Rescued from the File Cabinet

Song: "Shine, Jesus, Shine"

 

"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46).

"Barely a day goes by without a [Graham] Kendrick song being sung by a group of Christians somewhere on the planet," Cole Moreton wrote in London's The Independent on a Sunday. Few songwriters from the United Kingdom, or any nation on earth, have touched the lives of God's people as has Graham Kendrick.

He was born in 1950, in Northhamptonshire, England, the son of a Baptist preacher. Although he had prepared himself to be a teacher, as a young man of 22, he began his singing and songwriting career. Although his first efforts in Christian music were of the contemporary folk music style, he has moved his skills of storytelling and memorable tunes into a worship vein. As a result, his songs have penetrated deeply into almost every area of Christendom.

Graham is the cofounder of the March for Jesus movement, which had its beginning in the mid-1980s and has involved more than 55 million people over the years. They are prayer, praise, and proclamation events. Graham received a Dove Award in 1995 for his international work. In 2000, Brunei University conferred upon him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in recognition of his contributions to the worship life of the church. At least two major hymnals have included Kendrick songs.

Graham said of his success as a songwriter, "I don't have any formal musical training and often envy people who do. I've learned mainly by trial and error. I take the hit and miss, try it this way, try it that way, hope for happy accidents' approach."

Graham's song has become the most popular modern hymn of the last decade in the United Kingdom. Graham said, "This song is a prayer for revival. A songwriter can give people words to voice something that is already in their hearts but that they don't have the words or the tune to express, and I think Shine, Jesus, Shine' caught a moment when people were beginning to believe once again that an impact could be made on a whole nation."

Graham pointed me to his Web site for the story behind his famous song.

"Bearing in mind the worldwide popularity of this song, perhaps the most surprising thing about the writing of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances. I had been thinking for some time about the holiness of God, and how that as a community of believers and as individuals, His desire is for us to live continually in His presence.

"My longing for revival in the churches and spiritual awakening in the nation was growing, but also a recognition that we cannot stand in God's presence without clean hands and a pure heart.' So I wrote the three verses and tested' it in my home church. Though there was clearly merit to the song, it seemed incomplete, so as I was unable at the time to take it any further, I put it back in the file. Several months later I was asked to submit new songs for a conference songbook, and as I reviewed this three-verse song, I realized that it needed a chorus. I remember standing in my music room with my guitar slung around my neck trying different approaches. The line Shine, Jesus, shine' came to mind, and within about half an hour I had finished the chorus, all but some polishing.'

"Though I felt an excitement in my spirit at the time, I had no inkling at all that it would become so widely used. There were other songs I rated more highly at the time that most people have never heard of!" Graham's story is used here by his permission.

Graham and his wife, Jill, have four daughters. The Kendricks attend Ichthus Christian Fellowship, an independent free church, where Graham serves as a member of the leadership team. They make their home in London.

The overriding message of "Shine, Jesus, Shine" is that those who follow Christ, the Light of the World, should ask Him to "set our hearts on fire," in order that our "lives tell the story." In that way we point men, women, boys, and girls to the Savior, "the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9).

© 2008 by Lindsay Terry. Used by permission.

Lindsay Terry has been a song historian for more than 40 years, and has written widely on the background of great hymns and worship songs including the books I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (2008), from which this piece is excerpted, and The Sacrifice of Praise (2002).

 

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