Martin’s 9 Mottoes for Worship
Motto #3: USE MUSIC TEENAGERS LIKE!
Luther was fanatical about music. Why did he introduce pop music into worship? How would he guide worship planners today? He urged churches and parents against songs that “prostitute…art with their erotic rantings.” However, he called for music that could compete with teenagers’ interest in love songs. He may have seen that the quickest way to petrify a church is to disconnect musically from the emerging generation.
In regard to “music and other fine arts,” Martin Luther urged churches to choose songs that combine “the good with the pleasing,” especially for the sake of young people. This is important in order “to wean them away from love ballads and [sensuous] songs” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 53, Worship and Liturgy, p 316). Sometimes Luther feels awfully contemporary, doesn’t he?
Luther called for songs that combine “the good with the pleasing.” Among good songs he especially valued songs that implant God’s Word. He wanted “that the Word of God even by means of song may live among the people” (p 221). On the other hand, he warned against songs with immoral content: “Take special care to shun perverted minds who prostitute this lovely gift of nature and of art with their erotic rantings; and be quite assured that none but the devil goads them on to defy their very nature which would and should praise God its Maker with this gift, so that these bastards purloin the gift of God and use it to worship the foe of God, the enemy of nature and of this lovely art” (p 324).
“Pleasing” Songs (aka Pop Music)
Luther shows that he had a couple things in mind in regard to “pleasing” songs. He pushed for songs in people’s heart language rather than in Latin which they barely understood. “After the Gospel [passage is read in each service] the whole congregation sings the [Apostles’] Creed in German: ‘In One True God We All Believe.’” One German song was not enough for Luther. “I also wish that we had as many songs as possible in the vernacular which the people could sing during mass” (p. 36). In the vanguard of change, he conducted a German-language service in Wittenberg in 1525 and printed that order of service early the next year (p 60).
By his example, we learn that Luther also had musical style in mind when he called for “pleasing” songs. Everyone acknowledges that Luther wrote stately anthems such as “A Mighty Fortress” which have endured for centuries. However, he also borrowed all the elements of popular love songs for his hymn-writing. Picturing the Church as a lovely woman, he adopted the style of a popular love song: He used the meter of a love ballad. He borrowed, or wrote, a melody that sounded like popular love songs. He even penned lyrics that used double entendre in referring to love and the Church:
“To me she’s dear, the worthy maid,
“And I cannot forget her;
“I seek her good, And if I should
“Right evil fare, I do not care,
“She’ll make up for it to me,
“With love and truth that will not tire,
“Which she will ever show me;
“And do all my desire.”
This suggests that Luther would have enjoyed the popular songs that come and go decade by decade:
1960s “He Touched Me,” Bill Gaither; “The Savior Is Waiting,” Ralph Carmichael
1970s “Pass It On,” Kurt Kaiser; “Through It All,” Andre Crouch; “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” Larry Norman
1980s “Our God Is an Awesome God,” Rich Mullins; “Great Is the Lord,” Debbie and Michael W. Smith; “We Bow Down,” Twila Paris
1990s “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” Paul Baloche; “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” Delirious?; “Shout to the Lord,” Darlene Zschech
2000s “Hosanna (Praise is rising),” Brenton Brown; “Blessed Be Your Name,” Matt Redman; “How Great Is Our God,” Chris Tomlin
Luther’s “love song” hymn did not endure. These songs may not last either, but in their time they open people’s hearts to Jesus. As Luther recommended, they combine “the good with the pleasing.”
What are your church’s priorities in the songs that it chooses?
What age group is emphasized? What is the most common musical style?
Time to comment…
Martin’s 9 Mottoes for Worship: