My friend and former fellow member of the Bible faculty at Camp Idlewild has a great blog he calls “Acceptable Offering.” In a recent post, he told about how powerful an impact the song Our God, He Is Alive had on his life. No matter what the number is in our present hymnal, this will always be song # 728-B and, as Bob suggests, the unofficial Church of Christ anthem.
Bob says that his first church home didn't have the right color hymn book and thus 728-B wasn't there, neither the number nor the song. And it was such a great song. I don’t remember whether Bob was on the bus that went from Freed-Hardeman to Denton, Texas to hear Thomas B. Warren debate atheist Anthony Flew on the existence of God. We sang 728-B over and over again after the debate all the way across Texas and Arkansas.
But the song wasn’t in Bob's hymnal, and back then you just didn't sing songs that weren't in the hymnal. Then he learned that you could buy sheet music of Our God, He is Alive the right size to paste inside the cover of the hymnal. He went to the elders to tell them about this wonderful discovery and looked forward to soon singing his favorite in church. The elders told him that they would have to have a meeting to discuss whether or not the song was scriptural (after all, it wasn’t in the book).
I’ll let Bob pick up his story at this point--
And then the next Sunday the minister approached me and said we needed to talk.
“The elders told me you want to paste that new song in the back of our hymnal.”
“Yes, it’s a wonderful song!”
“Well, did you know it was written by somebody in the ‘anti-cooperation’ church of Christ? It would send the wrong message if we sang that song. The answer is ‘no,’ and please do not ask again.”
That day I knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong. That day I began realizing that everything was not 100% perfect at that church. That day the scales fell off my eyes. And as the scales fell, I began a new season of searching.
A lot of people have special memories of “728b.” The catchy tune. The inspiring words. That wonderful bass line. But for me, it was the song that opened my eyes. I will always be grateful.
I had an epiphany story very close to Bob’s story (so close it happened in the same church building, but that is another story for another time). Once you dispense with the dangerous fiction that your church is always right because it is, after all, the one true church, then you are free to move in a whole different direction... even if you stay in the same place.