We were probably one of many rural Baptist Churches that passed around a metal bucket in order to buy a new piano. The song leader called it the “Joyful Noise” fund. While dollar bills were encouraged children delighted in slamming handfuls of change into the bucket.
It was one of the more unscripted moments in our rather reserved and tightly controlled order of service. One worship leading consultant called our style: “4 hymns and punt.”
The offering was also the last exciting thing before THE SERMON. It was my chance to let loose my considerable pre-teen energy that could hardly handle sitting still for 45-60 minutes with my sole consolation a highlighter and pen for scribbling in my Bible. No one had to tell me that I’d be in deep trouble if I started wandering around the sanctuary during the sermon. I fidgeted, scribbled, and underlined when every muscle in my anxious little body screamed for activity and a noise other than the pastor droning on and on.
As bad as the sermon could be, the music had the potential to more than make up for it. If you asked me why I went to church, music landed right below a pretty girl named Sarah in Sunday School class that every guy had a crush on. So yeah, music was a really big deal for me.
Years later, those old hymns stuck with me, rattling around in my mind in the middle of the night while rocking a fussy baby or distracting a squirming child during a diaper change.
“Victory in Jesus,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “Be Thou My Vision” crossed my lips many late evenings, and as I continued to sing these old songs at night, they crossed into the rest of my day as well. I catch myself singing hymns while doing the dishes, weeding the garden, or taking a walk.
Music is also a vital part of church for our oldest son. We have a drum-driven, rock style of worship. He calls it the “drums and cymbals.” Naturally, he’s crestfallen if the drums take a Sunday off.
Each Sunday our otherwise shy little boy who isn’t quite four, runs down to the front of the auditorium where our congregation meets, so he can run around while the music plays. He jumps over the power cords running along the floor and claps his hands, only pausing to spy on the drummer.
I suppose you would call our music a blend of the old and new, with a few hymns dropped in with a majority of contemporary worship songs. I have mixed emotions about our son growing up with this kind of music as his backdrop to faith. While I’m a firm believer of writing new songs and still honoring the music of our past, I can’t see him singing most of these songs 25 years from now while cradling his own child in the middle of the night.
I know that I have now become the stereotype of all stereotypes for old timer Christians who gripe about the new worship songs that aren’t as good as the old hymns.
I certainly don’t want to limit him to the old hymns, and let’s be honest, there were plenty of dull songs at my old Baptist church with their fair share of meandering melodies. Even the promise of the change bucket couldn’t save those Sundays.
For all of my reservations about the music written for the church today, I like to hope that my son has something better for his Sunday morning experience. Church is legitimately fun for him. He can fully be himself throughout the service these days rather than waiting for the “excitement” of a change bucket. Perhaps the songs imprinted on his mind from his early days won’t be the same caliber as the old time hymns. I can live with that. At the very least, I can take on the responsibility of teaching him my favorite hymns.
Most importantly, I hope that he will learn how to tell the difference between a church where he is free and able to fully be himself, rather than staying buttoned up and waiting desperately for that one moment when he can let himself come to life. No matter what the band is playing, I’ll take the smile on his face as he runs with complete freedom and abandon.