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Hymns Make Me Mad

Corey Parnell

Let me start by saying I shamelessly gave this blog a title that would make you read it. Hymns really do make me mad, but probably not for the reasons you think. I was raised on hymns, and contrary to what my obsession with 90’s rock might make you think, I love them. They are sacred to me, not just as a worship leader, but as a Christ-following human. I lead a hymn almost every weekend at church. Nevertheless, these are the reasons they make me mad:

1. They are JUST. SO. GOOD.

Every time I sing a lyric like, “let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee” I’m undone. I think, “What’s wrong with you, Corey? Why can’t you just write a song like that, you lowly, uneducated beast?” It’s true that most of the hymns we sing in church today are poetically flawless, theologically rich and musically brilliant. That’s not to speak of the thousands of songs in hymn books that no one remembers or sings today (more on that later). Hymns make me mad because they’re so good and well…I’m jealous. Help me, Jesus.

2. They’re hard to play.

The truth is, music is just different than it was in the 1800’s and I’m working with musicians who are much more familiar with the music of Bastille than that of Bach. Also, because church is about a community of people serving together, I often have musicians of varying skill levels in the mix too. Many hymns land in odd time signatures and have passing notes that seem to surprise (boo!) modern musicians. It’s not bad, I want people to grow, but I’ve had more than one hymn sabotage both my rehearsal and my drummer’s confidence. The sacrifice is worth it, and I’ll keep leading them, but man…sometimes a 90’s kid just needs four chords and the Truth. Hymns make me mad because they’re hard to play.

3.  People idolize them.

I know I said I love them but I’m not gonna go and marry them. Listen, and listen carefully; there are good songs and there are bad songs. The “hymns” that we cling to as if they are friggin canonized scripture, are simply the best worship songs of a few hundred years ago. I’m sure my generation will be complaining about how we never sing the powerful hymns of yesteryear like “How Great is our God” anymore. And say what you want about modern songs lacking theological depth, it simply isn’t true across the board. Some modern songs do fall short, just like those thousands of hymns from point 1 that no one remembers fall short, filling hymn books across the land with their mediocrity. In our community we sing modern songs that teach us about the nature of God and the love of God, just like the songs of Charles Wesley or Fanny Crosby, and we work hard to find them or write them. Don’t idolize hymns, that makes me and probably Jesus…mad.

In closing, I’d encourage you passionate hymn nazis to simmer down and just sing to Jesus whenever you get the chance. And to you #hillsongbethelpassionelevationvertical-ites, for the love of all that is holy, and for the sake of generational unity in the church LEAD SOME HYMNS. Expand your theology and your musicality.

Ok…I’m not mad anymore.