I love to worship. I love to sing songs that glorify God and I was set to wax lyrical on one of my favourite hymns when I started down the road of trying to find the difference between a song and a hymn. Now to be clear worship is worship as far as I am concerned whether I am belting out the lyrics of a song by Wesley or a contemporary song from Bethel; Paul says:
19 When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God;
Check it out in the greek: psalm, hymns and spiritual songs. He doesn’t raise one above the rest but includes all of them so when you do what I did and make the mistake of googling the difference and see the sites that criticise and condemn and end up wondering what on earth and where’s the love – pray. If you struggle with being loving in this area – this story might help with some perspective.
Normally when I am writing I have worship playing low, usually, it’s contemporary but yesterday I had Handel’s Messiah and today I have a mix of old hymns (YouTube is amazing like that). The point is that all of them help to keep me focused on God and as the little story I linked above says it’s about taste. We have a creative wonderful God who just wants us to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
1 Sing a new song to the Eternal;
sing in one voice to the Eternal, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Eternal of all the good things He’s done.
Bless His name;
broadcast the good news of His salvation each and every day.
3 Enlighten the nations to His splendor;
describe His wondrous acts to all people.
My title is my favourite hymn. Here are the lyrics and here’s a link to it being sung if you don’t know it (or even if you do). I can’t pick a verse that I love most because the whole song is filled with power and truth and lifts my heart and makes me long for a thousand tongues to tell of all He has done for me. It’s a song of triumph and His glory. It’s another way of saying the psalm I quoted. The only judgement I make about songs we worship with is are they true. If they are true then they glorify God by proclaiming His truth.
The division caused by people taking sides and arguing about which are best or even which are ‘right’ is the exact opposite. God is not glorified when we argue and fight over what music we like to listen to and that is what it comes down to no matter what arguments arise. Wesley was writing 200 years ago, I am sure there were people who threw up their hands and demanded we only use the songs written in the 1500s and in the 1500s the same cries to go back to the tenth century and so on. I bet David got some criticism for some of his work because people haven’t changed.
People it is time TO change. Time to be united in love and worship of God in Spirit no matter if we use guitars, sitars, cymbals, organ or trumpets. Sing a new song to the Lord. Proclaim His goodness. If the songs are doing that then 4 part harmony or guitar riff are irrelevant to the truth it proclaims what matters is making that goodness known to the world.
I think if we can long for a thousand tongues to praise God then a thousand variants on that praise ought to fit right in.