Are You Underestimating The Value Of Hymns?

Are you underestimating the value of hymns? I did. But now I have seen the light.

We planted our church just over a year ago. During that time I only scheduled hymns occasionally. To be honest, I always feared them for several reasons: The chords were extremely difficult to play. The words (i.e. “Thy”, “Thee”, “Fount”, “Ebenezer”, etc.) seemed so antiquated and confusing. They just weren’t the latest “new shiny thing”. But most of all, I wasn’t familiar with most of them.

I was wrong. If you look at the reasons I didn’t schedule them more often, each one comes back to me. What is easier for me? What type of lyrics ministered to me? Was I getting to play those new songs everyone else was playing? What music was I familiar/comfortable with? All of these are the wrong criteria for evaluating what songs to select for the congregation God has put in my care.

Music is a part of the people

At the National Worship Leader Conference I attended a session by Buddy Owens (Pastor of Spiritual Growth at Saddleback Church) called “Creating a Culture of Worship”. One of the biggest things I learned during this talk is that songs become a part of the people who sing them. Think about the music of your high school days: It brings back many memories. When you hear it, it puts you in that frame of mind. That music is a part of you. Hymns are the same way. But the memories they invoke for those who have sung them in the past are memories of worshipping God. It puts them in a worship frame of mind. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing?

The music we select teaches theology

I also have been reading Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin and Paul Baloche. From it, I have realized that the music I select will affect the beliefs of the congregation God has placed under my care. The congregation is going to remember the words and take them as truth. What truth am I choosing to put in them through the music I choose? And is it true? Hymns are deep with truth. Some contemporary songs are as well, but hymns are historically deep with teaching and theology.

The book made the comment that your iPod is a poor place to select songs from. Its not about the musical feel, but the lyrical content. Check the content first, without the music. If you just wanted musical feel, you could pick whatever secular songs are popular and call that worship. It doesn’t work that way.

The Result

So for the last two weeks, I have started including hymns in our services. The first week was an amazing time of worship, for that, and for other reasons. This last week was great as well. We played “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and I was blown away by how loud the congregation sang. I could barely hear them through the other songs, but when we hit that hymn, it was as if everyone decided to sing loud! My wife was in the congregation and observed a lady near here weeping with tears of joy! It affected the congregation a lot.

I stand humbled. Worship is not about what I like. Its not about me at all. Its all about God. Its about bringing praise and glory to the creator of the universe. Get to know your congregation, not just those your age, but the older people as well. How can your song selection help ALL of them to worship God more fully? Do not deprive any segment of your congregation with the opportunity to worship in a way that fully engages them.

If hymns honor God, don’t neglect them. And don’t underestimate their value based on your own preferences.


Leave a Comment