Recently I was cleaning out some old files and ran across some music books and song-sheets from the 1970s. That was my college and seminary decade. I had lost track of all these things, and I was delighted when I found them again. A couple of pieces particularly stood out as I looked over the torn and tattered dog-eared sheets.

One was written by David Yantis, a worship leader from that bygone era. It was a Eucharistic song entitled “Sacred Mystery,” sung to a tune that sounds vaguely traditional (I can’t quite place it). The other was, as far as I know, anonymous. It was “Shout Out Your Joy,” a bright Easter song that promised peace and freedom from fear because “the Lord, he is with us again.”

I told my wife about these songs as we sat on the front porch one evening. “They’re so heavy theologically, unlike so much praise music today,” I said. “They’re drinking Kool-Aid®,” was her response.

“Huh? What do you mean?” “Kool-Aid® just tastes good. It has no nutritional value.” She bought a package later in the week, and sure enough, there’s nothing in Kool-Aid® but a little Vitamin C: no calories, no juice, no fat, no carbs, no caffeine. It’s colored, flavored sugar water.

How much praise and worship music today is just sugar water? And how many hymns as well from a bygone day, the sort that the typical churchgoer loves? As a campus minister, I’ve watched college students on the front row of a contemporary worship service. They’re just jamming along with the band, lost in the music. The singer could be spouting nonsense syllables—or heresy. When I was a pastor, I tried to get people to sing heavily theological songs that actually had something to do with today’s life. No dice. “Give me those old gospel songs that I grew up with, that make me feel good because they remind me of my childhood” was the near universal response.

When will the church, of whatever generation, grow up? The hymns and songs we sing are indicative of the maturity and depth of our belief, particularly our engagement with the world around us, our ability to deal with ambiguity and questions, and our orientation in time (whether to the past or the future). The Scriptures are clear: Jesus wants adults in faith (Ephesians 4:14-15).

So, what would Jesus drink?

© 2006 by Tom Cheatham