“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” Ephesians 5:18-19
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
For those of us who grew up in the church, they can be fond memories. Sitting in the pew, holding the hymnal in our hands and following along with the words. In fact, this is where many of us learned how to read and follow music. And it didn’t stop with learning music. From these songs we learned scripture and theology. Hymns served as a key component of the Christian worship service for over 400 years.
But recently hymns have begun to fall silent in the church, being replaced by contemporary worship songs. And while some of these contemporary worship songs still carry a good message, many of the them are simply trendy, feel good, pop songs with christianized lyrics.
Now before you think this is simply a diatribe on how much I dislike contemporary music let me clear that up. There are many contemporary songs that I love to sing. My point here is not simply a matter of style. I could list the many reason why I support the use of hymns and hymnals, but I will simply refer you to a couple articles written by Jonathan Aigner; “We Should Use Hymnals Because …” and “A Few More Reasons Why We Should Use Hymnals“. (A couple of the additional reasons in the second article were shared by me.)
No, this is not my personal bias and complaining. There is a place for both in the worship service. In his writing on worship, Max Frazier Jr. states:“What Music Is Best for Worship?
The conflict over musical styles is the number one problem facing the evangelical church today. It is not witnessing to the lost. It is not missions. It is not training and disciple-making. It is what kind of music to sing. I find that very sad. I think we have a clue as to what music is acceptable to God when we worship. It is found in the Colossians 3:16, the verse cited above. We are to use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There is a place for psalms. The early church had as its primary hymnbook the book of Psalms. Many of the psalms were set to music and sung within the church. Psalms today are those portions of the Word of God that have been set to music. So we must ask, as we select the music for worship, “Do any of the songs teach us the Word of God? Is their text based upon Scripture?” Many of the newer praise songs are really portions of Scripture that have been set to music. . . There is a place for hymns. Hymns have as their focus the majesty and greatness of God. They focus on the many attributes of God. Hymn writing has become a lost art within the evangelical community, therefore, we must rely upon those great hymns written in a by-gone era. Their words are timeless. Their messages still encourage our hearts. We must never let them disappear from our worship. . . There is a place for spiritual songs. These are testimonies to God’s grace in our own personal lives. These songs are very relational and personal. The writers express experiences with God with which many of us can identify. These songs focus, not so much upon who God is, but offer thanksgiving for what God has done. . . We need those songs that will help us learn God’s Word, the psalms. We need those songs that allow us to rediscover the greatness of God and the dynamic truths of our doctrine, the hymns. And we need those songs that allow us to celebrate God’s faithfulness to us, the spiritual songs. Each is important if we are to teach and admonish one another.”
To this end, my goal is to set forth a study of great hymns of the church ranging from 5 – 500 years old (or further on occasion). I hope to share a hymns each day for the remainder of the year with my thoughts and scripture readings. I invite you to join me on this journey and to share your thoughts.