I have often been asked what I think of hymns, and invariably I will answer, “I like the ones that have been ‘re-done’ to have meaning for this generation.” There are many examples of this. Some we do in our Sunday worship service – and some I hear from my favorite artists.
I believe that anytime you speak to a generation and make things relevant and meaningful, there needs to be flexibility on style – not on theology.
Many have argued that modern worship choruses tend to be “me centered” – and some of them can be – however, how many people really look closely at some of the hymns? They are often very emotion and “me” driven too. For example, “Love Lifted Me” – talks about the personal experience and emotions. And for that matter, “Amazing Grace” speaks in a personal way as well. Probably why it has gone the distance as everyone can relate with it and it has stood the test of time. Some that I just personally do not care for, would have to be “When the roll is called up yonder” and others like this with very thin content – only repetitive verses and choruses.
Are there bad hymns? Oh yes. Are there bad modern worship songs? Yes indeed. I guess finding the balance between the two styles is really the key. I don’t think anyone would claim to say that hymns have everything and should be used exclusively – and in fact they would admit that they do not have a place in most worship services today, if they are left in their traditional format. But most would agree that if made relatable – then they are useful. And new generations can relate and have something passed down from generation to generation, making the old into something brand new. In the same way, the modern worship song has its place today and has great theology and content – if choosing the right ones.
I’m a big fan of Gloria Gaither lyrics – as well as other brilliant lyricists like Dottie Rambo and Michael W. Smith from my generation who have graced us with their amazing ability to give us fresh new songs for our worship services and personal reflection.
And there are songs written clear back in 1917 that still have relevance for us today – like “The Love Of God” by Frederick Lehman: I just LOVE these lyrics – they are rich and have such beauty.
- The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
- When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
- Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
- Bad Hymns (sela12.wordpress.com)
- A Classic Done With Excellence and Creativity (frasermurdoch.wordpress.com)
- Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me by Bifrost Arts – Sunday Songs (mgpcpastor.com)
- Worship Songs I’m loving (benclapton.id.au)
- Singing The Faith: A First Look (bigcircumstance.com)
- Hymns are hip (gratefultothedead.wordpress.com)
- A Commentary on Hymns (sjbrown58.wordpress.com)