Modern Hymnody

The highlight of the recent Southern Baptist Convention, for me, was to be taught the above song by its composers, Keith & Krystin Getty. While much of modern church music falls in the category of "praise and worship," Keith & Krystin are on a mission to revive the art of hymns for a new generation. Their best known hymn is one of my all-time favorite songs, "In Christ Alone."

Ephesians 5:19 says we are to speak to one another in "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody... to the Lord." This verse has always intrigued me. We know what Psalms are. But what is the distinction between hymns and spiritual songs? "Hymns" represent songs that are theological in nature and that focus on the person and work of Christ. "Spiritual songs" represent compositions that are more relational in nature. Instead of singing about Jesus, they sing to Jesus. (i.e. "My Jesus, my savior, Lord there is none like you!")

Scripturally, there is a place for both kinds of music in the church. We need not sing one style to the exclusion of the other and, in fact, would be wrong to do so. That being said, the popularity of the latter style (praise and worship) has left some to wonder if the hymn, with its theological soundness and Biblical instruction, is a lost art. To the contrary, the Gettys prove that the hymn can be adapted to a new generation, and still remain a powerful means of worship in the Church. Personally, I rejoice in this development, and hope many more modern hymn writers emerge.

Let me also say I am absolutely thrilled with the brand new 2008 Baptist Hymnal. As part of the larger "Lifeway Worship Project" I believe it could be one of the most wonderful things to happen to our churches in a long time, if it is properly utilized. While retaining the timeless hymns of the faith, it incorporates over 300 new songs since the printing of the last edition (1991). Songs like "Shout to the Lord," "Let it Rise," and "Better is One Day" will resonate with younger generations, and breathe new life into our worship services. A "technology package" will also be available with the hymnal, allowing even small churches to instantly project lyrics on the big screen. Is that cool, or what?