I took a quick glance over to the side table where our bulletins, prayer lists and other relevant church family items are made available. But there was another stack of papers I didn’t recognize. My curiosity got the best of me and I went over to take a look.
The stack of papers had been photocopied by a well-intentioned, unidentified church attender that morning. It was an article titled: “Let’s Don’t Lose the Hymns” by Pat Barker. I absolutely agreed with much of what Pat wrote but heartily disagreed with one of his conclusions. Here are just a few of my reflections on this issue.
First, I LOVE the old hymns for a lot of different reasons a few of which are: 1) I grew up singing them and know most of them by heart. 2) The writers of those hymns weren’t 18-year-olds with a guitar. They were seasoned saints who, generally speaking, knew correct theology and had a desire to grow others in Christ. 3) Those hymns provide a connection with the Church’s past … which in many ways is a VERY good thing. God moved incredibly in times past while the church sang those hymns.
As I finished the article, I looked at our order of worship for that morning. I saw that we were going to sing some newer songs but we were also going to sing two hymns. I also knew that every Sunday evening, we sing some hymns and then spend a significant amount of time after each song reflecting on what we just sang. It’s always an incredibly rewarding experience. We love the hymns at First Baptist Church.
Second, the writer of the article had a heart to see God move again like He did in the Church’s history … which I wholeheartedly share. I long to see God move so powerfully in a sinner’s life that there are tears when they repent. I long to see an obvious, long-term change of behavior when someone claims to get saved. I long to see believers passionately love the Lord and take their life as a disciple of Christ seriously.
The state of the Church in America, overall, is not good. The Church has lost its “first love” (like the church in Ephesus – Revelation 2:4) and is lukewarm (like the church in Laodicea – Revelation 3:16). I long to see God move again in our country like He did during the First and Second Great Awakening and many other times of revival and renewal before and since then. I long to see our country come back from the brink of moral collapse because God has blessed us again with a national revival.
Yet, while the author of the article craved these same things, I believe he drew an erroneous conclusion in regard to how we get there. He connected the lack of hymns in our worship gatherings with the present, lethargic state of the church. I wish that the problem were that simple. Yet it isn’t. There are many churches that don’t sing hymns that are winning the lost and pushing back the moral darkness of their culture. There are also churches that sing nothing but hymns that are only a few funerals away from closing their doors.
The real problem is not necessarily the songs we sing or when they were written. The problem is the lack of a desire to really know, love and obey our great God. When our churches are filled with men and women who crave to see God’s glory like Moses (Exodus 33:18), when they are willing to bemoan and repent completely of their sin like Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), when they desire to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul and mind like Jesus instructed (Matthew 22:37), and when they come to realize that they express that love for God most clearly when they submit themselves to His leadership and obey His every Word (John 14:15), then we just might see God move again.
In that state of renewal, we won’t care who wrote the songs or when they were written. Our sole desire will be to make certain that the songs we sing glorify our great God and we’ll sing them and mean them from the depths of our heart.
I love the hymns and I will always enjoy singing them. But the way back into God’s favor is not necessarily found in what songs we sing. It is through desiring God, repenting of sin, loving Him and obeying Him.