I thought it might be good to share a sample of the devotionals in magnify!, and I can’t think of a better one to start with than the Stuart Townend/Keith Getty “modern hymn”–In Christ Alone (My Hope is Found).
If your theology were only based on what you sing, what kind of theology would you have? That question, put to me years ago, has followed me ever since. For many years, we had battles within the church about “worship choruses” versus hymns. The battle had to do with a false division of heart over head and emotion over proposition, common language over lofty language—a battle that has waged in church music for centuries (psalms vs. hymns, hymns vs. gospel songs, etc.).
Actually, when we come face to face with truth, it has an emotional impact. We can’t help but respond. Do you remember what it felt like when that special person disclosed the truth of their feelings for you? Or what happened inside you when you heard about that injustice against your neighbor? Or how it impacted you when you realized the truth of how much God loved you in spite of your sin?
Remember, people may forget the main points of the sermon shortly after they walk out the door, but they’ll be humming and singing your songs all week! (Please don’t tell your pastor, but it is true!) With that in mind, we have an obligation to pay attention to what the songs we use actually say. We need to ensure that the folks we serve have something true to think about, as well as something to respond with from the heart. We do need both.
I observed a classic moment of truth evoking tremendous response the first time I led our congregation singing “In Christ Alone.” This song is full of incredible truth combined with the perfect melody to accent the lyric. After the first two verses which speak eloquently of the love of Christ and of His death, the lyric paints a picture:
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
As we got to the fourth line, people (many who wouldn’t normally) began to shout, applaud and cheer, and by the end of the verse, there was nearly universal acclamation. As if that wasn’t enough, the fourth verse and its assurance of God’s guiding and sustaining love left me choked up, hardly able to sing.
That’s powerful—and it left a lasting impression of truth on heart and mind. It was glorious. That’s worship.
As you plan to lead “In Christ Alone,” consider these things:
• I dare you to read aloud the verses to this modern hymn in your rehearsal without choking up!
• Because of the depth of the content, be sure and allow an interlude between each verse. You need time to chew on it, reflect and then swallow before the next serving.
• This song will work in a number of different musical styles. Experiment with the setting and change it up a bit to introduce folks who might not ordinarily sing “a hymn” to the power of the truth it contains. Don’t go for emotional manipulation, but it can work with guitar, congas and a penny whistle or a full orchestra or an edgy band with a drum loop going. Just don’t tell them it’s a hymn!
[© 2011 Fred J. Heumann and Word Music. In Christ Alone, © 2001 Thankyou Music.]
Question: What else do you see in this song that could be emphasized?