I imagine most of the youth in churches today have never heard the song, “When the Roll is Called up Yonder I’ll Be There.” Or, “It’s Just Like His Great Love.” They probably haven’t even heard “When We all Get to Heaven.”
The youth from evangelical churches who are in their 40s and 50s heard them all. They’re the ones who threw them out.
Older people are still mystified by the loss of their beloved hymns and gospel music. Yes, every generation has its own “beat.” But I don’t agree that the sound of the old music was the main problem, even if we clapped on the first and third beats instead of two and four. There is a deeper, spiritual problem behind running hymns and gospel music out the church's back door.
The reason: This generation isn't very interested in heaven, the Second Coming of Christ, and they certainly don't want to sing about what happens when you die.
I'm not knocking the new music. It is changing from the 7-11 choruses from years past where we sang seven words eleven times. At least in our church, the majority of the songs are powerful. Part of the reason is the lyrics evolved beyond worship and now include doctrine.
My brother, Dr. Joe Nicholson, spent years as head of the music department at Evangel University and he has written music textbooks. He wrote in Enrichment Journal a few years ago that the older generation's songs have worship, but also doctrine, testimony, invitation, spiritual commitment, encouragement, repentance. I can’t remember the whole list.
Those things aren’t offensive to the sensibilities of younger people. At least I wouldn’t think so. But I do know, at least from appearances, that young people today don’t want to think about—let alone sing about—their mortality.
I didn't notice how many of the gospel songs and hymns speak about the joy of eternity and Jesus going through the valley with us until recent years.
I imagine because so many people died young and as recently as 1900 the life expectancy was only in the 40s, generations before us sang constantly about the eternal. They accepted that our journey here is short and they looked forward to living forever with Jesus. Because they didn’t have clean water, immunizations and antibiotics, families were fortunate to have all their children survive into adulthood.
Now, we almost view ourselves as immortal on earth. So why should we think or sing about eternity? We can ignore we have enemies like Iran, terrorists among us and that our unequaled health care may be in jeopardy.
Especially since we lost a daughter, I believe we need to understand the joys set before us by our Heavenly Father. We need to prepare for eternal life before a crisis. For some, it will be an emotional moment. Historically, most people who accepted Christ wept. I think it was partly because when sinners accept Jesus as Savior, they repent. But they also shed joyful tears knowing they’ve created a relationship with the Creator of the universe, and will live forever with Him.
That’s why we sing some of these old songs and invite others to experience this joy and wonder.
The third verse of "It's Just Like His Great Love," says "When sorrow's clouds o'er take me, And break upon my head. When life seems worse than useless, And earthly hopes are dead; I take my grief to Jesus then, Nor do I go in vain, For heav'nly hope He gives that cheers, Like sunshine after rain."
The last verse continues with joy: "O I could sing forever, of Jesus' love divine; Of all His care and tenderness For this poor life of mine...." The choruses continues, "It's Just Like Jesus to roll the clouds away...."
How can that not be worship? Look at these titles about eternity.
Look for Me for I’ll be there
It is Well with my soul
Victory (We will sing it on that shore when this fleeting life is o’er)
I’ll meet you in the morning
How beautiful heaven must be
There’s Great Day Coming
His Way with Thee (Will you in His kingdom find a place of quiet rest?)
Hallelujah we shall rise
Will the Circle be unbroken?
I am on my way to heaven (shouting glory!)
In the Great Triumphant Morning
Sunlight, Sunlight (Soon I shall see him as He is)
Be still, my soul
When the roll is called up yonder I'll be There
Face to Face
Saved by Grace
When the Saints Go Marching In (there are verses most people haven't heard)
O That Will Be Glory for Me
The King is Coming
When Jesus returns for His own
Old songbooks are full of them. Check them out sometime.