Yesterday I was having a conversation with my father about his latest trip to the middle of the heartland, Center, MO. He was preaching a revival there over the past 4 days. As always, him and my mom come back with tons of stories about the trip and the services. He started to tell me about a guy there that really surprised him. He is 23 years old and seems to be a really solid Christian leader already, and has the possibility to do some amazing things as he continues to grow. One of the things that my dad thought was really cool was his choice of songs during one of the nights where he led worship. He said that out of the 5 songs they sang that night, three of them were straight hymns. Not even the new modified kinds (like My Chains are Gone or The Wonderful Cross). It was the actual “let’s sing all 5 verses of this one” hymns. He thought it was amazing. Even more amazing was the fact that the church, which happened to be filled with college students from HLG, were singing right along knowing the words as if they were around when the song first came out.
Sunday night while meeting with a group of worship leaders we were talking about how it seems that some people are maybe moving away from some of the things that we tend to rely on or hold to in today’s worship culture. And it seems that some of the younger people are leading that charge. There seems to be a shift starting that is moving away from a lot of the production and moving to some more “organic”, “grassroots” type approaches.
Both of these conversations started me to thinking. Sometimes that can be a scary situation, but I don’t think it is THIS time. Anyway, here’s the question(s) of the day. Is there really a worship music shelf life? And what makes the timeless classics so timeless? And if every time we have some sort of revelation we go back to these classics, why do we keep leaving them in the first place?
It seems that people may be asking these questions without actually asking these questions. Or maybe they are asking these questions and I just haven’t heard anything about it yet. For me, it seems like worship music has a shelf life. They can be in a heavy rotation and eventually get to the point where they aren’t as effective because people get tired of hearing them. Or do they? I tend to think that sometimes it’s the musicians and the people playing the music that get to the saturation point of a song before a congregation will. So who’s creating this shelf life? Well, before I take that tangent, I believe I just figured out what question will fuel tomorrow’s post. Anyway… whenever there seems to be some sort of reawakening or shift from the norm, it always appears to be centered around the hymns from the past. Then we find some sort of way to reintroduce them to a new generation of listeners. It had happened before this, but in 2003 there seemed to be another big push when Passion came out with their Hymns Ancient and Modern CD. A lot of the hymn arrangements we sing today came from that CD. A lot of the hymn arrangements that have been made today have been birthed from that CD project. There was a return to the classics. It now seems that another turn is coming, but even in a more…primitive(?) way than before. Groups like Mumford & Sons and some others are making the banjo cool again to the point that people are using them in everything. There aren’t many acoustic/electric banjos out there (or maybe there are now), so they cause you to take more of an unplugged approach to worship. So it seems like we are wrapped in the forming of a new circle yet again.
So why is it that we keep running away from the classics, only to come back to them after we get tired of whatever is out at the time? Could it be that we aren’t satisfied with what we are putting out? Or is it more of going back for inspiration? In the never-ending search for truth, is it possible that we realize that our musical truths have been there all along? Are we using the truths in the words of those old songs to provide us with the energy and foundation to write new songs? I think it should. I hope it is. Whatever it is, it can’t be denied that it seems like we may be in the midst of another worship genre turn. I wonder what that’s going to look like? What will my worship sets look like in 3 years? Well, if I’m still writing in that time, I’ll be posting those set lists.
What do you think about these questions? Do you see this? Has it been this way for awhile and I’m just now seeing/saying something about it?