Only three television channels. Sunday morning programming was limited. I was a know-it-all teenager.
Most Sundays, while we readied for church, Mom turned on the television station that featured “old-timey” gospel music . . . like The Happy Goodman Family. It was Christian music. We were going to church. But, in my infinite teen-age wisdom (or was it snobbery?), I rolled my eyes at the old-fashioned music. It was the late ‘60s, and contemporary Christian music was being born.
When I was a bride of eighteen, living in my own house with my husband, I thought I could escape the Sunday morning old-fashioned fare. I was mistaken. My husband Bill loved the old Southern gospel music. Again, I rolled my eyes (being the sophisticated connoisseur of music that I was).
Two friends and I sang in a trio and competed in the Assemblies of God Teen Talent a couple of times. We made it to State; never to Nationals. I especially remember the last time we competed. We sang a beautiful hymn with inspirational words and tight harmony. But as soon as a girls’ sextet started singing, I knew we had lost. They sang something fresh and new . . . a contemporary song written by Ralph Carmichael called “He’s Everything to Me.”
I still enjoyed the old hymns we sang at church during services. But, like many others, I embraced the new, up and coming contemporary Christian music. It was the music of my generation . . . Jesus Music, the music of the Jesus Movement in the ‘60s.
In the ‘70s, contemporary Christian worship music flooded our hearts and our churches. Music of the Baby Boomers. Music that is the norm today, but back then was new and fresh. Eventually through the years, more and more churches embraced the contemporary music exclusively, putting aside the beautiful hymns of the past. Not all churches, of course. But many.
In my twenties, I led praise and worship in our church. We sang a few hymns, then moved on to praise choruses. As I sang on Praise Teams through the years, we moved to contemporary worship songs almost exclusively, with an occasional hymn thrown in on rare occasions.
This is not a piece on Contemporary Worship Music versus Hymns. This is just about my experience.
As I moved into my thirties and forties, I still loved singing beautiful worship songs in private and in corporate worship. But I also began to miss many of the old hymns and gospel songs we sang when I was young.
I was concerned that my sons wouldn’t know by heart, like I do, the words of such songs as:
- “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (written in 1923)
- “Amazing Grace” (written in 1779)
- “How Great Thou Art” (1885)
- “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” (1779)
- “Blessed Assurance” (1873)
- “To God Be the Glory” (1872)
- “At the Cross” (1707)
- “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” (1855)
- “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (1932)
- “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (1922)
- “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (1894)
- “I Must Tell Jesus” (1893)
and many, many more beautiful and worshipful songs. And what about the gospel songs like “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Nothing But the Blood,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” and more. Songs with testimonies and praise to God. Songs that I still sing in the shower, while doing housework, during private worship time, riding down the road…
In my late sixties, I still love contemporary worship songs, but the ancient hymns and older songs are more precious to me than they were in my youth.
All of this came to mind last week when I was listening to a YouTube video on my television . . . the Gaither Vocal Band singing “There Is A River.” A quiet house . . . beautiful soothing song . . . thoughts on the Lord. And in walked my three noisy grandchildren, fresh from the swimming pool with Papa.
My thirteen-year-old granddaughter Kate rolled her eyes and said, “Why is that music so loud?” This from a girl who can listen to country and pop music all day long with the volume turned WAY up.
I had to laugh. Déjà vu, all over again.
(Teen-age Karen to Mom on a Sunday morning: “Can we at least turn the volume down?”)
“When they were named gospel song writers of the century in 2000, it was said the Gaithers are to Christian music what the Beatles were to pop music. They were among the first to introduce contemporary religious music” (Phil Jones, correspondent). That was twenty years ago, and although the Gaither Vocal Band and Gaither Homecoming videos are still going strong, to my thirteen-year-old granddaughter they are “old timey.”
Still, Kate’s favorite Christian song is “I Will Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle. Good choice.
They are all good choices, hymns and songs, old and new, as long as they lift up the name of Jesus and glorify God!
What’s your favorite? Let’s sing!