To Sing or Not To Sing

I still remember visiting a church in the mid 1980’s. What stands out in my memory is what I saw in their songbooks. As I flipped through the pages I saw a number of songs had been stamped with a bold, red message: “Unscriptural Song: Do Not Sing.”

While I cannot remember all the songs that had been marked, I do recall “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” was one.

Since this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this and I was curious about what could possibly be considered unscriptural about this particular song, I approached a friend of mine who was a member of the church to inquire. He expressed surprise that I would even ask about that song because it was “filled with false doctrine.”  When I asked him to be specific about the doctrinal problems included in this particular song, he unloaded.

“This song encourages people to directly address Jesus.  We are supposed to talk to God the Father in the name of Jesus. Never are we commanded to talk to Jesus.”

My intention is not to debate his response; in fact, I will just leave it right there for you to consider.

But I will tell you I remembered that “Do Not Sing” stamp this morning. The memory was triggered as I found myself singing, “I want to be a worker for the Lord. I want to love and trust his Holy Word. I want to sing and pray and be busy everyday in the kingdom of the Lord.”

I am not sure why that song came to mind this morning, but it did.  As I thought about the words I was singing I remembered that red stamp and thought for a moment that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for being a worker for the Lord;. I am in favor of singing and prayer and trusting. But I cringed at the words:  “be busy everyday.”

Busy? Everyday?

I am convinced that we have neglected God’s teaching about Sabbath and rest. I am concerned that constant “busyness” is causing untold problems in the church — even killing the relationship some have with God. Do we really want to be busy everyday? What about days or seasons of rest? Have we forgotten this is a major emphasis in scripture?

So where can I get one of those stamps?  I’m gonna climb up there and stamp that screen.

How 728b Opened My Eyes

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.”

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.

A Heart Overflowing

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts” (Colossians 3:16-17).

If you know me at all you know that I am passionate about blended worship. I am not a fan of the philosophy of some churches to target a specific group and cater to their every whim. A few weeks ago I attended an assembly at Skyline that just filled my heart to overflowing with thanksgiving and praise to God.

It was a Sunday night. The teens were presenting a special program about their experiences at Camp Barnabas so I was not participating in an upfront way in this assembly. I got to sit back with my family, which was especially exciting in that Laura was home for a couple of weeks.

Lourene, Laura and I ended up sitting about three rows behind a couple of our dear octogenarian sisters.

For the assembly Jeff selected a couple of songs from our Hungry for God song book, songs really popular with our young people and songs that really captured the essence of the ministry that was the evening’s theme. I was lost in the worship until in the middle of one of these upbeat, contemporary songs of praise my attention was momentarily diverted to the older sisters sitting in front of us.

Both of them were on their feet with their heads back and were singing their hearts out!

You know, they could have been sitting there with their arms crossed, fuming that we were singing new songs that “nobody knows.” Instead, they were singing their hearts out in praise to God. And in so doing, they filled my heart to overflowing with thanksgiving to God.

I still can close my eyes right now and see the image of them singing. I am so thankful for the sweet, sweet Spirit I can see living within these dear sisters. I have a heart overflowing.

Top 10 Songs

The CCLI (the company that gives churches a license to print or project songs) website recently reported the top 25 songs reported by USA churches in their reports of songs used in February 2005.

Here’s the top 10 —

  1. Here I am to Worship
  2. Open The Eyes of My Heart
  3. Lord I Lift Your Name on High
  4. Shout to the Lord
  5. Come Now is The Time to Worship
  6. You Are My King
  7. Forever
  8. God of Wonders
  9. You Are My All in All
  10. Breath

At Skyline we have sung 7 of the top 10 and 15 of the top 25, not bad at all for a church committed to a blended worship style. I look forward to learning the rest of these songs and using them as tools to worship our Almighty God. Thanks, Jeff, for sharing this info with me!

Follow this link to see the rest of the USA list and lists from other countries – http://www.ccli.com/WorshipResources/Top25.cfm

As Good Friends Do

Last week as I helped prepare songs for our evening praise and worship time I noticed something interesting about the lyrics of My God and I.

First, let me say I have been blessed by this song through the years. I remember singing My God and I when in chapel at Memphis Harding Academy back in the early seventies. What a beautiful picture of fellowship and intimacy with God. Walking. Talking. Clasping hands. Voices ringing with laughter.

But last week I noticed that at some point the lyrics had been changed. Remember that line: “My God and I will go for aye together, we’ll walk and talk as good friends should and do.” The original (as I understand it) words were these: “My God and I will go for aye together, we’ll walk and talk and jest as good friends do.”

Jest. Jesting with God — being playful, amusing, or frolicing. That word just takes this friendship with God concept to a whole new level. What a blessing: to be God’s friend!

  • Before their sin Adam and Eve enjoyed walking with God in the garden (Genesis 3:8-10).
  • Moses and God would speak face to face, like friends (Exodus 33:12)
  • 3 times Abraham is called God’s friend (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23)

Through the years I have learned that My God and I does more than paint a sweet picture of fellowship. It accurately portrays what life in Jesus, walking with God, is really like. The bond. The closeness. The friendship. The security.

“This earth will pass, and with it common trifles, but God and I will go unendingly.”