Each of us has preferences — sometimes thoughtful and considered, sometimes less so — about what music is suitable and helpful in worship. Many churches quarantine older music and newer music (think “Traditional Service” and “Contemporary Service), using both but effectively setting them in opposition to each other. Others choose primarily one or the other.

But they are not opposed. We need both old and new music. We all need both, and we need to sing them sitting together in the same service.

Older and newer music each come with unique advantages. Here are a few.

OLDNEW
Older song texts are written in historic language, with older word pictures and turns of phrase, reminding us that the church has a long, long heritage of song and worship that predates our time of iPhones and interstates. We worship with “so great a cloud of witnesses.”Newer song texts are written in today’s language, reminding us that God is present and active now. God’s work in the world is not simply a story from “back then.” God is the main character in the story of our highly-connected, fast-paced world of 2019.
Older songs speak in an older musical language. Singing this music, the older generation frequently connects at a heart level with this music, and with the God it declares.Newer songs speak in current musical language. Singing this music, the younger generation frequently connects at a heart level with this music, and with the God it declares.
Older songs help us to be grounded and stable, reminding us that the Christian faith is deeply rooted in centuries of history, and we are not free to reinvent it in our own image.New songs require us to be learning and growing, keeping us from becoming too comfortable with where we are and what we know. They remind us that Christian discipleship requires growing and changing; following Jesus is a process, and not a point of arrival.
The vast majority of the songs in our current hymnals were written by Catholics and Protestants. That we sing them is a testament that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.Anabaptists have a distinctive, prophetic note to sound in the broad world of church music. We have an opportunity to sound that note through composing and publishing new church music.
Older music sometimes creates a bit of discomfort for people deeply committed to new music. This is vital, as it reminds us that this is the music of the church, not simply my favorite, most comfortable style.New music sometimes creates a bit of discomfort for people deeply committed to old music. This is vital, as it reminds us that this is the music of the church, not simply my favorite, most comfortable style.

If it were not for new music, and congregations willing to learn them, we wouldn’t have any of the old favorites. Our oldest and best hymns were all new at one time. If it were not for old music, we would become “chronological snobs,” people with little sense of heritage and history. Indeed, both old and new music serve something far greater, which far transcends style or preference: the worship of Almighty God. May our worship be that which grows us in “knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

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