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Weekly SNAC, 28 May 2017 - Book review: Songs of the Saints




It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that as a musician I have a big interest in church music and the songs we sing together. This interest leads me to read books and articles on the topic from time to time.

I recently read a new book – Songs of the Saints by Rob Smith and Mike Raiter that I would highly recommend!

Now this book doesn’t profess to be the be-all-and-end-all on this big topic of singing in church. Instead it sets out to do what its tagline says – “Enriching our singing by learning from the songs of Scripture.”

It does a wonderful job of taking us through the songs of the Old Testament (the first movement), and then the songs of the New Testament (the second movement), before exploring some big questions (like “Where do emotions fit in?”) in the third movement, and then (in the finale) exploring the question, “Where to from here?” when it comes to church music ministry. And it does all of this in a measured, biblical, and encouraging way, pulling together the teaching of the Bible and the songs and words of the saints throughout history (including some of the reformers which is relevant to our current series on the Reformation!).

So, why read it?

1. It’s written in a way that builds your faith.

It’s not simply a theoretical, abstract discussion of singing. It’s personal and practical. All throughout the book Smith and Raiter explore the ancient songs of the Bible, while applying them to our lives here and now. They also share from their experience (good and bad) of singing in church, and make us aware of the dangers as well as the blessings of singing.

As I read my faith was strengthened, and I found myself stopping from time to time, full of joy, to thank and praise God for what he’s done in history (most of all in Christ), and to thank him for the wonderful gift of singing that we enjoy each Sunday. And you don’t have to be a musician to benefit in this way!

2. We all need to be reminded why we sing.

Singing is a strange activity. I am often reminded of this as new people come through our doors and look around bewildered during the singing. But we as God’s people are commanded to sing. We are commanded both to sing God’s praises, and also to sing the truth of the gospel to encourage and spur one another on in our faith in Jesus.

But we aren’t just commanded to sing for no reason. We are commanded and invited to sing because it’s so good for us and God has been so good to us! Smith and Raiter explore many of the blessings God has given us in the gift of singing together – the way singing helps us to express our thoughts and emotions to God, the way it brings the truths of God’s word to bear on our hearts and minds, the way it binds us together in unity as God’s people, and many more blessings. 

So can I recommend you grab a copy and read it, to enrich your singing, and our singing together as a church! If you would like to grab yourself a copy, you can get it from Christian bookstores, or the Matthias media website.

Let me finish with a quote from the book:
Of course, singing is not the only way we praise God, but it accentuates our delight in God. Singing is not the only way we express our trust in God, but it enables us to express our faith with all our being. Singing is not the only way we express our communal identity as God’s people, but the experience itself can be relationally enriching, and spiritually exhilarating. So, let us sing.

Troy Munns

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