Fanny Crosby is most notable for being the blind woman who wrote over 8,000 hymns. That’s right—8,000. Crosby was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1975. She’s been described as the ‘mother of modern congregational singing,’ which leads us to wonder what modern worship services would look like without her.
Her style of hymn writing was considered overly simplistic for some, but ultimately that simplicity is what led to their popularity. Overly repetitive at times or too sentimental, her songs freed people to express the way they truly felt about God. Modern worship songs carry that same level of simplicity and directness. Perhaps not as flowery or poetic, worshipers today enjoy freedom to commune with God that was set in place by Crosby.
Regardless of where you stand as a worshiper, I think there are a couple of things all of us can learn and apply into our lives from the life of this communication hero.
1. Whatever you’re doing, do it more!
I’m sure this sounds odd at first, but bear with me. Fanny Crosby wrote over 8,000 hymns, and my guess is some of the 8,000 aren’t anything you’d like. A lot of them probably weren’t very popular then either. But she found her niche and she was passionate about it.
Don’t get sidetracked because someone doesn’t see the fruit in what you are doing. If you are passionate about a vision/purpose God has given you, serve Christ with all you have. So what if you create 7,999 of something that end up being worthless? What if that one changes the world? My favorite hymn of all time is attributed to Crosby—”Blessed Assurance”—and there is something about the way that song makes me reflect on my story with God that will leave me forever indebted to Fanny Crosby. What if you could offer that same experience to someone because of what you are doing?
2. Give what God has given you.
Fanny Crosby wasn’t stingy with her talent. She taught classes and helped many others piece together their own music. One of her most notable hymns “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” was written almost on a whim. Fanny’s friend William Doane stopped by her home en route to a train station that would take him away to a convention where he wanted to unveil a new hymn. Having already written the tune, he requested that Fanny write the lyrics in just a few brief moments. She folded up her lyrics and put them in an envelope and sent Doane to catch his train.
If God has given you a talent or a skill, it is your responsibility to use it to strengthen the kingdom of heaven. Don’t hoard your abilities in an effort to gain something for yourself. If the life of Crosby teaches us anything, it’s that humility leads to the heart and mind of Christ.
3. Poetry Rocks!
Fanny Crosby was not only a hymnist but a scholarly poet as well. She wrote numerous poems that gained a tremendous amount of popularity that eventually helped lead to her overall success. Imagery and meaning are at the heart of poetry. That means Crosby cared about how it sounded and what it meant.
In the communication field, it’s important to keep our presentations aligned with this mindset. If what we are distributing isn’t polished people will reject it. But if it’s devoid of meaning, what’s the point? Be intentional about creating quality work—something that is easy on the eyes and full of your heart and vision.
The Humble Hymnist
Fellow hymnist George Stebbins once said, “There was probably no writer in her day who appealed more to the valid experience of the Christian life or who expressed more sympathetically the deep longings of the human heart than Fanny Crosby.” I wonder where modern worship would be had it not been for leaders like Crosby who so fully communicated the Christian life with meaning and beauty.
Perfect submission, all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love.