In his book, Worship Seeking Understanding, John Witvliet cites a worship leaders who spoke of weekly congregational singing as “rehearsing the congregation for a future funeral.” Witvliet comments: “What if we planned our music with this as a primary goal? ‘Musician, why did you choose that piece of music?’ ‘Well, it fit the texts of the day, it was well crafted, it challenged us musically—but mostly I picked it because you’ll need to know that piece when your family is preparing to bury a loved one.”

This made me want to ask a few godly leaders I trust and respect for one song that they would like to have played at their funeral.

Below is an entry from Russell Moore, public theologian for Christianity Today.

[See the other entries: Joni Eareckson Tada]

My funeral service is already written out (and has been for about twenty years), and while there are several hymns included, all of which mean much to me, two stand out. Those hymns are “Just As I Am” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Here’s why I chose them.

Both of these songs have to do with growing up as a child at Woolmarket Baptist Church in Biloxi, Mississippi.

“Just As I Am” was, like in many revivalist churches of the era, a standard “invitation hymn” played during the Altar Call, in which those wishing to profess faith or to ask for prayer were welcomed to the steps of the front of the church. I think as a child I always assumed this had been the case going all the way back to Augustine, and was surprised to learn that it was rooted instead in the relatively recent Billy Graham crusades of the mid-twentieth century.

I know many people criticize and caricature the so-called “invitation system,” and surely there was some manipulation involved with some. But, for me, those moments focused and reminded me of several things. First, I would remember that we weren’t a social club or a political society but an outpost of God’s mission calling the lost to the gospel. Second, I was always reminded both that I am a sinner and that God’s love for me in Christ wasn’t about my performance or my lists of accomplishments: that I stood before him “just as I am,” clothed in Christ. This hymn communicates for me the cross—that there God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The second hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” is likewise often caricatured—as militant or triumphalist. When I hear it, though, I remember marching into my church’s sanctuary for Vacation Bible School assemblies, with one of us carrying the American flag, another the Christian flag, and another the Bible. We would then pledge allegiance to all three. This was the closest thing we had to a formal liturgy, but it was enough to remind me that life in Christ is momentous, that we were part of something much larger than ourselves: the kingdom of Christ. And it reminded me that the eternal future waiting for us would come after much struggle but was exuberantly joyful. That hymn is included to remind whoever loved me and is there that my life story is not over at that funeral but is, by God’s grace, just beginning.

Those two songs represent both cross and kingdom, both grace and glory, both redemption and resurrection—and that’s what I would like to be the last word in this life and the first word in the next.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See, His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus,
Going on before.

At the name of Jesus
Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
At the shout of praise:
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise!

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God:
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod;
We are not divided,
All one Body we—
One in faith and Spirit,
One eternally.

Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane;
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never
’Gainst the Church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise,
Which can never fail.

Onward, then, ye people!
Join our happy throng;
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor
Unto Christ, the King;
This through countless ages
Men and angels sing.