Why God Has Never Done a NEW Thing Using OLD Songs

If we really are mature in our faith, we shouldn’t need things to be done our way.

songs

Every old song used to be a new song.

I wonder who the first worship director was who said, “Hey, I like that new song John Newton wrote,” before introducing “Amazing Grace” to the church.

Whoever it was, he probably had to deal with complaints from church members who didn’t think it was as good as the hymns they were used to singing. “In six verses, the name of Jesus isn’t mentioned once, but it says ‘me,’ ‘my’ and ‘I’ 13 times! Today’s songs are so self-centered and shallow!”

In a recent post titled “Six Reasons Some Churches Are Moving Back to One Worship Style,” Thom Rainer tells us that, according to some of his recent surveys, the contemporary versus traditional worship wars may be drawing to a close.

I hope new music won.

No, I don’t hate the hymns. And I’m not a kid. I’m a mid-50s Small Church pastor who’s been in the church all my life. So I understand that many in my generation and older are touched and drawn closer in worship through the songs of their youth. But the youth of today need to be touched by songs that speak to their hearts, too. And not just in their own, segregated youth services.

Before you scroll down to the comment section to complain about spiky-haired divas leading worship teams, hear me out. First of all, why does everyone who complains about new music seem to have a problem with spiky hair? I’m OK with it. I’m sure God is too. Second, in my 35 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve met far more divas leading or singing in robed choirs than on worship teams.

Ego knows no age. And it’s wrong, no matter the style of music.

A Message for My Fellow “Mature Believers”

We sometimes use the term “mature believers,” when we’re referring to older Christians. But if we really are mature believers, we should be able to worship Jesus in any situation, no matter what the style of music is. Like the Apostle Paul, we should learn to be “Philippians 4:11” href=”http://www.biblestudytools.com/philippians/4-11.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>content whatever the circumstances.” Or, as I once heard an older pastor say, “I’ve learned to worship Jesus in a style of music I don’t like.” Now that’s a mature believer.

The styles and methods of outward-reaching churches cannot and should not be directed toward the long-time members. If we really are mature in our faith, we shouldn’t need things to be done our way.

So who should our methods and musical styles be geared toward? How about new and not-yet believers? Especially the young ones. Those are the ones who are at risk and are leaving the church in record numbers.

We’re losing this generation! Yes, losing them. But instead of asking ourselves “what can we do to keep our own kids and grandkids in church?” not to mention the at-risk kids in our neighborhoods, we complain that they lack commitment, they’re consumer-oriented, or they’re shallow and selfish. All because they don’t want to do church the way we want them to do it. 

Of course they’re selfish. They’re young, they’re immature and/or they’re unbelievers. Selfishness is practically their job.

Instead of demanding the impossible—that those who are immature in their faith stop wanting things their way—mature believers ought to act like mature believers. We don’t teach selflessness to immature people by demanding it of them but by being examples of selflessness among them.

Instead, we criticize today’s consumer-oriented generation, then stomp our feet and complain, “I want my church to sing the worship songs and hymns I like, or I’ll leave this church and take my tithes with me!”

Oh, the irony!

The younger generation is going to hell, while the previous generation complains that the new church music on our first-class ride to heaven is not to our liking. Ugh!

True servanthood ministry doesn’t flow from the immature to the mature, but the other way around. Mature Christians shouldn’t be coming to church to receive ministry, but to do ministry. And to support the ministry that’s being directed toward those who need it the most.

 Invite God to Do Something New

There’s not a drop of nostalgia in me for the songs we sang when I was in church as a teenager—even though they touched my heart then.

I don’t want to worship Jesus the way we did years ago, because Jesus never repeats what he did years ago. He wants to do something new, NOW! 

But how can we be ready for what God wants to do now if we’re not willing to do something as simple as singing the worship songs God is giving to today’s songwriters?

God has never done a new thing using old songs.

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Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.

33 Comments

  1. Some good points Karl but I think the main reason Millennials are leaving the church is because they are not seeing authentic believers who are washed in the blood, Holy Spirit inspired, demonstrated by transformational living.

  2. Most new songs are by people are in business to make money, which is NOT why we should ever serve God… Most of these groups should not even be call a ministry since they are charging people to hear their music… If a ministry is of God, he will provide…

  3. “God has NEVER done a new thing using old songs”??? Case in point – millions of believers worldwide who first responded the the message of the Gospel and accepted the invitation to the old tune of ‘Just as I am.’ Perhaps we should consider that many an old song is “new” to those who’ve never heard it. More importantly, He does what He wants.

  4. well said!

  5. That is an interesting response. Pastors get paid as well. Should they not be called a ministry either? The church would not have any leadership at all if they didn’t get paid. They simply would not have enough time to handle all of the things required by a pastor.

    The same is true for music. Most new christian songs are either sermons or prayers being sung with music. As a musician myself, I can tell you that I simply do not have the time to craft the songs that are necessary for worship. I play bass on the worship team at my church. Since we hold services on Sat & Sun, I struggle to maintain an open schedule for the weekend.

    I do not get paid, so I work a full time job, as does my wife. The only time I have to spend with my wife & kids is Sat & Sun. But since I serve on the worship team, I need to sacrifice either my family or my love of serving tbrough music.

    I would say that if someone can get paid to focus on serving God through music, then God is certainly providing for them. Yes, some musicians get in to make money, but the same is also true for pastors, and the number is relatively few. Most musicians start by worshiping God, then God opens the door & provides so that they are taken care of and can focus on writing the songs that bring 1000s of people to Jesus every weekend.

  6. It wasn’t one song that led them to christ. There were plenty of new songs too. However. What brought them to Christ was fresh new anointed preaching. Just as I am is a great song. But it wasn’t responsible for the crowds. At least it wasnt for me, i responded to the new songs and nww preaching.
    God bless

  7. I thought this was over some time ago. Two things: God used Amazing Grace to bring me to salvation when generations had heard it and we’re tired of it. I had never heard it and continue to be enthralled by it. Nevertheless, I like the new music as well. However, are we doing the young people any favors when we don’t help them learn compromise? Secondly, I question the answer to losing young people is because we don’t cater to them enough and don’t present the gospel in a way that is entertaining. Jesus did not make Himself over tobe like the world around Him. He presented truth with the power of God. In Deuteronomy, Nehemiah, Ezra and Jesus preaching on a hillside to thousands, revival came when the Word (Bible) was given directly to the people–men, women, and children in greater than 20 minute, weekly increments. Today, the persecuted church will sit for 6 to 10 hours at a time to be fed because they are so hungry for the Word. In America, we have to be like Mama’s feeding baby food–making airplane or Choo choo noises to get the adults to eat a quick 20 min meal here in America. We are losing young people because we lost the adults who do not live their lives in love with God to model and disciple their children to a life with meaning and purpose. We have a spiritual problem in this country that no one wants to admit to–they just keep building huge churches and congratulating themselves on how many people they can gather with their entrainment package.

  8. We are losing kids because we have lost the glory of God. Our worship is self-serving and devoid of doctrine. Pick up an old hymn and you’ll often find it deeper and more meaningful than modern devotionals much less the spiritually shallow music we “worship” to today.

    There is a reason the hymns have lasted as long as they have and why the “new” worship songs often die faster than a dud firework. The flesh demands, “New, new!” but the child of God pleads, “Give me something that I might worship God with my whole heart, my whole body, my whole mind, and my whole soul.”

    I like some new songs. “Blessings” by Laura Story really speaks to me. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” is outstanding. I do not even mind singing a mindless worship song now and again, (“I Could Sing of His Love Forever” comes to mind). But our musical diet should be filled w/ doctrinally sound, biblically based music with occasional “feel good song” for desert.

  9. And yet people still do not want to listen to my songs. You cannot have it both wats!

  10. Funny…God is still doing NEW things with His OLD Word!!! Every young generation has tried to “force” the church to adapt and drop the “oldies”…and yet through generation after generation, there are some transformational truths taught in those OLD hymns. I’m blessed to be a musician that LOVES the hymns..and LOVES the choruses because I love God and I love music. Many church members are non-musicians…and for “older” or “mature” believers, it’s not about having things “their way”…it’s about the difficulty of learning new songs and new tunes and new rhythms…especially choruses that just seem to repeat the same phrase over and over and over again! Another new technique is watching pastors…you and “mature”…using Facebook and electronic media to try to “guilt” the “mature” believers into thinking their way. Accepting both choruses and hymns isn’t compromise…because no one’s giving up anything. Both sides are gaining something!!! Stop acting like the music is why kids aren’t going to church. They’re dropping out of school left and right too…and all the new attempts at teaching and all the technology isn’t keeping them there. IT’S A SIN PROBLEM that has them leaving…and preachers have stopped preaching that there’s a solution for sin…and most new choruses don’t talk about the seriousness of sin and the gift of salvation. I don’t like “Christians” that belittle other Christians for not doing it “their way”…and that’s really what this article is all about.

  11. Hi Simon, I completely agree, it wasn’t one song that drew the crowds or brought them to Christ. But I do believe the Holy Spirit used the words of that song to compel people to surrender their lives, thus doing a “new thing.” For the record, I love old and new, and I believe in prioritizing reaching out to the unsaved & “becoming all things to all people that we might win some” over our own desires, which is the main point of the article. I just don’t happen to believe that what God does in this generation negates the value of what He’s done in the past. I actually think Scripture teaches us the opposite – to preserve, remember, and revere all that He’s done throughout history, in fact it is dangerous not to do so, and one of the ways we do that is by singing the plethora of songs He’s given through the ages. There’s room for all! Appreciate the dialogue. Blessings!

  12. I will answer you with these verses and let you decide… Christians are supposed to be a mobile people, nomads, going about preaching the Word just like they did with Jesus and the Book of Acts… However, after Constantine legalized Christianity it turned into something completely different…

    2 Peter 2:3 “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not”

    1 Corinthians 9:18 “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel”

    2 Corinthians 2:17 (AMP) “17 For we are not like many, [acting like merchants] peddling God’s word [shortchanging and adulterating God’s message]; but from pure [uncompromised] motives, as [commissioned and sent] from God, we speak [His message] in Christ in the sight of God”

  13. Hi Dan, thanks for the verses. I couldn’t see them quite the same way as you when I read them in context. 2 Peter 2:3 is talking about false prophets who would lie about God to make money. It has nothing to do with people getting paid to spread the gospel.

    In fact, 4 verses before your next verse 1 Cor 9:18, Paul says this:

    In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. (1 Corinthians 9:14 – NLT)

    What he was saying in verse 18 is that he himself did not use this right that was clearly ordered by the Lord in verse 14.

    2 Corinthians 2:17 is the only verse that applies here. This verse is talking about the Joel Osteens who merely use their sermons as an infomercial to sell the next feel-good book. Yes, there are musicians that do this as well.

    The thing is, God knows the heart of the one writing the song. The issue is between them & God. It is not for us to judge. Most of the Joel Osteen types (pastors & musicians) stand out like a sore thumb. They can easily be avoided. But there are plenty of good contemporary worship songs that are theologically sound from true christian artists. The are getting paid just as the Lord ordered in 1 Corinthians 9:14.

    In my church, our great reward always comes during baptism. We see about 1000 people per year getting baptised. As they walk across the stage, their story plays over the speakers. The thing that we hear more than anything else is that the music kept them coming back to church. It was the music that broke the ice. It was the music that broke down the barriers between them & God. It was the music that prepared their hearts to hear the gospel. And it was the music that allows us musicians to hold the door open so that they could clearly see Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I will do anything short of sin to see lives being changed by Christ. I want to be so close to the fire that I can feel the flames. If one if the songs we use happens to be written by someone who wrote it simply to profit, and yet God is still using the song to lead people to Himself, who am I to stand in His way. I will continue to use the song until God stops using it.

  14. Any references in the book of Acts of anyone getting paid to preach?

  15. Are you suggesting that the book of Acts should contradict Paul? If the book of Acts says that people should NOT get paid to preach, then the Bible has a serious contradiction since Paul says, “the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it”(1 Corinthians 9:14 – NLT).

    On the other hand, since Paul clearly states that the Lord ordered this, and this cannot be refuted without discrediting Paul, then the book of Acts does not need to reference this.

    Furthermore, the book of Acts is the story of how the church grew. It focused on the conversions of new believers and the planting of new churches. I would not expect to find any references there. However, when Paul was writing 1 Corinthians 9:14, he was talking about his time during his missions, many of which were shown in the book of Acts.

    You can take a look at the words of Jesus though. In both Matthew 10:5-11 & Luke 9:1-5 Jesus seems to be saying that those who are in ministry should be supported by those reaping the benefits of the ministry. This is clearly what Paul understood in 1 Corinthians 9:14.

  16. Thought I would also leave you a song. This is Unstoppable God from Elevation Worship. Our church uses this song along with several hundred others. This is consistent with what you find in contemporary christian music.

    Heaven thundered
    And the world was born
    Life begins and ends
    In the dust You formed

    Faith commanded
    And the mountains moved
    Fear is losing ground
    To our hope in You

    Unstoppable God
    Let Your glory go on and on
    Impossible things
    In Your name they shall be done

    Freedom conquered
    All our chains undone
    Sin defeated
    Jesus has overcome

    Mercy triumphed
    When the third day dawned
    Darkness was denied
    When the stone was gone

    Nothing shall be impossible
    Your kingdom reigns unstoppable
    We’ll shout Your praise forevermore
    Jesus our God unstoppable

    This song is simply the Gospel presented in a way that people will still be hearing it through the week. Most people will forget a pastor’s words within the first hour after they leave the sermon. But a well crafted song can leave one singing & implanting the Gospel into his or her heart all week long.

  17. Do you pay your pastor?

  18. Only a fool muzzles the ox!

  19. Sure don’t…

  20. Exactly!!!

  21. I will also like to share this song. I think it speaks for itself.

    “The Heart Of Worship”

    When the music fades

    All is stripped away

    And I simply come

    Longing just to bring

    Something that’s of worth

    That will bless Your heart

    I’ll bring You more than a song

    For a song in itself

    Is not what You have required

    You search much deeper within

    Through the way things appear

    You’re looking into my heart

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship

    And it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

    I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

    When it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

    King of endless worth

    No one could express

    How much You deserve

    Though I’m weak and poor

    All I have is Yours

    Every single breath

    I’ll bring You more than a song

    For a song in itself

    Is not what You have required

    You search much deeper within

    Through the way things appear

    You’re looking into my heart

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship

    And it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

    I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

    And it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

    I’m coming back to the heart of worship,

    And it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

    I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

    And it’s all about You,

    It’s all about You, Jesus

  22. While I see your point, I’m not sure I agree 100%.
    My husband is pastor of a small country church that just celebrated its 175th anniversary. While we do sing some new(er) music and the pianist (worship leader, what’s that?!?) tries to introduce new music from time to time, with mixed results, the majority of the time, we sing hymns and choruses from the 80’s.
    The church is not solely a congregation of seniors; roughly 15-20% are in their 20’s. And they sing along regardless of the age of a song.
    I would urge that, rather than scrapping the old songs, tell the younger generation WHY they mean so much to you. Then find out what touches them about the newer music. You might both develop a new appreciation for something that you may not have previously known or liked. But even if you don’t, you may just form a connection to someone that will be even more of a draw to Jesus for them.
    You mention that the older generation needs to do the ministering and I agree to a point, however they still need to be ministered to too or they will cease to have it in them to continue ministering.
    I like a lot of the newer music. I am far from being against it, however much of it fails to feed my soul like hymns do.
    At our last church, we sang new music almost exclusively. I felt like I was starving to death. You know when you’re really hungry and you need a hearty meal and all you can think of is a big, juicy steak and a baked potato? Think of that feeling and then imagine coming home and finding out that you’re having salad for dinner.
    Now salad is great. It’s healthy and can be a great meal, but day after day, week in and week out of nothing but salad leaves you unsatisfied. Sometimes you need a big, juicy steak.
    Or a soul satisfying hymn.

  23. I think we need a mix. I truly surrender my life to God as a teenager in a church that mostly did contemporary songs. I loved it. I eventually had to switch churches due to circumstances outside of my control. I went from a church of 6,000 to 60 and I was 1 of only 2 people between the ages of 18-30. The worship was hymns and it was hard for me. Then I began to study John Wesley and learn these hymns and a deep appreciation developed within me. In my small group, all older women (we may be adding 2 girls in their 20s this week! Yay!), we mix. My pastor has switched to a much more contemporary style, but still has some hymns. We are over 100 people in just 2 years. We don’t need an either/or attitude. We don’t need glitz for glitz sake. We need authenticity. When we are authentic then young people respond, especially to tradition. They want that tie to something deeper, but it can’t be an act. If you care more about Jesus and people than anything else what you sing won’t be the deciding factor.

  24. Krysann,
    As a mother of four millenials, I want to thank you for your insightful comments. It is the desire of our heart (baby boomers) to stay relevant and fruitful. You have answered my question as to why millenials have disengaged with the church.
    But remember, God uses all generations to fulfill his purpose of revealing himself to a very, very dark world.

  25. While I agree with much of the article, the phrase “God has never done a new thing using old songs.” is totally untrue. Every one of the Psalms is a very old song – does the author hold that God never uses the Psalms anymore? If so, we can just tear them out of the Bible. God can use the hymns, also. While some older people do “cling to the past”, others fall into the category of “always seeking something new” simply because it is new.

  26. There definitely is in the book of Titus.

  27. 100% agree with you! I so admire my parents and grandparents’ generations’ attempts at living out the Kingdom Ethic. So much. It would be a mistake to try and replicate their actions of years past because our world keeps changing, but they are no less beautiful and a part of the tapestry of God’s Plan. AND the work of *all* generations isn’t over. As long as any of us is breathing we are responsible to the call of Christ. ❤️

  28. Show it

  29. 1 Corinthians 9:14
    Let us move onto the next verse, 1 Corinthians 9:14…

    So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

    Well, this is pretty damning good evidence, is it not? No, not really. Let us consider the some of the context surrounding the verse, 1 Corinthians 9:9-18

    For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

    But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

    You have to realize, Paul (the author of this letter) repeatedly says that although they have the right to receive money for their work, they did not pursue this right. They did this so they would not hinder the gospel. Oh, and there is also an often ignored smoking gun in this verse. Do you see it? This verse has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with pastors or elders! This is about missionaries. Paul was not an elder or a pastor, he was a missionary. He was travelling from town to town as a missionary spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Now, I would be the last person to argue that we should not support missionary work, but Paul here says it is ideal for a missionary to find their own work and support themselves! But we cannot deny the fact that in this context, those who proclaim the gospel get their living from the gospel is talking about people who are leaving their home town and travelling far away to share about the Christ. In other words, these are people who would, in any normal situation, have a hard time finding employment and supporting their own physical needs.

  30. They responded to the Gospel not the song. Hymns are a tiny fraction of time a very tiny fraction compared to all of history. GOD had songs placed in his Word and we don’t sing them. The point is not about old or new. It is about reaching hearts and not turning them away with the distraction of music. It is myopic indeed to think that Hymns are the only songs of value.

  31. Hymn writers made money writing hymns. If their song was used in a publication they received renumeration for it. Fanny Crosby one of my favorites wrote several thousand hymns for her publishers and many other pieces of work. She used several pen names at the request of her publishers to keep from having hymnals laden with just Crosby hymns. Hymn writing was as much as business as minstrel or music scoring.


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