A little over three years ago, my wife, Kathy, and I visited Rogersville with the intention of moving here from California. It was then that I first met Tommy Campbell, the former editor and publisher of the Rogersville Review.
Tommy was a very nice, friendly and engaging person. We chatted for a while and he showed genuine interest in us. At one point he inquired about my involvement in our house church. I explained that I was the temporary song master for over seven years; not because I knew what I was doing, but because there was no one else to fill the job. Next, I explained that I used to supplement our singing with a brief weekly biographical story about a song’s author or their story.
Tommy asked me to send him some examples because he thought these stories might be interesting enough to publish in the Review. I thanked him for his interest, but we weren’t residents here yet. I suggested that once we settled in, I would submit a few stories.
Kathy was here first, and I stayed in California to sell our house and move. Over the next six months, it took about seven coast-to-coast round trips to transport all of our belongings and all of his merchandise inventory from California to downtown Rogersville.
Finally, I was comfortably at home in this city and, finally, I stopped at the magazine’s office to visit Tommy. He recognized me immediately and gladly accepted a few sample stories. He published the first one that week and titled the column (HYMN NOTES). That was 83 weeks ago, and I’m grateful to Tommy (and all my readers) for making my column a regular feature in the Rogersville Review.
Beginning next weekend, this column will no longer be titled HYMN NOTES, but will bear the new title, PSALMS, HYMNS, AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, which will more accurately identify its purpose.
The apostle Paul instructed the church to “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” Eph 5:19
The first interesting thing to note is that we need to “talk” to each other with our music. Just like the words from the preacher’s mouth, the words we sing and hear in our music are important in our worship.
Paul identified three distinct and separate types of music that we should use in our worship.
The psalms are the actual words of scripture set to music. With the psalms, God is glorified when we sing his own words to him; words that speak of his character and nature and all his superlative attributes. And His words are higher and bigger than the best that we could ever compose ourselves, so these are the highest and biggest compositions that we can put to music. And that will focus our attention on Him for His glory.
Hymns, by definition, are songs composed by men and used primarily to praise God. A side benefit of using hymns is that much of our doctrine is written in poetic texts. It is a good thing if the doctrine is correct. But there are sometimes false doctrines in Christian music, and this is where pastors must be on their guard so that the flock is not deceived. When the doctrine is correct, much of what we know and believe about our faith can be learned through our music.
Spiritual songs are choruses and songs that speak of our personal relationship with Christ. They contain elements of personal testimonies as we share, through music, who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
These are the elements. With PSALMS we glorify God. With HYMNS we build each other up in faith And with SPIRITUAL SONGS we point others to Christ. And that’s my goal with this column and the reason for the change.
Ralph M. Petersen and his wife, Kathy, are the owners of the OLDE TOWNE EMPORIUM at 212 E. Main St. in Rogersville. Comments are welcome. You can contact him at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 321 9235.