Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hymns and Simple Church: Not a Simple Fit

In light of how wonderful hymns can be, how do they fit in the simple church? The answer is that it is not simple.

Because of their nature, hymns fit well with a piano and/or organ. The reality is that most folks don't have an organ in their home. Some do have pianos. As in all church families, the music playing is limited to those who have the skill to play the instruments. If someone can play the piano, this makes hymn singing much easier.

Small groups of Christians have, by definition, a limited pool of musical resources upon which to draw. It may be that no one has any musical skill (for example, me).

Of course, no instruments are required for singing any song of any type. Therefore, the possibility of hymn singing should not be discounted out of hand in simple churches. It can be done a cappella.

My encouragement to all churches, simple or not, is to strive for a variety of song types. This responsibility falls on all the people. One person should not be asked/expected to play all the music and select all the songs at every gathering. Frankly, it's not fair to that person to ask them to do that much.

Hymns often require teaching before singing. They are not generally as easy to sing as are most modern choruses. At first, it may seem like work and feel plodding. However, the reward is great.

If you have grown up in relatively large churches, you may have certain expectations as far as hymn singing is concerned. The performance-aspect of singing hymns in the home may at first seem lacking. However, the community side of hymn singing, at least in my opinion, more than makes up for this. I love to watch people's faces up close when they sing deep theology. I take joy in viewing others take joy in Christ in song.

Hymns require some effort. Regardless of how you gather, the effort will be worth it. Select good hymns, sing them repeatedly until they feel natural, and enjoy.


Alan Knox said...

Yes, we sing alot of songs a capella. And, occasionally, someone will ask to sing a song that most people don't know. So, we get to learn it.

I've also found it helpful and encouraging when the person explains why he/she wants to sing a certain song.


Arthur Sido said...

The group we meet with sings older hymns exclusively a cappella, something that is a regular feature of more conservative Anabaptist groups. Having been in that setting for a while we kind of find most music in church gatherings to be awfully loud.

Aussie John said...


"It can be done a cappella".

Yes,inded! Our group did so for ten years, both hymns and other songs.

Most of the group found they had an ability, which they thought they didn't have.

Eric said...


Learning is indeed a wonderful aspect of singing songs together. We all get to both teach and learn.

Eric said...


Interesting comment about the loudness factor. I hadn't thought much about that, but I agree with you.

Eric said...


I like the idea of the group finding abilities they didn't know they had. I can see it blossoming as everyone joins in together. Wonderful!

Scott said...


I was curious do you know of an NT passages that prescribe or describe instruments being used to accompany singing in Christian worship gatherings?

Our church has been singing for the last 125 years without any instruments.

Neat thing is most everybody actually sings, unlike most worship gatherings I experience with instrumental accompaniment.


Eric said...


That's a great question. I know of nowhere in the NT that describes using musical instruments during church gatherings. In light of that, I can certainly see why some local bodies choose to not use them. The biblical model is on their side.

In the Psalms we read of musical instruments. However, since that is not describing the church it is difficult to know how far to apply what we read there.

I can understand why singing a capella would lead to more folks actually singing. Instruments do have a tendency to dominate and cause some people to become passive listeners.

In the end, if edification is the true goal of the gathering, it appears that not using instruments (at least much of the time) is the best way to go.