Hymns and Praise Choruses: What’s the Difference?


Last week I came across this humorous story about an old man’s perspective on praise choruses and a young man’s perspective on hymns. It sounds like a lot of people I know on both sides of the story, so I thought I’d share. Funny how different the same thing can sound to different ears, right?
The first "worship wars"
The first “worship wars”

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

“Well,” said the farmer. “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”

“Praise choruses?” asked the wife. “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked the wife.

The farmer said, “Well it’s like this … If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, ‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN,’ then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.”

As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

“Well,” said the young man, “It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”

“Hymns?” asked the wife. “What are those?”

“They’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.

“Well, what’s the difference?” asked the wife.

The young man said, “Well it’s like this … If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,

Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn,

then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”

Do you identify more with the farmer or the young man? When you’re in a service that uses a style different than your preferred one, are you still able to worship? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments 🙂

Hymns Are the Worst (Or are they?)


hymn-book

One of the more common complaints Christians have about their church revolves around the type of music you’ll hear on a given Sunday there. The phrase “worship wars”–which by all rights should be an oxymoron–sadly is all too familiar to a host of Christians. I recently came across some complaints to pastors from fans of “traditional” music regarding that newfangled, altogether too loud, and plain offensive noise they’re calling “music” these days. They’re all from different decades but the same theme runs through them. Here they are:

“Pastor, I am not music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it. Last Sunday’s new song, if you call it that, sounded like a sentimental love ballad one might expect to hear crooned in a saloon. If you persist in exposing us to rubbish like this in God’s house, don’t be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship. The hymns we grew up with are all we need.” -From ’65

“Was it the organist’s idea or yours that our peaceful worship service was shattered by that new song last Sunday? The music was sacrilegious; something one would expect to hear in a den of iniquity, not a church! Don’t expect me even to attempt to sing it next time!” -From ’74

“What’s wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it is to worship God, not to be distracted with learning a new song. Last Sunday’s was particularly unnerving. While the text was good, the tune was unsingable and the new harmonies were quite discordant.” -From the 90’s

Ouch! Them there’s some strong words aimed at contemporary music. But just which songs are the guilty parties? Well they might not seem too “contemporary” to us, seeing as how they’re all hymns that are over a hundred years old. (In each letter the phrase “new song” was originally “new hymn”)

The first complaint is from a letter written in 1865 regarding the hymn “Just As I Am.” The second is from a letter written in 1874 complaining about the hymn “I Love To Tell The Story.” And the final one is from an 1890 letter to a minister complaining about the new hymn, “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” (As a disclaimer, they were all found online, so take them with a grain or two of salt haha).

Sadly, it seems this is nothing new in the history of the Church. In fact, Isaac Watts, considered the Father of English Hymnody, created a storm of controversy in the early years of the 18th Century when he started writing “human centered” songs like…oh, I dunno…“When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”!

While we Protestants are quick to whip out phrases like “Sola scriptura!” and decry any and and all forms of (ohhh so evil!) tradition, it seems that (all too often) we still have our own traditions that are clothed/disguised as preferences…until they are threatened by the new. May we all (myself especially included) be quick to be gracious, slow to condemn, and remember that these at best tertiary issues.

How does your church deal with addressing the varying preferences for traditional versus contemporary worship? Different services with different musical styles? One service with a mishmash of styles? Only one or the other of the styles? And more importantly-How does that choice affect the makeup and unity of the congregation?

Monday Morning Music-Tuesday Edition!


“It is Well” by Bethel Music

“So let go my soul and trust in Him / The waves and wind still know His name”

I need to be reminded (often) that I’m not the only one know knows His name-my troubles know it too. Praise God. A beautiful song to carry through the week.

An Expanded Vision for Worship


TCAB

Last week Kevin DeYoung sent out a tweet that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Most recently it came to mind during worship at church on Sunday. The tweet in question was this:

kevin deyoung tweet

 

For those that don’t know, I’ve led worship for college ministries for the past six years and worship is a passion of mine. I’ve always tried to pick the songs I led with care and attentiveness to what those in the group might need and where the Holy Spirit might be leading.

This tweet crashed into me like a load of bricks. I was alternating between tearing up at the beautiful picture of praises lifted up in desperate faith around a hospital bed and searching my memory for what songs that I’d led over the years might fit this description to a conviction to lead differently in the future whenever opportunities present themselves.

Because, you see, all leadership involves vision (or a lack thereof).  post-tbird And while leading worship has the big, grand object of leading a people into an encounter with the Almighty God in a specific moment, we shouldn’t neglect practical considerations and vision of teaching and equipping either.

Worship leaders, pastors, parents: are we equipping people to worship alone in the valleys as well as gathered together in the mountaintops? Are we equipping people to encounter and worship God in the quiet, desperate moments beside sick loved ones where there’s no guitar within reach and no powerpoint as well as during loud, full-band celebration services? I pray that we all are and that it starts with me.

 

What songs that your family or church taught and sings fit this description? Are they all hymns or are there contemporary songs that fit the bill too? Sound off in the comments-I’d love to discuss and develop this more!

Monday Morning Music


I hope to make this a somewhat regular feature on my blog-sharing music that’s currently impacting me. We’ll see how often I’m successful in this goal, but at least I can start strong!

All Sons & Daughters is currently in my “Favorite Current Bands” category. There’s just something so authentic, raw, honest, and beautiful about every single one of their songs. I’ve been following them since their first release in 2011 and they’ve only gotten better these past few years. If you know them, good! And if you don’t…well, you should :). Here’s your first step along the way.

“Christ be All Around Me” is a song they cowrote with Leeland and that’s on their most recent album. It’s based on a prayer attributed to St. Patrick and focuses on Christ’s presence with us. I’ve always loved Scripture talking about God’s physical presence with us (Psalm 16:8, Philippians 4:9, Isaiah 41:10, and Matthew 28:20 just to name a few of my favorites), so this is definitely right up my alley.

But I won’t go on and on about it: here it is for you to enjoy yourself! The lyrics are after the youtube link.

As I rise, strength of god
Go before, lift me up
As I wake, eyes of God
Look upon, be my sight

As I wait, heart of God
Satisfy and sustain
As I hear, voice of God
Lead me on, and be my guide
And be my guide

Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me
Whoa…Whoa…Christ be all around me

As I go, hand of God
My defense, by my side
As I rest, breath of God
Fall upon, bring me peace
Bring me peace

Your life, Your death
Your blood was shed
For every moment
Every moment

Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship


I’ve seen this blog making the rounds recently and think this is a critical issue to engage with. We must always always ALWAYS “Point to Jesus…[and not] draw attention to yourself.” Great thoughts.

Worthily Magnify

1Last week I spent a couple of days attending the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine, featuring many well-known speakers and worship leaders. The conference was held about 15 minutes down the road from me, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad I went.

I met some new people, heard some thought-provoking teaching, enjoyed some good meals and conversations with worship leader friends, and experienced in-person some of the modern worship trends that are becoming the norm in evangelicalism. It was eye-opening in many ways.

Over the last few days I’ve been processing some of what I saw and heard.

Worship Leader Magazine does a fantastic job of putting on a worship conference that will expose the attendees to a wide variety of resources, techniques, workshops, songs, new artists, approaches, teachings, and perspectives. I thought of Mark Twain’s famous quote…

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