HUGE CORRECTION TO MAKE, thanks to the helpful comment by Eric below. Thank you, Eric. My original title read, “The Top 27 Hymns and Why None of them Appear in a Current Major Evangelical Hymnal.” I totally mis-read and mis-understood the chart with reference to the four evangelical hymnals surveyed. I took the dots for blanks when they were quite the opposite! Forgive me! I’ve edited the below post to reflect those changes. Ironically (and sadly), all my probing questions below still hold.
These data come from a 2011 article in Christianity Today.1 Several things should be clarified lest the title of my post spread myths:
- the survey included 28 hymnals from mainline Protestant denominations: Anglican (4 editions), Baptist (4 editions), Congregational (5 editions), Lutheran (5 editions), Methodist (5 editions), and Presbyterian (5 editions)
- the survey included 4,905 hymns
- the hymns had to be written in the late 1800s or earlier
- Christmas carols, choruses, and service music were excluded
- the “current” evangelical hymnals surveyed were Christian Life Hymnal (Hendrickson, 2006), Hymnal of Worship and Celebration (Word, 1986), Hymns for the Family of God (Paragon, 1976), and The Covenant Hymnal (Covenant Press, 1973)
- one of the criteria for the hymn being at the “top” involved frequency of appearance in the 28 hymnals mentioned above
Here are the top 27 hymns:
Appearing in all 28 hymnals, in alphabetical order:
Abide with me: fast falls the eventide (H. Lyte, 1847)
All hail the power of Jesus’ name (E. Perronet, 1779)
Come, ye thankful people come (H. Alford, 1844)
Crown him with many crowns (M. Bridges, 1851, alt. G. Thring)
Glorious things of thee are spoken (J. Newton, 1779)
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (W. Williams, 1745)
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty (R. Heber, 1826)
How firm a foundation, ye saints (R. Keene, 1787)
In the cross of Christ I glory (J. Bowring, 1825)
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun (I. Watts, 1719)
Love divine, all loves excelling (C. Wesley, 1747)
O sacred Head, now wounded (Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th c.; tr. Gerhardt & J. W. Alexander)
When I survey the wondrous cross (I. Watts, 1707)
Appearing in 27 of the 28 hymnals, in alphabetical order:
A mighty fortress is our God (M. Luther, 1529; tr. F. H. Hedge)
All glory, laud, and honor (Theodulph, 1529; tr. J. M. Neale)
Come, thou almighty King (anon. and C. Wesley, 1757)
Just as I am, without one plea (C. Elliott, 1836)
Now thank we all our God (M. Rinkart, 1626; tr. C. Winkworth)
O, for a thousand tongues to sing (C. Wesley, 1757)
O God, our help in ages past (I. Watts, 1719)
O, worship the King all glorious above (R. Grant, 1833)
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord (S. Stone, 1866)
Appearing in 26 of the 28 hymnals, in alphabetical order:
Christ the Lord is risen today! (C. Wesley, 1739)
Jesus, the very thought of thee (Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th c.; tr. E. Caswall)
Saviour, like a shepherd lead us (attr. D. Thrupp, 1836)
The day of resurrection (John of Damascus, ca. 750; tr. J. M. Neale)
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy (F. Faber, 1854)
Several interesting questions to ponder:
(feel free to offer your answer to any or all of these questions in the comments)
- Are there any common themes in these hymns that help us understand why they have been so lasting?
- How many modern evangelicals know even three of these hymns?
- How does the theological content of these hymns match up against the current CCLI top 27?
- Why aren’t any of these on the current CCLI top 27?
- Where in the world is “Amazing Grace”? (actually, the author of this article answers that on p. 32…fascinating)
- Are these hymns worth restoring to the singing life of evangelicalism?
- If they are, how could we do this? (insert hymns movement plug here)
- Why in the world did “A Mighty Fortress” get left off one of the Anglican editions?
1Robert T. Coote, “The Hymns That Keep on Going,” Christianity Today (March 2011), 32.