Why Do We Sing Hymns?

Occasionally, I feel the need to restate the reasons that we sing hymns like we do. Apparently, people need to be reminded as evidenced by the downward trend in the popularity of hymns.

First, let’s look at why people / churches move away from hymns. Our popular culture has worked for decades to diminish focus on one thing for very long. Television commercials have become shorter (but more numerous). Television newscasts spend less time on news and more time on stories that touch the heart. Theatre movies seldom have intermissions anymore.

Some of the same issues impact the church. People want more for less — more experience for less effort. That puts hymns in the crosshairs (along with scripture reading and other worship elements that require our full attention). Why sing 100 words when you can get away with singing 15 words? Why use words that have theological significance when you can focus on words that help you feel better?

My answers to these questions and reasons for championing hymn-singing begin by promoting discipleship. I think that true discipleship requires discipline. Disciplining yourself to worship is job one in discipleship. Work at true discipleship ought to lead the growing Christian to desire things like hymns — things that encourage theological contemplation.

It seems to me that a growing Christian ought to clamor for deeper and richer hymn texts — for more and more complex challenges as growth in Christ proceeds.

So, why do churches seem to be moving away from hymns. Likely, one excuse is that they have heard from church growth gurus that the way to grow a church is to do “contemporary” music, not read scriptures, etc. Could it be that they are becoming more focused upon institutional growth than on promoting individual growth? If that be the case...pity.

-- Soli Deo Gloria,
Mike Farnell, Minister of Music


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