hile on the airplane recently, I noticed a young woman reading from what appeared to be a hymnbook. Upon closer observation, I discovered it was indeed a hymnal.
Getting the woman’s attention, I inquired if perhaps she was a church musician. The woman, who appeared to be in her early 30s, said no, she was simply a Christian who loved studying hymns. She explained, “My hymnbook is second to my Bible as a source of encouragement. Praise songs are nice, but to me a hymn is so much more. Hymns repeat what the Bible says. We learn from them.”
A few weeks later, I was visiting with my 24-year-old grandniece Kari, who shared with me her great love of hymns. Now I was wondering how many other people, young or old, do these two women represent?
Adding to the Richness of Worship
Hymns provide an enriching supplement to popular praise-and-worship songs. While spiritually enriching hymns continue to be written, older hymns are also valuable tools for today’s Christian.
Through a hands-on relationship with a quality hymnbook, our understanding of the splendor of God matures. We can readily respond to the psalmist’s invitation, “Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name” (Ps. 30:4 NIV).
Singing together with the saints (fellow Christians) provides an opportunity for vibrant worship, spiritual growth, and Christian witness.
The Church Hymnal continues to serve the church well after more than 60 years of use. Its topical index ranging from “Baptism” to “Testimony”—illustrates the biblical and theological richness of the book’s contents. Some of the book’s hymns are available on a compact disc produced by Pathway Press. Hymns of the Spirit and Convention Classics can also be purchased from Pathway.
Creating a Thirst for God
Someone recently raised the question, “Do American Christians need the message of grace or a call to holiness?” This caused me to ponder how today’s church music is answering that question. While the message of grace and a call to holiness are both needed, it seems the message of grace has become louder than the call to holiness. Perhaps the call to holiness will become stronger as we personally and collectively reclaim the biblical richness of the hymnbook, alongside the popular praise songs.
Hymnology professor Esther Crookshank said, “A good hymn or Christian song will make us thirsty for Scripture, and by implication, it will make us thirsty for God.”
Roger Wayne Hicks has served as minister of music in six states and Canada over the past 50 years. He lives in Sun City West, Arizona.