“Stop all the new music!!!” was what he was really saying.
One Sunday I attended a different church from my own to join my husband, John, who was filling in on the keyboards there that day. It was a church that had a history of using traditional music but was trying to work in some newer choruses. I ended up sitting next to a much older, gray-haired gentleman, and though we hadn’t spoken to each other beyond the friendly greeting, we ended up sharing a hymnal during a couple of songs. At the end of the service he turned and looked at me, and said, completely out of nowhere, “Do you know what two-thirds of the word contemporary is? <pause> Temporary!” I was completely stunned, since we hadn’t spoken at all before this. And in my bewildered state, I just replied, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and then we parted.
As far as I know, he couldn’t tell that I was married to the different keyboardist who obviously enjoyed playing the “contemporary” stuff. Maybe I sounded like I enjoyed singing the newer songs more than he liked. I don’t know. I just knew that it made no sense, since all songs are “contemporary” at the time of their writing and are obviously not all “temporary.” But beyond that, I knew that he missed out on a tremendous blessing by not having opened his heart and mind to the words that the worship leader was guiding us in.
N.T. Wright is described as “the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation” by Christianity Today. And when I recently saw this video where he shares his insights about the significance of singing new songs to the Lord, I knew I had to share it. Take a minute to watch this short but powerful video, and then continue reading.
God is still in the business of creating new things! And He wants to involve us so that we might bring Him more glory. How very exciting! How incredibly humbling!
In Psalm 40:3 David said,
“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” David’s new song came after God lifted him out of the “pit of destruction” (v.2).
It’s part of His continuing work in and through us that He wants all to see. It’s a good and necessary thing.
And in Psalm 149:1 the psalmist encourages us,
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.”
We should embrace new songs together as a sign and celebration of God’s continued work and faithfulness toward us. Why? Because He’s worthy, and because He’s asked us to!
Think about it – throughout the Bible God weaves His theme of newness.
“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And in the end of time?
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
So God has not hidden His delight in creating “new” in the least! He has a great passion for creating and redeeming.
Yet so many in the church seem reluctant to embrace and celebrate the new works, songs in particular for this conversation, that our creative God is giving to His people to share. I know there are worship leaders who could improve the frequency at which they introduce new songs, but there are still many people who buck even the occasional one – for various reasons. One thing is for sure – the enemy does not want us worshiping God at all, much less celebrating the new ways He’s working or revealing Himself. So the spiritual battle is very real. We should familiarize ourselves with the many Biblical passages that shed light on this somewhat divisive issue. Here are a few more (in case you still need convincing) . . .
“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy” (Psalm 33:3).
“O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him” (Psalm 98:1). I love the very clear answer to “Why?” in this verse!
“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation’” (Revelation 5:8-9).
According to Revelation 5:8-9, we can expect to hear and sing new songs at the ultimate worship service for all time! Now is not the time to get so comfortable with the old and current that we end up just mouthing words that we’ve sung for years. (I’ve been guilty of that.)
As our knowledge and our relationship with God grow, so should the depths of our worship expression, with new words, new insights, new melodies, and new expressions of adoration that He gives us. Sure, we’ll still have our older favorites. (So many great ones!) But we need to bring Him new gifts as well. I think God would surely delight at our own attempts at writing poems, songs, or letters of exaltation and adoration to Him. After all, Jesus is our Song (Psalm 118:14; Isaiah 12:2). And as we respond in worship to each new revelation or new blessing of grace, we sing His song!
So don’t be afraid to pour out your heart before Him in new ways. And delight in the songs He gives to others. Ask Him to help you to intimately worship with songs that are new to you. (He would love to answer that prayer!) He may just want them to be your new song, too.
How do you perceive people responding to new songs in your church? Has your view changed at all after reading these scripture passages?
Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss the ongoing conversation about worship!
NOTE: If you struggle to experience intimate worship at church when distractions like this come, you can receive my free eBook 4 Keys to Intimate Sunday Morning Worship by subscribing to this blog. Also, many of my insights here are taken from lesson nine in my Bible study, Worship and the Word. To learn more about what the Bible teaches about God’s plan for us as His worshipers, check out Worship and the Word or purchase it here.