I occasionally get questions about introducing hymns to congregations that do not sing them. Should a pastor introduce old hymns? And if so, how should we go about the process?
First, make sure to explain and teach to your people the importance of theological expression through music. Help them see the depth of a hymn like, “For All the Saints,” or another one listed below.
Second, help them see that as Christians, we have to lean against the “arrogance of the modern.” We are people who are connected with brothers and sisters from the history of our faith, and we should not ignore that. Learning hymns is a way to participate in the church universal and the communion of the saints.
Third, develop a practical method for introducing the hymns. I suggest you introduce a new hymn each month. I used this for introducing the Psalms, but it works just as well for a hymn. At significant points in the church year (Advent, Christmas, Easter) introduce a powerful hymn. If you start in March around the time of what some observe as Lent, you can introduce a hymn like “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” which is a hymn that emphasizes the passion of Jesus Christ. Then for Easter introduce a hymn like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”
Fourth, develop a long-term plan. By this I mean you should know the main hymns you want to introduce over the course of the next few years. That means if you want to plan out two years, pick 24 hymns. Put the appropriate hymn in the month relative to the major event of the church year.
Read the entire piece HERE.
I resonate with Grant's statement that Christians ought to push back against the "arrogance of the modern." Many younger evangelicals have abandoned their protestant church in favor of a Catholic or Eastern Orthodox communion. This trend has less to do with theology than it does with a desire for connection to something which is reverent and enthusiastically embraces its history. My rule of thumb is something like this: The older something is, the greater likelihood that it is right. The newer something is, the greater likelihood that it is wrong.
Perhaps the chief reason the church is losing so many of our young people once they go off to university is that they have not been equipped with a robust faith. Their concept of God is often sentimental and this in no small part because of the woeful condition of Christian worship. It offers a romantic but substance-less vision of God. Our understanding of worship is often limited to music while ignoring or minimizing the public reading of Scripture, the sacraments, prayer, and the preaching of God's Word as vital elements of corporate worship. What is more, we often sing about our love for God and our emotional longings for Him but who this God is and what He does has gone largely ignored. Thus our faith more romantic than substantive.
This can be addressed by a thoughtful consideration of how the church has worshipped through the generations. Certainly there were practices that needed (or still need) to be jettisoned. Certainly the Church of Rome is full of extra-biblical rituals. However, the content of great hymns is something that needs desperately to be recovered by the contemporary church. Certainly, candy is much easier to eat and digest than steak but sugar is no substitute for protein. Let us not give our young people a bowl of porridge in place of their magnificent birthright.