Song Story – Jesus Only

Here’s another article I wrote about how the song “Jesus Only” was written:

On Nov. 1 2005 I was attending my Alliance New Workers retreat at camp Iawah, near Ottawa. I’d been almost a year on the job as the worship pastor at Cedarview Alliance Church after 10 years as an engineer in the telecommunications industry. Dr. Arnold Cook was speaking on the ethos of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I was deeply stirred by Dr. Cook, especially as he spoke about the fourfold gospel. In my notebook I have a little sketch of the cross, the laver, the pitcher and crown, and next to that the words “Song Idea”, underlined twice. Whenever something stirs me I want to sing about it.

As I listened to Dr. Cook speak I was deeply impressed that our people need to know this message. Even though I had been attending an Alliance church for over 10 years I had very little understanding of the fourfold gospel. I knew that each of the four objects depicted in the logo stood for the fourfold gospel, but until I began studying for accreditation I though the lave was a wine glass and had something to do with communion.

After the session I went up to my room and sat on my bunk with my guitar and very quickly I had an idea for the chorus of the song. I jotted it down with the intention of working on composing four verses (one for each of the “folds”). Later that week as I sat down to continue working on the song I recalled that A.B. Simpson himself was a composer of hymns. I wondered if perhaps the founder himself had written a hymn. I checked the hymnal beside my desk and found “Jesus Only”. The lyrics were exactly what I was looking for. Then I played the melody. Let us say that Simpson’s way of uniting lyric with melody is idiosyncratic and leave it at that. I decided to abandon the original melody and adapt Simpson’s lyrics to the melody I had created.This exercise helped me to understand that the songs we sing are incredibly powerful in shaping our theology and spirituality. It is crucial that the songs we sing reflect the values and theology of the Alliance. I challenge our songwriters and worship leaders to create songs that stress Alliance values such as missions and the deeper life. Look at the themes of Simpson’s hymns and find fresh ways to express them. One of the most rewarding things for me is to hear people of all generations singing the message of the fourfold gospel together. May we be blessed with a new wave of worship songs that help us to define what it means to be truly Alliance.

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