Written in 1880 by Will L. Thompson who was both a songwriter and a music publisher. Initially, he wrote non-gospel songs and fared well in profit. Over time, while attending church services under the ministry of evangelist Dwight L. Moody, he was moved to devote his talents and resources in writing and promoting sacred songs. Many of them become quick favorites including “Softly and Tenderly.”
It has been said that Moody would often use the hymn to conclude the service. Such was the value of the song to him that at his deathbed, he told Thompson,
“Will, I would rather have written “Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling” than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.’”
In the same vein, not a few evangelists saw God’s anointing in the song that when it is time to ask for decisions, the song is played. In essence, it is invitational to follow Christ.
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
calling for you and for me;
see, on the portals he’s waiting and watching,
watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home;
you who are weary, come home;
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
calling, O sinner, come home!
The words are compelling and present Jesus as waiting for each one to turn to him. He wants us to come to our real home, Him.
One other notable event when the hymn was used was at the memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 8, 1968. Through the years, the hymn was popularized and spread during revival meetings.
There are many great versions to choose from. I ended up with this soul full piece of Ray Price. I like the simplicity and the concept of a seasoned believer intimately singing “Softly and Tenderly” like he was having an actual communion with the Lord.