Sing A New Song
The Bible is full of songs and singing, from beginning to end. Job chapter 38 speaks of the morning stars singing for joy at the dawn of creation, and the book of Revelation is full of songs of praise to God – “Holy, holy, holy” runs the never-ending praise of the living creatures around God’s throne.
Songs have always been an inevitable overflow of hearts full of faith, and have been part of Christianity since its beginning. Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn together after the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30). Paul exhorts the Ephesian church to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”. Ours is a singing faith: we sing to remember the great truths of the gospel; we sing to express our praise and thanks to God; we sing to give voice to prayers and intercession; we sing to commit ourselves afresh to the work of God’s kingdom.
Interestingly, the Bible uses a number of different adjectives to describe songs: joyful, sacred, jubilant and so on. But by far the most frequent adjective that appears before the word “song” in the Bible is “new”. We are commanded again and again to “sing a new song” to God (Psalm 33:3, 96:1, Isaiah 42:10 are a few examples).
Why do we sing new songs? We sing new songs to God because there is always more to say of his greatness and goodness; always fresh melodies and lyrical ideas that capture our hearts and release worship in different ways; always new situations in the world that need new songs in response. Of course, we still need to sing old songs as well, drawing on the riches of the best of the past decades and further back into Christian history. But if only ever sing old and familiar songs, there is a danger of our sung worship becoming predictable, stale and even boring. New songs help wake us up again to familiar truths.
And we live in an incredible time for new songs! Literally thousands of worship songs are written every year. Some go no further than the writer’s bedroom, others travel all around the world and become part of the language of the global church. Resources like iSingWorship make it possible for even the smallest churches to join in with songs that might musically be otherwise out of their reach. It’s great to sing the songs that “everyone else is singing” – many of those songs are popular precisely because they have been proven to be immensely helpful in enabling people to worship God. But it’s worth considering, along with the latest and greatest songs from Hillsong or Bethel or Matt Redman – what’s the new song for your church? What is God doing in your situation that is unique to you? What is he specifically saying to you at the moment? Can you give those things a voice in a new chorus or song?
Writing a new song may seem incredibly daunting, especially if your church is already short of musicians. But don’t worry about coming up with something that is going to rival Hillsong. Just taking a prayer that is relevant for your church at the moment and turning it into a simple 4-line chorus could be an immensely powerful thing to do. Are there any poets or writers in your congregation? Could they work together with a singer or instrumentalist to create something new, something that is unique to your situation?
Songs that span the globe connect us to our worshipping brothers and sisters all around the world. But songs that are just for one place and one time are of equal value to God. Hugely popular songs are often quite generic – they have to be to be useful in many different contexts, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when our worshipping life together contains a mix of global and local expressions of worship, that can be a profoundly powerful thing.
So yes, let’s use the best songs and resources that are available to us, but let’s also consider how we might allow space for new songs to rise up within our churches. If you have any budding songwriters within your congregation or want to know more yourself, then do check out the RESOUNDworship.org podcast on songwriting, which is a fantastic resource. And let’s “sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1)