What Happened to My Hymns?!
I miss my hymns. That’s not nostalgia, that’s a need. “Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…” Colossians 3:16
So, I’m preparing for this blog and researching the most popular Christian songs of all time, and the list is long:
- “ I Just Need You.” Toby Mac
- “ Shackles” Mary, Mary
- “Oh, Happy Day” Edwin Hawkins
- “I Can Only Imagine” Mercy Me
- “Oceans” Hillsong
Just to name a few. Really? Those are great songs, but if I’m in a dark place, I seriously doubt if I’ll have Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp” in my headphones! “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave can inspire me in a single service, but “Redeemed How I Love to Proclaim It!” by Fanny Crosby has inspired me for a lifetime. It’s the power of hymns.
A hymn is a song of praise and adoration to God. In ancient Greek culture, hymns were not necessarily Christian. Hymns were melodies praising the gods of the day. It seems that Christians shared the practice and directed attention to the one true God. Sounds like Kirk Franklin or Lecrae, but that’s for another blog.
Hymns are generally more formal, classical, and liturgical than spiritual songs. They have been a mainstay of Christian worship services for generations. But they seem to have fallen on hard times. Praise teams gather where the chorister once stood. The sale of hymnals has plummeted. And for years churches have chosen to drop the morning hymn from their order of service.
But change is in the air! Robert Webber, David Brooks, and other Christian writers and researchers have noted the beginning of a postmodern return to more traditional and historical worship forms. Hymns are growing in popularity among young and old alike, and not a moment too soon. Because hymns play a unique role in the Christian life. What’s so special about hymns?
Hymns Teach Scripture
The late minister and educator R. W. Dale once said, “Let me write the hymns of the church and I don’t care who writes the theology.” Dale understood the value of hymns for teaching the Bible. Hymns from “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, to “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” to “Holy, Holy, Holy,’ can teach more theology in 3 minutes than many people hear in 3 months.
Hymns Round Out God’s Personality
Hymns, spiritual songs, and praise and worship songs are different by design. They highlight different attributes of God. Different shades of his character. Praise and worship songs remind us of the nearness of God. They are intimate. We need that. But God is more than my “buddy”, God is my King. Hymns are more transcendent, more mystical, more majestic. We need that too.
Hymns Encourage Depth
I mean no harm, but if I hear one more lazy lyricist tell me, “One of these days and it won’t be long, you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone”, my head is going to explode! In some of our services, we are drowning in clichés:
- “Touch your neighbor!” “Turn to your neighbor.” “High five your neighbor” (You get the picture)
- “Won’t he do it?”
- “Give God some praise.”
- “I’m gettin’ ready to close” “…. I’m gettin’ ready to close” “…..I’m gettin’ to close….”
Hymns are a refreshing return to phrases that actually mean something! The lyrical content of hymns is generally richer and more intricate than praise and worship songs. Not better, necessarily. Just richer, deeper. We need that.
Hymns Add Variety
Don’t get it twisted. I’m still a fan of praise teams and I prefer my lyrics on the screen. I love my hymns, but not as much as Tamela Mann, Thomas Whitfield, John P. Kee, Hillsong, Vincent Bohanon & SOV, Sir the Baptist, and a grip of other Christian artists too long to mention. But variety is not only the spice of life, it’s the salvation of a predictable worship service. Do yourself a favor and spice up the service with a well -placed hymn.
Hymns Make You Sing!
The Bible is saturated with song. It seems that a happy heart Is inspired to sing. And talent has nothing to do with it. Hymns were written and structured to be sung with other believers. Not alone, but together. Of course, that’s a goal in praise and worship also. But what many of those songs lack is familiarity. Great hymns are stamped in our memory banks.
Hymns Connect Generations
The only thing more challenging than leading a multi-generational church is leading a multi-generational worship service. What pleases one group is a problem for another. Solution? Try weaving familiar hymns into the order of service or the praise and worship set. Grandma might not know, “Hallelujah! We Have Won The Victory,” but she does know, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!” Sing them both.
So, what do you think? What are some of your favorite hymns and why? What memories do hymns bring to mind? Are they still singing hymns in your church? Would they work in your service?