The new 'Joyful Noise' - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The new 'Joyful Noise'

August 5, 2002

Christian rock and pop music is hot property. Every year, sales of contemporary music outpace the year before, and its popularity is finding its way inside churches. Here in Southwest Georgia, youth groups are getting into the groove, worshipping God in a new way.

The weather is threatening outside the Gillionville Baptist Church in Albany. But, the weather isn't putting a damper to a different kind of celebration inside. "No, we use to sing the old Baptist hymnals, I remember them," said Morrell McCaskill.

 The traditional hymns have been put away in place of new, fresher, Christian rock music at "Common Ground", a Wednesday night youth worship service. "It really helps me worship the way I like to worship. Not to say the boring hymns are boring, but it helps you worship God the way we feel like we need to worship," said Amanda Farmer.

Leading the flock of more than 40 teenagers is Jonathan Haefs, a teen himself. The 18-year-old felt a calling to minister to God, and he knew that blending contemporary sounds with a traditional message had a long heritage in Christian music. "These guys who wrote the hymns often did was go into bars and get familiar bar tunes and rewrite the words. This was contemporary music of their day to attract people inside. So we kind of use the same principle."

This principle of using a familiar sound to spread the message of God is working. Here at "Common Ground", attendance is up by nearly 400%, and teens say their parents are supportive. "They're not cool with the really heavy stuff. They like a lot of what's played here tonight. But they say if that's how you want to worship, worship that way, don't force it on me."

"Some of it's a little wild for me, but my kid's enjoy it." Rhonda Dial is a mom two teenaged kids, who both participate in Byne Memorial Baptist Church's youth group. "All my friends are Christians, we all listen to Christian music, it's really accepted now."

Here, the youth group doesn't have a Christian rock band, but still uses popular music to worship God. Posters of Christian pop and rock stars wallpaper the room, and music videos play on the big screen TV. "The Bible tells us we should do anything we can to share the gospel. The scripture says I become all things to all people in hopes of winning just one."

The music is winning more than one, the teens say they are listening to Christian rock music outside of church, and their non-church friend's like it.

"They respond a lot more than I think they would simply cause its up to beat with the new stuff today." And keeping up with the beat is proving to be important in keeping teens interested in church.

"But there are some kids it is reaching and some students here that and say its not just nerdy old church music its something I can relate too."

Both the Byne Memorial and Gillionville Baptist Church youth groups meet Wednesday nights at seven.