Resource, Article

Picture three people who’ve talked with the same newcomer. One may forget the person’s name but easily describe her appearance. Another will tell you about the woman’s history and who she is related to—but may be unable to recognize her when they meet again. And the third person may talk most...

May 3, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Put yourself in their shoes. The parents across the church aisle had no comment when reporters turned up at their door. Other church members had plenty to say (though not to those parents) about their son who died in a drug deal gone sour.

  Nevertheless, worship proceeds as usual with a...
May 3, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
Now that so many church members have digital cameras and so many congregations can project images, the possibilities for using photography in worship have soared. Here are tips from congregations that use photography to build community and to picture the entire world as belonging to God.   “...
May 3, 2010 0 0 comments

It seems to me that the CRC has mixed feelings when it comes to liturgical forms. For some they are seen as embodiments of all that is wrong with traditionalism, for others they are seen as a way of maintaining good theology and right practice. For some, forms are dull boring artifacts, for others treasured vessels...

May 3, 2010 0 5 comments

It seems that in the relatively rare instances that the Holy Spirit is specifically called out in lyrics, the song tends toward being a prayer that the Spirit would work in some way. Are there songs that you've sung that praise the Spirit for what he HAS done? I'm particularly interested in...

May 2, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Website

A virtual study desk for students, teachers and preachers to a wide variety of contemporary and historical resources for study and liturgy for each lectionary week and pericope, or check out the scripture Index to locate links to study resources relating to specific passages.

April 28, 2010 0 0 comments

What kinds of simple things do churches do to celebrate Mothers Day and Fathers Day?

April 22, 2010 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

There was a comment in the new hymnal thread about older people in long-term care hearing and responding to music they remember. This is something that has struck me as well; as my grandma was getting older, it got pretty hard to have conversations with her--her mind and mouth just weren't...

April 18, 2010 0 9 comments
Discussion Topic

If you have not already heard a group of folks from the CRC/RCA have been working on a new hymnal for our two denominations.  There are 10 people (5 each from the RCA and CRC) and 3 staff members on the editorial committee and 80 (40 from each denomination) on an advisory team.  These are...

April 14, 2010 0 31 comments

If we believe that God is at work we ought to be able to point to some evidence of it and what better place to share those stories then in worship.

April 14, 2010 0 1 comments

I am planning to create a topical index of the contemporary songs we use in worship, but don't want to "reinvent the wheel." Does anyone know of such an index already created?

April 7, 2010 0 6 comments
Discussion Topic
We are beginning discussions about creating a communal art project with the purpose of creating unity within our church. Does anyone have ideas that they have tried? We're thinking along the lines of a wall hanging, but we're open to any ideas at this point. Thanks!
March 31, 2010 0 2 comments

I love worship music. I love it so much that I have spent a lot of my life learning about it, listening to it, singing it, leading it. However, I often wonder if our discussions about worship are focused way too much on music...

March 11, 2010 0 1 comments

In a recent seminary class, we were reviewing key moments in the history of the church. My colleague Scott Hoezee asked students to think about what church life would have been like in six different centuries. As students reflected on each of these different moments in history, it struck me that in each of them public worship would have been led almost entirely by a single pastor, with the help of a single musician...

March 5, 2010 0 3 comments

I love singing (bass), but I'm not a musician so there is much about music that I don't understand, but which is critical to those who are actually musicians. Our congregation has a praise song book which I maintain, but I'm having a real issue with trying to add new songs since the written...

February 28, 2010 0 4 comments

Worship is an intergenerational time, but children aren't always fully engaged or included. I'm especially looking for ideas for later elementary and middle school. What's working at your church?  

February 22, 2010 0 4 comments

As worship leaders we serve as guides. We can take the safe, pleasant, straight and flat path or we can chose something more challenging. The flat path is known and even relaxing; you can enjoy your environment without exerting much energy. The challenging path requires all our senses; it makes us feel alive, and gets the adrenaline pumping. It offers great vistas, many rewards, but yet demands work; it isn’t easy. I think in general churches need a mix of the two sometimes in the same service. There are times for stability and there are times for challenges.

February 22, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
What new songs (or not new, for that matter) are you excited about introducing to your congregation? I've really liked "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher.
February 20, 2010 0 7 comments
Discussion Topic
I saw this posted over in the Church Administration section and thought it might be good to post over here as well. The church I serve at has been tracking this and purchasing new wireless units (budget allowing) in preparation for it as I'm sure many of you have been. But... there may be some that...
February 10, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
Okay, so let's get this ball rolling. There are those of us who have done "worship transition" (modernizing worship through music, technology, etc.) and have actually lived to tell the tale. Some of us have battle scars from doing it more than once (no names :)). If you find yourself in that...
February 9, 2010 0 9 comments
Resource, Article

As the church adjusts to changes in the surrounding culture, worship leaders are faced with the challenges of new technology. How is it best used, and who should be the ones using it? Often the person with the keys to the building is put in charge of the new sound system, regardless of his or...

February 8, 2010 0 1 comments

A few weeks ago I was at a choir concert where the Magnificat from Arvo Pärt was performed (listen here). An absolutely stunning piece with the music washing over you and bringing you into the presence of the holy.

February 2, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The following chart outlines a historic pattern of Christian worship. While most churches don’t use the exact wording found in this chart, there are thousands of churches on many continents that use a version of this pattern.


Call to Worship
Acts of Praise...

January 25, 2010 0 4 comments

Jamie Smith recently gave a lecture in which he said that repentance and assurance in worship are remarkable formative practices that are indispensable to the Christian life. He noted that on Oprah, we can find a form of assurance ("you're o.k.," "just be yourself"), while our shopping mall elicits shame or anxiety in all of us ("none of us measure up to the standards of the good life projected there.")

January 25, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

What are some of the resources and reflections that would be most helpful to you? How can we develop this site in order to be as helpful as possible? Those of us hosting the site may be able to provide a few of those things--but viewers to the site may well have the resources and ideas to...

January 25, 2010 0 27 comments



I've always like the concept of a moment to reflect on how profound God is by explaining in detail a object of nature that goes beyond deductive reasoning. or a personal story that the realness of the Lord's presence is revealed in every day life. Then let people ponder his greatness with silence. I have felt yhe Holy Spirit many times during such events because people need a hope reminder and to know that Jesus is not abstract but real as earth itself. Glory be to God

Hello Joyce,  I think we should entertain the idea that the reformation is not over. Churches need to understand that constant evaluation is part of God's plan

Thanks Simon,   I hear you but everyday can be puctuated with moments of joint worship also. I treasure church worship also but i'm mostly a shutin. I had to find worship primairly  with who every will engage me. Forgive me for errors I have problems with ms. When your sick like I am, things get pretty difficult and sometimes really wierd stuff happens. Anyway I have lesions and atrophy in my brain. It's like you walk around in house and Jesus is with you in conversation. It's filled with what I call God Momments wear you physicaly feel him and everthing is clear with this huge rush of spiritual wisdom that makes you want nothing but love for this world and yourself. I'ts a wild ride! You guys are very intelliegent and I know you have good hearts but I think you have be aware how you use your knowledge. God's Wisdom is difficult to find unless your completely broken and need him and his love at every momment. Sorry for the rant. God bless you


P.S. How does spellcheck work on this site. Thanks

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Hi Keith, Its good see you here.

Yes, thank you for sharing this. I hope many people read it. Stanley

Even though most congregations are used to silence when movement is necessary within the worship service, it seems less abrupt when there has been some prep for it just before or soft accompaniment happens as it ocurrs.

However, the older I get, the more I find myself feeling like I've been programed to death during the worhsip service. There is a time for silence and meditation if the congregation has been prepared to take that time for reflection.  There needs to be more of that built in. 

Purposefully and well placed meditation time is more useful if folks are asked to reflect on the words they just sang as worship instead of singing yet another verse of a worship song.  Temper the repetition with more meditation opps.

Silence can be more much more worshipful when well placed and the congregation is ready for it even if it includes necessary movement.

My 2 cents.

Sometimes silence, in my circumstances, was unavoidable due to logistics. What I found important was how this silence was handled. For example, our organist had to come down from the loft where the organ is to the piano on the main floor of the sanctuary. We discussed this transition as one where we focused on maintaining a silent and structured process and not a hurried rush to fill the silence of this transition.

I love it. This is officially bookmarked and saved. Between this and the worship grids from Calvin that can be found in the "Resources" section, it gives me pretty much everything I need.

We try to include new songs on a somewhat regular basis, one per month, two maximum. Finding new worship songs can be difficult. I usually find new things from going to and typing in a worship artist that I enjoy, my favorite is "Caedmon's Call", the music it spits out that is similar to CC really fits our congregation well. I also listen to the Song DISCovery CD from worship leader magazine, that something will give us something new. We'll usually try to fit the new song topically based on the sermon, then play it at least once after that within the next 3 weeks. On occassion we'll play a new song once for an offertory, the congregation isn't expected to sing along to the offertory so it gives us room to try new songs and expand the definition of acceptable music in our congregation... for instance, we did Caedmon's Call's "Sing His Love", a play on the hymn "Father Long Before Creation" as an offertory with banjo and in a bluegrass styling, "One" by U2 (which fit thematically to the service around the topic of brokenness), and "Aint No Grave" in the style of Johnny Cash. Generally our offertory leads right into the sermon.

Tears are coming.... the beauty of the promises touches my own memories of losing a daughter a year ago to leukemia.  The promises are so good, and the earthly reality is sometimes so very painful.   This is an  incredibly deep and many layered Psalm, and it speaks to situations that are indeed too painful for words.   Is there any situation or experience that is so awful that God is absent?   Only that  one time on Calvary, and never again.   Thanks be to God.  Thanks, Jim, for preaching it, and for sharing it.  

No problem having people come forward during prayer.  One's eyes need not be closed and hands folded in order to pray.  Though I've found people at first need repeated assurance that it is OK to walk forward during a prayer, it doesn't take long before it's natural and is done in a worshipful way.  Worship team participants normally sit next to an isle anyhow, so very few, if any people are even aware of their movement during prayer. 

Hi Allen, I appreciate your heart for mission. I would like to suggest that having 'a ton of music available' is one of the best reasons to put together a collection of hymns and songs that is theologically rich and meets the needs of the worshiping church. Too many choices can be as frustrating as too few. I'm beginning to see that a hymnal can provide a community with a core set of music to draw from. In this case, this also includes resources from a reformed perspective for the church as it celebrates the sacraments and Christian holidays together. Of course, an ongoing goal is to make the music accessible to the average musician and accompanist, the singer in the pew, and provide a well-rounded and thoughtful repertoire to the local worship leader.  And who knows? Maybe having a larger collection of songs representing the old and new, heartsongs that cross denominational lines, and music that shows diversity and appreciation for music from other cultures will actually be missional.

I appreciate this discussion. I'd love to hear others' opinions of whether or not a hymnal can be missional. 

I'm not sure about this new hymnal.  I understand that there are many established churches out there who will dole out the cash for them because that's what you do.  But I'm not sure our church will go for it -- I'd be surprised if they did.  We have a ton of music available through the old hymnal, supplements and lots of CCLI stuff.  I can hear people saying they'd rather put their $$ toward local mission.

Personally I don't have a problem with the team going up during my application prayer.  They know to go up quietly.  They can listen to the prayer as they go up but I don't think that by going up at that time they're missing something.  It's their ministry to lead in worship, so they need to be up there so when people open their eyes, we're good to go.

Thank you for sharing this

There are times when the praise team will lead a song right after the sermon. To go up to the stage area they have 2 choices. They can wait until after the pastor has his prayer of application after the sermon or they can walk up during the prayer. The first choice involves the awkward silence you mention above. The second choice can be disruptive for the congregation and also does not allow the praise team to focus on the prayer. How do other churches handle this situation?

I have some follow up questions for anyone out there...

How do you decide when to include a new song?  From where do you select them?  Is there a method/process you use for introducing new songs?  Do you make sure a new song is repeated over a series of Sundays so that people really learn it or do you sometimes use a new song just for a particular service? 

Stanley, thanks for the suggestion.  I hope the addition of BOLD titles and spacing helps. 

My hope for the new Psalter would be that one setting for each Psalm would be as close as possible to the text -- that is, an actual (easily singable) musical setting of the Psalm (or of several of its verses), not just a song based on the ideas in the Psalm. I would find that very useful for worship. Adaptations and interpretations of Psalms are fine, but for those who believe that Psalmody is an important part of Biblical worship, being able to sing the text of the Psalms is key.

The same would go for the Psalm settings in LUYH, but I understand that there are many other competing priorities for those editing a comprehensive hymnal.

After reading these comments,i think we should treat the hymnal with importance simplly because its important to some fellow Cristians. Produce it the way you want. I would not want to hinder my brother in Christ .

Our music selections also depend on the theme for the service.  My personal rule is to have no more than one new song in a service.  We want to have people internalize songs, memorize them, sing them in their car on the way home, and all week.  Repetition is the best way children and all of us make songs our "heart songs."   What do you want sung at your funeral?  What do you want to sing at a dear departed relative's funeral? --  a song that comes from deep within.  With so many choices out there, we have to be intentional about what we feed our congregations.  It's a big responsibility for sure!  

I think "Confession" is meant to be a title for a section that includes "Call to Confession" through "Response of Thanksgiving." I think "Gathering/Praise," "Proclamation," "Response to the Word," "Lord's Supper," and "Sending" are also supposed to be section titles. It would have been helpful if they had appeared in bold or italics or something to distinguish them from the elements within the sections. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong! Stanley

You're very welcome.

I'm glad you shared.  I've learned something from you that will help me be a better minister.  Please feel no obligation, but should you have the time and interest, I would greatly value reading some more of how you introduced and used the tables, including the theology behind what you did.  Your comments about serving communion at the tables particulary excites me.  I am not familiar with "Temple reclining,"  care to share about that?

I will be on vacation for a couple weeks, so I won't be checking this every day.  If you do post some more and don't hear from me for a couple weeks, please be assured it is not because I am not interested.

God bless you.

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Thank you for your thoughtful response and clarification. I agree and we did spend quite a bit of time interpreting what the introduction of tables meant and also used Biblical tie ins with table fellowship, communion, and even Temple reclining. We introduced them precisely to be able to share in closer worship communion around the tables, discuss what we had just heard in the message and on Communion Sundays, enjoy the close fellowship around an actual table an not just a figurative one. So thank you so much for your clarifications and words of encouragement.

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Hey, I'm glad you did "jump back into the conversation."  I much appreciate your comments; very clear and, I believe, faithful to the Biblical idea and history of worship.

I think I might have been mis-understood.  For I would fully agree with your comments regarding what worship is and what the settings for it were in NT times.  But here is the concern.  You say, "Worship happens when the people of God gather to come into the presence of God, no matter where that is or what it looks like."  I became "somewhat" convinced that we did not introduce the tables well, so they made the sanctuary look like a common Starbuck's cafe.  Consequently, the teens and 20 year olds, began to act like they were in a Starbucks--coming for personal socialization, meeting friends, drinking coffee, making plans for the week with their friends, etc.  All that is fine, but not during "worship time."  These church members began to loose their own sense or awareness that they were, as you say, gathering "to come into the presence of God."  I know this because we talked about it and with their input we all made some changes.

I am a very flexible kind of guy when it comes to things like packaging and style.  My initial post had more to do with offering a caution from someone who, sorry about the cliché, has "been there done it." I would do it again if I had the chance.  But I would do it with more wisdom about how our "post-modern" culture interprets the layout and tables.  I was not prepared for how the tables and couches had inadvertently served to lesson a sense of sacredness in the worship service for some, particularly the teens and 20 year olds.  They liked it, but my concern as a pastor was that they disengaged somewhat from worship and engaged more in socializing during the service.  I found myself growing less enthusiastic about the tables as I saw more and more socializing going on all through the sevice, almost to the point of rudeness for those around them.  I'm not saying it was the tables per se.  I am only saying, when you change the layout to "contemporize" the decor, it has consequences on how people feel and behave; pyschological consequences that are often not even congnitive.

Next time I do the tables etc., I will spend time before hand teaching about worship and how the sanctuary decor must support and enhance worship, not distract from it.  Perhaps in your own experience you did a better job than we did at clarifying what worship is all about and introducing the new decor as a support to the worship.  If so, I have absolutely NO hesitation or critique of your efforts, only praise.

May we all continue to grow in worship that is spiritual and truthful (Jn 4:24), using any and all means and tools God makes available to us.


posted in: Worship Vacation?

I've got several songs that are free to use at your church. Each has a (relatively poorly made) video and a lead sheet.

Redeem My Mind: (My church responded really well to this one)

Walking Home: (Haven't done this one yet)

Lashes Part: (Did this one at a past church and the response was great)

Also, I've got an arrangement of "Take My Life and Let It Be" Psalter Hymnal #288 for two guitars and worship team. No video for that one, but we did it at church last Sunday and it went over very well.

All of the Lead Sheets are here:

Thank you for taking the time to listen and share. Would love to know if you use any of the above and the congregation's response.

I love this model. This is another incredible resource. I do have one question on logical progression... shouldn't a "Call To Confession" preceed "Confession"?

We try to keep a balance but there is no rule. We think long and hard about the sermon topic and we select music that matches the theme of the service, whether it is new, old or original.

I hesitate to jump back into the conversation, but must say that if you ever come to Hope Church you may be surprised by the tables as you enter, but you will certainly leave having worshiped. Tables or not, it is not the setting that brings people into worship but the spirit of God at work in the setting. If we really wanted to worship in the way those in the NT times did with Jesus before them then we would all be sitting on the hillside, or seashore or segregated in the temple on the floor. Let us not confuse cultural norms for Christian standards. Worship happens when the people of God gather to come into the presence of God, no matter where that is or what it looks like. The methods may change but the Gospel remains constant.

posted in: Worship Vacation?


The question is not about whether Jesus is present.  It's about whether those who are also present are worshipping him.

It is surely true as you say, "Wear (sic, Where) two or more are gathered in His name He will be there."  According to the Gospels, Jesus was in a lot of places among people.  But that fact alone does insure those people were worshipping him.  A worship gathering is different than a dinner gathering, or a prayer gathering, or a recreational/fellowship gathering, etc.  Worship might be a part of these types of gather, but not necessarily so.  However, at a "worship" gathering, worship is NOT optional.

In Christ

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Wear two or more are gathered in His name He will be there.

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Good stuff. These statements should allow a wide diversity of worship forms. Thank You

I think this Network site is the perfect way for CRC musicians to share their music with other CRC folk.  You can't attach the actual file but you can always point us to where we can find it.  Personally, I would love it if people like Nick would post a simple note like: "Hey, I just wrote a new song X about XX  and you can find it at XXX."  If you include information on how we can use your song legally (i.e. this is free for your church to use, or this song is listed under CCLI, or contact me for permission to use this song, or...) that would be helpful.  Some additional background information on the song,some interesting points about its musical structure or textual references for example, would be a great aid for worship leaders.  So Nick, what is the link to your music?   

Nick--my niece was in the same boat, and after much trial and error, she found that it worked best to make herself available for special music for worship services and for youth rallies, at least until she got her name out there and some of the music was heard. It's very hard to stand in front of a congregation and teach music that is totally unknown unless you have a good praise team to back you up, or the music is very "singable."

After she had been the special music on a Sunday morning, that congregation asked her to come back and do a few more songs a few weeks later. About two months after that, they asked her to come and teach some of the music.

She has also had good success making herself available to youth retreats, SERVE projects, youth worship services, etc.

Blessings on your music!

 I looked over Planning Center but decided it wasn't a great match, I have used SongSelect and that's pretty brilliant. I've just used a simple Wiki in the past, having the ability to go freeform was much better for me than being confined within a particular space.

We also use Planning Center. Have been for a little over a year. I would also highly recommend it. We currently subscribe to the 'lite' version ($15 a month). I'd love to upgrade to a higher lever but just don't have the budget for it right now.

Joyce, one other very similar type of application is available at I don't know much about it other than I've seen their ads in Worship Leader magazine. Another is

We also subscribe to CCLI Song Select and get at least 75% of our sheet music/lead sheets from them. We then project using SongShowPlus. I love Song Select...  their transposing tools are a life saver. SongShowPlus is alright. It's functional but if I had the budget I'd probably start looking at some of the alternatives.

9nineteen & Joyce, thanks for commenting!

Although we aren't using Planning Center, and I don't think we are using CCLI Song Select, we do project words (no music) using MediaShout. I am not on that team so can't speak to details (version, effectiveness) but if you want more info, I can ask someone else from my church to comment on this discussion.

Do you use other programs in addition to the Planning Center?  (i.e. Song Select from CCLI)  Do you project and if so, is it just words or words and music and what program do you use for projection?

I spent a fair amount of time looking at it and was blown away by what it can do and how user friendly it was.  I am curious if other similar programs exist that people are using.

 We've been using it for over a year now  and it is great.  It really makes it easy to plan services and to remind everyone when they are on the schedule.  We currently use the $29/month plan but will be moving up to the $49 plan very soon because we keep finding new uses for the software.  I would highly recommend it.  

 Thank you so much for posting this! We are always looking for resources on this topic to share with churches who want to participate in our World Hunger or World AIDS Day campaigns.

Out of My Hands?I love music! I love to play and sing and worship! Everyone who knows me would smile and agree with those statements. I have memories of sitting in church as a child cheerfully flipping through the pages of the hymnal. One particular Sunday stands out in my memory. I must have been flipping hymnal pages very noisily during the pastors’ sermon.  The irritated worshiper next to me snatched the book out of my hands and put it firmly back in the rack. I got the message! If you’re going to get lost in the words and music in the hymnal during the sermon, do it quietly!Seriously, that quick stab of embarrassment and surprise impacted me as an 8 year old. I still remember the hymnal that I loved being ripped out of my hands. I smile now as I remember, because I’m sure I was being rude and distracting. But lately I’ve wondered about this very thing – taking the books out of people’s hands.Don’t get me wrong, I love contemporary music and worship. The trend in modern worship is to project lyrics and Bible passages, making it easy for the worshiper to flow with the service. There is no need to announce page numbers or take time to find them. There is no heavy hymnal to balance between you and your neighbor who you may or may not know and feel comfortable singing with, let alone share the task of holding it in front of you. Have you ever started shaking while doing that? How embarrassing! Without the book, your hands are released to clap or to raise in praise and adoration. So I will agree, there are plenty of good reasons to free them up.Many churches also project the scripture passage. This also makes it clear and easy for all to see, and takes away the embarrassment for worshipers and seekers alike who struggle to find obscure passages in Philemon or Haggai.But what happens when we take the printed books out of our hands? The cutting edge technology of the 15th century produced the printing press, placing the printed page in the hands of the people. Has the cutting edge technology of the 20th century taken it out of their hands? Before you write me off, think through this with me.The implications of not holding the Bible in your hands during worship abound, but I won’t pursue those here. Let’s talk about hymnals. The Christian Reformed Church and Reformed Church in America are joining together to produce a new hymnal. It’s a huge project! I know because I’m involved in it. “Why a hymnal?” people ask. “Our church doesn’t use a book.” We are well aware of this. It’s okay. No one will be forced to buy the book.

Think of the act of holding and having. The hymnal my church has in the pew says a lot about what the church believes. It has been chosen carefully. We take seriously the implications of the theology expressed in the words of the songs. God’s word is often hidden in our hearts along with a melody. The collection of words and music gathered together in a hymnal give expression to the heartsong of a community. I hold in my hands my favorite songs along with your favorites. I hold the songs of children and old people, the songs of those from other nations and cultures, the songs of those who have lived through war and atrocities and those who haven’t. I hold the songs of pastors and plumbers, of scholars and students. The beauty of the book is that I hold your song as well as mine. The beauty is that I hold many songs in my hands. To place the hymnal in the people’s hands gives them a snapshot of Christian community. It’s theologically rich and musically diverse. It’s a symbol of who we are and what we believe.Here is what has struck me as important lately: if we worship only with words on the screen, we are at the mercy of the one choosing those words. This puts a lot of power into the hands of one person, the worship leader. As worshiper, I watch and participate as I decide while the worship proceeds from slide to slide. And then it’s done. I have nothing left but the memory of the experience, and my impression will depend on whether I liked the speed, key, accompaniment, etc. My worship becomes something that passes quickly in front of me, by someone else’s design. I can’t take it home. I can’t play it for my enjoyment or my children without significant effort to find it in print, perhaps online.Let’s ask what we lose by not having a good hymnal in our pews, in our homes. If we never see the complete text on the page, we may not recognize the beauty of the whole. Will we realize the breadth if we see it one line at a time, one day a week? Will we recognize the importance of all the songs in one place if we don’t feel the weight of it in our hands? And if my church sings only the choices of one leader, will we know what we’re missing?I’m not saying that we should only use hymnals. Certainly there is too much good in both mediums, electronic and print, to use only one. We have so many great opportunities at our fingertips today. We need to carefully consider the implications of each, and choose with prayer and wisdom the best and widest resources for corporate worship and spiritual growth. And honestly, let’s ask ourselves, is there value to what we can hold in our hands? 

With its regularity, the Lord's Supper may sometimes seem the more significant of the two sacraments. Thank you for this helpful theology and these practical suggestions that keep baptism at the forefront, too! Stanley

I know of no program that directly links PowerPoint and scripture other than the copy and paste method. Typically, you could type it in, or you could copy it from an on-line source, ie:, or from a Bible program. In these cases make sure you are aware of and comply with the copywrite rules that should be applied before using the material in a public presentation.


One that comes to mind in our church is very simple...when the blessing is being given people are encouraged to hold out their hands in a receptive way to receive the blessing as they depart.

posted in: The Holy Kiss

We started using tables 15 years ago. I personally like the tables. For some of the adults, the tables are physically more comfortable, and some like the added feature of taking sermon notes. Later we added couches, etc. and created a "home-like" setting in the sanctuary. People loved it but it had a deleterious effect that we did not anticipate. Some abused it, particularly among the teens and young adults. They came in, felt at ease, and easily proceeded to send text messages, talk, write notes (not about the sermon or service!), draw pictures, plan next week's parties, etc., etc. This younger generation, apparently, did not come with the experience nor context of worship being a sacred matter of service to God, nor did they have the wherewithal to recogonize the sanctuary as a special place to be entered with reverence and awareness. We simply accommodated the un-initiative secular mindset within the framework of a "worship" service. We found that most of these young people, although they liked the music, they liked the setting, they liked the fellowship, etc., they were NOT engaging in actual worship of God. Now you may wonder how I can judge such a thing? Two means: We asked them and two, we studied the Scriptures to see what God called worship. We found a great chasm between contemporary "worship" and Biblical worship.

I am not saying Biblical (true) worship could not happen in more informal settings, I do not believe that. I am saying more informal settings can sometimes mislead people into thinking that worship is a "common" event and that there is nothing special about it as compared with other activities they do. People are not confronted by the setting with a holy call to enter into a holy place and worship a holy God. So, as far as the setting (decor) is concerned, people experience nothing different in the holy sanctuary than they experience at Starbuck coffee house. If this is so, I consider it to be a real problem that can, inadvertently, lead to shallow understanding of the loving and holy act of worship. To be fair, I think our current "formal" routines and decor can also be a distraction from true worship.

The point is, worship is a call to humble reverence before the Most Holy God where the worshiper offers him/herself in humble gratitude and joyous praise to the One who created and redeemed him/her through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament word for worship literally means to "bow down" before a superior one and pay homage.

When we either get too casual or too formal, we can easily forget about this One in our midst to whom we are privileged to bow and worship. We can be thinking more about tomorrow night's math exam, or responding to our friend's text message across the "room" or across town. When the decor is so "familiar" we can be completely unimpressed by it, other than that it is "comfortable" for us. When the decor is too "formal" we can be so intrigued by it, that our attention is on the decor instead of on God and the family gathered with us for worship.

Let us remember that worship is for God, not for us. Yes, God does meet us in worship in deeply comforting and satisfying ways, but primarily our focus and evaluation must be toward God. "Did God like the worship?" not, "did you like the worship?"

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Now to answer Harry's question...

I want to be clear that there are two different products we are talking about. The first is the actual bi-denominational hymnal/songbook entitled "Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs" (LUYH, pronounced lu-yah as a short-form). The second is a separate psalter not yet titled.

1. In LUYH you will find representation of all 150 Psalms as you do in the Psalter Hymnal. What is different is that they will not appear in order at the front of the hymnal but will rather be placed where they would fit thematically or in the worship order with a good index at the back of the book in case you are looking for a particular psalm. Some psalms will appear more than once (i.e. Psalm 23) others will only appear once. This hymnal is scheduled for release in 2013.

2. The psalter will be close to the size of LUYH. It will be in the order of the psalms. For each psalm you will first find the full text of the psalm arranged for responsive reading, or reading with multiple voices, along with some pointing and suggested tone for those churches who desire to chant the psalms (the tones themselves will appear elsewhere in the book). Following the text of the psalm will be musical renderings of that particular psalm which could include something from the Genevan Psalter, or another metrical version, as well as psalm composition in a gospel, contemporary/modern, or folk idiom for example. Some psalms will only have one or two musical representations others will have five or more. The psalter is scheduled for release in 2012.

Harry Boonstra wrote the following and asked that it be posted:

I am a newcomer to this forum, and perhaps my questions and comments have been discussed (and resolved!) in the past. If so, just point me in the right direction.

My comments and questions center mostly on psalmody and the psalter. (Years ago I heard a speaker from the exclusive Psalm singing Reformed Presbyterian denomination: “A real psalter contains every verse of every biblical psalm; all others are snippet psalters.” My own tongue in cheek definition is: “If it contains Psalm 137:8-9 it’s probably a real psalter”).

As far as I can determine, CRC Synod 2007 did not ask for a new “Psalter Hymnal”—that is, a “replacement” for the 1987 Psalter Hymnal (the grey PH, or, as editor Emily Brink prefers, the silver PH.) Rather, the mandate was to produce a “bi-denominational songbook” or a “comprehensive hymnal” (Agenda, pp. 206-207). The actual recommendation uses only the term “hymnal” (Acts, 579-80). (I very much like the title chosen for the new “songbook.”)

No. 6 of the FAQ asks, “Will this hymnal include a separate section of psalms (A Psalter)?
The first part of the response says that “the psalms” will be scattered “by subject’ throughout the hymnal.

The UPDATE announces that in addition there will be a separately published psalter.
Of course the designation “psalter” is not always used in the same way, neither in general nor in this FAQ response. For example, the response notes that in Rejoice in the Lord the psalms are in a “discrete Psalter section.” Actually this “psalter” is a unit in Part I, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM PRAISE, under the subheading, “Psalms Praise Him.” Here there are only 63 psalms (#83-143) in numerical sequence. Some of these include the complete biblical psalm; many others are select verses from the biblical psalm (Ps. 119 is spread over two numbers (#129, 130), for a total of 9 stanzas. Psalm 119 is again captured as “Scriptural allusions” in 5 hymns. Obviously this Rejoice “psalter” designation is very different from the 1987 PH, where Psalm 119 is versified in 22 stanzas, all by the same versifier and the same Genevan tune).

It is worth noting the different approaches in the CRC and the RCA traditions. The CRC has always published complete psalters, that is, all 150 psalms were represented. In the 1912-1914 Psalter and in the 1934 (Red) and 1959 (Blue) Psalter Hymnal the 150 psalms were spread over many versifications, that is, the Scottish/English psalter tradition (generally Presbyterian). The 1987 (Grey) Psalter Hymnal went back to the Dutch/Genevan tradition of each biblical psalm represented by one versification and one tune. The RCA has not published a complete psalter since its 1789 Psalms and Hymns….of the Dutch Reformed Church. (Psalm 119 is represented by 121 stanzas). There were many later editions with an ever-increasing number of hymns.

All of this adds up to my main question: What kind of bi-denominational psalter can we look forward to?

We've been struggling a bit too with musicians taking a break for some or all of the summer. We're used to a full band (guitars, piano, keyboard, bass, drums) and have had a couple of Sundays with just a couple of instruments (piano/bass or guitar/bass) and fewer singers than usual. The key has been in planning and preparing for the service to be aware of the instruments we have. Generally it has gone really well, and is a good challenge for leaders as well as instrumentalists (who can't hide behind the rhythm section!) Many in the church have been blessed by this more intimate feeling. We also encourage the congregation to move nearer the front (which helps preachers too with connecting to them) - this helps the sense of intimacy. I don't think anyone wants this as a norm, but it really helps us to have some variety in approaches - our worship focus becomes different in character, but no less real. For some congregation members, the quieter worship is a big relief (!) while others miss the intensity of our bigger band.

Of course really the instrumentation and so on are rather incidental - the prayer preparation of all involved, prayer before and during the service, the attitude of the congregation coming in, and in particularly the Lordship of the Holy Spirit throughout the service will lead us into worship "in Spirit and in Truth" - the rest doesn't matter.

posted in: Worship Vacation?