Hymns to Choruses

By Stephen M. Newman
Founder, ExperiencingWorship.com and Author of Experiencing Worship
July 05, 2023

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Who Made the Change?

For several years now we have all heard the arguments for the worship war in our churches. The worship war has caused church splits, staff to leave, and people have become hurt because of one reason or another. Surprisingly, it is still going on today and will probably continue well into the new millennium. This ongoing turmoil involves man fighting against man over how we will worship. What instruments we will use? What songs will we sing? Will we use a video projector or hymnals? Will we have a worship band, or piano and organ? There is always something that stirs our comfort zones. I find it slightly humorous that the work place in America has changed dramatically over the past fifty years, and it was met for the most part with open arms. Progress was a good thing for the economy and the working American. I'm sure there were problems and many adjustments took place over the years, but I also know that people weren't quitting their jobs in droves...people weren't fighting with their coworkers and bosses. They weren't about to risk their livelihoods and the income that supports their families. Whatever opposition arose was met with an option on the part of the employee. The owners of the companies lead the way and the people followed or lost their jobs. Was the change good for the economy? It would seem that way. Our society is constantly moving ahead and has brought about new innovations on an almost daily basis. Some would prefer to live in the old days, and at times I would agree, but the masses have moved along rather well and seem to be continuing to move forward. Who spearheaded the changes? In most cases, it was the leadership of the companies. The ultimate decision rests on the owner’s shoulders. As an employee, we have to decide what's best for us in the transition. Will we stay or should we find a place that better suits our comfortable way of doing business? Businesses fail when led the wrong way, but for the most part our economy is healthy because of the choices of those in charge.

Where is the church? How healthy is it? How has it progressed in the past hundred years? In regards to evangelism, we have seen a new surge of energy in the last fifty years. Our church attendance would seem to be on the upswing. But, the reality is that people are leaving as fast as they are coming in. Who is growing? The ones who have close connection with the "Boss"…..the ones who listen to His plan for the church at large. When addressing and dealing with this worship issue, I wonder if any of us have stopped to ask the Lord what He thinks. After all, worship is about Him isn't it? Could it be that God Himself instigated this whole worship movement? Out of His desire to be worshiped, could He have been the one who impressed new ideas upon the hearts of those who wanted to worship Him in a fresh way? The typical view is to focus on this movement as man thing instead of a God thing. What if God planned all this change for the church? After all, He is the one being worshiped. In the Old Testament there were specific formulas for worship. You couldn't do your own thing and call it worship. Could it be that today we have distorted this thing called worship to meet our needs and not God's? As a human I would much rather come to church and sit on my behind rather than stand and sing for thirty minutes to an hour. I would rather sing old familiar songs that are easy on my mind and that bring back happy memories. I don't want to have to learn a new song. I don't want to have to work in church.

However, the believer and worshiper in me wants to worship God for hours on end. I want to sing a new song to the Lord weekly. I want to be challenged to grow in my walk with the Lord and in obedience. Why is this? Because God has made me a new creation that is made for His glory. When He saved me from sin and death, it was a life changing experience for me. I don't want to come to church to fall asleep, I want to come to church to celebrate His awesome power because He is worthy of it. Is that characteristic of the church you’ve known in years past? Not in my world! The church, for a large part, has lost its love for the Lord. How can a body of "believers" gather in a place of "worship" and not truly worship the Lord? I believe the Lord may have gotten tired of our stale worship and decided to inject some new music, make it relevant in style and instrumentation, and require participation from the heart.

For hundreds of years the church has made little change in it's choices of songs and format for worship. Even today we sing songs that were written a hundred years ago and more. They’ve become songs that are done by repetition and with little meaning, besides memory association from younger days, for the worshiper. This isn't to judge anyone or any song, just to see things from God's perspective. Again, He is the one we worship and He knows what pleases Him.

You cannot deny the value of the hymn in times past. There are some great hymns that are good tools for worship. Why would God not be happy with what seemed to have worked for hundreds of years? Could God be tired of the old hymns, too? I don't believe in my heart that He is tired of the hymns, but that He may be tired of our meaningless repetition as we sing them purely as a ritual year after year, singing words with little thought or heart.

The Psalms tell us to sing to the Lord a new song. Why do you think David made that statement? Was it out of his personal understanding of worship and God's desire? Or was it something we needed to hear from God through David? No one but God Himself can say for sure, but I believe that we have to look at the possibility that this whole worship movement is God-led and God-inspired. Man has always tried to take the credit for God working in the world and among us. Maybe if we look at this whole movement as being inspired and led by God, we will be able to better accept it as important. The way I see it, if it is God led, then I am grateful and will continue to grow in my worship experience with Him. If it was man-led, then it won't last and God will step in and make it right in the midst of His church. I personally am excited about what God is doing in the church through worship. To have God chosen it for my life’s calling, fills my soul with gratefulness as I am used to accomplish such a worthwhile endeavor.

The next time someone gripes about the music or the worship movement that is sweeping the world, ask them to take it up with God. If He is the instigator of it all, I wouldn't want to be the one who mocks it and fights it. If He wasn't the one, then may He give him a peace until God makes it right. Remember, worship is not about how we feel and what we want to do for God, it's about God and Him alone. He is the only one worthy of worship, and He knows what pleases Himself. God is seeking worshipers, not worship. He wants our heart, not a chorus or hymn. Where are you?

Stephen M. Newman
Founder, ExperiencingWorship.com and Author of Experiencing Worship
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