Hey all, I’m excited to share with you this week’s blog!
I believe one of the major pillars of the Church is our long-spanning history of worship. Certain songs have a way of connecting with the human heart, regardless of culture or generation. I am a huge fan of incorporating classic hymns into our worship here at Transit. (Some hymnodists say that a “hymn” is any song which contains only verses, and no chorus or refrain; hence they would say “Amazing Grace” is a hymn, and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” is not a hymn but a “chorus.” However, for my purposes, I am considering a hymn any classic, old song that has helped shape Church history.)
I have over the years acquired quite a collection of old hymnals, and I am listing here for you several of my favorite hymns that can be used in a modern worship setting, in no particular order. I hope this can be a resource for some of you worshipers and worship pastors out there! Enjoy!
All Creatures of Our God and King
Let all things their Creator bless / And worship Him in humbleness / O praise Him, alleluia! / Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son / And praise the Spirit, Three in One / O praise Him, O praise Him! / Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
With lyrics by the beloved saint Francis of Assisi, what’s not to love about this classic? An easy octave range lends itself for congregational singing, and it is a perfect service opener as a call to worship. For you musicians, this one may be a little tricky, as the time is 3/2. For a modern spin on this hymn, check out Gateway Worship’s “God & King.”
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross / On which the Prince of Glory died / My richest gain I count but loss / And pour contempt on all my pride
I think I remember reading somewhere that this hymn is considered the greatest English hymn ever written. It is incredibly versatile, and is arguably one of the easiest hymns to sing a cappella, as each note in the entire song is stepwise. Beautiful imagery, great perspective on the cross.. perfect for Easter or Communion.
Also, I’m posting this one too because it has a fun variation in the melody, and this student is spot-on!
My Jesus, I Love Thee
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me / And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree / I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow / If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now
What a humble song. This song is great because, like so many of the other great hymns, it covers a lot of theological ground. It explores forsaking sin for the cause of Christ, belonging to the family of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, the mystery of death, the wonder of Heaven, and other themes. So beautiful. This would even be a good song for a memorial service of a loved one. Check out this modern rendition by Darlene Zschech.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! / O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! / All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near / Join me in glad adoration!
I am often surprised at how many people have never heard this song. It is so elegant, with such a rich melody! This song reminds the worshiper that God is above and holy, yet so intimately involved with the stories of His people: providing for them, taking care of them, leading them. The best arrangement of this hymn is Travis Cottrell’s.
Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me / Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me / Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me / Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me
This 1930s classic is such a gorgeous song. The lyrics I posted above are the only lyrics to the song, so it’s easy to catch on to. I also personally love songs that are a testimony to work of the Holy Spirit.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
What a friend we have in Jesus / All our sins and griefs to bear! / What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! / Oh, what peace we often forfeit / Oh, what needless pain we bear / All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
I could not decide which verse I wanted to include above… all three are so powerful in their own regard! This song reminds the worshiper that Jesus is close and closely involved in our lives. Can we find a friend so faithful as our wonderful Jesus?
Crown Him With Many Crowns
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee / And hail Him as thy matchless King / Thro’ all eternity
I remember as a kid being rather confused as to why Jesus would care to wear more than one crown, but the more understanding I get, the “worthier” He seems to become! And what an elegant song, too! This depicts Christ as a mighty, conquering King, the reality of which demands strings of endless praises that drown all other music. “Thy praise shall never, never fail, throughout eternity.”
(This video doesn’t have the best clarity, but I’m hardcore impressed with the massive amount of people singing this song!)
Here is Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe’s take on it:
I Am the God That Healeth Thee
I am the God that healeth Thee / I am the Lord, your Healer / I sent My word and healed your disease / I am the Lord, your Healer
Although written in ’86 by Don Moen, I found this in a hymnal, so I’m calling it a hymn! Simple song with a powerful message – divine healing is ours in Christ Jesus! In the church I grew up, our fabulous worship leader would first sing the stanza, almost prophetically over the church, then the choir would join in from the worshiper’s perspective: “You are the God that healeth me; You are the Lord, my Healer.” Sweet moments in the presence of our God!
(This version is a medley of “I am the God That Healeth Thee” and “Healer.”)
Fairest Lord Jesus
Fairest Lord Jesus! / Ruler of all nature! / O Thou of God and man the Son! / Thee will I cherish / Thee will I honor / Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown!
What a versatile hymn! I include it not only because it has beautiful lyrics and a strong message of the Lordship of Christ, but because it can be played out so many different ways. You could jazz it up with a beat and use it as an opening song to your set, or you could make it a graceful and still piano ballad sung by a sweet-voiced soprano, or I could even see it with an R&B spin with tight male harmonies.
Darlene Zschech’s rendition of this hymn has some modified, more contemporary lyrics. I love this version!
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see / All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided / “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me
One of my favorite songs ever. I used to comment all the time that if I describe God in one word, it would be faithful. How faithful is He to us, His people! This is a pretty popular hymn, I guess because it rings true with so many worshiping hearts. “Thy own dear Presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!”
Let Me Touch Him
O, to be His hand extended, reaching out to the oppressed / Let me touch Him / Let me touch Jesus / So that others may know and be blessed
I chose to include this because of its evangelistic nature. This song has both a vertical and horizontal message, which usually can be difficult to pull off in a corporate setting. But this hymn speaks the heart of Christ so beautifully and earnestly.
(I love this guy’s version; it’s simple and authentic.)
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we / Spotless Lamb of God was He / “Full atonement!” Can it be? / Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Can a song be more powerful than one bearing the good news? I absolutely love the imagery in these lyrics; they paint such a picture! And the song ends with a triumphant declaration, “When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring; then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!” I love that!
I hope this can be a helpful resource for you all. What are your thoughts? Shoot me a message or leave a comment below, especially if there is a hymn that has meant a lot to you or your church.
Also, if you would like the chord charts or lead sheets for any of the hymns here, let me know and I’ll get you the music right away.