Armed for Battle?

Why is it, pray tell, that so many of our churches, rather than draw on the vast treasure chest of Christian hymnody that is at our disposal, settle instead for camp-fire/revival style songs when it comes to our Sunday School, VBS, and other Christian education programs? Why do we settle for songs that teach virtually nothing about the Christian Faith when we have at our very fingertips the very best of hymns like “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice!” or “Salvation Unto Us Has Come”?  Is it because we think these songs are easier to sing, or “more accessible” for children? Well, that is usually the case with candy. It is much easier to swallow than green beans and Oatmeal. 

Many of the songs that I loved to sing and play as a Junior Counselor at a Lutheran Camp I later realized contained false doctrine, or simply didn’t say anything worthwhile at all. Here are a couple of examples: “I am the resurrection, I am the life, he who believes in me will live a new life.” Pretty good so far, right? Then comes the verse: “It is love that makes the S(s?)pirit grow, da, da da.” Yikes! I thought it was the other way around. And yet here I was, having my Credendi shaped by my Orandi without me even knowing it. Or there’s this one: “We can be together, now and forever, I love you; I love you. Jesus made me feel it, and I can’t conceal it, I love you; I love you. People all over this world are opening up and their coming around…” What in the heck is this supposed to mean? Where is the language of the Church and the Catechism?  Not all of the songs were necessarily false, but when you hold them up next to “Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today,” or “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” they don’t even come close.

Surely the Enemy takes great delight in such songs and encourages the sons and daughters of God to sing them to their heart’s content. For he knows that they can do him no harm, indeed, that they actually help him in his work. They are supposedly “Christian,” so no one stops to ask whether or not they are correct or not, whether they are of good substance or not. Putting these songs onto the lips of our children is a bit like sending soldiers into battle, but giving them Nerf Guns, rather than bazookas and Machine guns with real bullets. Or worse yet, it is like giving them guns that shoot only blanks.

But maybe that is part of the problem: maybe we don’t take seriously enough the fact that our Sunday Schools and education programs are supposed to be preparing our children for battle with the unholy trinity: the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Perhaps we think we are already the Church at rest, and not the Church that is at war. Whatever the case may be, if we are going to be putting songs onto the lips and into the hearts of our children, shouldn’t we be giving them bazookas rather than Nerf guns? Shouldn’t we be arming them with spiritual weapons rather than spiritual toys?

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are forming the faith of our children by the songs that we give them to sing. If we want them to have a shallow or even false faith, then by all means, let’s give them shallow and false songs to sing. If, however, we are committed to instilling a faith that has depth and root, then let’s dispense with the spiritual “Nerf guns” and arm our children with spiritual bazookas and machine guns. Let’s give them the best, not the least and most mediocre of songs and hymns at our disposal. We are arming them for battle, preparing them to meet the Enemy in their homes and in their schools. Let’s make sure they are well prepared.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to Armed for Battle?

  1. Rev Allen Yount says:

    When I was in college (yes, it was one of the Missouri Synod’s schools), songs like these were a staple at informal devotional/Bible study gatherings on campus. It took years for me to realize how lacking in substance – or doctrinally incorrect – they were.

    One song that I used to like singing but now absolutely loathe is “Boy, Do I feel Great!”. How’s this for false doctrine? “He’s no longer here but His Spirit still goes on. And if you believe then He’s never really gone. So if the victory dance makes you want to cry, remember that His Spirit will never die”. That is just plain WRONG on so many points.

  2. Rev. Shane R. Cota says:

    This is a GREAT post. I am in the midst of a battle over these things right now. We have people upset that we use Matins and the Divine Service and only hymns from the hymnal in our school chapel. Before I got here, it was mostly a camp song sing a long (although before that, it had been hymns). The younger kids (who weren’t around when chapel was “funtime”) are taking to the liturgy and hymns amazingly well. Yet, we actually have parents who are threatening to take their kids out of the school because of the “ritualistic” worship and chapel not being “fun.” How’s that for taking the Christian faith seriously? They act like I don’t care about the kids, when the very reason I have been doing what I do is because I actually do care about their long-term spiritual well-being and ability to stand against the schemes of the devil.

  3. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    I’ve got a great asset here in the IDE with Pastor Terry Small and Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca. If you want a good camp to take your kids to, where a sharp line is drawn between play time and prayer time, this is a good one. They have made great strides towards getting the camp back on an orthodox Lutheran track. Every morning and afternoon the Pastor for the Week leads an abbreviated form of Matins and Vespers, with a hymn usually played by a counselor or sung a cappella. The themes are great. The teaching is good. And the kids have a great time too. He was just up at our church speaking about the camp. Too bad more people didn’t come, but it was probably too close to Easter and our Easter breakfast.

    Keep figthing my friend! Arm those kids for battle with something that will actually wound the Enemy, rather than help his cause.

  4. forestboar says:

    Paul, thanks for your comments over at Cyberbrethren about statistics. Incidentally, it was me, and the topic was, interestingly, the extreme disappointment pastors feel year after year at the CPH VBS materials. Look at my blog, if you dare.

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