What Will Church Music Be Like in 100 Years?
Contemporary Christian music is not unique to the 20th or 21st century. When I use that term, I am not referring to the music industry that has co-opted it for the purpose of marketing and sales. I am talking about music that is written and sung during a particular time period. Early American churches, for example, often did not have organs or pianos because they could not afford them, so most congregational singing of that time was a cappella. The gospel song emerged in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with well-known hymn writers like Fanny Crosby and Philip P. Bliss crafting poems and songs that we still sing today. Those were the contemporary songs and styles of their day.
Musicians in each generation want to add their voices to the great choir of hymn writers, singers, and worshippers who have praised God in song throughout history. While the music of each new generation will reflect cultural shifts of that time period, it can and should still honor God both in its presentation and content.
Just 100 years ago, churches were largely limited in their choice of instruments, and congregations often sang hymn texts from books with no musical notation. Texts could be sung to different tunes as long as the meter fit. We’ve seen a lot of changes in church music since the early 1900s, which begs the question: what will church music look like 100 years from today? I’d like to offer a few ideas:
· It will be word-focused. Good church music has always centered on strong, biblical lyrics. That’s the whole point. The lyrics help us turn our minds to God and worship him intentionally.
· It will be Word-focused. In 100 years, church music will still draw its themes from the pages of Scripture. One of the purposes of music in worship is to let the word of Christ dwell in us (Colossians 3:16). That has been the explicit focus of church music since Bible times, and it will still be the focus of timeless Christian music in the next century.
· New technology will create new opportunities. The 20th century saw the invention of the radio, television, stereo record, magnetic tape recording, transistor, musical synthesizer, computer, cassette tape, Walkman, compact disc, electronic instruments, the World Wide Web, and the mp3. In the 21st century, we have already seen the appearance of the iPod, online music stores, the rise of YouTube, sophisticated music recording and editing tools, and Spotify. Astonishing leaps in technology have created new opportunities both this century and last. While it’s impossible to guess what technology will look like 100 years from now, you can bet it will open doors of previously unimaginable opportunity.
Music, like everything else, changes with time. But there are some things that should not change. God-honoring music in the distant future will still uphold the principles taught in the Bible and will still turn the hearts of God’s people to worship. No matter what external changes we see between now and then, we can rest in the fact that God’s Word never changes, and that true followers of Christ will still seek to create music that glorifies Him.