Eventually I was going to have to adapt to the modern worship style so common now among evangelical Christian churches. At the church we have joined, as in so many other evangelical churches, there’s a band on stage, with guitars, bass, piano, and drums. We sing contemporary Christian songs. The overall expression is energetic and positive.
I will always prefer the worship style of the Church of Christ when I was there many years ago: sober, orderly, with all of the old hymns. The icing on the cake was that we sang in four-part harmony, a cappella, and it was truly wonderful. I don’t prefer the legalism I experienced there, so I’m not going back. But I miss the worship, and probably always will.
Singing in church always puts me in a worshipful state. I love to sing. I can carry a tune and I have a strong voice. I liked singing the old hymns because they were familiar, and I could really get into singing them. I remember learning them. They were generally easy to learn due to being choral in nature, repeating several verses across the same melody. Most of them had meaningful lyrics. These songs activated both my mind and my emotions.
I seldom sing in church now. I know next to none of the contemporary worship songs. They’re not as easy to learn as hymns, but they’re all basically pop songs, and with enough repetition I’ll pick them up. I can sing the first verse and chorus of hundreds, maybe thousands, of 1970s and 1980s radio hits because the radio played them over and over!
Trouble is, songs don’t repeat frequently enough in church for me to learn them. My wife tells me that I’d learn these songs if I listened to K-Love, a radio station that plays them. But I don’t want to do that. To be blunt, I feel emotionally manipulated by the music, and I find the lyrics to lack depth of meaning. The music on K-Love repels me.
I’m going to briefly gripe about how loud the worship band is. It hurts my ears. I go to heavy-metal concerts and those don’t hurt, but the worship band sure does! I bought noise-reducing earplugs to cope.
In short, nothing about the current style of worship music works for me. Yet I’m not deluded that there’s any way to go back to the old hymns. That ship has sailed in evangelical churches.
Not singing makes it challenging for me to enter a worshipful state of mind. My time in the Church of Christ imprinted it deeply: we are meant to participate in singing, praying, giving (tithing), and taking the Lord’s Supper (communion), four of the five elements of worship. The fifth element is hearing the Word preached, the only element where we’re not active, except to actively listen.
But 25 years after my baptism I should be — I am — a mature Christian. I shouldn’t expect the church to provide the perfect circumstances for me. They are rightly focusing on attracting and retaining new and growing Christians. I don’t believe that our style of worship music is as effective in that as they appear to think it is, but that’s not my issue to own.
I can choose my attitude. I wish I learned that a lot earlier in my life, but at least I know it now. My attitude is a choice of both my mind and my heart. For me, the mind leads, as it is where I make the choice. But my heart must follow or I can’t sustain it.
I choose to let go of the hostility I often feel toward the music and its volume. I choose to remember that this worship style isn’t for me, a mature Christian, but for someone new to the faith. I support doing things that attract and retain new Christians, especially in a time when our numbers are shrinking so dramatically. I choose to enter the building Sunday morning fully intending to give the best I have to God even if the way I prefer to do it is more challenging for me to participate in. I choose to fully participate in all of the other elements of worship. I choose to remember that a church service isn’t about me.