Hymns are old and irrelevant. At least that’s what I used to tell myself as a young worship leader. At 13 years old, I was the first Christian in my home which meant that hymns as we know them today really didn’t mean much to me. I tell you all of this because I have no history with older hymns. Even now, after years of being a worship leader, I am still discovering the “old hymns” that some people talk about in my church. Several years ago, my pastor asked if we could do some hymns in our worship set every now and again. I was very curious why he wanted to do this. I was actually a little annoyed that he would ask such a thing. I mean… didn’t he know that hymns were old and irrelevant? I remember one morning leading a worship set at church. I had decided to throw in the song “How Great Thou Art”. Honestly, I have to admit that I put the song there simply because my pastor had asked, not because I wanted to do the song. Of course that week, I had to actually learn the song! I opened my mouth to sing that song from the stage. I hadn’t sung but three words of that song when I saw a woman around 70 years old stand up with her arms straight up in the air, worshipping. She was singing so loudly that I could’ve sworn she was overpowering my voice on stage and I had a microphone and monitors! That’s when I got it… that is when I understood the power of considering the people in your congregation when planning your worship music.
Worship music can be one of the most divisive or unifying tools in the church today. We have a choice to make. People have left good churches because of disagreements about worship. Services have been divided and labeled traditional or contemporary all because of something so simple as music. Really? Music? This is what we would be willing to risk friendship and community for? Music? In this day and age of have-it-your-way worship services and even “worship wars,” I believe that an intentional multicultural church has a great opportunity to use worship music as a tool to unify and not divide the people of God.
The Apostle Paul teaches us how to consider one another in 1 Corinthians 12:24-25 (NIV)- "But God has put the Body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that it’s parts should have equal concern for each other." When planning your worship set, think about the different types of people and cultures that you have represented in your church and how you might be able to best represent and honor those cultures through music and worship.
What musical styles might minister to certain people?
What types of instruments could bring honor to a specific culture?
How many different languages could you sing one song?
Thinking through these types of questions can allow you as the leader to have “equal concern” for those in your church and give you the opportunity to model what true worship is about. It is about all the people that God has created worshipping Him!
My decision to sing an old hymn ministered deeply to that 70-year old woman at our church. Even though it wasn’t my preference to sing hymns at that time, I believe that God used it to humble me. To show me that I didn’t know it all as a worship leader. That I still had a lot to learn when it came to considering the people in my church and how they might need to be ministered to. Singing that hymn may have reminded that woman of growing up in her church back in the day. Maybe it took her back to a time where she knew all the church songs because she could find them easily in a hymnal instead of on iTunes. I’ll never truly know how something like singing hymns may minister to a person like that, but what I do know is that 70-year-old woman is now much more inclined to appreciate the songs of those younger and different than her, because she knows that her songs are appreciated, too.