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Commissioning Hymns

Many of us bemoan the fact that there really aren’t very many new, fresh, yet profoundly conservative hymns with rich, doctrinal texts and stable, lasting tunes being written today. There are some. The best I know of are being written by Paul Jones in collaboration with a few pastor/theologians. You can find those hymns here. I would encourage you to get a hold of those as soon as possible and introduce them to your congregations. They’re deep, profound, and good, and yet compositionally they’re fresh sounding in terms of harmonies, etc. Dr. Jones will send you the Alexander hymns for free congregational use if you e-mail him.

Other than those, however, there is relatively little being written.

So I ask, are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? Are we willing to commission some good hymns?

Many people assume that Christian composers should just write hymns for free — hey, it’s ministry right? But composers have to feed their families, too, you know! We support pastors and missionaries financially even though they are “doing ministry.” We should do the same for those writing congregational hymnody. “The laborer is worthy of his hire” is stated in the context of ministry (1 Timothy 5:18). We should be willing to recognize the value of their labors for the cause of Christ and his Church.

The arrangement could be simple. Pay a good composer a flat fee for him or her to compose a series of hymn tunes for you with the understanding that those hymns will then be made available for free public use. He or she can maintain full rights to them but at the same time refrain from copyrighting them so that they can be distributed widely and freely. Really, such an arrangement would not cost very much (certainly much less than commissioning a choral anthem or something larger), and would be greatly beneficial to the Church.

If we are serious about the need for a fresh focus upon congregational singing (which I am), then let’s put our money behind it. Paul Jones, Dan Forrest, and others would be perfect choices. And if you do get some hymns written, send them to me so that I can promote them!

I, for one, am planning on taking some of my designated church music budget and commissioning some hymns. Will you join me?

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.