I've been leading worship in the local church for the last 7 years. I would be categorized as a "contemporary" worship leader, because of my musical style. Taking two churches through style transitions, I've taken my share of hits. I'm so grateful for these experiences, because they've sharpened me and tested my motives. They've made me better. They were a huge part of my development. One of the frequent attacks that came my way was the complaint for not using hymns. What I quickly realized was that when they said "hymn", they were talking more about style. This became clear as I tried inserting more hymns to appease them, and still could not win their approval. In other words, these same people could care less whether I sang the lyrics to "Greensleeves" or "What Child is This?" as long as it sounded, to be blunt, old. This crowd wanted nothing to do with the new. Again, I'm past the bitter stage and well into the thankful stage. Through all of this, God showed me my purpose. I was to teach and train the church in worship through music. I was to help them see past the style and fall at the feet of Jesus. That is my purpose and passion as a worship leader and God has made it clearer everyday through the fruit.
The flip side to this is the progressive crowd that has, in a sense, thrown the hymn book in the trash. They are caught up in their own form of legalism that says, "If it's not new, I won't use it." They want nothing to do with the old songs of the faith. What they're doing is continuing a cycle of legalism, that ironically, they're rebelling against. Meanwhile, churches and worshipers are being deprived of the main thing: WORSHIP.
I love Jack Hayford's definition of a hymn: "A hymn is a song sung to Him." The balance we can find is that God doesn't care about the date of a song. He wants our hearts. As a worship leader, I basically have decided to blur the line that separates the old and the new. I'm looking to bring songs that are Biblical. Songs that will usher the crowd to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. I'm so grateful to finally lead a crowd that isn't thinking "How many hymns are we doing?" As I've said many times over the several years, I want to use inspired songs by inspired Christians from all generations. To throw the hymn book out like yesterday's news is just as bad as being close-minded to the new songs that our springing up today. Remember what it's all about.
What's your thoughts? What's your favorite old hymn and why?