WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

Insights, analysis, techniques, opinions, and experiences from the team behind the WELS Hymnal Project.

Words and Music: Keith Getty and Stuart Townend © 2002 Thankyou Music, admin. worldwide at CapitolCMGPublishing.com (excl. Europe admin. by Kingswaysongs); used by permission.


Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on, "In Christ Alone." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "Abide with Me" (Christian Worship #588).

We love our options—for better or worse. Whether you go to the grocery store or shop online there are so many choices to pick from that it can be dizzying. This flows over into our spiritual life today. Throughout the world there are so many choices… what should I believe? Whom should I believe? There are so many options, but only one truth will fulfill… Christ. Christ alone. Not a little bit of Christ and a mixture of every other man-made religion. Not a little bit of Christ and a mixture of the best I have done and the worst I have left undone, but Christ—all Christ and nothing else.

The Keith Getty and Stuart Townend hymn, “In Christ Alone,” (lyrics and audio available here) echoes that scriptural clarity. It cuts through the fog of choices clamoring for our attention and shines the spotlight on Christ. At the end of the day, after all the things we try to put our hope in have failed us, after all the things we turn to for strength let us down, Christ alone remains reliable and faithful. His love reaches higher than my towering sins. He alone gives me peace with God when I am in the depths of despair. His love, his death, his blood, his power are what save and sustain a Christian throughout this life and into eternity.

(See the lyrics for stanza 1 of the hymn)

There are so many opinions of who Christ is, too. The world scoffs at the idea that he was anything more than a great teacher. The world puts him on par with Gandhi, Mohammed, or any other prophet… someone who just happened to get a lot of enduring press. But this hymn begs to differ. He was and is different: True man and true God and, therefore, the only one who could succeed in giving sinners God’s righteousness in exchange for our sin. Because of his death, we stand before God, “not guilty.”

(See the lyrics for stanza 2 of the hymn)

So many things seem too good to be true. There are so many options. How can I be sure about Christ? What made his death more powerful than the martyrdom of any other man in this world? What made him different? This is the pinnacle of the hymn. You can hear it in the way people sing this stanza. It’s not unusual for the volume to increase on this stanza, whether it’s written that way in a particular arrangement or being sung a cappella… that’s because the faith it describes makes the hearts of the Christians who sing it soar. He’s alive! He rose! He made my redemption iron clad! Now because of his victory over the grave, I no longer need to be afraid of death or hell.

(See the lyrics for stanza 3 of the hymn)

What are the practical implications of this confession of faith in Christ alone? The final stanza beautifully sums up the impact this confession of faith has on our daily lives and our eternity. Satan’s accusations are silenced, death is now a passage to eternal life, Christ has promised to be faithful to us all of our days. No matter what might happen to us in this life, no matter what trials or hardships come to us for trusting in his promises, our hearts wait with a peace and confidence in our Savior’s return.

(See the lyrics for stanza 4 of the hymn)


Thank you to all those who took the time to share their thoughts on our first featured hymn, "The Church's One Foundation." We hope you enjoy hearing a recording of this hymn and seeing some of the comments that we received.

Next week we'll feature another hymn from the list of Fifty Favorite Hymns: "In Christ Alone" (Christian Worship Supplement #752).

If you’ve ever been in a touring choir, do you still remember the songs? When you consider all of the rehearsals, the services, and the concerts, each song a choir sings in a given year is repeated a staggering number of times. Even after many years have passed, it’s amazing how you can listen to an old recording, and every note and syllable is still there. In large part, that’s the beauty and the blessing of God’s gift of music.

For many years now, the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Chorus has sung a setting of “The Church’s One Foundation” (Christian Worship #538) as part of its annual program. It’s also the song in which the children of the local congregation are invited to sing with the choir. Many of us remember fondly how we watched young children from all over the country nervously walk up to the front of the church and take their place in front of the choir. We remember fondly how the pastor of the congregation would sometimes come up to the front, find his old spot, and sing along with us. Many of us now remember fondly how our own sons and daughters have had the chance to walk up to the front when the Seminary Chorus came to town.

But as much as those fond memories are all blessings in their own right, the fact that the words of that great hymn are so deeply ingrained in our memories is a blessing far greater.

Eventually the relatively carefree days of the Seminary were replaced by the sometimes stressful days of the parish. And if your pastor is anything like me, he sometimes thinks, “How can a man like me possibly serve in this role? If only these people knew my weaknesses. If only they knew my sins. What if all of this collapses on my watch?” And when he does, it’s good for him to remember...

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

If your pastor is anything like me, he sometimes thinks, “Is any of this making a difference? In spite of all of our efforts, examples of visible success seem few and far between. Nothing seems to be working.” And when he does, it’s good for him to remember…

Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.

And if your pastor is anything like me, he sometimes thinks, “How will this tiny group of Christians possibly survive? We face so many challenges and limitations. The enemy seems to be getting stronger every day.” And when he does, it’s good for him to remember…

The Church shall never perish. Her dear Lord, to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her and strive to see her fail.
Against both foe and traitor she ever shall prevail.

With everything that can discourage the members of Christ's Church as we await his return, it's truly a blessing that hymns like this one make such essential truths so easy to remember.

Share Your Thoughts

As mentioned in our last update, this is the first of eight hymns that will be highlighted between now and the end of the year. We'd love to hear your thoughts. Comment below on why this hymn is near and dear to your heart. Or, share your appreciation for any hymn by creating a post on your own social media account(s). Feel free to tag your friends or use the hashtag #lovehymns to encourage others to participate. We will collect the responses throughout the week and then share what people have been saying.

Earlier this year, the WELS Hymnal Project asked you to help us celebrate our rich heritage of hymns by sharing with us those that are especially near and dear to your heart.

We are very thankful that more than 3,200 people participated in the survey: 1,720 responded to the synod-wide survey and 1,508 students filled out the survey in their classrooms. The results of those surveys have been shared with the members of the hymnal project. A document listing fifty favorites from each of the surveys is available here.

Between now and the end of the year, we’d like to continue to celebrate the great blessing hymns are to our lives of faith. And we’d like to ask for your help in doing so. On eight Mondays between now and Christmas, we will highlight one specific hymn found on the lists below with a brief article about that hymn. That article will also be posted on Northwestern Publishing House’s Facebook Page.

When that article is published, you’ll be invited to comment - either on our website or on Facebook - about what you personally cherish about that particular hymn. You may also wish to use your own social media accounts to express what you love about any hymn and invite others within your circle to do the same. The goal is start each week by joining together to celebrate how much we love hymns and why.

On the following Monday, we’ll publish a collection of some of the responses that come in so that everyone can see what others from around the synod have been saying.

In addition, we will invite anyone to produce a more creative expression of their personal favorite (a photo, drawing, video, slideshow, etc) and provide details for submitting that work.

Thank you again for helping us celebrate these wonderful hymns. We value and appreciate your input and look forward to hearing more.

Pastor Jonathan Bauer
WELS Communications Committee