The word for today is “contemporary”. Contemporary = any person, thing/event belonging to the same time-period.
We are contemporaries with people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s — the Hippie Generation.
They were known for their rebellion of all authority; for their rejection of the Church, God, and the Bible; for their emphasis on love and peace; for their self-centered notion that the world revolved around them, that their standards and pleasures were all-important; for their ignoring of the past.
We are contemporaries of that generation and their children — generations that knew little, and cared less, about God, the Church, the Bible or Christian music. Perhaps that’s why today’s Praise Music tends to be short, simple, shallow, and repetitive. Unlike the great Hymns of the past.
John and Charles Wesley encountered a similar situation in 1700s England. Ninety percent of the people could neither read nor write; most had rejected both authority and the Church; they lived only for the moment. As a result, crime and corruption were rampant; violence and abuse were common; gambling left lives in ruin; drunkenness destroyed millions of lives. Society was in a shambles! To all those who were living without hope — the Wesleys proclaimed “good news:” There’s a God who loves you and cares about how you live; there’s a Christ who died on a cross to save you from all your sins; there’s a Holy Spirit who is able to guide you through this maze-of-life safely to your Heavenly Home; there’s a Bible you can turn to for inspiration and hope; there’s a Church where you will find fellowship and support for your spiritual journey.
John and Charles Wesley not only preached “good news”, they sang the “good news!” And the masses heard what Wesley preached, and they believed that what he said was true. Millions repented of their sinfulness, turned to God, followed the Christ, and became a re-newed Church. It is reported that wherever the Methodists went, crime and corruption, violence and abuse, gambling, and drunkeness vanished! What a wondrous change!
What was it that those Methodists sang about that brought about such a dramatic change in their daily lives?
Wesley began with the adoration and praise of GOD. True worship is always centered on God: none other deserves to be worshipped and served!
So they sang:
“O for a thousand tougues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise; the glories of my God and king; the triumphs of His grace. Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease; ‘Tis music to the sinner’s ears; ‘Tis life, and health, and peace!” If I had a thousand voices, I could not help but lift every voice in praise to my God!
Wesley also took sin seriously! He preached that we have revelled against God’s authority, broken God’s holy laws, and ignored God’s standards. So, we are guilty of sin; we deserve to be punished, and banished to Hell. Yet, God’s Son has intervened on our behalf, has paid the price for our sins, and has given us our freedom to live as God intended us to live. So the people sang:
“Sinners turn – why will you die? God, your Maker, asks you why!
God, who did your being give; Made you with Himself to live; He the fatal cause demands; Asks the work of His own hands.
Why, you thankless creatures, why will you cross His love, and die?”
Our society does not take sins seriously! Nowhere outside the Church do we hear people/commentators/the media mention the word “sin!” Without sin, there is no need to repent; without repentance, there is no salvation; without salvation there is no life; without life there is only certain death!
The people who heard Wesley preach, did repent of their sins, received God’s forgiveness, and lept for joy! So they could sing:
“How happy every child of grace who know his sins forgiven…!”
Finally, the people-called-Methodist arose, in faith, to commit their lives to following the Christ; thus, they sang:
“Forth in Thy name I go — my daily labor to pursue. Thee, only Thee, resolved to know in all I think or speak or do!” and
“Soldiers of Christ, arise! And put you armor on — Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son!”
Contemporary has little meaning if separated from the past! Contemporary Praise Music has a lot to learn from the old Hymns of the past! The old hymns told a complete story —plus, the old hymns have lasted for over 300 years! In embracing the new, let’s not forget the past! Praise be to our God — who is the same: yesterday, today, and tomorrow! AMEN!