbooks. Could we go so far to suggest that the twelve disciples were actually three southern gospel quartets? I think not! Their music was a reflection of their era, influenced by their culture and touched by their time. It was a generation’s attempt to express themselves to God. It was man’s effort to communicate to God their innermost feelings, so they wrote a song.
What we must keep in mind is this: Music is our expression to God, not God’s expression to us. The Heavens sang, the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Moses sang, Deborah sang all Israel sang,1 the disciples sang, Paul and Silas sang, the four beast and the twenty-four elders sang, the one hundred and forty-four thousand of Revelations 14 sang, but you will have great difficulty finding a Biblical reference where God sang. Biblical singing is always from the creation to the creator. It seems that angels did sing at creation, but will not sing again until after the rapture of the saints. Therefore, if God wants to hear singing-he has to come to church. Music and singing is now our responsibility and our privilege.
Numerous times in scripture we are instructed to “Sing a new song unto the Lord.” The implication is quite simple. Keep it fresh! Never let your song become stale, stagnant and heartless. When you sing “Amazing Grace”, sing it as if it’s a brand new song. Whether it’s a new chorus or an old hymn, it is only acceptable if it comes from the heart. We seem to forget that our old hymns wee once someone’s “new song” with melodies and lyrics that minister to that particular time.
The New Testament criterion for acceptable Gospel music is also quite simple. There is singing with the spirit, and singing with the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). It should be a spiritual song that is sung to the Lord with grace in the heart.
It is understood that all things should be done under the umbrella of what is decent and in order. It is also understood that church music is under the direct guidance of pastoral leadership. These are accepted without question.
So, where is all this music going to take us in the New Millannium? Yes, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. However, I must distinguish what is my personal preference and my personal taste. There is a new generation of Pentecostals waiting to express themselves. There are lyrics waiting to be written. �melodies yet to be imagined…rhythm and rhyme waiting to be blended together. Let them sing. Someone let you!
Music is not just a well-trodden path, comfortable and secure. Music is a journey, with scenery that is forever changing. As I continue to sing the good old faithfuls, someone somewhere is writing a new song that will become a classic for a new generation. I will do my best to learn their new song, and every now and then, I will try to teach them an old one. Together we will face the New Millennium-“Singing unto the Lord” with grace in our hearts.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE LOUISIANA CHALLENGER, MAY 1999, PAGES 5, 10. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.