On the Missional Use of Psalmody

When “contemporary” music hit the church scene starting in the 1960s, really picking up and winning out by the late 1990s, one of the arguments for the change in style is that it would be more familiar and appealing both to non-Christians and people who had left the church than the more “traditional” style previously dominant. This may or may not have been true, and even if it were true was not necessarily the best strategy. In this context singing the Psalms a capella in meter would be seen as the opposite of missional or intelligible to the secular world.

The missional approach to rock music in worship assumes either a Positive World or Neutral World Christianity, at least as far as the unchurched go. There was a cultural assumption of general familiarity to Christianity and its worship, and the modern music choice would stand in contrast to more “dated” approaches, which the broader society would be at least acquainted. That’s no longer the case. The western world has become so estranged from Christianity and the work of the church that worshiping with rock or pop music in an imitation concert is just as alien as worshipping exclusively with unaccompanied psalms. Employing the historic, pre-“traditional” forms of Protestant worship could even be understood as more deep and authentic by the non-Christian than the concerts that are more prevalent, as RPCNA, RCUS, and URCNA churches have discovered.

Singing the Psalms provides a more robust, well-rounded access into scripture and the Christian life than any other kind of singing. With the missional objections evaporated with the advent of the post-Christian world, there is no reason not to be singing the Psalms often and loudly.