Church Growth: Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Church Praise and Worship
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Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth
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Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs


Though it has always been imperative to bring in the new, it is likewise unnecessary to throw out traditional music in order to reach out to this new age. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine revealed the impact that the music of the 4th and 5th Century Church had on his life. “How I wept during Your hymns and psalms!” he recalled. “I was deeply moved by the music of the sweet chants of Your church. The sounds flowed into my ears and the truth was distilled into my heart. This caused the feeling of devotion to overflow. Tears ran, and it was good for me to have that experience.” There is no lack of power in the music that we have been given from the past centuries. These great hymns are neither devoid of emotion nor incapable of moving the heart.

Notice that in Augustine’s day “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” as referred to by the Apostle Paul in the Scriptures were still actively being employed to bless the body of Christ. (Eph 5:19,Col3:16) But today, for the first time in Christian history, it appears that the church desires to throw the hymn part of the Paul’s admonition out. Indeed, it is a unique set of circumstances that is occurring in this age. Generally in Christian hymn history we have seen new works added to the large existing body of music with each age and growth has resulted. The old has generally been retained as the new has been added with the result of building a larger litany of music for each successive generation to enjoy. When we look into our hymnbooks we witness the result of the furtherance of praise in history as each generation has added to the volumes of worship songs that the church has been blessed by over the centuries.

But this is not what the church is being led to believe by those who offer their enticements of profits. As Paul stated to the elders inEphesus: “’For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.’” (Acts 20:29-30 MKJV)

The consequences of the Church Growth Movement’s emphatic advice to conform to the world around us have been dramatic. There are churches today that are maintaining historical Christian roots. Yet there hasn’t been a time in American history as there is today where there has been such a widespread drive in so many churches to eliminate an entire body of historical hymnology in order to replace it with something completely new. And in many venues this new popular music is viewed as being vastly superior to the old as well.

But it’s time for the leaders of the church to take a deep breath and contemplate what they are doing. In the name of the contemporary they seek to turn their backs on a rich cultural heritage that has blessed generations of Christians and still will do today if given a chance.

Take for example the hymn Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. Louisa Stead wrote the words to this moving praise hymn. Even as a teenager, she felt called to become a missionary. Louisa went to America around age 21, and lived for a while in Cincinnati, Ohio. While attending a camp meeting in Urbana, Ohio, she felt the missionary calling even more strongly, but was unable to go to China as she wanted due to her frail health.

In 1875 she married her beloved husband, Mr. Stead. But marital bliss faded away as tragedy struck her family. Louisa and her husband were enjoying a relaxing day with their four-year-old daughter on a Long Island beach when they heard the cry of a desperate child. A boy was drowning. Louisa’s husband attempted to rescue the child, but was pulled under the water in the attempt. Both boy and Mr. Stead died as Louisa and her daughter watched.

Other than the Lord Himself, Louisa had no means of support. She along with her daughter fell into dire poverty as a result. One morning, when she had neither funds nor food for the day, she opened the front door and found that someone had left food and money on her doorsteps. It was that day that she wrote this hymn.

God rewarded Louisa’s faithful trust in Him. Around 1880, she went to South Africa, and served as a missionary there for some 15 years where she was remarried, to Robert Wodehouse of that country. In 1895 she returned to Americato recover her health, but once again went into missions in Rhodesiain 1901. Her daughter Lily married D. A. Carson and became a missionary like her mother. Indeed, the trust that Louisa put in the Lord was well spent.

Who in their right mind would think to purge Christianity of a hymn that has such a marvelous story behind it? Who would seek to deny contemporary Christians the opportunity of partaking in the affirmation of faith that came out of this desperate hour of one of our own? Yet there are those in our midst who are calling on us to do exactly that.

Stay tuned for more!

The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase:

For free praise music, charts and study helps go to the Wigtune Praise and Worship Sitehttp//


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