Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace
Saturday, January 17, 2015
What happened to hymn writing?
reading an article recently that was talking about the difference in
our older hymns and the Christian music that is being written today.
There is a difference. I've thought about it before, and have done
some thinking on it lately, and decided to put my thoughts in a blog
post. Some may agree with me, and some may disagree, which is fine.
Just don't label me a heretic for daring to say something you
disagree with. Anything I say about a style of music is not a
personal criticism of you, and don't take it as such.
few months ago, I was listening to the only program I listen to
regularly, The Gospel Greats. It is all Southern Gospel music, which
is my favorite, and is the best music there is,in my opinion. On this
particular program, it was an all hymns edition. Every song that was
played was a hymn with chats with some of the artists who had
recorded them. More than one music artist commented on the positive
response they get when they sing hymns in concert. And I've noticed
it. I have been to concerts and enjoyed all or most of the songs, but
there is something different about it when they sing an old familiar
It has been said that just because something is
old, that does not make it good. And on the flip side, just because
something is new, does not make it bad. That applies to music also.
There are a lot of awesome hymns with some great theology and
anointing of God on them..... and there are some not-so-great
I attend a Wesleyan Methodist church, and some
years ago they bought enough Wesleyan Methodist hymnals to stock 2 in
every songbook rack. It is not our main hymnal (thankfully!), and
does not get used a lot. I don't like it. The hymns don't have names,
but are arranged by first lines in the index. And they are old. A lot
of them have weird tunes. There are very few songs in the book that I
know. There is one song we used to sing occasionally that I
particularly didn't like. It starts out with "If I spread my
couch with roses". That is all I can remember of the song, and
it always seemed like a bizarre song to me, much less to be a hymn.
Just because it is old, does not make it good.
And to be
honest, there are a lot of songs with great words in that hymnal, but
so many have tunes I don't like, and that may be part of why I don't
We just got a new hymnal few months ago. It has a
lot of great hymns in and also a lot of newer songs. Unfortunately,
to make room for the newer songs, they phased out some hymns. One
such hymn is "Hallelujah for the Cross". I remember our
church belting out that old hymn many times and you could feel God in
it. It is a wonderful hymn..... and now it is gone, most likely never
to be sung in our church again. I like the new hymnal, but I wish we
had kept the ones we just got rid of so we wouldn't lose so many
hymns that we have lost with a new hymnal.
many songs being written today that can compare and stand with the
hymns of yesterday. I'm not saying today's songs aren't good. There
are a lot of good songs, but not many that are hymn quality. There is
something about hymns. And many music artists are making CDs of hymns
and recording one here and there. And they are well received.
Bill Gaither and others have written some songs that are standing the
test of time. Songs like Because He Lives get almost the same
reception as a hymn, but they are few and far between.
I love Southern Gospel music, but most of the songs don't stick with
me. There are a lot of good SG songs, but no one will be singing the
ones 20 years from now that are being written now, and the same with
any genre' of Christian music. Most of the songs will not last and
will fade into the dustbin of history. And the same holds with most
Christian songs in any genre'. Most of them don't last. Some do. A
hundred years from now, they may still be singing some of the newer
songs....... but not many.
And if you think I am wrong,
think about this: Think of some songs that were written early in your
lifetime. How often do they get sung now? How often do music artists
record them? How often does someone break out into a verse or chorus
of those songs at a concert or church and everyone join in? It
doesn't happen often. In Southern Gospel music, occasionally an
artist will record a song from the 70's or 80's, but not often. It is
all about new music that will chart.
I have asked
myself why there aren't many hymns being written today. Hymn writing
is almost nonexistent. There is an occasional song that pops up that
sounds like an old hymn, but not many. In Christ Alone by Stuart
Townsend is one such song. How Deep the Father's Love is another,
also by Townsend. I thought that it was an old hymn, until I looked it up and discovered it had just been written in 1995....... but it sounds like an old hymn.
"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"
How deep the Father's love for us, How vast beyond all measure That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross, My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything No gifts, no power, no wisdom But I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom
But the songs that last, that really
say something that will resound down through the ages... they are as
scarce as hen's teeth. But why? Why aren't people churning out
powerful hymns today? I've thought about that, and here's my
1) The reason they are written. The hymn writers
wrote songs to sing in church. They wrote when God inspired them.
Now, people write songs to fill a CD. Many are written with charts in
mind, hoping they will have a number one song. Not many songs are
written today with the intent of writing songs for the church, or
simply because God inspired the writer with a thought to put to
2) Gadgets. We all, myself included, are too involved
in our gadgets. The great hymns were written before TV and the
godless influences of Hollywood came along. There were no cell
phones, computers....even no phones when a lot of them were written.
There was no modern technology to drain people and take up their
time. And that isn't to condemn modern technology, though if we
removed Hollywood's influence and lack of morals we would all be
better off. But it is different for us than for those who wrote the
old hymns and those who lived during those times. Which brings me to
my next point:
3) We don't have the spiritual depth of those
in times past. We are shallow. Too many of us don't know the true
meaning of sacrifice, denying ourselves, true surrender. We make our
own religion, our own God, and our own rules. We go through the Bible
and decide what applies to us and what doesn't. The result is a
churches full of shallow Christians. Too many of us don't have the
spiritual depth of our forefathers.
We are too
concerned with who is playing who in the sport of the season, who is
going to be picked for the next American Idol, when the next book is
coming out by our favorite author.... work and play consumes our
lives and each hour of our day, and God gets the leftovers. He is an
important part of our lives, not THE most important part.
Anointing and inspired by God. Anyone can write a song. I even wrote
one once as a class assignment, and it was a hymn, written to the
tune of a published hymn. You won't find it in a hymn book. I can't
even remember the title of it, much less the words. It was just
something I did as part of a college music course I took. God didn't
inspire it. It didn't have the anointing of God on it.
believe the great hymns of the faith - Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged
Cross, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, It Is Well With My Soul - God
inspired the writers to write them. And the anointing of God was on
the writers and on the songs. We don't have many Fanny Crosbys.
Phillip Blisses, Horation Spaffords, and others like them today. Back
to my first point, these men and women weren't trying to write the
next #1 song. They didn't have an artist asking them for songs to
fill their new CD.
God inspired them to write, and they wrote
and the words were put to music. And those songs still resonate with
us years later, some of them a couple of hundred years later. That
won't be the case with most of today's Christian music. Like the
music from my childhood, most of it will fade away into history and
won't be remembered, sung, or recorded.
Now a couple of
1) I am not making a blanket statement on all modern
Christian music.....just most. And just because it doesn't measure up
to hymns, does not make it bad. I receive a lot of encouragement and
help from new songs. This is not a condemnation of new Christian
2) Not all Christians are shallow. Not all gadgets are
bad. However, if each of us were honest, we have a hard time making
time for God amid the busyness of life and entertainment. The
majority of us need more of God and need to be closer to God.
3) There is such a thing as personal taste and opinion.... but if one is totally honest and considers this issue, most people will agree that a lot of our modern Christian music does not measure up to the hymns.
4) I am not worshiping hymns. I just believe
they are so much more and so much better than
good Christian music of today. No matter what your tastes are, there
is probably something that is at least labeled Christian music you
will enjoy..... but treasure the old hymns. They have great theology
and "meat", and many were written out of great trials and
triumphs of saints long gone.
I hope the day never
comes when my church has a hymnal with no tried and true hymns. With
each new hymnal that is published, it seems more and more new songs
are added, and more and more older hymns are discarded. If we keep
doing that, soon all of the old hymns will be gone. That has happened
in many churches. All they sing are new praise and worship songs,
some which do have some depth and meaning, but many which are "7/11"
music...repeating the same lyrics over and over to get the crowd
excited and worked up. I've heard songs like that, and they bother
me. The church that has discarded the old hymns and just do whatever
the new hip and popular worship music is, is a deprived church. Music
sets the tone for the service, and we need to get away from just
getting a spiritual high from music that may have us jumping up and
down and dancing.
Others might find other reasons, and some may scoff at the reasons I came up with. I don't always make sense, but I think my reasons here do. If you disagree, then why do you think hymns aren't being written today? And why does so much of Christian music being written doesn't hold up to our hymns, though I am sure some will argue that point.
I like to hear new songs, but I am thankful for the hymns we have and still sing.