Church Life Personal Conviction
Andrew Brown

Singing New Songs

Much has been said on this topic and I don’t wish to cover well-worn trails. My wife and I are marvelously blessed by the Lord to be among saints who can really sing well.

I love music. I remember a televangelist said once that music is a gift from God. It truly is. I love to hear well performed music. I love to sing songs that glorify and praise the Lord. I love it when the saints are on pitch and in harmony exalting God! I love to hear my children sing songs of praise and songs about the Lord, even if they don’t know or understand all of the lyrics yet.

I get the impression from reading Acts and Corinthians that when the early church sang, a lot of the time it was an overflow of the heart, and songs just burst forth-the group singing together.

Music bonds us together. Singing together bonds us even more so.

Will it Work? Challenges of New & Old Songs

Let’s suppose you want to sing more modern songs. Maybe you want to prevent the loss of young saints to other churches where modern songs are sung. Maybe you feel a little variety would be an improvement over singing a song with frequent use of Thy or Thou.

Let’s suppose you want to sing only older songs. Maybe you fear compromise on music is a slippery slope. Maybe you feel trying to get the saints to sing a modern hymn or even chorus would be like fingernails on a chalk-board.

Not every old or new song is going to work in church. Not everyone has the vocal ability to sing every song, nor can all of us read music. For example: Handel’s Messiah. I love the opening baritone solos but I can’t quite pull them off. I love the alto parts of He Was Despised,  but I won’t ask my wife to sing it.

Any piece that has a four bar instrumental is going to feel very awkward unless you have skilled musicians. Any piece that is written as a solo isn’t going to work well for a group to sing unless it’s rewritten.

In full disclosure, we have on occasion stopped singing a song that we didn’t know and elected for a brother to read the lyrics rather than continue to grind through it. While the song, written in 1870s, had tremendous lyrics, we just didn’t know the tune and sight reading wasn’t really an option that day.

Finding Common Ground

Here are some things your assembly could do to bridge that generational and preferential gap.

-Host a hymn sing in a home. Spend time to just learn and sing hymns together. If we know the songs, we can join in!

-Share links to modern songs. Several brothers, knowing my background, shared links to modern songs via email, YouTube, and other social media with me. What a blessing! I got to hear the songs done well the first time!

-Practice new and old hymns. In our somewhat new assembly we saw that the newest song in our hymnal was written 20 years before almost half of the assembly was born. So one of the brothers came up with a song book. We paid for the legal rights to reprint the words and music, then assembled a book of more modern songs. I still don’t know all the songs, and we collectively still have some awkward solos while the group gets the hang of the tune. But we’re working on it.

-Share old and new hymns in outreach. Our assembly has done a choral outreach to one of the assisted living centers nearby. We sang a few songs from our regular hymnal and a few modern songs, all in wonderful four-part harmony.

-Focus on the lyrics and theological content. A great way to bridge the gap is to focus on the lyrics and theological content – not as a point of division and debate but as an opportunity to nurture and disciple the body. I literally wept buckets, after typing out the lyrics of hymns like: Name of Jesus, Highest Name, It is Well With my Soul, Only in Thee, We Have an Anchor, and O God of Matchless Grace. The same is true for How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, 10,000 Reasons, In Christ Alone, My Lighthouse, Sparrows, Take Me as I Am.

The End Goal

The point in all of these measures is not to be modern for the sake of being modern. It is to bond together through music, as we offer our best praise to the God who loves us. It is to lift up one unified voice, in harmonious singing that glorifies God, not us.

Not every modern song is going to compare with an Amazing Grace. Not every older hymn has lyrics as theologically correct as How Deep the Father’s Love.

But, to dismiss all modern or all older songs is foolish.

Let’s agree that the saint that doesn’t like your style of music is still a saint. The living God sent His Son to die for that soul, and they, like you and I, have believed it to be truth. And let’s work to find some musical middle ground.

Andrew Brown


  1. Avatar

    Yes, what’s important in a song/hymn is its content, how much it agrees and portrays the inerrant truth of the bible and not just whether it is old or new.
    Thanks a lot bother Andrew.


  2. Avatar

    One of the key things in all singing is having some one who can and will lead us in singing the song. Many modern songs ARE NOT singable in the Churches including the modern ones I’ve been to. You get a band playing and singing the songs themselves and now it is just entertainment and not Worship. That’s not leading nor is it beneficial to the Saints learning to sing it. So yo learn to try to “rock back and forth” a little bit trying to get into the groove as it were of the song. And then you can’t even figure out the groove. I’ve listened to many a song both modern and old that simply cannot be sung unless someone actually leads it who CAN sing it. Then you will get songs that only the leader can sing and the congregation is silent because they can’t sing it. I am far from musically inclined but I know when a song is being sung wrong. Some song leaders actually frustrate me when they call back to the sound man to cut the mic please or push the mic away. Man up and lead the singing or don’t get up there! You are the song LEADER and we are the followers. You definitely do not want me to raise my voice in an attempt to get the people singing the correct verse when the actual leader doesn’t start the verse. You’ll hear ME and several others struggling along to be singing the correct words because we don’t know where the leader is going!
    I laugh when people mention amazing Grace as a great song. We sing it to an OLD BAR
    TUNE! and so with other songs. There are many get newer songs that need to be written so the leader can lead it. Many modern songs repeat several parts of the song over and over again, throw in bridges, and then in odd places you sing parts that weren’t sung in the song there a minute ago or there is a key change suddenly, or the music stops, and picks up via another note. Where are the men and women who can write the songs and other men and women who come up with such great music notes and chords to go to those words. What we need to do is teach our young people all parts of the local Church. Teach them how to actually lead a song, rewrite a song to make it singable, rewrite a tune to make it singable, etc. We need some young people who instead of getting mad an just leave to be humble and stick it out. We need some older men who are willing to realize we didn’t use pianos for years and just like the organ it will soon be replaced in the church with other instruments. There ain’t no reason to say we can’t use a guitar, or a trumpet. As long as it gives the saints the ability to sing the song and I DEFER TO GOD’S WORD FOR A NEW SONG!
    Psa_33:3  Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.
    Psa 96:1  O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth. 
    Psa_98:1  A Psalm. O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.
    Psa_144:9  I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.
    Psa_149:1  Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.
    Isa_42:10  Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth,
    Rev_5:9  And they sung a new song,


  3. Avatar

    I was glad to see you say ” Focus on the lyrics and the theological content”! And then I was surprised to see you say you wept buckets over “My Lighthouse” unless I misunderstood.
    The metaphor is all wrong. A lighthouse does not move, so you can’t follow it. There are no lighthouses in the middle of the ocean so you can’t see one if you are lost at sea. Lighthouses warn you to stay away from rocks. Occasionally, if you happen to be close to shore you may use the lighthouse as a familiar landmark. But all this is redundant with today’s gps based navigation.

    So let’s be cautious in assigning new and unbiblical names to our Lord.

    Yes you are right …we need to watch the lyrics!


    • Avatar

      Hi Abraham. I think you miss the point of the analogy. It’s not the lighthouse they are following but the light. If you are in a dark storm it’s not a stretch for someone to say “Follow the light.” It’s the light that guides the ship in. The concept of a lighthouse a the light being synonymous is common.


      • Avatar

        The lyrics go – My lighthouse, my lighthouse
        Shining in the darkness. I will follow You..Why not just leave it at My Light??

        Out of curiosity I googled synonyms for LIGHT and I came across – illumination, brightness, luminescence, luminosity, shining, gleaming, gleam, brilliance, radiance, lustre, glowing, glow, blaze, glare, dazzle, a source of illumination, especially an electric lamp, lamp, torch, flashlight; headlight, headlamp, sidelight; standard lamp, wall light; street light, floodlight; lantern, candle, taper, beacon…a light bulb

        Wouldnt it be a poor choice of word to call Jesus a light bulb?? Or any of the other synonyms? Why not simply stick to what Jesus said in John 8:12..I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD…why would i ever need to use any synonyms when he said it all in that word?


Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.