Why I Love Hymns

I started leading worship when I was 16 years old. I was the guy with the guitar in my student ministry and my Student Pastor needed someone to lead at our summer camp. I learned about 10 of the most popular worship songs and stuck with those for a while.

Then something amazing happened. Passion released their Hymns Album. It consisted of 14 songs set to modernized music with a few added choruses. I devoured it. I bought the chord book and learned every song. My love for old sings of the faith began.

Every once in a while someone (from both inside and outside of our church body) will ask why we sing so many hymns. I think it is a good question that deserves a good answer. I am glad that there is a resurgence of hymn singing in churches today but, as with all things, if it is simply a trend, what’s the point?

So, here are a few reasons why I love hymns:

1. Theological Depth:
I love the fact that you can learn theology from these ancient hymns. For example, Before the Throne of God Above by Charitie Bancroft teach Christ as our great High Priest, echoing the author of Hebrews:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

The song also address is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to His children, propitiation, etc.

2. Poetry:
Many hymn writers, like William Cowper, were poets. Cowper wrote the hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way. This hymn, praising God for His sovereignty over personal trials, reveals Cowper’s  skill:

Verse 1:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm

and verse 5:

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower

3.  The Anticipation of Glory:
I never noticed it until Tyler pointed it out to me. A large number of the most popular hymns end with a verse anticipating eternity with Christ. A few include, It is Well, How Marvelous, How Great Thou Art, Raise Up the Crown, The Solid Rock, Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, etc.

This desire seems to be lacking in much of the new music of the church. If we dig deeper we may find that the reason is because we are far too concerned with the things of this world.

4. The Stories:
Many hymns have been birthed out of incredible stories of God’s work in the lives of individuals. Amazing Grace was written by former slave ship captain John Newton. Horatio Spafford wrote It is Well after he lost all four of his daughter to the Atlantic ocean.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way was a deeply personal hymn to William Cowper. The story goes:

Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.

These are only a few reason’s why I love hymns. Do you love hymns? why or why not?


5 thoughts on “Why I Love Hymns

  1. I love hymns and the stories behind many of them. They keep my mind focused on praising God for His attributes and character. Thank you, Kevin, for teaching hymns that do this rather than “Christian music” that can lead to self-focus. This is something I noticed right away when first coming to NBCC. Speaking His truth back to Him in song glorifies God. As usual, He always turns it around and gives back to me by reminding me of His unlimited abilities and perfectly balanced nature. I always will need to be reminded of who God is, because I forget, like Israel. I am not a “crier”, but many of the old hymns bring me to tears because they are so pure and powerful and passionate-humbling. My favorite newer hymns lately-“My Soul Finds Rest”(Psalm 62) by Aaron Keyes, that you are teahing us. I also especially like “Elohim Creator God” because it speaks the names of God back to Him in Hebrew and English. I just have to be still everytime I hear it and sing it in my head because I always start crying! In a good way!

  2. I just spent about half an hour crafting a note because hymns and music in general are a part of my soul and a huge piece of my worship. You may never get to read those thoughts (which were really profound, by the way ):=) because they were lost when this software notified me that I had forgotten to enter my e-mail address and I went back to correct it. Maybe later – maybe not!

  3. Thanks Lisa.

    You’re right in pointing out the God-centeredness of hymns.

    Also, there are some great ‘new hymns’ out there from people like Aaron, The Gettys, Stuart Townsend, Red Mountain Music, Sojourn Community Church, etc.

    I hope that continues!


  4. I appreciate that the hymns we sing are not as a token sacrifice to tradition, lacking any “today” passion from our hearts. The songs we lift up are out of a heart of worship and therefore powerful because of who we worship. Thank you for your heart to reach behind to our brothers and sisters that have lived lives of faith and ahead to pursue the work of God that is happening in our lives today. God bless you, Kevin!

  5. Glad to hear of another person who appreciates the wonderful heritage in our traditional hymns and gospel songs. Having studied the subject for about 40 years, and written books, a weekly newspaper column, and a daily blog (Wordwise Hymns) on the subject, I tend to agree!

    Another thing about these songs is that they show spiritual insight, partly because they often grew out of the personal experiences of the author (which sort of relates to your fourth point). Let’s keep singing!

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