THE MINISTRY OF THE HYMN
All songs or psalms are made up of meaningful words and spiritual music. Hymns are songs of praise, adoration or the Gospel of God. Secular songs are not hymns but rather songs or ballads unless they are for honor or praise of a cause or leader, such as “Hail the Chief”. Secular songs do not engage the same spirit as do Church hymns and Gospel songs; the spirit of the secular is the spirit of the world, and therefore in many cases of a fleshy origin, their words bearing proof of the source.
Hymns are meant for group or individual edification. Secular songs are intended as entertainment for a gathering, or for individual preoccupation.
Christian hymns are intended for corporate participation, which is a ministry for effective unity of spirit in the Body of Christ, along with the preached Word of God for the Saints, and the Gospel for the lost. It is an important part of the Church’s worship and evangelism. Without hymns our churches would grow cold in spirit.
Hymns of the Church are not just a New Testament ministry to God, but the Old Testament Scriptures are replete with Psalms of praise and adoration, of hope and victory. When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the temple of God, there was a great number of musicians that went in the forefront of the procession. Read the account of King David’s instructions, following: (1CHRONICLES 15:12-24)
“And (David) said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; And with them their brethren of the second degree, Zechariah, Ben, and Jaaziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, Eliab, and Benaiah, and Maaseiah, and Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, the porters. So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass; And Zechariah, and Aziel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Unni, and Eliab, and Maaseiah, and Benaiah, with psalteries on Alamoth; And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel. And Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skilful. And Berechiah and Elkanah were doorkeepers for the ark. And Shebaniah, and Jehoshaphat, and Nethaneel, and Amasai, and Zechariah, and Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, did blow with the trumpets before the ark of God: and Obededom and Jehiah were doorkeepers for the ark.
Here we see the honor afforded the presence of God. There was no presumption among them nor was there a lack of real self or corporate dedication to the purpose of the gathering, the bringing forward of the Ark, the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. The best of what they had in the musical offerings of the faithful Levites and their instruments was provided. Their duties were ordered by God’s anointed, King David, the king after God’s own heart, the representative of the eternal throne of Christ, the anointed One. How proper that the anointed of God, the King of Israel humbled himself in obedience and with a repentant spirit to correct the presumption of his earlier mishandling of the Ark of God.
Our New Testament music ministry has a similar purpose, our offering to God of joy, victory, honor and reverence. I recall the great processional hymns of the liturgical churches where order was expected and manifested. The great organ sounding out with power and anticipation, the choir proceeding from the Narthex and through the Nave with the Cross, then the ministers, all in their respective vestments; the call to the worship of our God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. What a glorious hymn it is, this processional hymn to the acknowledgement of the presence of our God.
People for some reason tire of regimen, always looking for something new and different, but somehow seem to return to the solidness of the same regimen they left. Without spiritual stability there is no power. That stability is found in words to be the unchanging Gospel, and in music the unchanging, anointed hymns of the Church. There is no substitute for either of these two “Word and Spirit” ministry of the Church, nor can they be separated for they represent in worship “Faith and Works” which stand together.
Churches may bring in changes from Church discipline in order to attract people, but what they bring to replace the irreplaceable will in time fade for lack of spiritual power. The lack of power is the lack of the Holy Ghost’s presence in the churches who elect to divert from the steadfast to the temporal. Hip-hop music is hardly able to replace a hymn, and if the present trend continues, we will see this come to pass. For the present we have “Christian Rock” and its spirit, a spirit of the world which cannot substitute for the Spirit of God. So, regardless of the words of this “Rock” music, there is no power of God’s Spirit present in the performance of it. Neither does “joyful noise” describe the cadence of “rock” whose source is the drug dens of the 1960’s, a time of spiritual rebellion throughout America and since spread to all the listening world.
When the old Christian processional hymns return to the Church with repentance to God for our carelessness of worship, we will see a revival that will stir the souls of every true Christian and move their feet to carry the powerful Word of God to the streets around them, preaching the loving Gospel of our Lord for the saving of lost souls.
How will this begin? When you and I call for the old hymn books to be put back in the racks, and call for the music director to repent of the “rock” music, and when we ask the Pastor to preach the old solid ways of the Church and repent of his public speaking exercises that are wrongly called sermons. Revival is coming, but only if we call for it out of a repentant heart for the apathy we have displayed in God’s house on the Lord’s Day by not taking our complaints to God and to the Pastors. We who profess to be Christians will be held accountable to God for our lack of commitment to His Word and music, our spiritual food and joy, the power that brings souls to the Cross of our Christ.