One of the all-time favorite opportunities of my life was playing piano and leading music at church camp meetings. The sound of the huge crowd was incredible as they sang,
“Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain.
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain!
Glorious freedom! Wonderful freedom!
No more in chains of sin I repine.
Jesus the glorious Emancipator,
Now and forever, He shall be mine.”
Just playing the introduction to that great hymn was like lightning!
What can compare to hearing the people sing,
“I heard and old, old story, how the Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary, to save a wretch like me.
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning,
And I repented of my sin and won the victory!
Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
He sought me, and bought me, with His redeeming blood.
He loved me ‘ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”
“My heart was distressed ‘neath Jehovah’s dread frown,
And low in the pit where my sins dragged me down,
I cried to the Lord from the deep miry clay,
Who tenderly brought me out to golden day.
He brought me out of the miry clay!
He set my feet on the rock to stay.
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, Hallelujah!”
We always included,
“Such love, such wondrous love,
Such love, such wondrous love,
That God should love and sinner such as I,
How wonderful is love like this?”
Folks loved singing,
“When we all get to Heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!”
“I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus, the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous, how wonderful,
And my song shall ever be.
How marvelous, how wonderful,
Is my Savior’s love for me.”
Would altars have been empty without great songs like,
“Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.”
“I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee my Blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come.”
Where would we be without great songwriters like
John and Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Haldor Lillenas, Isaac Watts, John Newton, William Kirkpatrick, and Ira Sankey?
I guess I’ve become an old goat like the ones I used to complain about when I was a pastor. There was an old guy in the second church I pastored who folded his arms and stared at me when we sang songs that weren’t in the hymnal. Every week we usually led two hymns and then two or three choruses. When the hymn book closed, he was done.
I like what the great old general superintendent, Dr. Earle Wilson, said, “I like the new choruses. The ones that say something.”
Fifty years from now a new old goat will probably say, “I miss the old songs we used to sing in church that Chris Tomlin wrote.”