by Don Chapman
I’ll often hear a contemporary worship leader say “We don’t ever sing hymns.” In fact, many just flat-out dislike hymns (and Christmas carols!) I can’t really blame them – even though there are many options for hymn arrangements these days it can be hard to find just the right one that is playable for their teams and accessible to their congregations.
But let’s say you can find hymns that will work in your worship sets. Why should your church ever sing them at all? Here are a few great reasons:
Hymns provide a bridge between generations, linking the present church body with the saints of the past. When your congregation sings “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or “It Is Well With My Soul”, they are joining voices with generations of believers across centuries who found hope in those same lyrics and melodies. There’s something powerful about that.
Singing the historic hymns roots today’s worshippers in the rich history of the faith. It grounds them in historical Christian beliefs, creeds, and traditions. In a fast-changing world, hymns connect your people to their unchanging God. Don’t underestimate the value of helping your church feel anchored in 2,000 years of church history.
Many hymns are packed with robust theological truths that provide a deep and comprehensive understanding of Christian beliefs. “Holy, Holy, Holy” covers the doctrine of the Trinity in a few short verses. “And Can It Be” explores themes of grace, substitutionary atonement, and Christ’s sacrifice.
Hymns serve as a tool for teaching doctrine and imparting theological understanding in a memorable way. Those powerful lyrics stick in your mind long after the song is over. The right hymn expands your people’s knowledge of who God is in a way that the latest catchy worship chorus rarely does.
For some in your church, those old hymns may evoke a sense of nostalgia and can bring comfort and a sense of belonging or connection to loved ones. Singing a hymn their grandmother once sang can connect them to precious family memories in a unique way.
But beyond just nostalgia, the poignant melodies and rich lyrics of hymns often provide a deep emotional and spiritual experience for your congregation. A well-chosen hymn pushes past the devotional feeling of many praise songs and ushers your people into an encounter with God’s majesty and glory.
Global and Cultural Reach
Many of the most enduring hymns are known and sung by Christians worldwide, fostering a sense of global unity. Your church joins with brothers and sisters around the world when they lift their voices to “Amazing Grace”, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or “How Great Thou Art.”
These classic hymns transcend cultures and denominations. They are sung as heartily by persecuted believers in underground Asian churches as they are in large Western congregations. Their appeal is universal.
Because hymns are widely known across denominations, they can encourage congregational singing and participation. You likely have visitors each Sunday from a more traditional background. Singing a classic hymn may make them feel instantly welcome and engaged in worship.
Even your regular attenders probably know more hymns than they realize thanks to holidays and weddings in other churches. Tap into that dormant hymn knowledge! The right familiar hymn invites your whole congregation to sing out with confidence.
Along those same lines, hymns are often recognized and valued across various denominations, providing a potential unifying factor among diverse groups of believers. Choose hymns that emphasize our common faith. Singing together despite other differences reminds your church of the oneness we share in Christ.
Bottom Line: Don’t neglect this treasure trove of worship resources! Take another look at hymns through fresh eyes. Tap into the rich theology, emotional power and unifying nature of these songs. Make the effort to find singable, energetic arrangements. Use them regularly in your worship sets and watch your services expand in depth. Your congregation will be blessed!