Editor’s Note: The Baptist and Reflector is celebrating its 180th anniversary this year. During this year we will be reprinting articles and editorials from the past. As I have looked over numerous articles it has been amazing to see issues we think pertain only to Baptists today have actually been around for decades upon decades in one form or another. We trust you will enjoy “glimpses of the past.” For the most part, articles are printed verbatim. Let us know what you think by e-mailing email@example.com.
Our Church Music
(published Nov. 15, 1928)
John D. Freeman, editor
More and more we are faced with the problem of providing suitable music for our church services. Once the meetings were held monthly, and there were never more than three regular services per month. That day is gone, and the well-organized church now holds from fifty to seventy-five distinct religious services each month. At each of these services a musical program is rendered, the principal part of which is the singing of gospel hymns. The average song book contains 300 hymns. At least three hymns are sung at each of these religious services. Taking it for granted that it would be possible for a member to attend all the services of a month, he would either have to know and help sing half the songs in the book or else sing the same songs many times over.
A careful estimate from an interested party reveals the fact that the average church congregation knows less than one-fourth of the songs in the book. In other words, 75 songs are sung during the month in 50 or more services where 150 or more hymns are used. It is readily seen, therefore, that “songs are sung to death.”
How many times has the regular attendant at church services heard “Love Lifted Me,” “I’m Dwelling in Beulah Land,” “Throw Out the Lifeline,” and such favorites? They are good gospel hymns and have a tune that is attractive. But are they better than hundreds of others? Is monotony conducive to worship? Suppose the preacher should never vary his method or the tone of his voice? Suppose the organist should play the same offeratory every service?
It is high time more attention was paid to our church music. There is power in music. Our Lord realized that fact when he gave to the Israelites such minute instructions about the music of the temple service. No greater assembly of musicians has ever been gathered than that which provided inspiration in the temple. That great orchestra of 4,000 pieces was a part of the service prescribed for Israel’s edification (I Chronicles 23:5). On some occasions great hosts of the Levites engaged in the song and praise services, and always there were the instruments of music. No temple service was complete without the trumpets of silver, the cymbals, and harps and psalteries. Many of the psalms, inspired of God for public worship as well as containing divine truth, were given to be sung with special instruments. The name of the instrument is there in the text. If one accepts the Word as inspired and of authority, then he must accept the instrument with the psalm.
We are specifically commanded to worship God in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We have practically removed the psalms from our worship. We have many fine hymns, but our “spiritual songs” are usually little less than a jangle of words set to jazz music. The stately chanting of psalms sang to the strains of musical instruments would add greatly to the spiritual power of any religious service, and who does not know the appeal of a real orchestra under competent leadership?
More than half the usual church service is taken up with music. Enter most any church Sunday morning and before you sit down in your pew you know what is the “bill of fare” for your soul. Here it is, as unchangeable as the law of the Medes and Persians:
(1) Prelude. (Amidst great confusion, talking, giggling, and general turmoil).
(2) Doxology. (And whoever heard of closing a service with the doxology? Surely it would be more fitting after an inspiration service than on the heels of the usual commotion.)
(3) Invocation. (Usually an effort to get the congregation quiet).
(4) Hymn (One that has been sung a thousand times).
(5) Scripture reading (Put here and forgotten before the sermon begins).
(6) Long prayer.
(7) Announcements (We’ve been having prayer meeting, evening service regularly for fifty years, but they must always be announced or the program will be broken. It matters not that they are printed in the bulletin, they must be announced.)
(9) Special number by the choir. (Usually some selection from a foreigner who knows absolutely nothing about an evangelical service and who composed the music for an Episcopal or Catholic service. The more dignified — classical — the more out of harmony with the service and the setting, the better it is thought to be. Great gospel hymns and anthems of American origin and Baptist meaning are seldom ever used because they are not “classical enough!”).
(10) Sermon. (Only fifteen or twenty minutes left and the congregation already bored to death by so many preliminaries).
(11) Invitation hymn. (Sometimes selected by the pastor, but most often not).
(12) Benediction. (The average congregation would not know how to leave without this part of the program. Yet we did not get it from the New Testament. The benedictions usually pronounced were the farewell declarations of disciples to their beloved friends sent by post.).
(13) Recessional. (Amidst the most unusual hubbub and turmoil, with perhaps two people in the audience listening).
Thus goes the menu in our churches. Sometimes it is varied by putting in another “anthem” or by adding the “Gloria” after the doxology and the “response” after the Scripture readings.
And yet we wonder why people do not like to go to church! It would prove an attractive innovation if our churches would dispense with their choirs for a few Sundays, have a good song leader, and let him get the congregation to sing. Another innovation that always brings results is to have a good orchestra to add its melody to the somber strains of the pipe organ or the rattling notes of the piano. And best of all, if the preacher would take charge, give his sermon before the congregation is tired out and then turn over the details for the choir, the gospel might have a chance.
We do not mean to be harsh or critical, but someone ought to speak out. From many sources we hear the cries of earnest pastors who complain about the fact that their time for preaching grows less and less. Congregations want to get away by twelve o’clock, and yet churches allow the “agenda” to our services to usurp three-fourths of the hour for preaching! And during that time the congregations have to sit and endure a repetition that actually becomes exasperating. We marvel that music directors do not realize just what they are doing and that they persist in “putting on” the same old show Sunday after Sunday.
Let us awake, begin to study the problems of our worship, set to work to have changes in songs, music, programs, and then if the pastor does not wake up, and begin to study in order to present fresh messages each Sunday, call a special prayer meeting and ask God to baptize him with the Holy Spirit. The changes are, however, that the moment the shackles of formalism and dignity are removed from his soul he will automatically spring into prominence as the “feature” of every preaching service at the church.
It Can’t Be Done
(published Jan. 28, 1932)
John D. Freeman, editor
“Please publish this in your next issue” or “please insert this in the issue for this week.” What editor does not know the burden of the requests. They grow out of the eagerness of the contributors to have their copy appear as soon as possible, and every editor appreciates them. But it cannot be done! Every article published must be subjected to two tests: (1) Is it of such a nature that its value will be lost if it is delayed? and (2) Is it of more importance than some other copy in hand? If there is a time element in it, as is true of news, or of articles dealing with some immediate program or incident, it takes precedence over other copy. If it is considered of more vital value to the readers than another article, it gets in. To publish all the copy received in any paper office would require twice as many pages in the paper as it can carry. Right now the Baptist and Reflector is loaded to the guards with copy. Some of it must be left out. Tennessee Baptists choose their editor to make selections, and he seeks to do so in the light of the best sense he has.
What Is Our Standard?
(published Feb. 27, 1958)
Richard N. Owen, editor
Putting the Explorer in orbit around the earth has made a lot of American people feel a little easier. This, of course, comes about because far too much judging of ourselves is one by the standard of Russian competition. It is an appalling thing that so many of us are more concerned about our competition with Russia than we are about our standing before God. What does it profit us if we win the struggle against Russia, but we lose out with God? Marxism has deified technological forces. Never before have we been in such peril of doing the same thing in our own country. The question in the world today is essentially theological. Do we have the wisdom to realize that the Lord is God? He alone is God, and men can only be accepted to Him through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ.
(published Jan. 26, 1978)
Alvin C. Shackleford, editor
Tennessee Baptists were “frozen” out of an outstanding State Evangelism Conference last week as freezing temperatures and precipitation in various frozen forms prohibited many from attending.
According to observers, the program was the best, and the attendance was the worst in recent years.
This is the second straight year that the weather has handicapped attendance at the annual conference. Perhaps the use of this traditional mid-January date should be re-evaluated — if this type of horrible January weather also becomes a tradition.
In spite of the low attendance, those who did brave the icy roads seemed to spiritually enjoy the two-day conference. The speakers and musicians certainly were not deterred by the weather and poor attendance.
The program was planned basically by Tom Madden, director of convention ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention with the finishing touches added by Malcolm McDow after he became director of evangelism in October. Frank Charton enlisted the musicians who assisted in bringing about a total meaningful conference.
The program was well balanced. The speakers used a variety of styles, but each communicated his convictions, based on his messages on the Bible, and expressed his own excitement with evangelism. Who will ever forget the enthusiasm of James Coffee, the revealing Bible studies of Huber Drumwright, or the simple Scriptural insights of Ken Chafin?
The music was as varied — and as inspirational — as was the preaching.
Again this year, the people of Belmont Heights Church were more than gracious hosts, under difficult problems caused by the weather. They do such a good job each year. We may just take them for granted.
The 1978 State Evangelism Conference is now past. However, it is hoped that the challenges, the commitments, the excitement, and the inspiration will continue.