Campfire Singing

Kendel Media

As a teen, I loved campfire devotionals. Not only did I like to sing, but I especially loved the songs where we could sing back and forth to each other. “Oh, girls do you love Jesus?” the boys would sing, and they would reply, “Oh, yes we love Jesus,” and on it would go.

It wasn’t the kind of thing we sang in Sunday morning worship – at least in the 20th century – but it would have been right at home in the first century. Technically, this kind of song is called antiphonal, voice against voice, and we have an example of it in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:6-11). Most English Bibles don’t show it, so let me help. In the scenario I imagine, the leader sings a verse, and the congregation responds with a parallel verse:

Leader: Who, being in very nature God,

Congregation: did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Leader: but made himself nothing,

Congregation: taking the very nature of a servant,

Leader: being made in human likeness,

Congregation: And being found in appearance as a man,

Leader: he humbled himself

Congregation: and became obedient 

At this point, Paul can’t help himself and interjects: “even to death on a cross!”

Leader: Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place

Congregation: and gave him the name that is above every name,

Leader: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 

Paul chimes in again: “in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

Congregation: and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

And so Paul marvels in conclusion: “to the glory of God the Father.”

The Roman governor of Bithynia described a Christian worship service to Emperor Trajan in 111 A.D., “They affirmed, however, the whole of their guilt, or their error, was that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath,  not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud,  theft or adultery,  never to falsify their word,  nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up;  after which it was their custom to separate,  and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

Thus, when we sang around the campfire, we were only proving “what’s old is new again.” Sing Christian sing!

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