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.
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:
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?