I saw this article in Relevant Magazine today and thought, “What songs would I like to see added to a updated hymnal?” I know, I know… At the Cross, and It Is Well has to stay but, if I could redesign the standard church hymnal, what would it look like? Check this out:
The Millennial Hymnal
At the crossroads of old and new, how should this generation worship?
The church I go to is old and Baptist—it even has that old-Baptist-church smell. I go to this church because it’s healthy and alive, but it’s also old. So when something is new, everyone notices.
Several Sundays ago I noticed we had new hymnals—which might seem like an oxymoron. Hymnals are supposed to be old and tattered, right? Even better if the pages are brown with age. But our new hymnals are unworn and chic with smooth red binding. They also have a hip copyright date: 2008.
I was surprised to see Matt Redman’s, “Blessed Be Your Name” and Chris Tomlin’s, “How Great is Our God” in these new hymnals. These are good songs with biblical, God-glorifying content, and I’m glad that our churches are singing them. But I admit that when I saw them, I frowned.
See: What Is Yom Kippor?
“These aren’t hymns,” I thought, “these are chart-toppers.” Almost in fear that my favorite traditional hymns had been retired, I scoured the book to find something old. I was relieved to see that “Be Thou My Vision” and “How Great Thou Art” made it in.
At first I was miffed to see the newbies encroaching on the old-timers’ sacred space. But I soon realized that my initial aversion was unfair. I was presuming certain criteria for a hymn: Written before I was born, and fit for an organ.
St. Augustine says that a hymn is “singing to the praise of God.” Carl F. Price, who wrote several books on the study of hymns and worship in the early 1900s, offers a more robust and I think very helpful definition:
“A Christian hymn is a lyric poem, reverently and devotionally conceived, which is designed to be sung and which expresses the worshiper’s attitude toward God, of God’s purpose in human life. It should be simple and metrical in form, genuinely emotional, poetic and literary in style, spiritual in quality, and in its ideas so direct and so immediately apparent as to unify a congregation while singing it.”