New Songs

  • Posted on: 18 February 2016
  • By: doug

In the Psalms alone there are at least half a dozen references to "a new song"--"Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts (Ps. 33:3)"; "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (Ps. 40:3)" (see also Ps. 96, 98, 144, and 149). Without getting into an exposition of the topic from Scripture, it seems clear that the things that God does in and through his people regularly inspire them to create new ways, new words, new melodies, and new sounds with which to praise him. It's not that there is anything wrong with the old songs--that's not where this post is headed. (I'm ultimately headed for an explanation of how and why we introduce new songs into our contemporary worship services.)

I believe that God never tires of hearing his people sing to him and about him, whether the songs have been around for centuries or for just a few weeks. If our worship is authentic and heartfelt, and if the songs we sing are true and honor him, I'm guessing he is good with that. But new songs seem to be called for in the Psalms (and elsewhere in Scripture), so we try to keep our repertoire fresh and growing. Various members of the Praise Band are always on the lookout for new worship songs that might be appropriate for our congregation--songs that are well-crafted, singable, theologically solid, and help us to connect with God and praise him, either "vertically" (as we sing to him) or "horizontally" (as we sing about him).

Our methods for introducing new songs to the congregation are straightforward--when we select a new song, the band learns it and we introduce it to the congregation in a worship service. If we feel that the song was well-received or served an appropriate purpose in worship, we typically continue to include that song in our worship set list for up to three more weeks. In this way, we are trying to help the congregation become familiar with the song, learn the melody, and let the lyrics and ideas sink in. Although we don't often speak about it, we're trying to help you learn the songs, too.

In some cases, we try to create "newness" in an old song by introducing a new arrangement, or sometimes a new melody or a new "feel"--many of our traditional hymns have been updated with a more contemporary rhythmic setting, or with changes in chordal structures, or even by adding additional lyrics, new bridges, or even new verses. We're not trying to "fix" an older song--we're trying to freshen it up. For some people a small change in the melody or rhythmic feel or an additional lyric can help us take a new look at an older song that we may know so well that we might otherwise breeze right through it without thinking much about the meaning. You may recall hearing a number of new arrangements of traditional Christmas carols in our contemporary services during the Advent season. Our intent is never to disrespect the traditional musical settings--we understand that the familiarity of Christmas music (in particular) is part of its charm, so we try to mix in more traditional arrangements along the way, as well, for that reason.

So, anyway, if you happen to notice that the same song is being sung three or four weeks in a row, now you know why. I hope you will enjoy the new material when it appears, and I hope you'll take the time to listen and learn with us!

Blessings, Doug