Behind the Hymn: Let Others See Jesus In You
I had a request for the song history on “Let Others See Jesus in You”.
The gentleman shared a special memory of his grandmother. “Her personal favorite was “Let Others See Jesus in You.” We sang the song at her funeral. Indeed, Jesus was visibly evident in her life. I suppose that is the primary reason the song means so much to me. Do you know the story behind
Sadly, I was unable to discover what inspired the author B. B. McKinley to write this beautiful hymn. McKinney wrote 149 hymns and gospel songs including “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go”, “Speak to My Heart”, “The Nail Scarred Hand”, “Breathe on Me”, “Neath the Old Olive Trees” and “Have Faith in God”.
The B.B. stands for Baylus Benjamin McKinney. He was born on July 22, 1886 in Heflin, Louisiana. He was the son of James Calvin McKinney and Martha Annis Heflin McKinney.
After graduating from Mt. Lebanon Academy, he attended Louisiana College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Bush Conservatory of Music.
On June 11, 1918 he married Leila Irene Routh. The couple would have two sons together.
He served in the army for a few months at the end of World War I.
The next year he began a twenty-two-year position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the School of Sacred Music. While there he served as assistant director of the school and taught voice, harmony and composition. He also served as music editor at the Robert H. Coleman company in Dallas, Texas during this time.
He served as pastor at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas for two years in the early 1930s.
In 1935, he became music editor of the Baptist Sunday School Board and later secretary of the new Department of Church Music. During his time with the Sunday School Board he created many innovative ideas including developing a Church Music Training Course, having each state convention institute a music secretary, beginning the publication of the Church Musician and inaugurating an annual Church Music Week at the Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly.
Oklahoma Baptist Seminary awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1942.
McKinney was the editor of The Broadman hymnal, which was first published in 1952.
B. B. McKinney died on September 7, 1952 in Bryson City, North Carolina. He died of injuries sustained in a car accident a couple of days earlier. He is buried in Nashville, Tennessee.
The hymn Let Other’s See Jesus In You is copyrighted in 1937. I also found the chorus copyrighted in 1922 and the entire hymn in 1924. The hymn has appeared in the following songbooks: The Pilot, Revival Selections, Victorious Praise, Harvest Hymns, Church Musician and the Broadman Hymnal. The hymn is also referred to as While Passing Through This World of Sin. This title derives from the first line of the hymn.
In a 1962 interview, Tim Boyet recalled a gathering in which McKinney led over 10,000 people in singing. When he finished he told the crowd “Be sure you mean the words you sing.” This was a lesson he’d been taught as a child by his mother. Perhaps Let Others See Jesus In You was also a lesson instilled in his upbringing. The song serves as a wonderful reminder to live and mean the words we sing to keep telling the story, to be faithful and true. To let others see Jesus in You.
In addition to all his own hymns, he composed music for an additional 114 texts by other authors. He also edited, arranged and published numerous other songs throughout his career. He wrote many songs under the pseudonym Martha Annis, Otto Nellen and Gene Routh.
McKinney’s home church of Bistineau Baptist Church holds an annual McKinney song service each July according to Wikipedia. The church also has a historical marker to his memory.
Falls Creek Baptist Encampment in Davis, Oklahoma named their chapel in his honor.
In 1982, he was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
However, his legacy continues to minister and reach millions through his hymns and the innovative ideas he instituted, many of which remain today.