Songs We Sing

Written by Drew on July 24th, 2006

The poets who write songs for worship are as prolific as ever. In fact, the church is embracing new songs at a rate that publishers have trouble keeping up with. Hymnals released ten years ago are already out of date.

But how do these new songs compare with the old standards? For the most part, they accomplish the goal of praising God, but I fear they lack the depth of the old hymns we have sung for so long.

For example, our young people like to sing,

I stand to praise You
But I fall on my knees;
My spirit is willing
But my flesh is so weak.

What do we learn? Not much. The sentimentality is so thick, we have trouble finding the substance. It’s not that the song is unscriptural (cf. Mt. 26:41). It just seems that the composer put very little thought into his words.

Another sample:

O God, You are my God,
And I will ever praise You.
O God, You are my God,
And I will ever praise You.
I will seek You in the morning,
And I will learn to walk in Your ways.
And step by step You’ll lead me,
And I will follow You all of my days.

Compare those words with a hymn composed by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225:

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

The song figuratively portrays mankind singing praises to God, along with the radiant sun, rushing winds and flowing water. It closes with the doctrine of the Trinity. This was a praise song meant not only to exalt, but also to instruct.

Here’s another example from arguably the greatest hymn writer in the churches of Christ, Tillet S. Teddlie:

Earth holds no treasures but perish with using,
However precious they be;
Yet there’s a country to which I am going:
Heaven holds all to me.

Those are encouraging words taken right out of Matthew 6:19-21. I had the pleasure of meeting brother Teddlie before his death in 1987. He was blind by that time, and confined to a nursing home in Gunter, Texas, but, even as a boy, I remember being left with the impression that this was a man who possessed a great depth of soul. His songs bear that out.

The songs we sing in worship to God are supposed to “address one another” (Eph. 5:19). They are meant to “teach and admonish” (Col. 3:16). We should judge our hymns and praise songs by more than a good tune.

I’m not saying we should do away with everything composed after 1985. That is not my point at all. It’s good to incorporate new songs into our worship services, as long as they are scriptural, edifying and informative. However, let’s not neglect the old standards in the process. We can still learn from them.

 

14 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jason J. says:

    Personally, I like most of the older songs simply for the fact that we are more familiar with them.

    I also enjoy learning the new ones. I know many that I’ve never heard in our brotherhood. There are so many out there that have wonderful lyrics, but noone has attempted to make them part of the service.

    Newer songs seem to have more of an emphasis on our praise to God than the older songs. The older songs seem to tell a story or give encouragement to us as we are on our spiritual journey.

    To be honest, I would rather not sing: “Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder…” or “… here I raise my Ebenezer”.

    I guess the question is: Is our purpose for singing to “address one another” and “teach and admonish” or are we trying to please God with our praise in song to Him?

    Your thoughts?

  2. almcfaughn says:

    Drew,

    I agree with your ideas that we should not avoid new songs, but that we should also not neglect older ones. We should sing all the songs we can that are Scriptural.

    At the 9th Avenue church of Christ, we meet each Sunday evening at 5:30 for singing class. We learn “new” songs during this time. I am continually amazed at how many times we are learning songs that were written in the 1700s, 1800s or 1900s. We learn very few “really new” songs.

    As one wise older member of the Lord’s Body told me a while ago, we each bring different backgrounds, experiences and loves, so we should each bring our experiences in different songs. It is one of the things that truly brings different people together–our love of singing.

    As always, great work. Keep it up.

  3. Drew Kizer says:

    Jason: Our purpose for singing is twofold, both to teach one another and to praise God. This is detailed in Colossians 3:16. First Paul says we are to “teach and admonish” one another with our songs in worship. But in the second place, the idea of praise is inherent in the word “hymn,” not to mention he wraps the verse up saying, “singing…with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

    Adam: You’re right. It’s our personal experiences that decide our favorite songs. Lately, my favorite has been “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee.” I’ve been singing that song for years, but at this point in my life it has come alive in my heart.

    By the way, Adam is one of the best song leaders in the church. He has a great voice and an impressive knowledge about hymns. Not long ago, Adam conducted a survey at his home congregation in Haleyville, Alabama, over that church’s 99 favorite songs. Every week, they get together and sing through the list. Keep up with it on their website.

  4. Paul says:

    You’re right about some “newer” songs lacking depth. It’s important to pay attention to the words of our songs not just the melody, something that is easy to be weak at.

    Drew, there is a web-log ring for Church of Christ blogs. Check it out at: http://p.webring.com/hub?ring=churchofchristw1. There are only 8 on their now, but I hope others will join to build it up.

  5. The Berean Examiner says:

    You bought up a very good point.

    I would love to go to Adam’s congregation one Sunday and sing with them. That would be fun.

    Do you know of any other congregation that can sing well?

  6. rhill0611 says:

    I believe that one of the things we sometimes miss is that as song leaders and the congregations are being presented with newer song choices we must be more diligent as song leaders to choose songs that the majority know. Of course, at times you will choose one not so recognizable. My personal rule of thumb that I try to abide to but not always successful is if I have not heard it during regular worship within the past six months at my regular congregation then the song choice would be best suited for a time of learning ie: Wednesday nights or any other nights designated by the elders of that congregation. I do not believe that the new testament scriptures reference solos as acceptable during congregational periods.

  7. The Berean Examiner says:

    Why do you “not believe that the new testament scriptures reference solos as acceptable during congregational periods.”?

  8. The Berean Examiner says:

    So, brothers and sisters, what should you do? When you meet together, ONE PERSON HAS A SONG, another has a teaching,and another has a new truth from God. One person speaks in a different language, and another interprets that language. The purpose of whatever you do should be to help everyone grow stronger in faith.
    (1 Cor 14:26)

  9. Joshua Haley says:

    Another reason solos are not acceptable is found in Col. 3.16- Paul commands what we sing “one to another”, and therefore solos are out. We all sing and admonish one another, a reflexive reciprocal pronoun. This is yet another reason why chiors and praise teams are unauthorized.

    My two cents.

  10. Anonymous says:

    1 Corinthians 14 is in the context of the practice of spiritual gifts in special gatherings of the first century church. The chapter begins, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts,….” Verse 26 speaks of the divinely given miraculous gifts of a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, and an interpretation of the language. The next verse governs the practice of speaking in tongues miraculously. Since the miraculous age ceased with the coming of “the perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10), the church can no longer have assemblies like that discussed in 1 Corinthians 14. Therefore, the passage cannot possibly justify the singing of solos in today’s assemblies.

  11. Kevin W. Rhodes says:

    I agree that the miraculous nature of the assemblies mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 cannot occur in the same manner today, but that does not make that material meaningless. The problem with what was referred to regarding everyone having a song was that he missed the point that chapter fourteen is emphasizing the roles and responsibilities of leading in worship. Rather than referring to a person singing a solo in worship, this text referred to the person choosing and leading a song, just as it referred to people who would lead prayer and would lead thoughts in study. The context was the responsibilities of the worship leader and the limitations placed upon them.

    I agree that solos are not authorized; however, I do not believe discounting three chapters of the Bible is the reason why.

  12. Anonymous says:

    1 Corinthians 12-14 should never be discounted. There are too many great, valuable, and eternal principles given there for our understanding and compliance.

    Though different, we are one (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
    We are baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
    Self-deprecation is wrong (1 Cor. 12:15-16).
    Deprecation of others is wrong (1 Cor. 12:21).
    Love is important as a motivator (1 Cor. 13).
    Though miracles have ceased (1 Cor. 13:10), faith, hope, and love last (1 Cor. 13:13).
    We must worship with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15).
    All things (especially worship) must be conducted in an orderly fashion (1 Cor. 14:40).
    All things must be done for edifying (1 Cor. 14:26), etc., etc.

    Likewise, the Old Testament is filled with principles that are useful to us today though the specifics of the Law of Moses are not to be applied.

    Therefore, the presence of the principles does not demand the observance of specific instructions that are given for the practice of spiritual gifts.

    There is nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians 14 that tells that verse 26 is a reference to worship leaders. Verse 20 addresses “brothers” in general, including sisters, as does verse 26. Verse 23 speaks of the whole church, and verse 27 says, “If any speak….”

    According to 1 Corinthians 12, individual members of the early church were given one gift each to help in the growth of the body, and these were brought to special assemblies by those Christians (1 Cor. 14:26). That kind of assembly we cannot have today, because we do not have spiritual gifts today. To say that is not to discount 1 Corinthians 12-14 at all.

  13. The Berean Examiner says:

    Okay, Let’s go back and reread that again

    “So, brothers and sisters, what should you do? When you meet together, ONE PERSON HAS A SONG, another has a teaching,and another has a new truth from God. One person speaks in a different language, and another interprets that language. The purpose of whatever you do should be to help everyone grow stronger in faith.
    (1 Cor 14:26)

    Basic Reading Test Time:(This is an open book test)
    Fill in the blanks.
    ______ ________ ____ A SONG.

    Is it this right. “A group of people have a song”? No, that is wrong. This is the correct answer. “EACH PERSON HAS A SONG”.

    If plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.

    Okay, now let’s read that again.

    “So, brothers and sisters, what should you do? When you meet together, ONE PERSON HAS A SONG, another has a teaching,and another has a new truth from God. One person speaks in a different language, and another interprets that language. The purpose of whatever you do should be to help everyone grow stronger in faith.
    (1 Cor 14:26)

  14. Anonymous says:

    It seems not to have occurred to you that Paul, in this context, is actually rebuking the Corinthian brethren for their abuse of various spiritual gifts. Isn’t it interesting that you are so unable to find sanction for choirs/solos, etc. that you are seeking authority in a rebuke?

    The Berean Novice would be a better moniker.

Leave a Comment