The Old Church Hymns :: by Grant Phillips

Who, among us is not influenced by the memories of our childhood? It is a shame that many people today do not have pleasant childhood memories. Others may have plenty of memories, but have to think real hard to recall those that are pleasant.

I have been blessed in that my parents were both Christians and that my siblings and I had that influence in our lives. Many of my memories come from the local church atmosphere─and most all of them are pleasant.

I remember, especially, the songs that were sung so often in our congregation. I will list just a very, very few in no particular order: “I Love to Tell the Story,” “Amazing Grace,” “At the Cross,” “Old Rugged Cross,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Just as I Am,” “Softly and Tenderly,”
“Victory In Jesus,” “What a Friend,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” “Precious Memories,” “All Hail the Power,” “In the Garden,” “Have Thine Own Way Lord,” “‘Neath the Old Olive Trees,” “How Firm a Foundation,” and “He Lives.” Again, this is only a fraction of those great old time songs, but when I hear them a comforting nostalgia sets in.

It is almost impossible today to hear the old hymns on the radio or even in the churches. They have been replaced by modern praise music. Some of the praise music is okay, some of it is trash, but none of it can climb to the pinnacles of praise that the old hymns provided.

Even in what is called Southern Gospel, some of it is okay and some of it is trash, but none of it provides the gospel message like the old hymns. None of it provides the sound that melts my heart for the God who loves me.

Some of you, perhaps many of you, will not agree with me and that’s okay too. These are my opinions and you certainly are welcome to yours. However, I have been involved with music since the fourth grade and God’s Word─the Bible─probably longer. That is not to say I stand on the mountain alone looking down on everyone else. No, I have often been found walking through the valleys and in that capacity have found not just the music of the old hymns, but the lyrics too, to be closer to the holy Word of God than any other religious music of today. I have found them to be more benefit to the soul than any other music. So many of those great old hymns have brought comfort and strength.

Most all the old hymns were about Jesus and His gospel. Granted, some of today’s music is too, but most of it is not. Most of today’s music is about “my relationship” or “what I’ve been through” or “how I feel about Jesus.” Well, you get the point.

I don’t mean for this to sound critical toward other religious music, as opposed to the old hymns, but obviously, I can’t avoid that, at least toward most of it. It’s just that no music of today can reach the pinnacle of “Amazing Grace” or “The Old Rugged Cross” for example: the music and the lyrics just can’t be touched by any other. Much of today’s music is fine, but it just doesn’t get there for me.

I do understand that these are my memories and not necessarily yours (if you have any). Some may have a background of a more classical religious music. I love classical music. Others may have memories of Southern Gospel music. I like some of it. Others may have memories of a more “mountain type” religious music and I love that too. The younger crowd will develop memories of modern day music that will be recalled in later years. We all have our own preferences, which are normally drawn from our earlier years.

It is a shame, however, no─to me─it is a tragedy that nearly all the churches have tossed out the old, Hymn Book for wide screen monitors that usually display the same words over and over. The lone piano or piano and organ have been replaced with an orchestra in the larger churches. Guess what? I love to listen to an orchestra for classical music, but it leaves me hanging in the church atmosphere.

By the way, don’t email me lambasting me over not sitting with you on your side of the pew over the music. I have made it clear that we all have our own preferences and these that I have mentioned are mine. I really do feel however, if you will give the music and lyrics of the old hymns an honest consideration, you would have to agree they can’t be touched when it comes to providing a more biblical viewpoint.

In the meantime: All the power of Jesus’ Name ‘till we meet again.

Grant Phillips