Is Contemporary Worship “Utterly Dangerous?” Keith Getty Says Yes
In a recent article published in The Christian Post, an online Christian news magazine, contemporary Christian hymn writer Keith Getty declared that the “modern worship movement is utterly dangerous, causing de-Christianizing of God’s people.” That might be putting it a bit more strongly than I would, but I have argued something similar here.
Please read the Getty interview at The Christian Post’s web site. Use a search engine to find it.
Getty and his wife Kristyn, together with their hymn-writing partner Stuart Townend are among the best-known and best-loved contemporary Christian musicians. They have written numerous contemporary hymns with deeply theological lyrics. Perhaps their best known one is “In Christ Alone.”
According to Getty, much contemporary Christian music used in worship is theologically shallow; almost none talk about “eternity,” for example. The focus of most is on emotion and this world and seek cultural relevance rather than authentic Christianity.
Most devastatingly, Getty says that much contemporary Christian worship “de-Christianizes” this generation. What might he mean?
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I have taught Christian theology for forty years—to college and seminary students. I have noticed a definite “thinning out” of their knowledge and understanding of the Bible and theology and one culprit, I strongly believe, is the demise of hymns. Very few “praise and worship” songs contain anything biblical or theological. They appear to focus on God but seem actually to be designed to evoke emotions.
I’ve said all this before. The great hymns of people like Charles Wesley, William Cowper, Isaac Watts, Charles Gabriel, Johnson Oatman, Jr., and numerous others of the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries contained powerful lyrics that taught about God, salvation, sin, eternity, heaven, etc. Some of those songs are being rediscovered and put to new tunes or given new arrangements by contemporary worship leaders. But most of the songs I hear for congregational singing in major metropolitan evangelical churches are repetitious, shallow and unsingable by anyone except the worship band musicians.
The hymn books of evangelical denominations and churches served as “our book of confessions,” a kind of musical catechism that taught us about the Bible, about God, about Jesus Christ, about salvation, about the future. Not all of the hymns were theologically correct, but they all tended to express more than emotions. At the very least, they provoked thought.
I am glad to read Keith Getty agreeing with me; I feel that my complaint about much contemporary worship is not just old school curmudgeonliness. Something has gone awry in contemporary worship. And we need to say so. Those who think as I do, and as Getty does, need to step up and speak to church worship leaders and say “Look, I’m not for hymn-singing just out of nostalgia or sentimentality; I think hymns communicate truth as well as give glory to God. Let us go back to singing hymns as well as contemporary praise and worship choruses. Please.”
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