Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some of Us Still Sing Hymns

I keep hearing that hymn-singing in churches is virtually extinct, that contemporary praise-and-worship music (accompanied by contemporary praise-and-worship bands) has completely taken over the church music scene.

That's why I was thankful for small graces today when I saw the results of a (totally unscientific) poll on the Christianity Today website. We asked our readers what they sing in church.

Here are the percentages:

Almost exactly half do sing predominantly "modern worship choruses." But 34% sing "mostly hymns." We who love (or at least tolerate) meaning-packed rhyming text set to predictably rhythmic tunes are not quite yet extinct!

Christianity Today Poll

What do you sing in church?

Mostly hymns - 34%

Mostly modern worship choruses - 52%

Mostly gospel/spirituals - 2%

Other - 12%

Total Votes - 849


New England Evangelical said...

34% today...24% tomorrow...We live in a more rural New England region and find it more and more difficult to find an evangelical church where solid (both theologically and musically) worship music prevails. We find it painful and depressing to spend an increasing percentage of our worship services "singing" yes lord, yes lord, yes lord yes. yes lord, yes lord, yes lord, yes....etc., etc., ad infinitum. Hymn singing is dying a slow and painful death. Check out a related article, "Born Again" in the recent issue of The Atlantic.

Joel Scandrett said...

The decline of hymn-singing is a true loss to both church and society, not only because so many traditional hymns are richly laden with both theological and spiritual content, but because hymn-singing is a principal way by which untold numbers of Christians have learned how to read music and sing! One of the great gifts of the Western Protestant heritage to the global church is its rich tradition of congregational singing. And that tradition is eroding before our very eyes.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the live worship band and the contemporary music that that comes with. That is the kind of church that I left to attend services with my new bride. At her church. With hymnals. I am usually fighting off the sandman before the Pastor ever steps into the pulpit. You CAN NOT expect todays under 50 crowd to stay in a church where the first thing that you plan to do is bore us to death with music that means nothing to us, sung in such a way as to induce the deepest of sleeps.

Unknown said...


That is more a reflection of your own personal discipline than of anything wrong with the service. It's easier to be in a loud service with popular music because those are reflective of our more base tastes. Just like your English teacher didn't let you read Harry Potter all the time and made you read The Scarlet Letter, it's not good for us to always go with the easy choice. Singing hymns in a timeless musical style might not resonate with you, but it's a discipline you can cultivate, and you will be better for making that theology a part of you.

Unknown said...

Oh, and let me tell you something else, anonymous. When my dad was growing up in the 60s, he listened to the Beach Boys, The Beatles and the Lovin' Spoonful. It might be tame by today's pop music standards, but it was quite different than the music he sang in church. And you know what? He wasn't bored with singing hymns. He internalized their truths and the theology and disciplined himself to be able to sing those songs. And it's served him well.

This is the first time in the history of the Church that younger people are expected to sing a different style of music in church than the older people. If children in the 60s and 70s could sing hymns, children of the 90s can, as long as we teach them. I'm sorry nobody ever taught you the value of hymnsinging, but I promise you that, even if it doesn't seem as natural, it will be of irreplaceable value in your life.

And I do expect kids (let alone adults under 50) to find the joy of it and discipline their musical tastes enough to sing hymns thoughtfully and well.