In a society largely devoid of orthodox theology, Christians should continue to sing the great hymns to better understand the important foundational stones upon which their faith rests, Joni Eareckson Tada says.
“I don’t know that many lay Christians study orthodox theology,” Tada, founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, told The Christian Post. “We do Bible studies and become involved with Bible study fellowship, but there isn’t an urge among most lay Christians to study systematic theology, the great doctrines of the faith, the doctrine of Hell and Heaven, grace, sin, salvation.”
“These are all important foundational stones upon which our faith rests. So few people actually delve into those deep waters. But when we sing great hymns of the faith, we are learning great doctrine and we don't even know it.”
Tada pointed to “Rock of Ages” as an example of a “timeless hymn that showcases the great doctrines of the faith.” Written in 1763 by the Rev. Augustus Toplady, the hymn include the lines: "Rock of Ages, cleft for me/Let me hide myself in Thee/Let the water and the blood/From Thy riven side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Save me from its guilt and power.”
“Right there you’ve got, why have I been saved? I’ve been saved to serve and not sin,” she said.
The same ease with which we memorize jingles on TV or the radio should be applied to hymns, Tada posited, adding: “Wouldn't it be great if, instead of memorizing jingles, we had hymns coursing through our mind and memory throughout the day? We’d be rehearsing these powerful doctrines that would transform our hearts and minds."
Tada shared how hymns have sustained her through numerous trials: The 69-year-old became quadriplegic 51 years ago in a diving accident. New health problems arose during her second bout with breast cancer, which doctors discovered in November of last year, along with pulmonary hypertension and pneumonia.
"Living with chronic pain, it can be easy to feel defeated and lifeless," she said. "Having a 'hymn of the day' and memorizing it has helped shore up my faith and aid me when trials hit me broadside."
The prominent speaker and author recently participated in a hymn sing as part of the Sing! 2019 Getty Music Worship Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. In her first public appearance since announcing she’s cancer-free, Tada led attendees in the acapella singing of the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”
“Unity among believers is so underscored, time and time Scripture tells us one is one in Christ, and we need to act like it,” Tada said. “When we sing worship songs together, we’re acting like one; offering God one, single voice.”
The event, led by modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty, sought to help pastors, leaders and musicians build a biblical understanding and creative vision for congregational singing in their churches.
The practice of congregational singing hearkens back to the Gregorian chants, Tada said, referring to the unaccompanied, monophonic musical tradition developed during the 9th and 10th centuries.
“There was no harmony because those early church brothers and sisters understand how it glorifies God and pleases Him to hear them sing with one voice,” she explained. “That’s why I think communal worship, especially as we did at the Sing Conference, is so important. It gave God so much glory and praise.”
The Joni author encouraged church and ministry leaders to recapture the beauty of congregational singing in their churches.
“Jesus loves us individually, but all of us as individuals are in the body of Christ; we are part of a body intimately connected and mysteriously linked to each other,” Tada emphasized. “It’s one thing to praise Him with a solo voice, but it’s quite another to join voices with other brothers and sisters in Christ and offer a communal voice to God because God is then hearing His body with all of its totality.”
“God is hearing His bride, His church, the army He has raised up with Jesus as the captain of our salvation. He’s hearing that grand, total chorus of worshipers with one voice. That brings Him tremendous glory.”
You can find all of Joni Eareckson Tada’s favorite hymns here.