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.