GOH: Wonderful Grace of Jesus

I have nothing against this song but it amuses me to think that this song of all songs used to represent the pinnacle of exciting and upbeat music in a worship service. When the song leader would announce it at my Fundy U a veritable wave of excitement would sweep through the auditorium.

Looking back after having experienced the emotion, pathos, and beauty that can be found in so many different types and styles of music, seeing people getting that excited over this song is actually a little sad.

94 thoughts on “GOH: Wonderful Grace of Jesus”

  1. They won’t admit, of course, that part of the excitement comes from the beat πŸ™‚

    1. It definitely seemed that when we sang this song, we were focused on the tune and the timing, which were a lot of fun, more than the words. (Contrast this with “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, wouldst die for me?” that everyone in my circles always loved to sing but seemed to also truly appreciate the words.)

      I’m SO glad that now, with all the contemporary songs available to me, I can sing lots of theologically meaningful songs that are passionate and expressive, and not just be limited to one or two favorites out of the hymnal.

    1. Yes, as I listened, I thought how exciting this kind of arrangement must have been in the barber shops of the 1890s.

    2. It’s not ragtime, it’s “evangelistic style piano”, no evil syncopation here!

  2. Oh, I dunno. Lots of non-fundies get excited about this song, too.

    What’s really sad about the indy-fundy relationship with this song is that they don’t seem to understand how little of the wonderful grace of Jesus they actually get to experience in their churches.

    1. THIS! ‘they don’t seem to understand how little of the wonderful grace of Jesus they actually get to experience in their churches.’ And as a result, in their lives outside the church (which is almost non-existent in many cases) “taking away my burdens, setting my spirit free…” If only they could grasp that freedom isn’t man made rules and as the
      Bible says, the power of sin is in the law (OT law). “God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud.” (NT) Love you all…

  3. My brother and I loved to pick it on favorites night, because it pissed the organist off.

      1. As someone who occasionally played piano for congregational singing, I hated favorites night period. There was always one or two either completely obscure or difficult songs picked.

        The key doesn’t really matter, but this is one of the more difficult ones to play, for sure.

      2. Our church pianist was phenomenally talented. (He once played Memory from Cats entirely by ear for someone’s wedding.) Nonetheless, he REFUSED to play this song. Thus, we never sang it.

        Don’t even get me started on “Favorites Night.” When I worked at Bill Gothard’s Moscow Training Center, I was sort of the default pianist most of the time. We used to have “Favorites Night” every Sunday evening. We had this one old lady that had worked there for a long time who ALWAYS requested this weird, hippy-dippy song about “lonely people who haunt my mind” or something like that. It droned on and on for about eight verses or so. Not the sort of thing to brighten up a bleak mid-winter’s night in Moscow.

        1. Hey Deacon’s Son, we might have some mutual friends. I was at the MTC in ’98 or ’99. Some of my family was there longer.

          But… if you were in ATI, then you know the only thing worse than the video above was the hour and a half, seventy-two verse rendition of ‘It Will Be Worth it All’ (A-A-A-A-Aaaaaallllllll) from the Knoxville conference.

          Or I am just showing my age… >.<

        2. Was it this one: “Lonely voices crying in the city, lonely voices sound like a child…..Lonely voices filled my dreams, lonely voices haunt my memories” or something like that? It was, I think, a late 60s or early 70s songs, I believe it was sung for a while in the Billy Graham circles. I may still have it in book of songs sung by George Beverly Shea.

        3. StA: I was there from 2002-2003 and then again in Dec. 2003 – Jan 2004. And yes, I sang “It Will Be Worth it Aaaaaaall” in Knoxville way too many times. (For those who don’t know, It Will Be Worth it All was like the theme song of ATI. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to get much play in IFB circles.)

          MBU: Yep, that was it. The most dreary song I have ever heard. One time, in protest, one of my friends rewrote the lyrics as “happy people” and made everyone sing it. The mom who liked the original stomped out in a big huff because “God wants us to love sad people.”

      3. Five flats are your friend, my friend. You get to do a glissando down the entire keyboard in the penultimate bar.

        1. A black key glissando. w00t!!

          This brings to mind one of the WEIRDEST rules that my fundy mother ever came up with. Our church pianist taught me how to play a whole tone scale (which he recommended for hymns such as It is Well With my Soul or Beneath the Cross of Jesus). He wrongly called it an “Aeolian mode” but whatever. My mother was horrified for some reason (which has never been clear to me). She made a rule that I could play it ONCE just to get it out of my system and then I could never play it again. She said that it sounded “mysterious and spacey” and thus, of course, it was evil!!

        2. If I am understanding you right about the whole tone scale, I think Shelley Hamilton used it in one of her arrangements for the introduction to the “When the Roll Medley” in the Joysong series. Some of the stricter fundies did look on some of her arranging with suspicion. They thought she really “rode the rhythm.”

        3. In Faye Lopez’s arrangement of It is Well with My Soul, you can add it in near the end. The effect is quite striking. I used to do that when I played that arrangement as an offertory as a way of poking my mother in the eye.

        4. Ohhh… ‘It Is Well’ is another of my favorites. There’s something very stately about it. Wouldn’t mind having that played at my funeral.

    1. I loved playing this song as a pianist, I thought it was so much fun to improvise on. Listening to just first verse of this rendition all I heard was the heavy handed pianist laboring away.

  4. Being out from the law of the so-called “man of God” and into the light of God’s grace, I like this song speaking of the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ.

  5. I always loved this song, loved singing it, loved signing it for the deaf. It’s one of my favourites. :mrgreen:

  6. Then there’s the all time favorite knee slapper — Powr in the Blood! That’ll always get you racin’ through a song!

    1. Years ago, my church would double again and again the number of “powers.” After doing two we’d do four, then eight, and even sixteen, if I remember right. Once you get past eight, you’re basically just singing, “p p p p p p p p p p p p p.”

        1. That’s exactly what they would say. I have been in services when they would do stuff like that, and at the end say, “It’s OK to have fun in church once in a while.” I always thought, “so you’re admitting that the rest of the time the songs aren’t fun?”

  7. I was my favorite song too when I was but a wee little fundy. It was just so catchy and upbeat compared to the rest of the comparative dirges.

    To me it almost seems now that people in the IFB like this song because it is different. It has a different beat than most fundy approved songs. It is amost a way of experiencing “the world’s” music, but in an approved way. If that makes any sense.

  8. When I was pastoring, I used to love to pick this song! It would frequently be our second song of the service, where we’d greet one another after the first verse.

    It was by far my favourite song, and I couldn’t help but sing it with all the gusto I could muster. Some in the congregation enjoyed teasing me by mimicking my lead-in to the first verse… “AHHH-Wonderful grace of Jesus…”

    1. Thanks for the great vid, Liutgard. A number of years ago I worshiped on a Sunday morning in a Welsh Methodist church, and they sang this. Words truly can’t describe how glorious it was.

    2. Charles Wesley didn’t write the music for many, if any, of his thousands of hymns– only the words. But yes, how he could write! His trademark is closely reasoned, sound theological arguments in perfect rhyme and meter.

    3. They still know how to sing hymns in the UK where people still have a working vocabulary and likely understand what they are singing. What a beautiful diverse congregation as well.

    4. Ah, And Can it be!! It was the “fight song” for my seminary.

      Though the melody we use now is difficult, the theology is solid.
      My Chains Fell Off, my heart was free,
      I rose went forth and followed thee.
      You can’t beat a wesley hymn.

  9. My parents detested this song whenever they heard it sung. My mother once primly informed me that “Laurence Whelk” music had no place in the church!!

    1. Amazing.

      I always loved the lyrics of the song. It has so much JOY in it! Which, to me, indicates that the composer understood the meaning of the words.

  10. My old MOG forbade us from singing the song, “Hold the Fort”, because, as he explained, “we don’t need to be holding the fort; we need to be storming the enemies’ forts!!” Spoken like a true non-military veteran and also like one who’s army lost the Civil War.

  11. Wow. So I watched the video. Some remarks:

    (1) This is definitely, undeniably, a HOME SCHOOL CHURCH. Too many kiddos in the “orchestra” plus, you can just tell by the dress and hair.

    (2) There ain’t nothing more scary than an IFB Alto!!

    (3) The preacher does the mandatory “fist shake” to show just how impactful (I think that’s the approved WCBC word) the song is on his spirit.

    1. Haha you’re so right. The preacher is clearly wanting to be the center of attention, looks bored with the singing and keeps fidgeting with the hymnal. Or maybe he has ADHD or something.

  12. Very interesting experience. The song brought back memories, both angry and sad. But in the end I found myself actually loving these people who are shallow but seemingly sincere.

  13. This post strikes me as so perfectly funny because I well remember the excitement Darrell is talking about! Hahaha. Also while I was at PCC we practiced up on the Hallelujah Chorus one semester because we would be singing it as a congregation for one of the TV broadcasts and everyone was very excited whenever we would sing it (or maybe I just had really dorky friends). Not that I don’t like the HC, but there was that same odd super-excitement.

    Also, who can ever forget the amazing screech at the end each time the chorus of “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” was sung? :mrgreen:

      1. Personally, I don’t care for the Hallelujah Chorus as a congregational song. It requires a level of vocal technique that is beyond the reach of most pew singers.

        1. The youth/assistant pastor at my old church got a wild hair and wanted to sing the HC as a congregational one Sunday night (it was, inexplicably, included in Soul-Stirring Songs & Hymns). I (as pianist) refused because I knew what a train wreck it would be, even if I could get through all the polyphony myself, which was doubtful at that point.

          I play it once a year for my (godless public) school choir, so I could do it at the drop of a hat…but I still wouldn’t.

  14. Sadly, our church was one of the ones who sang the same 20 songs over and over (Victory in Jesus and Power in the Blood being among them), and this song was one of them. Weren’t NOBODY in our church could hit that high note. But they all sure tried. πŸ˜†

  15. Actually, this *was* one of my favourites in IFB days – – would be nice, though, if the song leader would give the people time to get a breath between verses!!!

  16. It’s the chorus of ‘Wonderful” that excites folks!

    I did not realize that Wesley wrote “And Can It Be.” Had to look it up in my Trinity Hymnal (Baptist version). That is a great Presbyterian Calvinist song and Wesley was neither!

    The last few times we’ve sung it, I wept thru most of it.

  17. Cleveland Baptist Church – Pastor: Kevin Folger. Great church. Not a legalistic “FUNDY” church.

    1. Not “FUNDY”?

      From the website:
      We Are…
      β€’ Independent
      β€’ Fundamental
      β€’ Premillenial
      β€’ Non-charismatic
      β€’ Soul-winners
      β€’ Bible believing
      β€’ Family oriented
      β€’ KJV 1611 only

      I believe that hits all 8 points of the very definition of “FUNDY”.

      1. That seems about as fundy as they come. If you agree with all the rules, legalistic churches don’t always seem so legalistic. Perhaps Corey would like to elaborate?

    2. Not fundy? The church that had Tony Hutson in to speak? If a pastor likes Tony Hutson, whatever else the church may be, it’s FUNDY to the core in every negative sense of the word. Now why did you post this here apropos of nothing?

      1. Glad you used the word ‘speak’ cuz Tony ain’t no preacher. He’s a fantastic comedian though, but what he does is definitely NOT preaching.

        Let’s see – start out by reading a verse from the Bible, then never go back to the text – yeah, NOT preaching!

  18. I always liked this hymn, & yes, I remember how excited people got when it was in the bulletin.

    FWIW, It Will Be Worth It All (cough*martyrs*coughcough) was sung @ my Fundy church. I’ve never liked it.

    Right now, my current favorite hymn is Jesus, Priceless Treasure. Love the minor key, love the Bach harmonizations, love the lyrics.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xSFZNRHxTPM Hey, Christian Socialist- I think you’ll enjoy this one!

  19. @Liutgard… “It Is Well With My Soul” would be perfect for a funeral song. You may already know it’s history… Written by a man who lost his wife and daughters when the “DeHavre” sank on its way to Europe. As he sailed to recover their remains, the ship’s company pointed out that they were now at the part of the ocean where the ship sank, he looked down at the water, and was overcome with a sense of grace and peace as the words came to him; “when sorrows and sea billows roll, whatever my lot, He has taught me to say, “it is well, it is well with my soul.”
    Bittersweet, indeed.

  20. Corrections dept. Mr. Spafford’s four daughters drowned, but his wife survived. It was she who sent him the telegram “saved, alone.” From Wales. Also the ship was called the Villa DuHavre, I believe. (Details, details)

    1. A bit more of the back story, if I remember correctly:

      Spafford and his family had worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the Chicago fire. Their son died in that fire. To recuperate from exhaustion and to grieve the loss of their son, they planned a vacation in England. Then they lost their daughters in the shipwreck.

      I cannot imagine. It’s hard for me to sing that song, though I love it. What a testimony of a man’s ability to rest in the arms of his Savior even after undergoing such horror. What a testimony of our great God, who sustains us through things we think we cannot bear.

      1. The Spaffords’ 4 yo son died in 1870 of pneumonia. The Great Chicago Fire occurred in 1871 & devastated the Spaffords financially.

        The Ville du Havre sank in 1873, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people, including all four of the Spaffords’ daughters.

  21. Surprised no one has posted on the murder suicide involving the former employee of a favorite IFB school . . . Or is there actually a line???

    1. They’re using the German pronunciation of “Copenhagen.” The Danes say something more like “Koobenhavn.”

      1. Copenhaven–

        On the comments on the Danny Kaye video, there’s a long and tedious discussion of the proper pronunciation. Sort of like the fundies’ everlasting discussioh of post-millennial, pre-millennial, etc. 😯

  22. I totally loved this song. Love the chorus. Had NO idea what God’s grace really was – this song substituted for understanding, I guess. But yeah – that wave of excitement. I remember that.

  23. We sang this in chapel at the BOB one day. Junior got up and talked about how much he hated the song and how pretentious it is. That might be the last time I sang it.

    1. Yes. Few people were as much of an expert on Pretentious as Junior.

      Except maybe his dad or his son.

      Or maybe he didn’t know the meaning of the word. Because Pretentious, it is not.

  24. I listened and watched both “Amazing Love” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”. I like both songs. The “Wonderful Grace” congregation appeared to be somewhat more integrated that the “Amazing Love” congregation.

  25. I always find it ironic how many fundamentalist churches are named grace and all the hymns they have that feature grace. And yet so many of them are not good at being gracious.

  26. Some years back I got to hear the Bach Partitas played by a young virtuoso on a 1718 Strad in a Lutheran church in my old hometown. The church itself is well over a century old now, built of granite and hardwood (in the neo-gothic style) when such things meant far more than monetary cost.

    Although I can respect the folks in the vid for their form of music and religious experience, it is not mine, and does not move me like the Partitas.

  27. Muff, I’m with you. I don’t think I’m a music snob — too clueless to be one anyway — but I must say IFB does not resonate with me. I love music from all sorts of traditions, from plainchant and polyphony to Sacred Harp to black Gospel. I love the great magisterial Protestant hymns. I love the old 1940 Episcopal Hymnal. But that tinkly piano music and those sing-songy hymns just don’t do it for me.

    That said, I do agree that the GOH at the top of this thread is better than most. It’s just not the sort of thing that’s “in my blood.”

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