Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

For me, there is no either/or with old hymns or contemporary songs. It isn't like everything I sang growing up was of the "Be Thou My Vision" quality. I've had quite enough of "You Never Mentioned Him to Me" (with those wonderful lyrics "you taught me not the light to see"--basically a guilt-inducing hymn about all the people you failed to teach the gospel and who are paying for your failures at judgment day), "Toiling On," and "Each Day I'll Do a Golden Deed." And I certainly don't think all of the newer songs are shallow. Like in every generation, the best will live on (we'll be singing "In Christ Alone," "Here I Am to Worship," and "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" fifty years from now--I hope) while others will fall to the wayside. That's just the way it is. AND YET . . . we just can't let go of the best hymns. I want future generations to be nurtured by "Blessed Assurance," "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less," and "Rock of Ages" -- songs that taught me things about the gospel I wasn't hearing from preaching or teaching as an adolescent. I want them to be encouraged by the depth of faith expressed in "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go" ("I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be"), "When Peace Like a River," and "Be Still My Soul." And I want them to be able to join in the generations who have stood in awe before a holy, mighty God singing "On Zion's Glorious Summit," "Holy, Holy, Holy," "How Great Thou Art," and "O Lord, Our Lord." Give me the old. And the new.


  • Couldn't agree with you more.

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 5/18/2005 05:10:00 AM  

  • me too.

    By Blogger Candy, at 5/18/2005 05:18:00 AM  

  • Blessed Assurance has more meaning and clarity to me when it follows You Shine or Blessed Be Your Name; not when it follows Night with Ebon Pinion, or Here I Raise my Ebenezer. That's just me - personal preference.

    But, I try to place my preferences within the context of the poor fellow wondering how Eb Enezer fell down - I don't think praise to God should need decoder rings.

    By Blogger KentF, at 5/18/2005 05:39:00 AM  

  • "Blessed Assurance" will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up I always kinda considered it one of those older hymns that only "the old people" would sing. A year and a half ago, my grandma laid on her death-bed, and my family gathered around her and sang her favorite hymn, Blessed Assurance, and she died just a few days later. We sang it at her funeral - "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine...Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blest, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love." Mamaw truly lived and believed those words.

    Just over a week ago I went home to Searcy for the weekend to be with my mom on Mother's Day. When the songleader at church started singing Blessed Assurance, I caught my mom's eye and we both teared up, thinking of singing that precious hymn to my grandma in her last days.

    I agree...while we learn new Praise & Worship songs, it's also good not to forget the older hymns and pass them on to the next generations.

    By Blogger Sarah, at 5/18/2005 05:47:00 AM  

  • I saw your post this a.m. and thought, "Oh, man, did I start something?" Eeek! Glad to know that I didn't.

    I've struggled with this for years. I was in Chorale at Harding (Dr. Ganus's group -- don't know what they're called now) and both Dr. Ganus and Uncle Bud believed and taught that just as grow stronger in Christ by learning deeper Bible concepts (the meat), we shouldn't be satisfied in our song service by only singing songs that didn't have much "meaning" (the milk).

    At first, I was all offended. And said so, too, cocky freshman that I was. I was raised on "Paradise Valley" and "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb"! How dare these people try and tell me that I wasn't praising?!

    But I learned that it ISN'T just about praise. It's about "Speak[ing] to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" and "Lett[ing] the word of Christ dwell in you. . .as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs."
    We teach with our songs. We admonish with our songs. AND we praise.

    I guess what I'm saying is that, in my opinion, we've tilted too far to praise-only songs. Is there a place for "Shine, Jesus, Shine"? Yes. But not at the exclusion of "Breathe on Me, Breath of God."

    By Blogger Lisa, at 5/18/2005 06:26:00 AM  

  • I absolutely LOVE the more currently written songs! I could listen to Zoe sing "Redeemer" every single day from now till I am pushing up daisies! At the same time, I will always think of some of the older songs as being "my" songs.....because of the attachment to them growing up. "Love Lifted Me" will always be one of MY songs! As will be "The Great Physician" because of the special memory of 50 or so Nigerian students singing it to my dad after he had a heart attack.

    But as the saying goes these days
    "It's all good". :)

    And it is.

    By Blogger David U, at 5/18/2005 06:42:00 AM  

  • The beginning of the chorus in Blessed Assurance has always reminded me of Chariots of Fire. I can just see Jesus running in slow motion towards the disciples by the Jordan River. We almost always sang it right before one particular elder got up to pray (his record ~ 12 minutes, 31 seconds). I had to cough SO MUCH to keep from laughing out loud!!!!

    Sorry if that ruined the blessedness of the song for anyone. Sweet memories and lots of laughs in it for me though. :)

    By Blogger Mae, at 5/18/2005 06:43:00 AM  

  • Well said Mike. This reminds me of something I wrote a couple of months ago at Written Without Ink


    By Blogger Chris Benjamin, at 5/18/2005 07:24:00 AM  

  • Well said, Mike! Amen and Amen. O Love that Will Not Let Me Go might be one of my all time favorites.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 5/18/2005 07:31:00 AM  

  • Amen, Mike. I choose d) all of the above

    By Blogger Chad, at 5/18/2005 07:35:00 AM  

  • "Softly and Tenderly" is a beautiful song we hardly sing now. I also miss "Sing to Me of Heaven."

    On the other hand, I could live the rest of my life and be just fine if I never had to sing/hear "He Bore it All" again. It's about our Savior's pain and agony, and it sound like something you could tap-dance to.

    Oh -- and who else hates: "If I don't get to heaven, Dear Lord, it will be nobody, nobody, nobody, no, no, no, nobody's fault but mine."

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 5/18/2005 07:38:00 AM  

  • Yo tambien.

    By Blogger RPorche, at 5/18/2005 08:09:00 AM  

  • I wanted to get involved in this discussion yesterday...and again today. After all, these hymns mean so much to me. "Amazing Grace" will always make me think of my father--it was his favorite song--and "Peace Like a River" will too, because I look forward to seeing him again when the clouds are rolled back as a scroll.

    These songs connect us...old songs, new songs...old christians, young christians. And I agree that some of the new music will last forever.

    But for some reason, I just can't seem to get this John Williams music out of my head today.

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 5/18/2005 08:52:00 AM  

  • I haven't been attending a Church of Christ lately. The church that I do go is a great church, and while I really enjoy the high energy praise time, I really miss singing those songs that touched my heart as a kid or even the ones that I learned in the youth group. When in Abilene "Grace" was a service held at University Baptist over by HSU. I always liked hearing what the speaker had to say, and the atmosphere was wonderful, but the songs seemed to be the same repetative thing over and over. All of a sudden I realized, there are only about two sentences per song, and the same songs get sang over and over. After the newness wore off, I wasn't that thrilled to go anymore. As the Deer and Christ We Do All Adore Thee still do it for me.

    By Blogger Kyle, at 5/18/2005 09:15:00 AM  

  • I'm with ya, Mike. Let's embrace the old and the new -- paying close attention to the lyrics.

    But can we all agree to tear every one of the Stamps-Baxter songs out of our song books? ;-)

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 5/18/2005 09:19:00 AM  

  • This music is part of my story, what connects me to Christians past a present (a great cloud of witnesses, if you will). As I sing Be Still my Soul, I love to envision Christians in the past walking the same path I'm walking. As I sing Blessed Be Your Name I like to envision people years from now tearing up at "though there's pain in the offering." What a beautiful gift God has given us.

    By Blogger jimps, at 5/18/2005 09:39:00 AM  

  • Preach on! And if people only knew some of these stories behind some of these hymns...the rich history and stories which led these pioneers of the faith to express their thoughts on the score of music...they would be even more blessed!

    By Blogger D.J. Bulls, at 5/18/2005 10:34:00 AM  

  • I'll join the chorus of agreement here. Some of the "old" songs you mentioned speak to my soul. they are deeply embedded and are a part of who I am. I want those songs to be embedded in my childrens hearts and souls too! But, I have to admit I almost tear up when I hear my 7 and 3 year old singing "Shout to the Lord" at the top of their lungs. They love that song. Funny to think that someday it will be one of their "old" songs!

    By Blogger SG, at 5/18/2005 11:02:00 AM  

  • Another in agreement with you, Mike. It really isn't an either/or choice. Rather, do we join with others in our worship of God through music.

    Music worship seems so pure, to me. Maybe because music triggers wonderful memories too. Memories of my dad's sweet baritone and mom's also voice singing the older hymns. Neither one quite made it to accept any of the 20th century music, but they sang with such beautiful worship those hymns they knew and cherished.

    The Psalms tell us to lift our hands with music in praise, to play the harp and sing!! Revelation 5 and 9 tells us of the worshipful adoration in Heaven, [Holy, Holy, Holy..."] and we mere mortals are told to make music in our hearts to the LORD. How would we ever fully be able to express our worship, awe and love of God without music?

    My favorites? Some have already been listed here. My 'favorite' of all? The one that keeps us singing, keeps us worshipping no matter the song/hymn/psalm selected.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 5/18/2005 11:16:00 AM  

  • Our culture prizes the instant and the new, and I'm afraid our worship habits are equally infatuated with the fadish and trendy. The longevity of a piece of music has little to do with whether it has a catchy tune or not or if the beat is really cool. Music lasts because it is substantial (it can be repeated without sounding trite) and it is meaningful (it speaks to the human condition across time and culture). I like "Shine Jesus Shine" just as much as the next guy, but in 50 years, after the ups and downs of life - both joys and loss - will I say, "Gee, 'Shine Jesus Shine' means a whole lot to me. I remember singing it way back when....." Maybe, maybe not. The nostalgia for "O Love that will not let me go" or "Blessed Assurance" is surely waning. Does anyone actually sing them anymore? Our public worship life should not be about what works, but what is the best.

    By Blogger Jeff Goolsby, at 5/18/2005 12:07:00 PM  

  • Deana, I could live quite well without the song you suggested . . . and also anything sticky-sweet like "Sunshine In My Soul" or almost anything we sang during my old movement days.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/18/2005 12:13:00 PM  

  • Amen! When I commented yesterday about singing old songs, I was thinking specifically about a discussion I had last summer with a younger man and an older woman. The young man kept demeaning some of the older songs and the older woman felt defensive (who can blame her--it felt like he was attacking her very Christian walk?). I think sometimes we judge the value of music based on what we like and feel comfortable with (that applies to people of all ages).

    I think we ought to judge the value of music based on many factors, including its theological message, its appropriateness for particular worship settings or groups of people, as well as its musicality and tune. And then, we ought to sing!

    By Blogger jocelyn, at 5/18/2005 12:17:00 PM  

  • Yes, Jeff, we still sing all the songs I mentioned above. Probably not enough for some; perhaps too much for others. I'll bet last year we sang "Be Still My Soul" half a dozen times.

    Unfortunately, I lost my worship committee member who wrote down all the dates of when we've sung songs, so we could make sure we are keeping balance and aren't losing the great ones. (COME BACK, JUDY!!)

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/18/2005 12:41:00 PM  

  • I agree with Jeff Goolsby above.

    I love music - ALL kinds - including "Shine Jesus Shine," but I guarantee when you enter the places many of us who are older have been and are entering, you'll be remembering and singing the long cherished deeply meaningful hymns.

    You'll be singing in your heart and with your voice, as I have, "Be With Me, Lord...

    ...I cannot live without Thee, I dare not try to take one step alone...

    ...and then if dangers threaten, if storms of trial burst above my head...they cannot harm, or make my heart afraid...

    ...no other gift or blessing Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare - a constant sense of Thy abiding presence, wher-e'er I am, to feel that Thou are near...

    ...when lonliness o'er takes me, when I must weep amid the fires of pain, and when shall come the hour of my departure for worlds unknown, O Lord, be with me then."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/18/2005 01:35:00 PM  

  • For me Missa Solemnis would be the ultimate in music of faith. Our kids can't stand it. They want to sing "Back Back Train and Get Your Load", whatever on earth that is supposed to mean. We really need give and take here, don't we?

    By Blogger mchristophoros, at 5/18/2005 01:54:00 PM  

  • I had to add one more.

    At a recent home worship meeting, one of our folks (nostalgically for 70s college days) wanted to sing "Lord of the Dance", which disastrously was in the little song book we were using. Cringing inwardly, I led us through it. When we were done, one of the brothers remarked, "After that, why don't we sing "Little Brown Jug"?


    By Blogger mchristophoros, at 5/18/2005 02:02:00 PM  

  • I read yesterday's and today's blog this morning.While I was making my coffee, I kept singing "Be Thou My Vision". A couple of hours later I went to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and the first song we sang was, you guessed it, "Be Thou My Vision"! I agree with what almost everyone else has said; I love the new songs, but I love the old as well, even those Stamps-BAxter songs!! :o)

    By Blogger Danna, at 5/18/2005 03:18:00 PM  

  • I don't miss any of the old songs 'cause that's all we sing. They don't have a lot of new stuff in the songbook! But when I'm in the car... that's when I can sing some praise songs!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/18/2005 03:32:00 PM  

  • i grew up in the churches of christ but hooked up with the anglicans... even so, 'great songs of the church' follows me everywhere. that is, it's a permanent part of my library. i pull it out from time to time & sing. the a capella arrangements of those particular songs are perhaps one of the most important distinguishing features of the church -- they distinguish the churches of christ from other christianities, and give a sense of unity or continuity to folks who move from church to church. so 'blest be the tie that binds' actually binds folks with all sorts of beliefs and opinions. while i don't have any problem with the introduction of praise music... i keep a hallal cd in the car... i do get a sense of homelessness when i visit a church of christ and don't know any of the songs...

    By Blogger saa, at 5/18/2005 06:59:00 PM  

  • Hey Mike,

    I also love the old hymns. Though I have many CD's of contemporary praise (Zoe Group, Acappella, etc), I haven't been able to find many recordings of acappella hymns (not that I have anything against instruments, I just like the acappella hymns). Anyways, I found this site tonight and have spent the past hour and a half listening to it, so I thought I would pass it along to your readers. It's from the Kleinwood Church of Christ in Spring, TX:


    By Blogger Jared Cramer, at 5/18/2005 07:21:00 PM  

  • Whenever we have the old vs new song discussion at our congregation, I often wonder if the churches of 50 - 100 years ago were having this discussion about some of the very songs we're discussing. How many were saying "I love these new Fanny Crosby songs, but we shouldn't get all caught up in these new faddish songs. What's wrong with Old 100th or Ode to Joy?"

    It's all in your perspective, I guess.

    By Blogger Gem, at 5/18/2005 07:58:00 PM  

  • One thing is for sure ... song selection is an emotional talking point. Everyone has a different idea about the atmosphere and feeling the songs create. I'm grateful for new ways of expressing ancient ideas. The growing trend is a return to the older songs, though. David Crowder Band last year released a CD of old hymns... including the 'ebenezer' song someone mentioned. That song is one I've heard lots of people make fun of. I read the background of that song and then looked at the words again. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is an amazing song. But you don't have to like it... and that's the blessing of the songs ... there's one for your heart. God will see to that.

    By Blogger JD, at 5/19/2005 04:43:00 AM  

  • I'm still trying to get Ryan to learn "Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life". I also love "When all thy Mercies."

    By Blogger MarkS, at 5/19/2005 05:27:00 AM  

  • Okay, this might throw a spanner in the works, but here goes ...

    Does anyone out there miss:
    1. The wonderful tactile feeling of actually holding a Hymn Book in your hands?
    2. Turning the pages as fast as you can as soon as Brother Song Leader mentioned the name of the hymn to be sung?
    3. Knowing the page number in the Hymn Book when the title is mentioned?
    4. The smells you got from the hymnal when you were fanning the pages as you were hurrying to find hymn to be sung?
    5. Being so glad to have the notes on the page in front of you, because it was fun practising how to sight-read music? (Great for helping young musicians grow in their musical talents.)
    6. Wondering whom all from the 'olden days' might have used that very hymnal you were holding?
    7. Focusing at the names of the God-gifted composers and lyricists who blessed us during the worships whenever we sang their songs? Who were these saints?
    8. Wondering (perhaps during a sermon that was either boring or one you were not old enough yet to comprehend) what events inspired these composers/lyricists to produce their musical offering(s) during the times they lived?
    9. Checking out all the resources in the back of the hymnal, including the scripture references and hymn suggestions for special times of the church year?
    10. Holding a hymnal today?

    I remember how sad I was the first time, several years ago now, when I mentioned 'hymnal' to my students and they just stared back at me, blankly. A lot of the above points were integral to my life in church worship as a child. The hymnbooks, I guess, aided greatly some of my learning styles. Many children today still have these learning styles, but they are not being addressed.

    Now, at my age, when disease in my knees makes it difficult to stand to sing, I feel lost when I can't look through others standing to see the words on the screens. In our churches, the hymnals have been removed for cheaper books that only contain the hymn texts, with no notes to read. (The senior discount card is still a good distance away from me, although I have been shocked to be contacted by the AARP!)

    I relate to many of the other comments. But I was just wondering if any of you remember how blessed we were to grow up with a hymnal that had all the neat bits right there at our fingertips?


    By Blogger Deb, at 5/19/2005 06:47:00 AM  

  • now, Brandon, I know you read this blog...

    By Blogger Alice, at 5/19/2005 01:05:00 PM  

  • Kay and I sat on the 2nd row at Southern Hills church in San Antonio while Fernando sang and played the piano while being accompanied by a cello.

    It was Good Friday evening 2-3 years ago. His "Home" cd might be my favorite.

    Give me Jesus.

    By Blogger Larry, at 5/19/2005 04:55:00 PM  

  • A thought I had a few days ago when I read this post, but didn't have time to leave a comment:

    At one point or another, every song is new.

    I blogged about Hard-to-Sing Hymns in March - and they are still of concern to me. The folks who've posted comments have added to the list of songs we should really reconsider.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 5/21/2005 06:35:00 AM  

  • At the risk of sounding redundant, I have to add my agreement to d) all of the above. I love the contemporary praise music; but some of it seems very shallow and over-repititive. I also have recently fallen back in love with the older hymns. They help connect me to my Chrisitan heritage, across the denominations. I attended a women's retreat with First Methodist about a month ago, and the most meaningful songs we sang that day were "Peace Like a River" and "Holy, Holy, Holy". Singing those two songs with my lilting soprano blending with the rich alto of my "spiritual mom" beside me was the most precious time of the retreat for me. Singing those old hymns to the instrumental accompaniment with my fellow Christian sisters reminded me that these songs connect all of us together as Christians. My forerunners in the faith, Church of Christ, Baptists, Methodists, they all grew up singing those old hymns, and I think they will be a uniting bridge for us for years to come.

    Thanks for this great post, Mike.

    By Blogger Heather A, at 5/21/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • Hello everyone. Please tell me what are your favorite modern hymns. I can think of a few right now:
    Wonderful, Merciful Savior
    How Deep the Father's Love for Us

    Please add to the list.

    Please email me at

    (remove the Capitalized "NoSPAM" when writing)

    By Blogger jc, at 2/11/2006 09:37:00 PM  

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