Hymns Aren't Just a Thing of the Past

Many people are of the opinion that churches should only sing the “hymns of the faith” (whatever that means).

3 funny (or odd) things about that:

  1. Most hymns aren’t really “hymns.” Hymns in a musical sense have no chorus, but a lot of “hymns” do.
  2. The Bible speaks about singing a new song, and I don’t think we should take that too literally but it is a helpful reminder that even the best things in life become meaningless when done over and over without purpose.
  3. Everyone’s “hymns of the faith” list is different.

In my years of doing youth worship in high school all the way to today I’ve ran into many people who think songs written long ago have better theology than those written today.

Considering I’m a relatively young guy, I find that opinion to be a shot against my generation which, as a whole, isn’t hymn crazy. But I also don’t think it is true.

I’ve talked before about horrible lyrics in today’s praise and worship music, but I there is plenty around that is rooted in Scripture and has a richness to it. I ran across a song by a newer artist named John Mark McMillan this past week that I think is a great example of this this richness. It was a song he set out to write in the style of a hymn (though it does have a chorus, so like “How Great Thou Art” it isn’t really a hymn).

I’ve often found hymns to be written with a confusing language to those lacking in some theological or Biblical training. And this song (“Death In His Grave”) has enough of that to need explanation after a listen through. Some people call that a Biblical/theological richness, others just call it confusing. Here’s the chorus (check out the whole song lyrics here):

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

(watch the video here)

I guess my whole point is this:

It is Jesus we are after in our churches. At least I hope so. Plenty of the songs being written today draw us closer to Jesus through lyrics, just as much as hymns do. Hymns are not Canon. Neither are contemporary worship songs.

It is not the songs we should care about, it is the God we sing about in the songs that matters.