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Jun 11 2008

Old Hymns for a New Generation

Writes Melissa Morgan at ByFaith Magazine:

In high school, Matthew Smith was a faithful church attendee, active in his youth group, and eager to grow in his faith—but despite all of this he felt like a failed worshiper in his congregation.

“In the church I grew up in, I felt like I had to drum up an emotional experience for myself in worship,” said Smith. “The praise choruses we sang were centered on me: ‘I give you praise God,’ ‘I give you my all,’ ‘I want to worship you.’ But I often didn’t feel those things—or even mean those things—when I sang them, so the whole experience felt dishonest.”

When he began attending college at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., Smith started visiting Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) meetings, and for the first time began hearing old hymns set to new music. “These hymns weren’t about me—they were about Jesus. They didn’t say, ‘I want to worship you.’ They described what Jesus has done, and that is what made me say, ‘I want to worship you.’ Singing these hymns, along with the teaching I was hearing, completely changed my perspective on worship. And ironically, when I stopped focusing on myself and my emotional experience in worship, that’s when my heart began to feel.”

Smith’s journey parallels many in today’s postmodern culture, those who crave authenticity over affectation, mystery over order, community over individualism, and substance over ephemera.

“In a world where everything is over-hyped, slick, and marketable, it’s refreshing to see these texts written without any of that baggage,” said Smith. “What could be more authentic than a folk song written 250 years ago in a tiny English village for a congregation of 30?”

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