What music rankles you?

Kingdom Yearnings

March 8, 2017 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 6
Ryan Jantzi |

Do you ever have a Sunday when the church music stinks? In your opinion, at least? Well, that’s the way it should be from time to time.

Even though I love singing old hymns, there have been Sundays when I’ve prayed to God that the friend I invited will come next week instead. I’m afraid that if he comes on this particular Sunday, when we’ll be singing out of the hymnal, he’ll think we’re stuck in 1952. I worry his suspicion will be confirmed that the church is out of touch with current reality. I know it’s foolish, but that’s how I feel at times.

However, I must also consider how my brothers and sisters in their 70s and 80s must feel. Perhaps they’re concerned that if they invite their senior friends to worship, it might be that crew of youngsters wailing away on the electric guitars again. Perhaps they are concerned it will confirm to their friends that the church only values and listens to young people.

The reality is, there should be music that bores you stiff or drives you nuts. This is because we’re a people of all sorts. We’re young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural, classy and redneck, snazzy and down-to-earth. This is the church of Jesus Christ in all its glory.

In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about the formerly hostile Jews and gentiles being made into one new body by the blood of Christ. Jesus destroyed the dividing wall of hostility. He fashioned the Jews and gentiles into fellow citizens, even becoming members of one household. That’s close quarters!

When we consider the cultural challenges these two groups had to work together on, we often think of circumcision or food sacrificed to idols. Do you think that musical preference was also a challenge? I imagine so! Do you think that those who were formerly pagan Ephesians felt like their ears bled when hearing the lyre? Or perhaps the Jews could have done without the Roman tuba blaring away.

If they were anything like us today, I imagine that, as these cultures mashed together into the church of Jesus Christ, there were some real challenges, including musical preferences. However, Jesus was at the centre. He was their focus, their life and their king. And so they learned to love one another and became this “new body” together. I’m sure they learned to put up with—and maybe even love—the music that formerly drew their ire.

In light of this, I firmly believe that we should not have churches that stick only to the hymnal. What about the newer, pop-rocky, Top-40 type of music that connects with the musical tastes of many—particularly the youth—in our churches? Can we make room for music that sounds more like One Republic but resonates with the heart language of some as they connect with Jesus?

I also firmly believe that we should not have churches that sing only contemporary worship songs. What about the tried, tested and true hymns that speak the heart language of many, particularly our seniors? What about these glorious old tunes full of robust theology that still remind so many of God’s faithfulness stretching through the ages?

Going back to my fear about my buddy coming to worship for the first time on a Sunday full of hymns: If he thinks we’re a little old school and out of touch, that’s okay. What matters most in the church of Jesus Christ? Is it that we entertain or stroke each desire? Or are we inviting people into a church that is a community of many loved and valued people? I hope it’s the latter. I’m not simply an individual. I am a member of one body, and one member among many.

Does some church music rankle you? It should.

Following five years with the Kingsfield-Clinton church plant in southwestern Ontario, Ryan Jantzi now pastors the nearby Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, where he’s fascinated with exploring the interplay between traditional church and new expressions of mission.

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I couldn't agree with this article more. As a millennial teenager, I am mixed in with the generation of people who only like church if it’s like a concert. My opinion is that there should be a mixture of music in church every Sunday. We have to find a middle ground between hymns and contemporary music to help the church grow.
I have attended Mennonite churches all my life, so I have sung my fair share of hymns and they're not that bad. Yes. sometimes they can be boring, long winded, and you don’t feel the Spirit's presence all the time while singing them, but the words are so deep and meaningful. I defiantly favor contemporary music, but I have nothing against hymns.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like the same type of music. If we only play contemporary music, we could lose the elderly people in our church, which entails that we would lose their experience and wisdom. But if we only play hymns, there is a chance that it could turn the next generation away from the church, and we want the church to grow. So I agree with your point that the music should bug you a little because you’re not always going to love the music.
The point of the songs is to praise God, and both genres of music accomplish that. Contemporary artists have even taken hymns and spiced them up a bit, still keeping with the original lyrics but adding a fast beat in the back to appeal to a newer generation.
I have noticed at church that when hymns are sung people just kind of go through the motions and don’t really get into the songs. I work at a Bible camp and we sing mostly contemporary songs. Watching young campers not just go through the motions but whole-heartedly sing their praises to Christ and experience God's presence is amazing.
I agree with your point that it shouldn’t matter what songs are played, because the point of church is to gather in community and praise God. Matthew 18:20 says: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
For me personally, music is my favorite way to connect and worship God, and it’s so easy to lift your hands up to Christ when you're listening to fast, upbeat songs. I want to challenge myself and others to focus more on the words and less on the type of music.
Again, I totally agree with the general idea of this article that it’s okay to not love every song the church sings. We have to account for the two generations and try to make the songs at least a little appealing for the both of them.

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