By Bill Spaans
Music, and particularly singing, has been a part of the life of the church since ancient times. In fact, many of the Psalms were written to be sung. In Old Testament times there was a practical reason for this. Most people could not read or write, so God’s word was passed on by word of mouth. And of course, a great way to remember anything is to put it to song!
Today however we are blessed to have writing to convey God’s word to us. So why do we still sing? For one thing music is an enjoyable pastime. Through music we can express pretty much any human emotion – joy, hope, praise, awe, fear, and you name it. But another important reason is that the Bible tells us to! Ephesians 5:18b – 20 says:
“–be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, what are some of the attributes of a great Christian song, whether that be a hymn or a chorus? I am going to suggest a few – and perhaps you can think of others as well.
- The text from Ephesians quoted above tells us that the song should be “filled with the Spirit” and that it should be “from the Spirit”. The best Christians songs are therefore those that the Spirit wells up in our hearts in praise or worship of our Almighty God – songs such as “Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation”. Singing back scriptures can also be particularly meaningful. For example, the hymn “The Lord’s My Shepherd”, based on Psalm 23 or the chorus “Unto Thee O Lord”, based on Psalm 30.
- Secondly, they should be God focused, not man focused. “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound” is a great hymn because it focuses completely on what God has done for us – His saving graces. However, in my opinion “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a good example of a bad hymn. It is all about what I will do rather than on what God has done for me!
- And thirdly, they should be singable, having a good melody. And they should be meaningful, lifting our hearts and our minds in worship and praise. I love most hymns, but I do find that if they are sung at too slow a pace, they threaten to put me to sleep! For me, a great hymn should have some energy in it! In my opinion even great hymns such as “Amazing Grace” can become boring if they are sung slowly.
So, with this devotional Danielle Lee and I would like to start a series of reflections on the great songs of the church, both hymns and choruses. And we need your help! Please let us know of a hymn or a chorus that you love, and why you love it, and we will do our best to feature it in an upcoming newsletter devotion.