If you have been around Churches of Christ very long, the number/letter combination “728b” probably means something to you. Our God, He Is Alive, often referred to as the “national anthem of churches of Christ” was number 728b in the Songs of the Church songbook.
Back in the day a song leader didn’t even have to announce the title. When the number was announced, the congregation didn’t have to turn to the page to know the title. All that needed to happen was for the song leader to simply say “728b.” The reaction from the congregation was usually audible and instantaneous. “728b” elicited palpable excitement throughout the assembly.
But I remember Our God, He Is Alive before it became “728b.” I didn’t hear it at my first church home. I heard it at school. I heard it at another congregation I visited. I heard it at college gatherings. My first church home used the venerable old hymnal Christian Hymns III. Trust me when I tell you that Christian Hymns III did not include Our God, He Is Alive under “728b” or any other number.
And then one day I discovered that you could buy inexpensive, gummed sheet music of Our God, He Is Alive that easily could be pasted into the back of Christian Hymns III or any other book.
So with great excitement I approached a couple of the elders to tell them about my discovery. I expected them to be thrilled to hear the good news. We could sing the song, too! I was shocked when their response was, “Well, we need to meet about this and make sure it is scriptural.”
I wondered, “How could there possibly be any question about a song as good as Our God, He Is Alive?”
Please understand, this was my first church home. I respected the elders and ministers. In fact, I knew that they were right about everything. After all, they said so. And if you didn’t think they were, they could present an argument in the form of a syllogism to convince you. And they pledged, if they were ever proved wrong about something, to immediately repent so they could be 100% right before God.
I believed them.
And then the next Sunday the minister approached me and said we needed to talk.
“The elders told me you want to paste that new song in the back of our hymnal.”
“Yes, it’s a wonderful song!”
“Well, did you know it was written by somebody in the ‘anti-cooperation’ church of Christ? It would send the wrong message if we sang that song. The answer is ‘no,’ and please do not ask again.”
That day I knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
That day I began realizing that everything was not 100% perfect at that church.
That day the scales fell off my eyes. And as the scales fell, I began a new season of searching.
A lot of people have special memories of “728b.” The catchy tune. The inspiring words. That wonderful bass line.
But for me, it was the song that opened my eyes.
I will always be grateful.