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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

My Journey: Whose Music?

By Steve Badger
Mar. 24, 2013

My parents lived with me during the last years of my mother’s life. At times, I would tease her by singing “Amazing Grace” to a different tune. One melody I used was that of “I Am Bound for the Promised Land,” and another tune was the secular “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Of course, she would scold me, “Sing it right!” And we would laugh. Nothing could compare to the “right” tune.

So I was a little surprised at how quickly I liked Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).” I wonder if my late mom would like this version too.

Let me be clear. I prefer and love the old hymns of the church for several reasons. Those old songs connect me to centuries of Christianity. They challenge me to be steadfast in the face of trials. They help me celebrate the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. They encourage me to be full of His Holy Spirit, allowing Him to bear fruit in my life.

Over the years, after a morning worship service, I had a habit of telling my pastor just how many worship choruses and how many hymns we had sung — and asking why we had sung only one verse of an old hymn.

I often tried to explain to younger Christians how shallow the lyrics were (also true of some old songs in our hymnals), or how simple the music was in a chorus. I challenged some friends to explain why one phrase or thought had to be sung repeatedly, seemingly ad infinitum.

I’ve had a change of heart and mind — even though I still prefer the hymns of my youth.

Almost eight years ago, as I entered my 60s, I realized the distance between my college student target audience and me was becoming so great I was losing touch with them. I was no longer a “father figure” to them; I was a “grandfather figure”!

The Assemblies of God church I attend has a college and young adult ministry that meets in a separate but nearby building called The Barn. I decided to worship at The Barn about once a month to augment what I learned from chapel services at Evangel University (Springfield, Mo.) where I teach.

At first, I felt like a cat at a dog show, but it was not the fault of the congregation. Most of the young adults welcomed me — many were my former or current students. But I found the music distracting, making worship difficult for me.

Then one Sunday I reflected on the many times I had worshipped in a different country with people speaking and singing a different language. Their music was unusual to me, and I could not understand the words — but I could and did worship God! I should also be able to worship God with American young adults singing songs that were unfamiliar.

The young people at The Barn were genuinely worshipping God. Why wasn’t I? The lyrics were biblical, and some even described my faith journey. I was a little surprised by their relevance. The problem was not the music; it was I.

As I became more familiar with some of their songs, I found I liked a few of them. About this time, I remembered I almost never like any song the first time I hear it. I usually have to hear a song several times in order to form an opinion. I decided to purposely get more familiar with their music.

A little more than a year ago I bought a used car that happened to have a SiriusXM radio with several months of subscription left. A friend helped me find a channel that played the Christian music young adults seem to like most.

Listening to The Message, I became familiar with artists like Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin, Big Daddy Weave, The Newsboys, MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Sidewalk Prophets, Casting Crowns, Third Day, Point of Grace, Building 429, Jeremy Camp and many others.

The more familiar I became with the music, the more I liked it. A few even became part of the framework that undergirds my daily faith walk.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend’s version of “In Christ Alone” — recorded by FFH (Far From Home) — vividly reminds me of the source of my Christian faith. Jobe’s “We Are” challenges me to let my faith be more obvious to those around me. “Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” sung by Casting Crowns, encourages me to be that friend too.

Chris Tomlin’s “Our God” moves me to worship. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Phillips, Craig & Dean helps me open myself to the Holy Spirit, as have several of their other pieces. This is more than enough to make my point.

I no longer work at getting another generation to appreciate the old hymns that have helped me through so much — even though I mourn their loss to the church. I am not naïve enough to think everyone could learn to appreciate the music of a different generation, but many of us can and should. Those in my age group could, with some effort, appreciate what God is doing through today’s music, and, as a result, be encouraged in their faith in Christ.

Christa, a recent Evangel University alumna, read an early partial draft of this manuscript and suggested adding a list of practical things people can do to overcome this generational problem. Here are our suggestions for both the younger and the older groups.

• “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:2-4, NIV).
• “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).
• Be proactive, not passive. Don’t just talk about it; do something positive.
• If you are not already close to someone much younger or older, purposely make a friend of someone who is. Regularly engage in activities with that friend, including worshipping together with his or her generation.
• Schedule visits to the meetings of the other group. If at first you find yourself more of a spectator than a worshipper, pray for God to help you change this. Discipline yourself to worship with the “other” group.
• If you are in the habit of denigrating the music of another generation, stop it. Very gently and lovingly point this out to any friends of your generation who do the same.
• Consider a song’s lyrics. If you cannot understand the lyrics, find them on the Internet. If you need help, enlist a person in the other generation.

• “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NRSV).

Not everything done in a worship service has to suit me, but it should honor God. Worshipping God in spirit and in truth — regardless of the music — honors Him. And the burden to lead the way is on us older saints. I affirm these younger saints, the future of the church. Regardless of age, we should be peacemakers.

Whose music is it? Not yours, nor mine. It is His.

STEVE BADGER, Ph.D., is an Assemblies of God minister and a professor of chemistry and adjunct professor of Bible and theology at Evangel University (AG).

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