Music is at the heart of worship, so it’s no surprise to you that the question of whether hymns are better than contemporary worship songs is a matter of debate. While contemporary songs of worship gained popularity in the 20th century and are quite moving, the truth is that the number of churches singing hymns is declining. The hymns have a rich history and a depth that should not be erased.
Did you know that âAmazing Graceâ, America’s favorite anthem according to a Gallup poll, was written by the former captain of a slave ship. The “wretch” referenced in the song was John Newton, who eventually became an Anglican minister and worked to abolish the slave trade.
What about “How Great Thou Art” by Carl Gustav Boberg. This hymn is a plea and a declaration of the greatness and majesty of God following a thunderstorm in which he was caught. After the storm, a rainbow spread across the sky, the birds were singing and the church bells were ringing softly. He couldn’t contain his praise and decided to write the song about what he felt like the overwhelming power of God.
Then there is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” written by Martin Luther was a hymn that was a battle hymn of faith, so much so that it is known as “The battle hymn of the Reformation”. The song is a paraphrase of Psalm 46. As the Protestant reformation continued, many experienced persecution and even death. In their last moments, many were known to sing the stanza: âLet property and kinship go, this mortal life too; the body they can kill; God’s truth remains; his kingdom is forever.
These hymns have deep stories and although many of these songs were written before 1900, they still speak to us.
A hymn is a deep expression of worship. These songs are celebrations of who God is and what he has done for us. They are also songs of thanksgiving, praise, and joy to our Heavenly Father.
Jonathan Aigner, a writer on Patheos.com argues that hymns are better than contemporary worship songs. He also explains that hymns are intended for congregations while contemporary worship songs are non-congregational in structure.
âHymns are a written tradition, contemporary songs are a commercially registered enterprise. This is important because recorded music is inherently non-congregational. It is basically a piece to showcase an individual or a small group. While it might work well in any other setting, it’s not cult, âAigner said.
Aigner also addresses the fact that hymns may not have the same popularity as contemporary worship songs right now, but they have a certain rawness because they didn’t conform.
âThe hymns are not written in a marketable and profitable popular idiom. They are written in a simple style that does not need to conform to any popular genre of entertainment. The result is something more durable, less derivative, and not bound by industry standards. The exclusive contemporary worship allegiance allows church worship to be hijacked by the worship industry, which is primarily a lucrative business, âAigner said.
Hymns have always been a key part of worship. The Bible tells us, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). Sing and dance like David. Turn up the praise music. Raise your hands in the air and dance for joy. Psalm 149: 3 says, âThey must praise him by dancing. They should sing praises to him with tambourines and harps. While hymns aren’t as popular these days, they are extremely personal.
As Christians we are called to worship. It is one of the powerful ways to communicate with God and to develop a closer relationship with Him. Hymns are a great way to speak aloud about our faith story and draw closer to God. Many hymns have been written from some of the most real places people have been and we can feel it when we sing them, even though they were written so long ago.
There are many things that can distract us from God. It is a constant struggle to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not to be distracted by the fleeting concerns and the things of this world. We also live in a world filled with racketeering. Outside of Sunday worship, it can be difficult to stay focused on God. We can start our day by telling ourselves that nothing will stop us from talking or spending time with God, and then, moments later, find something that catches our attention and keeps us from overtaking. It has a lot to do with what we allow in our lives to distract us from God.
There are so many things in this world fighting for our time and when we allow them to take too much we lose our focus. However, what would life be like if we worshiped daily in such a life-giving way that even when we were not worshiping in church, worship could linger and invigorate us? We have the power to do it. A great way to start is to start each day with a classic worship hymn.
If we are aware of what can and does interfere with our walks with God, we can begin to take the necessary steps to prevent them. When we make worship a priority and focus on the lyrics of our favorite hymns, we can feel the presence of God in everything we do. Instead of our everyday life seeming mundane, we can live our everyday life with a serene and permanent sense of the presence of God.