We are living in an age when music is doing all sorts of things. Churches are attempting and trying a number of musical variations in an attempt to stay relevant and engaging. New songs are being written all the time, new tunes, new musical moods, etc.
But, we ought to stop and ask ourselves, why do we sing at church anyway?
And, shouldn’t the answer to that question drive our practice of both song choice and musical style?
Shouldn’t the answer to that question really supersede how we feel about music at Church?
If singing in Church has a purpose, shouldn't that purpose be central in our mind and set the tone for everything we do?
If we’re not careful, Church music can become a very personal thing. Our personal enjoyment, our personal experience, our personal approval or disapproval or a song, a style, or a combination of the two. Biblically, singing in the Church has two primary goals: First, to glorify God, and second, to edify and encourage the saints of God.
Knowing this, the Church has historically written music to accomplish these two goals in a style known as, “The hymn.”
So, why are hymns important?
1 - Hymns teach us the Bible.
-In John 4, Jesus tells us that we are to worship in the spirit and in truth. Hymns are written to keep the Church tied firmly to the Truth of God’s Word.
A good hymnal will have a number of theological categories into which the songs fall.
Our own hymnal, the Baptist Hymnal, has the following song categories…
God the Father.
Jesus, the Son.
The Holy Spirit.
The Word of God.
Our Response to God’s Love.
-So, as we sing hymns week after week, we are proclaiming the truth of God’s Word together. Hymns help us to worship in truth.
Hymnals are not just song books, but books of biblical and theological truth.
Every home ought to have a hymn book.
2 - Hymns are written to be memorized.
-Because we are encouraged to worship in truth, and because hymns are often biblical truths put to music, hymns writers understand that these songs will often and easily stick in our minds.
So, the more we sing these songs of biblical truth, the more the Bible gets into our minds.
In a sense, hymns are biblical truths in to-go plates.
3 - Hymns are written to sing together.
-In places like Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, the Church is commanded to sing together.
So, hymns are written in a fairly simplistic musical style so as to encourage corporate singing.
Most of the melodies are similar, share a common pace, fit within the average vocal range, and are repetitive.
This is not to make the music boring, but to make the music singable for the majority of people.
4 - Hymns are a Form of Discipleship.
-When we gather and sing these great truths about God, we are teaching and encouraging one another, building each other up in the faith, comforting the downtrodden and heavy-hearted, encouraging the tired, instructing the young, correcting falsehood, and more.
5 - Hymns are meant to focus our attention on God.
-You have probably noticed that hymns lack many of the frills of contemporary music. That is on purpose.
We can easily become distracted by those things and lose the focus of the song.
Hymns are fairly basic in their style and performance so as to let the message of the song be the focus.
6 - Hymns serve as a statement of faith for the congregation.
-As churches sing the great hymns of the faith, old and new, week-in and week-out, they are proclaiming for themselves the great truths they believe.
Hymns are also a way of teaching newer members and visitors what the Church believes.
7 - Hymns are a way to minister to every age of Saint in the Church.
-Young saints may have the desire for newer styles of music, and that’s okay; it's not wrong. But, older saints in the Church may have a bit of a struggle with newer musical styles. And that’s okay too.
Hymns can help these two groups come together around the ageless truths of God’s Word.
And there are some modern day hymn writers doing some wonderful work both lyrically and musically.
Hymns are Important!
Hymns are a wonderful tool for the Church. Ancient hymns of the faith show where the Church had stood for hundreds and thousands of years. We need to sing these old hymns of the faith.
There are also new hymns being written all the time, and we need to sing these as well.
Hymns can be sung in a multitude of musical forms, and churches ought to be open to a variety.
Hymns are important. Hymns serve the Church. Let’s sing the Hymns!
Note: I am taking for granted that there are some bad hymns out there that should be avoided. For all the reasons good hymns are valuable, bad hymns are dangerous. They can teach wrong theology, and get wrong ideas deep in the mind, leading us astray. All our hymns must be measured by the Bible.