Hymn History: “Make Me a Channel of Blessing”

2 min

Music ministry is one avenue of hospitality! Harper G. Smyth is an excellent example of someone who used his musical talent to bring spiritual refreshment to others. 

When he had completed his musical training in New York, Mr. Smyth became a performing member of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House. After performing for two years, he left the Opera House. He then traveled to Indianapolis, and later to Atlanta, to direct church choirs.

Mr. Smyth also served as the song leader for one of D. L. Moody’s key evangelists who ministered at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The music minister’s strong voice led the crowd in singing, preparing their hearts to hear the Gospel. He enthusiastically fulfilled his task, thrilled to know he was preparing people to receive spiritual refreshment. Indeed, his music ministry was a form of Christian hospitality. 

Ten years after his ministry at the World’s Fair, Mr. Smyth wrote the hymn “Make Me a Channel of Blessing.” The words clearly expressed his life’s desire and drive:

Is your life a channel of blessing?
Is the love of God flowing through you?
Are you telling the lost of the Savior?
Are you ready His service to do?

Euclid Avenue Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, was where Mr. Harper G. Smyth served as choir director from 1913 until his death in 1945.

Later, Mr. Smyth moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and became music director at Euclid Street Baptist Church. For more than thirty years, he ministered there. He also willingly accepted other ministry opportunities. For example, in 1924, he led the singing at the Republican National Convention. He was involved in the ministry of the Salvation Army too. Mr. Smyth’s life was wholly dedicated to serving God, even to his last breath: Mr. Smyth was leading U.S. Army inductees
as they sang when he suffered a stroke and entered God’s presence.

Truly, Mr. Smyth was a channel of God’s blessing to others. His voice studio trained people to sing for God’s glory. His church solos and choir directing led others in worship. In addition to imparting spiritual refreshment through his musical endeavors, he provided physical food and shelter to needy folks through his ministry with the Salvation Army. 

Hospitality brings blessing to both the recipient and the giver! Some ways to show hospitality include inviting friends to share a meal with you, visiting the sick, and offering someone a place to rest. Extending hospitality to strangers is possible by serving through a prison ministry, at a homeless shelter, or at a charity.

Mr. Smyth’s hymn closes with a warning:

We cannot be channels of blessing
If our lives are not free from known sin;
We will barriers be and a hindrance
To those we are trying to win.

Let’s heed this warning by asking God to purify our hearts so that we may joyfully practice hospitality!

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