One thinks it’s time the song, “Give ome that old time religion,” is revised to include a new stanza which should read, “Give me those Good old songs /They are good enough for my God”.
The ‘Old time religion’ will take us back to the faith, once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The good old Christian songs should accompany this revival. These are needed to make the worship of our God completely glorofying and meaningfully edifying.
The Reigning Theology
The songs a people sing in their worship naturally reflects the theology of their time. That is their knowledge and understanding of who God is. It also shows the level of their experiences with God.
A call for the Old time religion says, let’s know and relate with God the way we ought to. The call to bring back those good old songs says let’s praise and worship God with songs worthy of Him. The Old time religion and the good old songs should go hand in hand. This however is not to say new songs are irrelevant. Neither is it a call to discourage creativity and innovations in worship. It is a call to stick to the old principles of worshipping God in truth and spirit, even in songs. We need songs that say we know and understand God correctly.
When They Sang
In the old time religion people sang about God and for God alone. People who walked with God and worshipped Him in songs viewed songs that way. No wonder God delighted in their praises, because the songs were all for His pleasure. The Psalms are full of calls to sing unto the Lord.
When God’s people expressed their appreciation of who God is; when they thanked Him for what He has done; when they praised Him for all He has shown of Himself; when they adore Him for the beauty of His holiness and majesty and when they marvelled at His awesomeness, they sang joyfully and reverently. They sang of His wonders in creation and in their lives. God was pleased, because His people recognized Him for who He is and for what He did.
When people sang they were understandably excited for they acknowledged also that their own joy, salvation, satisfaction, meaning, safety, deliverance, provisions and providences were all rooted in who God is and what He had done by His sovereign might alone. So their songs were all about God and for God. That was acceptable to both God and man. When people sang they were motivated and moved by the fact that God was at the centre of life itself.
When We Sing
As people in the old time religion sang from their understanding of God so do we singing from our understanding of God today. But our theology and theirs differs. They had a God who controls the universe and all the affairs of man. They revered Him in befitting songs. Today we have a God man controls. Ours is a theology that understands God who is there to be used and run errands for man. Ever heard of the God man uses, instead of the man God uses? In this regard it is not a surprise that most of our songs today are about man and for man. They are focused on man and his needs. But just as songs for and about God cannot avoid mentioning man; so also songs about man cannot avoid mentioning God. The difference is in the motives and the roles assigned each in the songs. The right choice is the one that represents the right theology which has God at the centre of life. If theology is about God, then the need for our time is to chose and sing songs that are about God and for Him alone.
Those Old Songs
There are those good old songs that have been tested over time to be inspired of God. Those who composed them experienced God in ways that showed they indeed met and knew God was in those experiences. Reading through and or hearing those songs rendered today one cannot but marvel at the depth of their experiences with God. Those songs take you right to the root of true worship of God in truth and in spirit. Reading the lyrics; you know those songs are biblical and reflects sound theology. Singing them bring you to an awareness of the presence of God. They make you sober, reflective, focused on God as the only reason and object of singing. Leaving the venue where such songs are sung one carries along the feelings of the presence of God.
Those good old songs are still around, preserved in hymnbooks: Sacred Songs and Solos; Redemption Hymns; Hymns Ancient and Modern; Golden Bells and those adapted by various Christian denominations as their hymnal or song books. There are also good hymns and songs composed by th early native African Christians which nonetheless reflect good theology and appreciates God for turning their dark world into the marvellous light of his dear Son, Jesus Christ. In some cases they adapted English songs and their tunes; in others they composed different lyrics with native tunes. In either case they are used to worship God for who is.
We Rejected Them
With the change from God-centred to man-centered theology that largely came with modern day Pentecostalism came the change in our songs of worship. We began to sing something else. We left the hymn books for short monotonous choruses. We began singing, dancing, clapping and amusing ourselves. These choruses, often repetitions of few words or lines work us up into frenzy. They appeal to our quest for entertainment and we are comfortable singing to ourselves and for ourselves.
Some of these short choruses merely make statements of intentions that are never carried out. It makes no sense, for example, if we say to God, ‘I will praise you’ and stop at that. We should be seen to be praising him with words that praise him. But if a song starts and ends with statement of intention we leave God in suspense, so to speak; expecting to hear us praise him. On the contrary the hymnbooks spell clearly words expressing the appropriate feelings and intentions of those who composed them.
Singing some of those choruses in themselves may not be wrong. After all, some of them contain scriptural verses or principles.The concern however, is that for some, their contents do not reflect a proper understanding of who God is, in addition to vain repetitions such as is found in pagan worships.
Unfortunately where those songs are sang are where the crowds troop to today. Now the practice is to sing what attracts the crowd to church. Aided by the use of modern and sophisticated musical instruments these meaningless songs are made to sound heavenly originated.
As it is, even churches who use to know the value of those soul uplifting and edifying hymns are abandoning them for noisy jamborees. They are copying what those churches that have abandoned the Old time faith are singing; in other to maintain their youthfull membership from being depleted.
The rejection of the hymns in today’s Christendom has telling effects on the faith. A distorted theology as observed brought about the rejection of the hymns. This in turn takes us farther away from knowing God. We rejected the hymns and called the congregations where those songs were sung as cold and lifeless churches. But what we thought made a worship service hot and a church living was actually and in most cases Christianised versions of pagan worship. Here getting high up (as in taking intoxicant and losing the senses) seem to be the goal. See where it has led us – congregations of worshippers that are ‘hot and living’ but irreverent and shallow in the knowledge of God.
Bring Them Back
If we must go back to the old time religion, we can’t afford to leave behind those old, good songs. We must return to both. Graciously, the means to returning are within reach. His word, the Bible is preserved for us as compass to find our ways back to God. The hymns are still there on the shelves of many Christians bookshops for pick. Church and Christians group leaderships should encourage and promote the use of hymnbooks in worship in the church, Christian fellowships, family devotions and individual times alone with God. Those hymns are still sound, meaningfull, edifying and good for sober and God glorifying worpship. Let’s go back to those good old hymns and the new ones that are composed from sound knowledge of God and His word.
Next to the Bible every Christian should have a hymnbook. The Bible will lead us back to God. Singing from good hymns will help revive our souls. The two build our faith and strengthen our Christian life.
Namani J. Nharrel, is a Christian worker based in North-central Nigeria. Reactions to his articles are welcome @firstname.lastname@example.org; or email@example.com