It wasn’t that long ago when churches across the nation were only holding traditional services, chalk full of classic hymns. Recently, some churches seem uninterested in any song that is more than two years old, much less two hundred years. Many believe hymns are simply old, outdated, and not a necessity for a successful church service. Others, however, view classic hymns as a rich part of the church history that should be acknowledged.
Should we still sing hymns in our church today? Here are both sides of the argument.
Why We Should Sing Hymns
Our society is fixated on what’s new and what’s next, but hymns remind us that what’s next is not always what’s best. Singing the historic hymns of our faith reminds the congregation that we are not the first generation to have sung these tunes, and believed in the Lord. We are not the first to write hymns of praise to God, and we can become connected to those in the past. These songs have been able to stand the test of time.
Hymns are little sermons in themselves. They are able to articulate and illustrate Biblical truths in interesting ways. Singing is a form of teaching that uses poetry to open to us the Word of God. They can complement the teachings of the pastor to offer different perspectives.
Hymns can also allow for a more authentic emotional response to the Christian teaching. Some Christians believe contemporary worship can come off as inauthentic and dismissive; presenting Christianity in only a surface-level way. Hymns, on the other hand, can bring a more powerful response in a way that Christ wanted. They can be picked up in times of happiness, doubt or sadness.
Hymns also remind us that the church is different. Hymns don’t mimic popular style in word or music. Rather, they were created in a unique style with unique vocabulary for a very special group of people, those who want to praise Christ.
A church’s hymn-singing does not simply act as an opening for the sermon, or an obligatory filler-time to warm up a congregation. Singing is a holy practice that God has commanded us to do. These songs should fill our hearts with thankfulness and delight in God.
Why We Should Stop Singing Hymns
While there are many good reasons to why we should sing hymns, there are some reasons why we might not want to.
If our goal with congregational singing is to involve the people and unite them in joint worship we need to ask ourselves if we are achieving that goal. Is the church inviting people to sing in a way they can follow and in a manner which they can feel somewhat confident? Many times, singing old traditional hymns can turn off members from the church, rather than bring them together. Not knowing songs can be a barrier for new churchgoers. This can be combated by more popular hymns or by sharing the lyrics with the congregation. Even still, given how many different arrangements there can be of one hymn, it can be a mystery to how the song should play out.
Some churches have also created worship services that are amounting to spectator events. There is no problem having an environment for worship that includes lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts, and much more. However when our environments take things to a level that calls constant attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. In addition to this, some are seeing these hymns as more important than sermons. It’s great to have some favorite hymns, but if not singing your favorite Christmas song ruins your church service, it might be time to reevaluate where you are on your Christian journey.
While some traditional hymns can be great compliments to a sermon, there are many that are theological problematic or vapid. Those without any real teachings aren't necessarily bad, however they add no real value to the worship service. They do not give anything significant about Christian teachings, and instead usually only share one individuals experience as Biblical truth. Those hymns that are theologically problematic can vary from church to church, but each congregation should be asking themselves if they actually believe in what they are singing, or if it's an accurate reflection of the Christian story.
Each church will find its own reasons why they do or don’t sing hymns during their church services. Christians should continue to sing to the Lord (Psalm 96:1), but which songs you choose to sing are a part of your personal faith journey. Find the church that inspires your love of God, hymns or not.