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On the subject of song selection for worship

July 2 2007 at 10:39 PM
harry smith  (Login wordkeeper)
from IP address

I apologize for the lengthy absence from this
web site but, last December, a week before Christmas,
my house caught on fire and in the attempt to
minimize damage I burned my hands and feet along
with my computer. Well, I am healed now and have
a new computer.

During this length of time I contemplated the whole
issue of song selection and the worship service.
I know that the opinion of many on this site is that
the old faithful songs are somehow right for worship
and the modern praise and worship songs of the
contemporary generation are not right for the
worship service.

I started by the reading the selection of scripture
often used to defend the appropriate way of
worshipping and that is Ephesians 5:19 where Paul
writes, " ... You will sing psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to
the Lord in your hearts." I then gave much thought
on how that relates to the issue of the selection
of songs for worship. It came to me that we do not
know the actual songs the First Century Christians
used but we do know that it wasn't "Amazing Grace"
or "How Great Thou Art". How do I know ?? These songs
were not even written until 18th or 19th century.
In fact, we do not have a clue as to what selection
of hymns they used. If this is true why is it that
somehow one generation of hymns is right and another
generation of songs are wrong when all hymns and
songs that we know of were written way past the first

If we are to be honest, we must admit that the timing
or era of songs are completely subjective and the
true criteria is not the beat or melody of the songs
but, the MESSAGE of the song. The best way to determine
whether a song should be used in a worship service is
determined by whether the message of the song is in
accordance of scripture.

As a belated birthday present a friend of mine gave
me a hymnal of modern worship songs and I analyzed
the lyrics to see how they met the above criteria.
The following is a list of songs and the corresponding
passage of scripture that inspired the author of the

Matt Redman's "Better is One Day" Psalms 84:10
Darlene Zschech "All Things are Possible" Philippians 4:13
Martin Nystrom "As the Deer" Psalms 42:1
Gary Oliver "Celebrate Jesus" Matthew 28:5-10
Brian Doerksen "Now is the Time to Worship" Isaiah 45:23
Eddie Espinosa "Change my Heart Oh God" Psalms 51:10
Keith Green "Create in me A Clean Heart" Psalms 51:10
Leona Brethorst "He Has Made Me Glad" Psalms 100:4
Micheal W. Smith "How Majestic is Your Name" Psalms 8
Martin Smith "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" Psalms 89
Naida Hearn "Jesus, Name Above All Names" Philippians 2:9
David Strasser "Step By Step" Psalms 63
Darlene Zschech "Shout to the Lord" Psalms 96 and 98

And many, many more. As I listen to some of these songs
I believe that they are right on the mark of acceptable
worship to God. For instance, in the song "I Love You
Lord" the writer states,

"I Love You, Lord and I lift my voice to
worship you. O my soul, rejoice!
Take joy, my KIng, in what You
hear: may it be a sweet, sweet
sound in Your ear."

And another,

"Majesty, worship His Majesty, Unto
Jesus be all glory, honor, and

I guess the point that I am getting at is you may not like some of the modern songs and prefer the 18th and 19th century songs and that is all well and good. But that is far different from from stating that modern worship songs are wrong. They are not wrong because if you listen closely to the lyrics they remain true to the scritures and isn't that all that really matters.

If you do not like the selection of songs in your church guess what. Vote with your feet. Go to an assembly that selects songs more to your liking but, don't condemn others for liking Christian music closer to their own generation.

Please put some time and heart felt prayer to this.

Thank you,

(Harry Smith)

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What type of “contemporary ‘worship’ song”?

July 3 2007, 1:15 PM 


Many versions of the Bible render Ephesians 5:19 as simply “making melody in your heart to the Lord.” In some cases, “singing and saying [a psalm, hymn or spiritual song] in your heart to the Lord” is rendered. The KJV renders: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

I believe it is significant to compare different translations. “Making music” as the NIV translates leaves it open for musical instrumentalists to make an argument in their favor because “music” is generally identified either as vocal only or instrumental only or as both. In fact, the word “music” is referenced only once in the New Testament as portrayed in the story of the prodigal son where there was “music” and dancing as well. From that story, it can be assumed that musical instruments “participated” in the merriment and celebration, along with dancing. Now, hopefully, we are cognizant of the fact that the festival was not by any means an [example of the] “assembly of the saints.”

Before we go further with this discussion, let’s establish the premise that “making music” is an improper translation, especially when it is not restricted to vocal only. That “making music” shouldn’t be the case, unless someone has the power [and authority] to make inanimate and lifeless instruments speak. In fact, when the entire passage is taken into consideration, the word “speak” or “speaking” which begins the passage strongly suggests that communication is of essence, and other passages support the truth in which “teaching and admonishing one another” would be clearly the objective. Musical instruments are inanimate and lifeless; they are incapable of teaching and admonishing others, regardless of technological advances.

FYI, there is a separate thread that will benefit this discussion: Is “Contemporary Christian ‘Rock’ Music” Satanic? You will see that “contemporary” doesn’t necessarily mean bad or wrong. But notice this: “Christian Rock Music.”

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Re: What type of “contemporary ‘worship’ song”?

July 3 2007, 8:27 PM 

My topic really wasn't about instrumental music,
but rather the selection of songs for worship whether
acapella or with instruments. I have posted my views
on instrumental music on several threads on this site,
so I'll give the gist of my perspective. Whether or
not instruments can be used in congregational worship
should be solely determined by the preference of
the church. For those in the churches of Christ,
obviously, they have chosen without. And I would never
dream of forcing someone uncomfortable with this issue
to sit in an assembly that has instruments in worship.
By the same token, since this issue is not addressed
directly in scriture as a forbidden act, no one should
prevent the other side from worshipping with instruments
or use judgement of those who do worship with instuments.
Doing so is tantamont to taking God off His throne and
sitting in his place and giving a commandment based
on fallable human reasoning. Regardless, that isn't
what my topic is about. It is only a point of view
expressed that no one era of music is somehow holier
than another era of music.

As far as the translation that I use it is The New
Living Translation which I absolutely love. I do like
the NIV also. All translations have good points and
shortcomings. The KJV that you prefer is wonderful
as far as poetic reading but was translated in 1611
A.D. and does not reflect the advancements of
archaelogical findings which help us have a better
understanding of the New Testament. We have mountain
of documents that have been discovered since the 1890s
that give us a better understanding of the Bible.
While I am certainly no Greek scholar I have done some
translation of the New Testament from the Greek to
English. From my limited work I was amazed that after
doing a translation I compared to the NIV and it is
remarkably close to what the writters of the New Testamant
wanted to convey to their readers.

I do find it somewhat troubling that you first make
an opinion on an issue (insrumental music) and then
find a translation which best supports your opinion.
Shouldn't you rather start by using an accurate version
and then from that point learn and follow what the Word
of the Lord directs ??

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The beat or the message?

July 4 2007, 8:55 PM 

A person that is concerned with writing music with a beat that people will enjoy and a tempo that people will love, should not write psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

When a song writer decides that something is lacking in a spiritual song he may try to spice it up by changing the beat or speeding up the tempo.

This may make the song enjoyable to sing and ear pleasuring to hear but like the wise Photoshop artist, he has reversed the foreground with the background. When the background and foreground are flattened a new image has been created. He has created a fake photographic image.

You can offer to God your beat; you can offer to God your tempo; and you can offer to God your message; when these three are combined, you may be offering a fake impression of what God has commanded of you.

In Christ,

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Harry Smith
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Re: The beat or the message?

July 5 2007, 2:37 PM 

One of my favorite contemporary christain
musicians is Michael W. Smith not only because
he is gifted in the area of music but he is from
the western part of Kentucky. He frequently gives
concerts in Lexington and the last one I attended
(around 1995) he paused and spoke about his life
and how he became a christian. He once worked
writting songs for some country and western groups
but then he became a christian and wrote christian
music full time. He said that it was much more
difficult to write secular music than christian music
because christian music comes straight from the Bible.
He even went further: he said that the Book of Psalms
is almost tailored made for contemporary christian
music because of the beat and metre that David wrote
his material.He especially mentioned Psalms 125-150
as being high energy "rock" music material. If what
he says is true, and he knows a whole lot more about
music than either of us, then, why is the inspired
Word of God lend itself so easily to comtemporary
christian music. It appears that God accepts this
beat and metre if it is included as part of His
inspired word ??


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Dr. Bill Crump
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Re: On the subject of song selection for worship

July 4 2007, 12:56 AM 

Harry states that all that matters in a worship song is the "message" or the lyrics, and that the beat or melody is of no importance. That's a typical sentiment from those who do not realize that music without lyrics is not amoral; that is, music without lyrics still sends a "message" of its own. Hence, that's why the music of many (but not all) of the so-called "modern" worship songs sound like selections from worldly pop/rock albums.

Worship music must parallel worship lyrics; one cannot take lyrics that praise God and match them to rock-and-roll or pop/rock music, for that kind of music has a long-standing history associated with illicit sex, drug abuse, violence, and hatred of authority. One cannot "sanctify" worldly pop/rock music with sacred lyrics, because as the lowest common denominator, the worldly music lowers and corrupts the lyrics.

I've heard a praise band take the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" and sing them to the tune of "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" by The Eagles. Anyone who has ever heard that tune knows it's anything but "peaceful" or "easy." The result was a farce. Screeching guitars and crashing drums, along with a pounding beat, transformed a fine hymn into an abomination.

There's nothing wrong with writing new and contemporary hymns and praise songs, as long as they show no similarities whatsoever to popular music associated with entertainment. Anything related to worship and praise must be separate and apart from the world, must not be of the world, for the New Testament tells us that to be a friend of the world is to be the enemy of God (James 4:4). Also, we must neither love the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:15). If we wish to please God with our praise, then we will drag neither the world's music nor the world's instruments into our assemblies.

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Re: On the subject of song selection for worship

July 4 2007, 11:41 PM 

Dr. Crump,

I will have to respectfully disagree. See I believe
that musical instruments, beat and melodies, and
new technology are all morally neutral; whereas the
people who employ as such are morally accountable.
For instance, the television and radio can be used
to spread the gospel message or they can be used
for sex and violence. Even the internet can be
used the same way; good or evil.

I will relate a true story of my experience from
the late 1970s. One Sunday morning I was about to
enter our worship service when a long-haired
stranger was right behind me. He was definately
a "hippie". He went right on in and instead of
sitting on the pew he sat down on the floor
right next to the pulpit. He stayed there the
whole service. After the service one of our elders
invited the young man to his home and invited him
to more church services. By the second month he
became a christian. I became friends with the young
man. One day I just couldn't resist any longer as
to why he came to church in the first place.
He told me that he was a big fan of the rock group
Boston and someone told him of a group that played
similar music, PETRA. He enjoyed PETRA more than even
Boston and he also listened to the lyrics.
See PETRA played similar style of music but with
a christian message. I believe that is the mission
of these christian rock groups to reach young
people who would not normally go to church on
their own. God is reaching these people through
this medium when the traditional doesn't work.
Today there are thousands being saved through
the instrument of christian rock music that
wouldn't occur otherwise.
Back to the young hippie. He has grown strong in the
Lord and today is a minister of a church and one
of the strongest spiritual influences of our
community. So it isn't the guitar, drums, beat,
or melody that is good or evil. PETRA is used
by God the share the gospel to lost souls and
the group Black Sabbath is used by Satan for evil.

I praise God for the hard work and effort that these
people put into their work as it glorifies God and not man.


(Harry Smith)

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(Login rbstirman)

Amazing Grace

July 21 2007, 10:25 PM 

So, going by your logic, John Newton should have written his own melody/tune for Amazing Grace instead of borrowing it from some other place (as one legend has it). Or, as another legend has it, the words were used with an old American Folk melody. Are those people wrong for taking the Amazing Grace words and putting them to a "popular" tune of the day?


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Dr. Bill Crump
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Re: Amazing Grace

July 22 2007, 10:54 PM 

There is nothing wrong as such with adapting Christian lyrics to other tunes, as long as the tunes themselves do not have a history or association with non-Christian behavior. Since rock-and-roll music has a long history and association with sex, drugs, violence, and disregard for rightful authority, it is completely improper to adapt the lyrics of Christian hymns like "Amazing Grace" to such non-Christian music.

Change Movement guru Rick Warren claims that there is no such thing as "Christian" music, only "Christian" lyrics. According to his premise, all musical sounds (not lyrics) are amoral or neutral, and hence lyrics may be matched with ANY kind of music and be "proper" for worship. This is a total fallacy. Anyone who has studied the dynamics of music knows that musical sounds, patterns, and rhythms send messages of their own, irrespective of how they are produced. Thus the melody must match Christian lyrics. One cannot sing a hymn to God to the wild beat of "Louie Louie," "Jailhouse Rock," or "Twist and Shout" and expect there to be any reverence connected with it, because that kind of music is clearly worldly with non-Christian associations. Such non-Christian music pollutes and corrupts the Christian lyrics. This concept of music sending its own message apart from the lyrics is more fully described in books like Oh, Be Careful Little Ears and Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear, both by K.A. Smith.

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Re: Amazing Grace

July 22 2007, 11:52 PM 

Dr. Crump,

It is good to hear from you again. I guess we see things differently. I am just glad that my "hippie" friend found the Lord and in turn help hundreds other in my community
become christians. I am thankful that at that time in his life he was open-minded to spiritual matters even through christian rock music. Let us suppose we look at it like Jimmy Stewart in "It's A Wonderful Life". What would have happened if there was no PETRA rock group playing christain-themed music and there was no hippie friend converted to christianity and then, the hundreds of new christians converted to christianity without his influence ? If you look at the good I hope that you will see that God blesses those that follow him even through non-traditional methods.

It is indeed good to hear from you again.


(Harry Smith)

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Re: What type of “contemporary ‘worship’ song”?

July 5 2007, 12:17 PM 


I was aware that your topic wasn’t about instrumental music. That was the reason why I wanted to point that out so that we could get the discussion of instrumental music out of the way and concentrate on your topic—which is about the selection of songs. So, in effect, you violated YOUR OWN principle and the object of not involving musical instruments in the discussion by your persistence and continuing to teach your personal opinion that such is a matter of preference—which, as you are fully aware, is still not acceptable among churches of Christ. You really ought to stop that as it would just obfuscate what should be discussed in regard to song selections.

Your charge that the KJV has its value only from the poetic standpoint is undesirable and speaks of your ignorance. It was translated by scores of true New Testament Greek scholars at that time who were unprejudiced because the spread of denominationalism wasn’t even in the picture—unlike recent translations which have involved “translators” springing from various, selective denominational backgrounds and their adherence to certain doctrines and beliefs. The KJV translators, while the old English was the only viable means or form that could be used at the time, still were fully aware that proper NT Greek language as written and spoken in the first century must be taken into consideration. Research has supported the evidence that the KJV, although in olden English, is still easier to understand than most of the modern translations.

So, the reason for bringing up the proper translation of the passage in Ephesians 5 is very, very important and justifiable. Without establishing the premise that music is not the predominant subject at hand, much of the discussion of this thread would be counter-productive and futile. Rather, it is the “teaching and admonishing,” or the speaking of these songs in written form that is of great significance. And the written form may include the musical part, such as the musical notes and the musical beat—not the authorization of the use of musical instruments.

Again, it should be emphasized that in order for the discussion to be fair and productive: (a) we should drop the espousal of musical instruments as being “not unauthorized” [and, therefore, allowed in the assembly] and (b) we should take into consideration the accuracy of the translated passage.

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Harry Smith
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Re: What type of “contemporary ‘worship’ song”?

July 5 2007, 4:34 PM 

I agree that we should stick to the original
topic of song selection for worship services.
You and I disagree on bible translations and
instrumental music. But regardless of these
two issues do you not see the logic that the
selection of songs from one era to another is
purely subjective and that there is as much
justification of selecting contemporary music
as does the 18th and 19th century music ?
The point I am making is that I hear from
some people that the selection of music at
Madison Church of Christ is not to their
liking. If that is true then, please , from
what I have mentioned from day one, vote with
your feet and attend a church that selects
music to your own liking.


Harry Smith

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Re: Re: What type of “contemporary ‘worship’ song”?

July 5 2007, 5:54 PM 

OK, I think that we now can discuss the issue(s) concerning song selections. Hopefully, there will be responses to your questions.

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Jesus example, Paul commanded, the church practiced "that which is written" with ONE MOUT

July 5 2007, 12:24 PM 

I will have to respectfully disagree. See I believe that musical instruments, beat and melodies, and new technology are all morally neutral.

The meaning of being a Christian is being a disciple: that means that you need to understand Scripture in the context in which it was written: if you could "save" a million people with a Rock concert you might, first, sell the wrong understanding of church as "discipline" and not "worship center" and, next, nothing that happens in any time or place should ever cause you to reinterpret Scripture to fit the culture. Perhaps, people should not use the Jesus logo and organize a "social gospel" which failed the Methodists. If you do "drug rehab" that is a noble purpose but it has no connection to the ekklesia, synagogue or school of the Bible. We cannot do ALL things without failing--and fail we have--to teach the WORD which caused ALL of the nation of Israel and Judah to be taken captive

I think that the venue may determine whether it is neutral or not. However, the fact that we use music to manipulate people's feelings is defacto proof that we don't think that it is neutral. All known literature notes that music taps into places which are "private parts" and exercises an unfair control over people. Most if not all of the singing and instrumental words in Hebrew and especially Greek and Latin define enchantment, and John uses the word "sorcery" of both the singers and instrumentalists in Revelation 18. Music induces "endorphins" or drugs so the question is: "Would it be appropriate to spike the fruit of the vine with a DRUG which would cause people to love to join us at every meeting?"

We know WWJD with musical minstrels who were trained professionals in spirit maniuplation: He cast them out like dung. He aso consigned the pipers, singers and dancers to the Agora or marketplace along with all of the commercial, religious and polluting influences. He used the same "psallo" rope to drive the "collection plates" out of the temple area which God accepted ONLY as a "place of prayer": and we don't make music during prayer or sermon.

Albert Barnes, presbyterian, defines the places where music might be appropriate:

"Doubtless they sounded harmoniously in their own ears; but it reached no further. Their melody, like much Church-music, was for itself, and ended in itself. 'Let Christian chanters learn hence, not to set the whole devotion of Psalmody in a good voice, subtelty of modulation and rapid intonation, quavering like birds, to tickle the ears of the curious, take them off to themselves and away from prayer, lest they hear from God." (Barnes, Albert, Amos, p. 300)

Observers have noted that the "new style praise songs" were derived from instrumental (machine for doing hard work) music. That is why even in the Sistine Chapel it was called ORGANUM or after the pipe organ and not "after the church." That conditions people and the Purpose Driven purpose is to add instruments. On the contrary, the Bible is not metrical in a musical sense: cantillation is a clear, expressive form of SPEAKING which was what Paul commanded and the church practiced for almost 400 years. They sang TO the harp and never did "congregational singing with instrumental accompaniment"--not even in the Catholic church...

"That chant to the voice of the lyre,
    accompanying the voice of the lyre with the human voice,
    giving vocal expression and utterance to what the instrumental music spoke without words.
The word, which Amos alone uses in this one place, describing probably '
    a hurried flow of unmeaning, unconsidered words, in which the rhythm of words and music was everything, the sense, nothing; much like most glees.
The E.M. 'quaver' has also some foundation in the root, but does not suit the idiom so well, which expresses that the act was something done to the voice of the lyre, accompanying the music, not altering the music itself." (Barnes, Albert, Amos, p. 303).

Singing as a part of the ACTS was added about 373 and then in order to sing self-composed songs (one of the first DISCORDS). Even then the text was telling the Bible story faithfully and seeing melody: "melody as tunefulness belongs to the 19th century." So, the question is: what was the teaching of Jesus? The result of ENHANCING the words of Jesus has always been Worship Wars and no one can endure fast, complex harmony of sentimental ditties without knowing that ALL of the consious mind is USED UP trying to "do my part good" and the subconsious mind is trying to TRACK every tone and the hundreds of overtones many of them dissonance. Paul's UNIQUE worship word was to GIVE HEED to "that which is written" and defined ONE MIND and ONE MOUTH which produces "unity."

"The central meaning of the Arabic root is "anticipating another," then hurry, negligence, excess, inadvertence in act, and, in speech, exaggeration in praise, and 'got the first word,' 'spoke precipitately, the tongue outrunning the sense.' Walid... says that the corresponding Arabic participle is used to those 'who extemporize poetry, i. e. sing extempore without thought." (Barnes, Albert, Amos, p. 308).

Fact: the word SPEAK is clearly defined as the OPPOSITE of POETRY or MUSIC.
The driving purpose was to TEACH and ADMONISH and COMFORT--with Scripture.
The elders are HOBBLED to "teach that which has been taught." Peter establishes this as a MARKER.

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What about These Genres: “Christian Metal” or “Christian Punk” — and “Christian Rap”?

July 10 2007, 12:49 PM 

There appears to be a developing affinity between Harry Smith and the affairs of the Madison congregation. I wonder why that is considering that as a former member of the church, he has been converted into Pentecostalism.

It is common knowledge that most of the money-venturing contemporary “Christian Rock” artists are affiliated with the Pentecostal Movement and have dominated the “Christian Rock” charts. And so long as this venture is profiteering and profitable, these artists will continue with their efforts unabated and unrestrained. Just look at all the “worship-and-praise-made-for-TV” programs exhibited by those with the “Charismatic” religious ideology. And, yes, the form of “ROCK” music played by bands whose members are “Christian”—and that is the impression given—is evident in these religious programs. There is additionally the impression given that these “ROCK” artists focus the lyrics on “matters concerned with the Christian faith.”

Historically, it is common knowledge that the “rock” music of the 1950s and 1960s has progressed into “Christian Rock” of the 1970s and 1980s and even now into the 21st century. Let us deal with the realities we are now facing by looking into related subgenres of the Contemporary Christian Rock Music—the Christian Alternative Rock, Christian Metal, Christian Industrial, Christian Punk, Christian Ska, Christian Rap.

Wow! Harry believes that by a mere mention of “the god,” “the darling of my soul,” “the power of my strength,” “you’re awesome,” “I was made to dance for you, Jesus,” “I was made for this—to know your tender kiss,” “I adore you,” etc, should justify the “scriptural content” of the “Christian Hot Rock” musical pieces.

This is NOT to say that all of the Contemporary Christian Rock Music pieces fail the test of that which “teaches and admonishes” as we SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER IN “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We, however, are not to be careless in the proper selection of these songs—their readability, speak-ability and sing-ability are of utmost importance.

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