I met James Hill at a monthly gathering of area preachers while I lived in Muncie. Our paths have gone different directions (he moved to Arkansas for a short time while I stayed in the Muncie area), but we’ve been able to keep in contact and encourage each other along the journey. I’m excited to have him share his thoughts about his favorite worship song.
James is married to Megan Hill of 11 years with 2 children, Isaac is 6 and Isaiah is 2. They enjoy life together—singing in the mornings, laughter at the supper table, energetic play, talkative road trips, and learning all they can about God and His world. Their theme verse is John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” He currently ministers through Christ’s Restoration Ministries, a parachurch revival ministry based in Anderson, IN, and he is waiting for God’s next call.
Thanks, James, for taking the time to share your story!
Personally, this task has actually been kind of a tough one. I like so many praise songs and hymns, and it is hard to recall exactly how they have made me feel and what kind of experiences I have enjoyed. I can recall many times of coming to tears, getting serious chills, and being greatly inspired. But the song that rises to the top in my mind as I consider what I believe are the best is Amazing Grace.
First of all, let me say that I did this same kind of thing when I was preaching in Arkansas. I led the singing at one of our revival services and picked what I found were the top ten hymns of all time. I looked at many different websites and many different lists and compiled what were the most popular. On almost every list Amazing Grace was at the top. And then, when I led the singing, I asked the congregation to voice their favorite before I revealed to them the list I found… and unanimously they all agreed to Amazing Grace. Now, of course, I only asked them about their favorite hymn… I did not include modern praise songs… but I think even then the majority would have said, Amazing Grace. Why? I believe it truly is the all-time best church song up to the present time! Why, you might ask again?
Well, this brings me to the second reason I picked this song… intuition. I just have a sense that if God were to pick His favorite song, this song would be it! No matter how long I sit here and think about this question.. which has been quite a while now… this is the song that keeps coming to mind. Maybe that’s because of the research I performed. And what I mean is that since it seems to be everyone’s favorite, it is probably the one God uses the most, and therefore His favorite. However, there is another, better reason I think it is God’s favorite. Who could not argue that the main thing God wants His people to know while on earth is His amazing grace! In building the mental structure of faith, the first thing for us to know is that God exists, then that we have sinned, and then grace. By that perspective of course, the most important thing for us to know would be that God exists, since it is the foundation of the rest of the structure. However, from the perspective of the only thing that we need to receive from God to get us to Heaven… it is definitely God’s grace. This is for certain, for sure, precise, bonafide truth! It is stamped, sealed, and paid in full! The only argument then against the idea that this is God’s favorite hymn would be that there are many other songs about grace. Yes, but I would argue that none resounds with the richness and depth and beauty of amazing grace. Even as I type the words my heart is aroused with encouragement and faith and inspiration! “Thank you God! I’m ok because of your grace!” it makes me say.
Thirdly, and lastly, I think I would choose Amazing Grace because I tend to be a traditionalist. I believe that the old hymns have much more depth and strength than the new choruses. They call out of us reverence and honor and dignity. The modern choruses are much more about us being uplifted than they are about drawing out reverence for God. In general they are more man-centered than the hymns. I think this is why modern choruses often take these songs and re-do them. They intuitively know the power they hold. And of course, most of these worship leaders sang them as children in church. We might also say that even the story behind the hymn contributes to its number one rating. In fact, I’m sure it does! The slave trader, abusing and oppressing humanity in what has come to be seen as one of the most awful crimes of man, suddenly changed as he considers the infinite mercy of God. The greater the sinner, the greater God’s grace. And few men professed to feel as sinful as John Newton when he was involved in this atrocious activity. I think I’ll close this short blog by making a similar statement… that the more grace in a song, the greater is the song. And I see no song with more grace than Amazing Grace.