A New Song... To Sing
“A New Song…” To Sing
As our hearts yearn for deeper ways to express our devotion to God, we seek out rich songs to help in that endeavor. There tends to be an aversion to new songs, but every song was at one time a new song. How Great Thou Art was new once and so was A Mighty Fortress. Just because it has been around for several hundred years, doesn’t change the fact that they were unknown at some point. How Great Thou Art was originally a poem composed by Swedish hymn writer Carl Boberg in 1885. The version most Christians are familiar with was a paraphrase of the original done by Stuart Kine in 1949. What if the people of 1950 had a strong distaste for any new song? You and I would never have heard the lyrics, “O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made…” What a travesty!
There is value in new songs. The reason most older songs are better is because Christians had a few decades, or hundred years, to cull the stinkers out. You never hear about a bad song from the 1880s because the people of the early 1900s quit putting it in their hymnals. This process shouldn’t put us off of new songs, but it should remind us to not love one just because it is new. Allow the vetting process to take its course. There are some incredible songs we never sing. Some brand new, some very old, some complex (theologically and musically), some less so — we must seek a balance. When I was younger I didn’t appreciate the simple repetitive “echo” structure. Humble Yourself is one of my least favorite songs. Musically it is simple and its message conveys very little. As I became a father and have sought to instill a love for the Lord and singing to my children, these simple songs have found a deeper purpose in my life. They are a great way to help train a child to sing “their” part. By contrast, the music can still be simple, but the message complex. God Is So Good is one of the simplest songs we sing and yet it expresses a thought provoking message. Jesus Loves Me is simple musically and yet teaches a variety of complex thoughts: love of God, the authority of Scripture, faithful allegiance to God.
A good hymn service must seek balance between these two things: shallow and deep. The songs we sing are a reflection of what we believe and feel about God. We cannot afford to think of God in a mere shallow way. The emphasis must always be on what the song expresses; the words employed. It is fine to express our devotion and teaching in simple terms, but we can’t always do that. If that is all we are ever teaching in our music, we are failing abysmally. By the same token, if all we ever sing are those deep and challenging songs, those younger in the faith are going to be lost in every song service. We must find that perfect balance. Singing cannot be a simple exercise of emotionalized worship devoid of deep thought, but full of pretty sound. It also can’t be some complex exercise of unemotional worship in deepest thought. It has to balance them both, by being thought provoking and emotionally engaging. After all, our worship is bidirectional: vertical to God, horizontal to one another. May we find a (good) new song to sing.