Appendix 1 —
BEST CHAPTER IN THE BOOK
With a title like that, everyone will turn to this chapter. But it will only be the best—if you read this chapter all the way through. Then you will find out how truly wonderful it really is.
The secret of how to acquire a radiant Christian experience is to be found here. It will take some work; but, actively entered into, it will encourage you for years to come. It can also be the means of helping you save your loved ones and your children.
"As the children of Israel, journeying through the wilderness, cheered their way by the music of sacred song, so God bids His children today gladden their pilgrim life. There are few means more effective for fixing His words in the memory than repeating them in song. And such song has wonderful power. It has power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action, and to banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort."—Education, pp. 167-168.
It was going to be a rough school year. An old mansion had been rented in Philadelphia, not far from the train depot. Most of the church conference funds had been sunk into purchasing the building; so there was not much left for some of the needed supplies.
Called "The Philadelphia Academy," it was a private religious school for high-school-age church youth, many of whom were not too religious. With a staff of four teachers, besides himself, and a student body of 70 teenagers, George H. Akers, the young principal, was not sure what the year would bring. But he was enthusiastic and determined that, with the help of the Lord, it would be a good year.
Yet the situation did not look too good as soon as the term began in early October. Rather quickly, young Harry came to him with the query, "Prof, how can we have worship when we ain't got no songbooks?"
"Yes, I know, Harry, and we're going to see what we can do about that," was Akers' confident reply. But he did not feel as confident as he sounded.
That led them to start something new. At first, there were a few grumblers, but it was not long before they began to like the idea too. Fortunately, Principal Akers was the type of person who knew how to pray—and then enthusiastically get the others to climb on board and help make it a success.
But we are getting ahead of our story. We will let "Prof" Akers describe how the project got started. (I have edited the story a little, for added clarity.)
"Early in the school year, I was discussing with the student-faculty council the centrality of morning worship for our school family. It was very important that we have all the 'family' present each day for morning worship so that we could get our spiritual bearings for the day from God's Word, inviting the Holy Spirit and good angels to sweeten our fellowship with their presence.
"We needed to make this family worship the very first appointment of the school day, prime family time for all of us, faculty and students together.
"One of the kids suggested that we call it our 'Power Hour.' The name stuck immediately.
"The discussion took an interesting turn when one of the student monitors weighed in with, 'When do we start? I really dig this "family" idea. You're Dad, and the faculty are like our big brothers and sisters, and we're all together, like family, getting our day started with God. It will be especially nice to have all the faculty present to experience this with us!'
"Little did I realize that moving the chapel time to early morning every day would launch a major debate in the next faculty meeting. It became a moment of truth for us as a faculty of five.
"For whose benefit did the school and the schedule exist? ours or the students?
"As I look back on that historic faculty meeting, I sense now how the Holy Spirit took over that discussion. He knew that making the worship service our very first business would become a potent symbol in our school. It was a powerful signal, declaring that as a school family we really did believe Matthew 6:33: 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God . . and all these' - other - 'things shall be added unto you.'
"It meant some radical shifts in faculty schedules, some of them quite painful and inconvenient at first; But God worked it all out, beyond our wildest expectations. Within weeks, we thanked the Lord for the day that we deliberately made worship, prayer, and praise the central organizing principle of our school.
"But what about songbooks? The academy had recently purchased this grand old mansion in west Philadelphia, and the three churches that sponsored the school had exhausted themselves just in providing all the other physical imperatives to outfit the school. Perhaps there had been songbooks before; but, if so, in the big move to the new quarters they got lost in the shuffle. And we were fresh out of money to buy new ones."
So when Harry asked how they were going to get through the year without songbooks, Prof Akers was puzzled.
Yes, where would they get the songbooks? How could they go through nine months of daily worships—without songbooks?
Actually, there were two songbooks, but only two: one for the pianist and the other for the song leader.
So Prof Akers held an emergency meeting with the students, to try and decide what should be done. And then it was that the decision was made.
But we will let him tell what happened next. He mentioned the problem when everyone was present at the next student-faculty discussion:
"I well remember the naive optimism of Susie, one of the senior girls who piped up, 'That's no real problem; we can just memorize all the words!'
"What she said almost staggered me! 'And besides,' she went on, 'if what we learned in Bible class yesterday is true—and I'm sure it is—someday we're going to be out in the rocks and mountains, and we'll only have what's in our heads. Why don't we begin storing away those hymns and songs now? Who needs songbooks?'
"Believe it or not, the kids bought her suggestion, enthusiastically! I was beginning to think that things were getting out of hand, gone totally unrealistic. But youth are divinely pre-programmed to be mountain movers. They're looking for a banner to march under, some consuming cause worthy of their boundless energies and fierce loyalties. It was coming out in this student-faculty discussion: youth's instinctive yearning for an overwhelming challenge. They're born for it; they're bored silly and short-circuited without it."
If there are any present or future parents, teachers, or youth workers reading this, you would do well to carefully think through the next few pages. They not only can change your own life, but also the lives of the young people you work with.
"As I look back on this experience now, I realize that God was teaching me an important lesson as a young principal, that keeping lofty ideals constantly and uncompromisingly before our youth, making these the glue that keeps everything in the school and their lives stuck together, is probably the surest way to release and focus their constructive pent-up energies and unflagging commitment. Our youth are weary of religious shadow boxing and playing church; they want something 'real.' To Susie, the time of trouble was just around the corner, and there was little time to spare in getting prepared spiritually for it."
Still unsure of whether this was all going to come to a crashing halt pretty soon, Prof Akers decided he had better go with the momentum for now.
"The discussion tumbled over itself, as the kids happily began laying plans. And I sensed that I was in too deep now to lag behind them or drag my feet; so I let things roll on, figuring I might corral the matter at a more convenient stage later on.
"At the close, one of the boys brought me face to face with present reality:" 'Prof, you're the head of this house, and you'll be leading out in Power Hour;—you can teach us all these hymns! We promise to learn.' "
At those words, Prof Ackers just about choked, but it was true: He was in too deep now to back out.
"With my low voice and lack of giftedness at song leading, I demurred. But they wouldn't let me out of it. And the next week, I was up front with the lone hymnal in hand, drilling the words into the kids, verse-by-verse.
"Neither I nor the faculty—nor the students themselves—realized that we had kicked a stone, quite impulsively, which would trigger a heavenly avalanche on our little academy! We'd never be the same again."
But then it was time to begin the first, new worship Hour of Power. So, with songbook in hand, Prof Akers stood in front of the puzzled faculty and enthusiastic students. It was time to start.
"At the piano was Lois Mae, who could play just about anything by ear and really could lead a congregation from the keyboard. I believe that was providential too. What I lacked in vocal melody leadership, she made up with her carry-along accompaniment.
"From Christianity's most time-honored and majestic paeans of praise to the simplest melodies, she was master of them all. She could re-key any piece and pitch it so that my bass voice could handle it; yet keep it nicely in the range of the girls.
"We discovered, too, that many of those boys who were backing out of song service were not irreligious, as we had thought; they were just shy and self-conscious because their voices were changing and they were afraid of being embarrassed.
"I later learned from one of these lads that it put him at ease to have a male figure leading out in the music, who frequently flubbed a note or two, who was natural and unapologetic—something he said he readily identified with.
"Another plus: With its smooth, hard-surfaced walls, our little chapel was, what you could call, very 'live' acoustically, almost like singing in the shower! Our 75 voices sounded like a mass choir in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the kids loved it!"
If you want to succeed with a pack of young people in doing this,—the information on how to do it is here! Point after point of helpful information, by one who has done it, is in the following paragraphs!
"Our approach was generally relaxed and informal, family-ish, by intent. We encouraged youthful fellowship, tolerated a bit of good-natured banter and laughter; but we certainly had times of sober, reverent reflection and silent prayer too, learning to savor the Lord.
"Special prayer requests and learning to 'bear one another's burdens' soon became a standard part of the morning service.
"The 'Power Hour' steering committee deliberately planned for lots of variety and change of pace. Monotony and predictability are lethal with kids; that's one of the first lessons you learn working with that age level.
"The student-faculty council selected the new song for each week, making selection of repertoire a generational partnership. Result: Both generations learned to appreciate and enjoy the other's sacred music.
"Of course, there were some ground rules in the council about what was acceptable and what was not. These discussions were in themselves an educational experience for the youngsters. And the faculty had to rely on persuasion rather than coercion or adult authority, to carry their points. That made for a healthy faculty-student relationship.
"Nominations from either side were seriously and courteously examined. There was a deliberate effort to balance the great hymns of the church with more recent youth gospel songs which were worthwhile. But, by common consent, certain junior camp ditties like 'Do Lord' and pre-school finger play routines were ruled out-of-bounds. Even the kids recognized that these tended to trivialize true worship and constituted, as it were, 'strange fire on the altar.'
"Selections were favored which focused on the Lord—praise and prayer songs which could easily transfer over into one's own devotional life, rather than songs which merely highlighted youthful togetherness and groupiness. We all sensed that this morning Power Hour was an educational exercise in sacred musical taste, as well as a whetting of the spiritual palate of the younger generation in the peculiar pleasures of personal communion with one's Maker.
"How did we proceed with learning the various hymns and songs? Well, I would begin each week by announcing the song the student-faculty council had selected. Lois Mae would play it on the piano so we could get the feel of the tune.
"I would follow by reading off one verse of the lyric from the songbook in my hand (the only other one around!). We would repeat the line or verse together, maybe twice if needed, depending on how well it was coming. Then we'd take the next few lines and complete that verse for the day.
"Pure drill. But we endeavored to make it fun; and it turned out to be just that, far exceeding our expectations and assuaging our qualms.
"Then we'd sing the verse of the day, plus previous ones learned—sometimes jubilantly, sometimes in a quiet meditational mode, but always worshipfully, as befitted the selection on which we were working.
"And so the week progressed, with the effect building as we approached its end: one verse per day, three-to-four-verse songs Monday through Thursday, and then Friday for the finale!
"That's when the kids liked to prove that we really had learned all the verses of that song by heart! How we sang on Fridays! How happy and rewarded they felt at the end of the week. I don't recall once having to throw anyone a dark look or having to hold a tight rein on discipline; we were enjoying the whole experience!
"Occasionally I would pull impromptu trios and quartets out of the audience and let them demonstrate the piece before we would attempt to sing it congregationally. And we planted the faculty strategically around the room to help carry the tunes and identify with the students as fellow learners.
"I had not entered this experiment with instructional objectives. But, as we went along, it became apparent that we were really modeling, instructing the youngsters on how to have a rich and rewarding devotional life on their own, using sacred music in a more deliberate way (along with Scripture),—learning how to talk and sing to God.
"Frequently, the brief homily of the day expanded the theme of the song or the particular verse we were learning that day. It's so easy to sing congregational songs mechanically, without realizing that these are often personal addresses to God.
"So we tried to help the students personalize each song they were singing;—help them make it their very own musical conversation with their Maker. We also savored the lyrics as great literature and reflected on the deep spiritual truths therein.
"That in itself became a musical literature class, an experience in the arts! I especially remember the open discussion times too, when we would 'freewheel' it by, letting the students say how the lyric affected them. Spontaneous testimony usually followed.
"For closing, there was often a verse of Scripture used, with or without commentary, as time permitted, and a closing prayer, often by a volunteer or two from the student body.
"And, of course, Friday night vesper service was review time, not only of the week, but of the whole acquired repertoire of the school year to date!
"Folk came in from all around eastern Pennsylvania for Friday night and Sabbath evening sundown vespers;—they said they wouldn't miss one for all the world. And they came early, so they wouldn't miss the best part: the song service (without songbooks, mind you!).
"Often our little chapel was jam-packed a half hour before the announced meeting time. Our springtime visitors could hardly believe their ears. Here was a group of teenagers singing their hearts out for 45 minutes straight, comfortably replaying off the scroll of their minds anywhere from 30 to 40 familiar (and not-so-familiar) hymns and songs that they had been learning all year, and never having to consult a songbook!
"The response was usually one of awe and inspiration. Many visitors went home with a new spiritual hobby: learning hymns and gospel songs by heart. In fact, it has become a lifelong hobby for me; one which I have continued ever since. How grateful I am for what those kids taught me! It has so enriched my own devotional life.
"My latest addition is #32 in the new hymnal, 'Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here.' Talk about a spiritual upstart for the day!
"When I think of the difficult situation we started off with, I marvel that the kids hung in there with me on 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.' But they did, and loved every line of it. Get out your hymnal and read that high-density poetry by John Greenleaf Whittier, and experience the beautiful melody provided by F.C. Maker. It is not only great literature, it's magnificent, irresistible music too! I can still sing all five verses by heart and find that 'musical prayer' more packed with meaning with each recital and singing.
"What a sound track for the day's routine duties! It sure beats anything Hollywood or the pop song merchants can serve up. So many kids remarked about it just that way. The new habit literally put a new song in their hearts, to be reviewed and relished all day long!
"Think of it—a student body learning by heart about forty sacred songs in a school year, just by completing one each week—and having so much fun and getting a spiritual lift doing it!
"Take it from me: This practice will transform a school—any school! This corporate hobby harnesses a supernatural element.
" 'The value of song as a means of education should never be lost sight of. Let there be singing in the home, of songs that are sweet and pure, and there will be fewer words of censure and more of cheerfulness and hope and joy. Let there be singing in the school; and the pupils will be drawn closer to God, to their teachers, and to one another' (Child Guidance, p. 523).
"Who can calculate the eternal impact of such happy-time memorization on each student? For the rest of their lives, they will be powerfully blessed by this joyous devotional-life regime—thoughtfully singing (or just reciting) inspired prayer songs!
" 'Make me a captive, Lord,
'and then I shall be free;
" 'Force me to render up my sword,
'and I shall conqueror be.
" 'I sink in life's alarms
'when by myself I stand;
" 'Imprison me within Thine arms,
'and strong shall be my hand.'
"And there were also other majestic paeans of praise and commitment, that the kids really got into,—like 'Live Out Thy Life Within Me,' 'There's a Wideness in God's Mercy,' 'Amazing Grace,' 'Bless This House,' 'We Gather Together,' and the like. We even learned old-timers like 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.' Hymns like that one especially made them appreciate the reality of their personal conflict with the forces of darkness and the superior, supernational keeping power of God,—for the battle is real and so is the victory! Would you believe it? These 'heavies' became standby favorites with a group of very normal teenagers.
"Some verses of some songs, like the second verse of 'Beneath the Cross of Jesus,' invoked special relish and adoration with the kids. Another example is 'When Peace Like a River.' They just doted on each phrase of that one, especially at the conclusion of revival services, closing with testimonies and dedication. They loved to sing out their confession for the universe to hear: 'It is well, it is well, with my soul!'
"I was surprised at how personally they came to appropriate the messages of the songs. But I shouldn't have been. After all, that's what the whole thing was all about, and what Christian education should be about. —Learning to praise God and express heartfelt gratitude to Him is truly one of the 'distinctives' of any godly Christian school that is properly organized around its mandated objectives.
"Don't tell me that teenagers can only relate to the superficial, sentimental, or bounce-and-sway stuff; I have learned differently! I have listened to them handle 'I Sing the Mighty Power of God.' I have watched their faces and seen them savor the songs as one would savor an exotic dish—making each line intensely personal as they sang it to their God.
"Whoever thought that 'I Am So Glad that Jesus Loves Me' is for kindergarten? Review that lyric, to be sung with zest, and you'll find it has a special charm and exuberance about it for adults! The second and third verses of that song really thrilled these young people, and probably the angels as they heard them sing it!
"As the students memorized these songs, the Holy Spirit led them to adopt their messages as their very own! I think the Spirit even sharpened their memorization skills. This was Christian education in verity.
"Faculty and students together all began to comprehend that hymns and gospel songs enjoy a special kind of inspired quality, not at Scriptural level, of course, but certainly more than just good poetry or melody. We found ourselves becoming personally grateful to the poets and musicians who so enriched our lives, especially our private devotional lives.
"One of our boys worked at a construction site during the next summer to earn school money. I got to chat with him a bit at campmeeting. Here's how he looked back on that special school year:
" 'You know, Prof, I have to admit I don't remember a lot from the Bible class, the weeks of prayer, the church sermons, or even your talks. But those songs we learned each morning in Power Hour—now that's another thing!
" 'This construction job I'm working on is a real cesspool. The dirty jokes, coarseness, and profanity.
" 'I don't know what I'd do if it weren't for those wonderful songs we learned at the academy. It's almost like I've got soundproof earmuffs on, and I'm shut in with God while I'm carryin' hod. I just rehearse 'em all day long, and that vileness doesn't stain me. And I go home at night like I spent the day in a prayer meeting!'
"The influence of those songs went beyond ourselves. The Philadelphia Transit Authority, which provided the buses that carried our students to each of the three sponsoring churches on a rotation basis, informed us that its drivers were putting in reservations weeks ahead for the privilege of driving our kids to church! The supervisors couldn't get over it; since that kind of assignment was usually the very last thing their drivers wanted to get hung with, considering the way typical high schoolers usually behaved on the buses.
"It was the singing, of course, that made the difference. Forty-five minutes of it, non-stop. The whole collection of songs, learned at school, punctuated by a lot of laughter, youthful zest and fellowship. As one of the girls put it, 'Going to church was never so much fun before!' "
As you can see, those memorized songs were preparing those students for their entire future life here on earth, amid all its perils and heartaches. They were also helping them make their personal decision to continue their daily walk with Christ—so they would have a grand class reunion later in heaven, when Christ returns the second time for His own!
Prof Akers also told of an incident which occurred shortly after that school year began. It was a foggy Friday evening in October, and three of the girls were on the front steps of the old mansion that served as their academy that year.
As they sat there in the gathering darkness, they enthusiastically sang a song, earlier memorized during a morning worship which they planned to sing that night for vespers, which was soon to begin.
This was the song they were singing:
"Once I was lost in sin's degradation, Jesus came down to bring me salvation, Lifted me up from sorrow and shame, Now I belong to Him!
"Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me, Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me, His precious blood He gave to redeem, Now I belong to Him!
"Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, Not for the years of time alone, But for eternity."
But just then, as they finished singing the song over the first time,—someone appeared. We will let Prof Akers tell what happened next:
"Out of the fog and the darkness loomed the form of a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman, hat pulled down in front and topcoat collar turned up to protect him from the elements. Briefcase in hand, he was presumably a business executive just off the last commuter train [at the nearby train station].
"His sudden appearance startled the girls. But he stood a respectful ten or twelve feet away on the sidewalk leading up to the school and asked in a friendly tone, 'Girls, what kind of an institution is this—a seminary or something? I just heard your lovely music wafting through the fog and wondered. Where did you learn to sing a song like that?'
" 'We're students in this Christian school, and we learn these songs every day,' came the reply.
"There was an awkward silence, which he finally broke: 'My young friends, you don't know how fortunate you are. I sure wish I'd attended a high school like that when I was your age! Thank you, ladies; you'll never know how much I needed that tonight.
" 'I'd give a million dollars right now if I could sing a song like that from my heart, like you do. May you always be able to sing it.'
"And with that, he disappeared into the darkness."
All around us are men and women disappearing into the darkness of this world. They need Jesus Christ, the One revealed so clearly in your Bibles and your old-time hymn books.
All around us are young people, in the churches and in the world, who are also disappearing in the darkness of worldliness.
Why would anyone want that Satan-inspired, demon-filled junk noise—called rock,—when they can have godly music which will help them prepare for eternal life!
The problem is that the youth are spiritually starved. We are not pointing them in the right direction: toward study and memorization of Bible verses and Christian songs.
I urge you to begin changing things at your home, at your school, and at your church. Bring godly songs into them all. Make the songs real to yourself and to others. Begin memorizing and singing them. Let the good work begin in your own life—and let it radiate outward. It will affect everyone you meet.
If you cannot find an old-fashioned songbook, turn to the last page in this book! We have one for you, and at a fairly low cost.