Billy Graham on worship preferences
Today I saw a post on Twitter from Jeremy Cowart (@jeremycowart) that included a photograph of a newspaper column by the late Rev. Billy Graham, who was responding to a letter from a lady who was complaining about the use of new songs by the music director in her church. She preferred the "old hymns" and didn't care for the new material, and was asking Rev. Graham if he thought she should complain to her pastor about it. Graham's response was gracious and empathetic, but he encouraged her to take a different approach:
"Instead of complaining to your pastor (or anyone else), I urge you to ask God to help you be grateful for all music that points us to God, new or old. No, you may not like some of it, but others do, and God can use it in their lives to encourage them and bring them closer to Christ. Remember: the old hymns you like were once new, and someone probably didn't like them, either! Sometimes, I'm afraid, a hymn can become so familiar to us that we sing it without even thinking about the words. But this is wrong, because then our singing becomes empty and meaningless. Don't let this happen to you, but meditate on the words of the songs you sing, and even turn them into a prayer. Your music director has probably been wise to introduce new songs slowly; completely changing everything at once can be disruptive. Pray for him and encourage him, letting him know that you're grateful for his gifts. Yes, let him know you appreciate the old hymns, but support him also as he seeks to reach a new generation through music."
Our church provides worship services in two different styles, in order to accommodate the worship music preferences of those who prefer more traditional music and of those who prefer a more contemporary style. Most of the time, attenders may choose one service or the other, and worship with a musical style that is familiar and comfortable. On certain occasions, such as the celebration service for outgoing senior pastor, Bill Bump, last week, and the installation service for incoming senior pastor, Alex Alexander, next week, we bring the whole congregation together and do our best to blend musical styles by selecting music from traditional hymns and contemporary songs. All of the music, no matter the style, is chosen prayerfully, and with a view toward helping our congregation draw near to God. We do our best to select music that connects in some way with the sermon--if you notice those connections, that's great, and if you don't, that's fine--we believe the Holy Spirit can use the music to prepare our hearts for the message our pastor brings us each week, whether anyone notices those connections or not.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, we will be presenting two worship services (9am and 10:35am), and both will be identical--the music will be a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary songs. We hope that whichever musical style you prefer, you will come prepared to rejoice and give thanks and sing to the Lord a new song!
Blessings, Pastor Doug