We see commands throughout the New Testament to sing to the Lord. But why? Why sing instead of just reading a poem or reciting scripture? There is something unique about singing that can inspire us in a way that mere speaking cannot. It’s a feeling we understand better than we can put into words. There is an intimacy and a personal connection in singing.
I’m a music teacher by profession and I’ve come to appreciate that when it comes to music, people like what they know. Someone that listens exclusively to the Top 40 is not especially open-minded to country & western or classical music. I mention this because many congregations today are facing the question of what to do with all the new songs for the church. To some they sound different from the kind of hymns they know. To others, they are embraced as sounding more like today’s familiar music. What to do? What to do?
To those that are less than enthusiastic about incorporating some of the new songs into your worship, I offer these thoughts. Be patient. Take some time to become familiar with the songs. Remember, musically, we like what we know. These songs may not sound like much the first time they’re sung at church because most of the congregation is singing “by ear” and can’t join in yet. You’re first impression may be that they’re too hard. Trust me. If you can sing “Paradise Valley” and “A New Song”, you can easily handle these. Most are far less complex musically. (Since my husband’s eyes glaze over when I try to be specific about this, I won’t bore you with the details.) Many of the new songs even return to a more traditional style from centuries past. If you’re over 50, appreciate the fact that a significant percentage of the songs in our old books are the “new songs” from your youth. Why deprive today’s youth of the songs that encourage them the most?
To those that anxiously want to add today’s newer songs into our worship, I offer these thoughts. Be patient. Try to remember what it’s like to be introduced to something new that you feel apprehensive about. Appreciate fellow brothers and sisters that want to “check out” the scriptural soundness of lyrics. Don’t fail to see the beauty of the past. One of my favorite new songs is “Exalted”, but I would never trade it for the 17th century hymn, “O Sacred Head”. Both depict Christ’s sacrifice on the cross with beautiful harmonies and moving lyrics. You’ll notice that we don’t sing all the songs in our older songbooks. Some songs that were newer at the time of publication simply didn’t stand the test of time. However, we have a rich heritage of centuries of hymns that have stood that test.
Let’s consider embracing the old with the new. Having trouble staying focused on what’s really important in life, sing “This World Is Not My Home” and “Servant’s Song”. Trials getting you down, sing “It Is Well With My Soul” and “How Long Till The Morning?”.