If you haven’t noticed from my daily hymn posts, I love hymns. So, it only stands to reason that I love hymnals. You know…. those books that contain the hymns? Maybe your church no longer carries hymnals in your pews (or chairs). If that is the case, I am sorry for your loss! Just kidding… but not really.
Anyways, I thought I’d put together 3 broad reasons why I love hymnals. There are way more than 3 reasons to love hymnals, but those will come in later posts I am sure!
So, here are my reasons.
I Love That Hymnals Teach
Hymns have a way of teaching that a pastor or Sunday school teacher cannot begin to mimic. There is just something about putting Scripture or theology to rhythmic melodies that teach the mind and the heart about the things of God. So, hymns have a way of teaching Scripture that I cannot even begin to copy in my ministry! Another thing hymns teach, besides Scripture and good theology, is music. Churches that have switched solely to powerpoint slides miss out on learning music as a congregation. I am not saying that each person in a congregation will be a Mozart with music, but at least they can learn the basics just from singing from a hymnal Sunday after Sunday. I’ll come back to this in my next point.
I Love What Hymnals Teach
Closely tied to the first reason why I love hymnals, this point focuses more on the content of the hymns in a hymnal. Not only do hymns teach Scripture, but they teach from Scripture. If you flip through your average hymnal you would find, I hope, that most of the hymns reference Scripture constantly. For example, if I sing Holy, Holy, Holy the words of the prophet Isaiah run through my mind. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). Hymnals also teach sound theology, for the most part. Not only are hymns full of Scripture, but the way they teach the Word of God through song is very poetic, which in some amazing way makes theology easy to understand. This past weekend my Dad (who is the pastor of my church) and I (the pastoral intern at my church) were not able to be at our church. While we were away an 11-year-old girl from the congregation said, “I’m glad we sing hymns. There’s so much good stuff in them.” Amen! Even an 11-year-old can understand the beautiful content in the hymnal!
Hymnals also teach sound theology, for the most part. Not only are hymns full of Scripture, but the way they teach the Word of God through song is very poetic, which in some amazing way makes theology easy to understand. This past weekend my Dad (who is the pastor of my church) and I (the pastoral intern at my church) were not able to be at our church. While we were away an 11-year-old girl from the congregation said, “I’m glad we sing hymns. There’s so much good stuff in them.” Amen! Even an 11-year-old can understand the beautiful content in the hymnal!
One last example of what hymnals teach. They teach how to worship God through music in a way that modern worship music hasn’t quite grasped yet. I mentioned before that the church loses a great thing when they move from sheet music to words on a screen. Don’t get me wrong, that is a great way to worship corporately, but I think the congregation misses the joy of reading music. There are some really gifted musicians in each church I am sure. But, there are also people who don’t know the first thing about music. For the sake of illustration again I will use the words of a man at my church. “I don’t know a lick about reading music, but what I do know is that when one black dot is higher than the other it means I need to sing higher. When there is a dot with a hole in it it means I need to sing that word longer!” This guy doesn’t know much about music. He doesn’t know the name of the black dots on the page (notes) or the musical terms for a half-note or quarter-note. All he knows is the way music reads. He never would have known that stuff about music had he not come to a church that used hymnals!
I Love Who Hymnals Teach About
This is the most important reason, I think. A hymn can have Scripture references in them and have sound theology, but if the hymn does not glorify Christ in some way I believe the hymn is lacking in God-glorifying worship. Paul exhorted the Colossians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God.” This is another thing I am starting to see lacking in a lot of the newer worship music being produced and sung in church for worship. Instead of the focus of the song being on the one whom we worship, the focus or center begins to be placed on the worshippers. I won’t rag too much on modern worship songs, but this is certainly a huge issue.
Hymns have a way of poetically teaching Scripture, theology, but most importantly they teach and exalt Christ. If a hymn ever mentions the worshipper it is only for a brief stanza before the worshipper is eclipsed by the glory of Christ.
These are only 3 reasons why I love hymnals and the hymns in them. What do you like about hymns or hymnals? Do you like them at all? Let me know what you think!