Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why Old Songs Are Important

Emotions are important in our worship experience. God Himself is very emotional, we find in scripture that he felt (feels) & expressed jealousy, anger, compassion, joy, even what we'd describe as romance! It's incorrect to describe "all that emotion" we express in a worship service as "just" emotion. There's nothing minimal, or wrong about expressed emotion. Emotions are the gateway to honesty. A person may stand stoic, without expression, and lose everything and everyone they love. Whereas, if they succumb to the emotional intensity in their soul, out explodes tones of voice, facial expressions, sometimes even tears, all of these giving the hearer the opportunity to see the honesty of the soul. Relationships are often saved because someone took their guard down and through emotional expression the reality of matters could be seen. Through emotional expression, the hearer knows how happy, or angry, or broken the speaker is. 

If a person comes to a worship service determined not to be emotional, they typically find church boring. (They also, typically, are callusing and hardening their heart). But if they'll allow themselves to feel and express their emotions toward God, those people will greatly benefit from attending church. Open emotions signify open honesty. A person may be very guarded in their daily lives, but all guards should come down before our Creator. 

Music is emotional. Sounds can be emotional triggers. When personalized ringtones first came into existence I spent a bundle having a ringtone for each person close to me. Even still several people have their own text-tone, & ringtone. But, as I transferred phones or carriers I would sometimes lose a tone. If I am, today, in a public place, and someone else's phone happens to use a former ringtone for someone I may not be as close to anymore, then my heart skips! If someone calls or texts that I haven't heard from in a while, the ringtone alone causes my heart to race! If I hear music from my teen years that is connected to slumber parties, or concerts I attended with friends, my adrenaline races and my soul longs for those people I enjoyed that music with. 

Songs within the church trigger the same emotional responses. When we sing a hymn, people aged in their fifties and older are quick to their feet, arms in the air, tears staining their cheeks. Their typical response about styles and genres of songs is that God is more "in" the hymns than in modern music. The hymn was at one point "modern music." But as with all fads, they've been shelved and have made way for new modern music. As a music director, I positively delight in scheduling music for different generations and watching the "popcorn" jump up response across the auditorium. Just as the fifty and older crowd respond emotionally to the hymnal, the thirty to forty year olds have their trigger songs as well. They now call them, "the old songs," but I taught them the songs when they were considered modern music, pop songs played on the christian radio station. The responders were sixteen to twenty years old when I taught the songs. Now that we've moved on to even newer music, when they hear their "old songs," that they haven't heard in five to ten years, their emotions are triggered just as the older generations is triggered by the hymns. Then we sing a worship song currently playing on the radio and those aged thirteen to thirty-five respond the most greatly. During this kind of music the older ones in the congregation respond out of self-discipline and unity, but not because they feel any attachment to the song itself.

As a music director I feel it's important to sing songs from every generation so that each age group has opportunity to worship emotionally. I mentioned before that worship can be done out of a discipline, and for the sake of unity. If we only worshiped when we felt emotional, that'd be very spiritually immature. It is cleansing for us to worship emotionally. God created our brains to respond to music. God is not at all put-off by our emotional expression in worship. When we feel emotional in God's presence and allow ourselves to express it, God takes advantage of our guard being down and can do a beautiful work of healing in our souls.

As a music director I urge every generation present at a worship service to worship and praise regardless of the era or genre, worship simply because God is worthy. Physically engage during a worship service. Also, for the sake of unity, physically engage by clapping, singing, raising your hands, standing, kneeling, etc. Powerful things occur, not because of what kind of music is playing, but due to unity!

I urge music directors to have a steady stream of music for all generations in attendance. In my church we do a hymn every Sunday morning. Every Sunday night we do songs for as many generations as we have time for. And every Wednesday our music is typically geared toward those thirty and younger. I encourage music directors to kindly nod knowingly and smile the next time an elder tells you that there's something "more special" about the ancient songs than the modern ones. Let them enjoy and brag on their first-love without you needing to defend the new musical-love affairs being made by the new generation. And, don't forget, when you're an old music director, keep modern music coming, even if you feel it's immature, or simple.

Remember that every generation deserves to have a bridge extended to their soul through the power of music in a worship service.