The modern Evangelical church often presents what appears to be a vibrant and pulsating atmosphere, a facade brimming with the fervor of the congregation as they begin to assemble. The ambiance is thick with a sense of anticipation and expectation as the lights dim and the room is enveloped in darkness, save for a few strategically placed spotlights that cast a warm, inviting glow on the stage, illuminating the performers.
The stage is an awe-inspiring spectacle, with the lead singer, bathed in a radiant beam of light, emotively delivering the lyrics with a palpable sense of passion and conviction. The band behind him is equally mesmerizing, their fingers gracefully gliding over the strings of their instruments, creating a harmonious symphony of sound that fills the room. The stage is a marvel of modern technology, often featuring smoke machines that billow clouds of fog and a state-of-the-art sound system that immerses the listener in an auditory experience of unparalleled pleasure.
The lyrics, verse after verse of repetitive phrases, overwhelm the senses and offer the worshipper a heightened sense of euphoria that rivals the trance-like state of any Eastern mystic religion.
This raises the question: is this form of worship biblical? Should our worship be characterized by shallow lyrics, chord structures that elicit heightened emotions, and an atmosphere no different from a rave concert?
For two millennia, the Church has anchored its worship in the unshakable foundation of the Word of God. From the Psalms, ancient hymns of praise and thanksgiving, to the doxologies found throughout the Old and New Testaments, the eternal truths of scripture have always been the bedrock upon which the Church’s worship has been built. Until recent history, the hymns of the Church were crafted by theologians who possessed a deep understanding of scripture and applied its teachings with precision and care to the lyrics they composed.
These hymns, steeped in scriptural truth and written by theologians of great renown, have stood the test of time and have been passed down through generations. Hymns such as “Rock of Ages” written by Augustus Toplady and “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, are prime examples of the theological depth and insight that characterized the hymns of the Church.
For example, Augustus Toplady’s “Rock of Ages” is a powerful hymn that speaks of the unshakable foundation of salvation in Jesus Christ. The lyrics, rich in scriptural allusions, speak of the believer’s unwavering trust in the “Rock of Ages”, a clear reference to Christ as the cornerstone of salvation. Toplady’s hymn is a poignant reminder of the believer’s dependence on Jesus for salvation and the unshakable nature of that salvation. Similarly, John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” is a hymn that speaks of the wonder of God’s grace and the transformation it brings to the believer’s life. These lyrics, written by a former slave trader who was transformed by the grace of God, like even the Apostle Paul who persecuted the Church with a vengeance declaring himself to be the chiefest of sinners, are a powerful testimony to the transformative power of God’s grace. The hymn reminds us of the depths of our depravity and the heights of God’s mercy, encouraging us to sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”
These hymns, and countless others like them, have been a source of inspiration and edification for the Church for centuries. They are hymns that are rich in scriptural truth, written by theologians who understood scripture and applied it correctly to the lyrics they wrote. They have stood the test of time and have been passed down through generations, providing a source of comfort, guidance, and inspiration for the Church.
Today, it is unfortunate to observe that many churches have made the lamentable decision to forsake the theologically rich hymns that have been passed down through generations and have the power to imbue the faithful with a deeper understanding of God, His nature, and His ways. They have been replaced with emotionally charged and shallow songs that promote a self-centered theology, rather than one that is centered on the glory of God. These contemporary worship songs, often written by modern songwriters who may not possess the same depth of understanding of scripture or theology, fail to provide the same richness and profundity as the traditional hymns.
Many of these traditional hymns that few churches today continue to honor are steeped in scriptural truth and written by theologians of great renown and have stood the test of time, being passed down through generations. They have been a source of inspiration, guidance, and comfort for the Church, providing a deeper understanding of God and His precepts. These hymns, with their complex and elevated theological and doxological language, serve as a fitting tribute to the majesty and glory of God and are more fitting for the purpose of worship.
In forsaking these traditional hymns, many churches have lost an important aspect of worship that helps to cultivate a stronger relationship with Him through the truths derived from His own words expressed back to Him in song and worship. This is not inconsequential, for the Church needs to remember the importance of sound doctrine and a reverent posture in worship and to strive to remember that worship is not about us, but about the glory of God alone.