6 Reasons I Miss Hymns

In more than one place, I’ve read and heard discussions of the recently posted (actually, re-posted and re-named) article entitled, “Why Churches Should Ditch the Projector Screens and Bring Back Hymnals.” While I’m not entirely on the same page as the writer of this post, I’m reminded again of how much I miss hymns.

Let me first, though, put all my “cards on the table” for this post. I like various styles of worship music, provided they’re done well. I don’t like any worship style that’s done poorly.

I also prefer contemporary worship to more traditional worship. I enjoy praise choruses that echo with the Word of God, and I appreciate the freedom of worship I often find in more contemporary worship services.

With that said, I miss singing hymns. I realize some hymns could use theological refining (and that we must do), but I still miss them. Here’s why:

  1. Many hymns teach the gospel. As agonizing as the message can be, I love singing about the blood of Jesus. Hymns like “There is a Fountain” and “At the Cross return me to Calvary. Praise choruses can do the same, of course, but the hymns I first learned years ago still grab my heart.
  2. Hymns help me see that I’m part of centuries of Christian heritage.  A few summers ago, I visited the church of John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace. As our group sang the hymn together, I was reminded that I stand on the shoulders of believers through the years.
  3. Hymns take me back to my first years as a believer.  Almost 45 years ago when God saved me, we weren’t singing today’s choruses. We were singing songs likeDown at the CrossandLeaning on the Everlasting Arms.” The gospel was completely new, fresh, and alive to me, and so were the songs.
  4. Hymns remind me of my calling. God called me to preach the same day He saved me. It was a few years later, though, when I vividly sensed His reinforcing that calling as our congregation sang,Rescue the Perishing.” Little did I know then that God would later burden my heart to reach the perishing around the world.
  5. Hymns help me remember people who’ve influenced my life. I sing a song from years gone by, and I remember the people who were around me at the time. My first Sunday school teachers. The associate pastor who taught me about evangelism. My teenage friends who are now leaders in their own churches. It’s just nice to remember them.  
  6. Hymns are just comforting to me. I’m 58 years old, though I don’t feel that old. I think I fit in okay with my much younger students. At the same time, though, something in me longs for yesterday as I get older. As the world changes so rapidly around us, the memories of a hymn, of old friends, of my home church, and of my first hearing the gospel are indeed comforting.

So, am I asking for a return to hymns that are poorly done, that are so slow that one could fall asleep between stanzas? Do I want us to return to hymns that are barely singable?  Not at all. I’ve already said that I generally prefer a contemporary worship style.

What I’m asking for is an occasional theologically rich, well-done hymn, even updated in style if needed.  We might find that it teaches the young generation while ministering to my generation as well.

 

15 Comments

  • Bill Pitcher says:

    Very honest and engaging commentary. Thanks for putting it out there for discussion.

  • Ed says:

    When I see a discussion or a post promoting hymns over praise choruses or vice versa, the question I have is how do you define hymn in the context of the discussion? I would also ask if you define hymn differently in a broader context outside of this discussion?

  • John B says:

    Hey Chuck, Just a thought; you don’t have to remove the screens to have hymns. You can still have both.

  • Mark A Hatcher says:

    I am 44 and I too appreciate all kinds of well done worship music….I love the new Elevation, Bethel, Hillsong as well as It is Well with My Soul, Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art. With that a couple observations: It’s always interesting to me to think about the history of the hymns that many people so dearly love and long for today….the truth is, when they were first written MANY, MANY people despised them and simply would not sing them. They were actually banned in many churches and caused much division. Example: There is a Fount Filled With Blood, was considered so graphic that many churches refused to even consider singing it. It was MANY, MANY years after they were written before they started to be accepted and used regularly in worship. It’s also humorous to me that whatever songs people tend gravitate toward (usually the ones that were playing at the time of their conversion, which you state) they tend to think that this is, without a doubt, God’s favorite worship style as well! I agree with the observations mostly, and most of all the spirit of the article, but still the call for any disciple is to die to themselves, their preferences, opinions, and desires. It’s amazing to me how many long time Christians are still mostly concerned — not with reaching the next generation by all possible means – but with their own comfort and a longing for “yesterday.” I’m certain in 40 years the church will not be singing anything that I am familiar with or even prefer…I’ll probably be the guy sitting there with his earplugs in muttering to myself that it’s too loud! But as long as Christ is being exalted and lost people are being drawn to Him and being genuinely saved, I will stand and sing and wholeheartedly support the leadership of the church with joy in my heart.

    • Jeff Blaisdell says:

      You say: “It’s amazing to me how many long-time Christians are still mostly concerned–not with reaching the next generation by any possible means–but with their own comfort and a longing for yesterday.” But you cannot prove that people who prefer classic worship care ANY LESS about reaching lost people than those who are most concerned with their own comfort that they find in contemporary worship. That is an incredible accusation. Christians (long-time and new) who appreciate hymns do so because the hymns are filled with sound doctrine…and singing hymns is an excellent way to teach doctrine. And “dying to self” means you’ve got to go with the bang your head sound and light shows (and shallow, sentimental, and sometimes meaningless lyrics) of contemporary music? Come on!

      Interestingly enough, during the twenty-fine years since contemporary worship took over, baptisms are down, worship attendance is down, membership is down. Isn’t it time somebody stood up and said, “Could we have been wrong about all this? Just as many people cared passionately about lost souls when we had choirs, organs, pianos and music directors as do now. And they reached people.

  • Gary Nichols says:

    am offended by the implication that hymns are always poorly done, so slow one could fall asleep between stanzas, and barely singable.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I think you misread my post, Gary. Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but I don’t believe that all hymns are done that way.

      • Tim Conboy says:

        Thanks for the article Chuck! I am a new worship leader in my small church and recently had an elderly lady ask why we don’t sing many hymns anymore. This has helped me see those people who grew up in the church learning these hymns first are their “heart songs”.
        I believe that if worship leaders around the world can ask God for wisdom in the arrangement and delivery of hymns, we can revitalize the passion for worship in the younger generation. Thanks and God bless!

  • Jan Andersen says:

    I am so glad that our churches still sing hymns! We also have them projected on the walls, but I enjoy singing the alto part in 4-part harmonies. But then, that’s the Lutheran in me! We also have a blended worship on Saturdays, and a contemporary service between two traditional services on Sundays. And we have over 600 members and are growing! I heard a visitor couple say today they had been looking for just such a traditional service – ours are more heavily attended than the contemporary or blended services we hold. The contemporary songs must hold up to proper teaching as well.

  • Katharine says:

    The traditional hymns such as “Amazing Grace” are rhymed and set to certain rhythm to make them easily memorized, which was the original purpose. Because when the hymns were created, the memory boosts within them were all we had. No slides. No hymnals. Just the hymns.
    However, there were also psalms and spiritual songs, also sung. And the purpose again was to aid the memory. Because we wanted to remember the words.

  • Jeff Blaisdell says:

    Some hymns could use theological refining?? Almost ALL the contemporary praise choruses could actually use a strong infusion of theology, PERIOD!

  • Jefff Blaisdell says:

    P.S: Your number one reason for missing hymns is the most important one: the great hymns teach doctrine.

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