Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 10, 2005


The excitement of a growing church is hard to beat


      There are a few exciting things I have never tried. I have never tried to catch a greased pig, or ridden in a hot air balloon, or parachuted out of an airplane. Two of those thrills I still want to experience before my time is up.

          But if not, I will have had an exciting life anyway. I have not fought in a war overseas, but I have been in several good church fights. I even started a few. Some churches need a good fight to wake people up and motivate them to choose sides. In a dead church it is hard to distinguish between the folks on God’s side from those who are the devil’s side.

          These days many churches are fighting about music. Some want contemporary music; others want traditional music. That is a good fight to have. It makes you think. In a dead church there is not a lot of thinking going on.

          One thing for certain: I would rather have a steady diet of contemporary music than to endure the good old hymns being sung like a funeral dirge. Few things make a church more boring than lifeless singing. I have heard some people sing “Rock of Ages” so slowly that I could go outside, cut a watermelon, and eat a slice before they got through singing the second verse.

          John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, shared my distaste for sloppy singing. You will enjoy knowing some of Wesley’s “Directions for Singing” that were printed in his hymn book for the early Methodists:

          “Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

          “Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.”

          Wesley also directed the Methodists to “take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.”

          Some folks complain that contemporary music is too loud. Some of it is, but not all of it. Some of it moves me to worship. As for the loudness, God has been kind to me. My hearing loss has come at a good time in my life.

          Honestly, I like both kinds of music. I like contemporary music because it is bringing young people to church in droves.  I like traditional music because it is embedded in me and has nourished my soul all my life.

          My biggest concern is that a generation of children may grow up without being exposed to some of the truly great traditional music. No one should be denied the incredible joy of singing songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “It is Well with My Soul,” “Joy to the World,” “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Victory in Jesus,” “My Hope is Built On Nothing Less,” “And Can it Be,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” and many others that cause goose bumps whenever I sing them.

          There is tension over music in the St. James Church where we are serving now and to me, it is a good sign. Tension is not all bad. A violin cannot make beautiful music unless there is tension in the strings. The tension at our church has caused us to launch a fourth morning worship service. We are giving up the “blended” approach and opting for a third contemporary service and a traditional service.

          The Boss is giving me the privilege of preaching almost every Sunday in the traditional service so that is exciting. And, like everyone else, I can drop in on one of the contemporary services and enjoy that too – and I will because I like it all.

          I don’t know how much excitement my old heart can take, but I love it. I can think of few things more exciting than to serve on the team of a church that is growing so fast that we need a fourth worship service. As the guy said about his beer at a cookout on the beach, it doesn’t get any better than this! + + + +