Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 22, 1970
NUMBER 37, PAGE 3b,5b

Fads In Songs

Robert C. Welch

Every generation produces some fads, the most of which have no quality and soon die. There are fads in diet, dress, recreation and religion, many of which we hope will soon die for they are opposed to all righteousness. The church has been historically noted for its conservative nature in comparison with other religious bodies. Eventually, however, it too will take up the fads of the neighboring religious people. This often happens after the neighbors have forsaken the fad and gone on to something else. This is true of the songs used in worship. Religious people, especially those closer to the common people, have taken up the fads of popular singing as they have been introduced. They made their songs after counted and syncopated when the jazz craze came in. Then they developed the crooning type of singing when that was popularized by famous radio celebrities. They are now copying the rock-shout-and-groan-unintelligible type of song that has characterized this generation.

This would have very little significance if the trend were not being followed by the singing in churches of the Lord. They are like Peter, however, following afar off. When the syncopated, after-count, jazz songs were so popular in the convention books, such as Vaughan and Stamps-Baxter, about forty years ago, churches of the Lord would not even think of having such in their worship. But now that the fad has died among the people who introduced it, and they have gone on to other types, the brethren are taking it up just as if they thought they had invented the use of such lusty rhythm. They are as out of style as the man wearing spats and derby. I suppose that in another forty years or less they will be doing the "yell and groan, yeah, yeah" things that are called music today.

One can almost hear a brother say, in support of the jazz type of song, that the Lord has not specified the type of music but has specified the type of words. But you would not expect that preacher or song leader to jump over the pulpit stand and communion table with a few other such antics during the worship, and then justify it on the grounds that he has taught the truth in what he said. The Lord said, "singing with grace in your hearts." This makes me concerned about graceful music as well as graceful words, since it takes both to make singing that is acceptable to God.

Simple music, in rhythm as well as in words, melody and harmony, should be the aim of every person having the responsibility of leading the congregation in singing. Some songs can be well executed by a chorus of trained singers, but they are so difficult in melody and harmony that they are beyond the capability of the average member of the church. The same is true of the rhythm of this syncopated stuff that brethren are now trying to use. Oh, the leader may have a group within the church that he sings with all the time who can get in the swing of it, but this writer has yet to see the church where all those who can get by on "Standing On the Promises" can do the after-beat on " — All — that — I — might — in his presence live." And of course that makes sense, too, really teaching and admonishing, as the sopranos sing that sentence! Then the next song for serious admonition to the Saturday night-stepping-out young errant Christian will bring out grandmother's voice, which has gone very well on "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," swinging into the half-step, " — Saints — go — march — ing in." Now what spiritually minded Christian can call such a dance rhythm accented by dancing words, a spiritual song?

The objection may be offered that these are extreme illustrations, that it is not all that bad. These are the kind of things that many, many brethren are now considering good singing. They are not singable for the whole congregation; they are not characterized by the grace that belongs in worship; they are not good music; but are a fad, which those who originated it have already ceased to use.

This is not an indictment of new songs. It is critical of the type of songs which brethren are beginning to use. Many new songs of this generation are good in word and music, and they have a living quality about them. That is true of writers both in and out of the church, in our hymn books and in the convention type books. Let us not be carried away with these fads which are challenging to the musical capabilities of a few in the congregation. Instead, let us be concerned with making the quality of our worship in song, as in everything else, that which exemplifies spirituality and not sensuality.

There are a number of excellent hymn books on the market today. They are not filled with this trash, but contain the living songs of the past and the good quality of the present. Let those who have the responsibility of selecting such material, select the better material for the song leader and congregation, just as they do the study material. Get as much of the good quality as possible, with as little of the trash. Because, if you have the trash in songs, as in class material, it will be used. Let us have better singing.

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