No More New Hymns?
“Please! No more new hymns. What’s wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it’s to worship God, not be distracted with learning a new hymn. Last Sunday’s was particularly unnerving. While the text was good, the tune was quite unsingable and the harmonies were quite discordant.”
This quote is from a letter written in 1890. The hymn that aroused the complaint: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
It is so interesting to see the progression of music down through history. Musical style has always been on the move, changing from one generation to the next, and it doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. Music was created by God to be used in the worship of His name, and it is clear that this purpose is timeless (Eph. 5:18-20, Col. 3:16, Rev. 5:9). We are admonished five different times in the Scripture to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Ps. 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 149:1, Is. 42:10). He desires us to write new hymns and songs as testimony to the ongoing work of the Spirit in our day. The point does not seem to be that the old ones were not good enough (just look at the Psalms themselves) but that God is doing a fresh work today in the lives of His people of which we should remember and celebrate through song.
If our new songs are full of God’s revealed truth as well as our testimonies of interaction with that truth then you and I should look forward to our next new song. Understanding the biblical purpose of music in our worship services will free us from the trap of a performance mindset that will rarely be satisfied. If we are looking for “my song” or “my style” then we are looking for a performance. But if we are looking to see the body of Christ worship and be built up in the faith through song we will begin to look for and forward to “our song” as we sing congregationally.
I desire and pray that the testimony of Calvary Baptist Church will always be that we are a people of the Word; and no matter what musical styles may come and go, we will be united in Jesus Christ never to be divided by anything less. So, as we sing the oldest of songs to the newest of songs may we praise the Lord that He has accomplished much in the past and is still at work in the present.