Last Tuesday I wrote about all of the younger musicians who are taking old hymns, dusting them off, putting them to new music, and reintroducing them to the next generation of Christians (“When New Meets Old“). However, the “hymn resurgence” goes beyond recovering old hymns that have been “lost” by the Church. Some of these younger musicians are even resurrecting the hymn itself- they are writing new music in the old style of a hymn.
In the contemporary Christian music circles, the musical genre of the hymn fell out of favor decades ago. The musical options for Church music were either old hymn or new chorus. However, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend are at the forefront of a movement to changed those options. Now we have have a third choice: new hymns!
My first introduction to this marriage of old style with new music and lyrics came when my friend asked to sing the song In Christ Alone for special music for a Sunday service. As I read through the lyrics, I was overwhelmed. The song was so rich, deep, and full of good theology… and then I heard the song. The music fit it perfectly and the melody was easy to follow and easy for a congregation to sing. It quickly became one of the favorites in our church.
Next came How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. When I first began to lead this song for congregational worship, I honestly had a hard time not weeping. The pictures the words paint are so powerful. Take this section from the second verse: “Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders; ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.” As I sang that, I felt the weight of my sin and pictured myself in that angry mob crying out “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The song brought me face to face with the gravity of being a sinner, but it didn’t leave me there! It lifted me and gave me joy by reminding me “this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom.” Honestly, I don’t think there is a month that goes by that we don’t sing this song in one of our services.
…and then came the album. Again, it was our wonderful church secretary that put it in my hands. Friends had told me I needed to get a copy of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s album In Christ Alone, but I kept putting it off. What a foolish thing that was! As soon as I listened to the copy I was loaned, I went on to iTunes and downloaded it for myself. Kristyn’s vocals are beautiful, but it is the powerful truth captured by Keith and Stuart in their the wonderful and vivid lyrics that have made the songs from In Christ Alone some of the most played on my iPod.
My favorite track? The anthem O Church Arise fills me with such zeal and energy, it makes me want to stop the car, find a street corner and start preaching! I love this song and wish that the Church would really see herself this way. This song is a good example of what happens when you take powerful truth and marry it to just the right music; the music becomes the match that ignites the powder-keg of truth!
I could go on and on about these wonderful new hymns being written, but let me wrap things up by saying, first, there is a lot of cause here for praising our God. I praise God for these brothers who have dedicated themselves to writing songs with rich theology and simple melody lines for the church to sing and rejoice in. I praise God that they have seen the value in the “hymn” and that they won’t let this wonderful tool that has served the Church so well die out in this generation. I praise God for His power to give life to what so many had considered dead and buried!
And, second, I’d encourage you to support our brothers in this work. Buy their albums. Get their sheet music and give it to your church musicians and pastor. And take the time to find out more about Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s love for the hymns. Just click on their names and read about their commitment to this important work for the Church.