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 have learned a lot from Mark Charles. Mark is a veteran blogger and a long-time CRC member, who writes very thoughtful pieces on cross-cultural exchanges, especially for members of the church, from his home in Window Rock, Arizona. This piece is the fruit of Mark’s trip to Siberia for a gathering about culturally relevant worship practices. I especially like Mark’s honesty about the unsettling quality of encountering worship practices that are new to us.

January 22, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Your Lenten season will likely involve special worship efforts. Therefore, your worship planning will certainly require many decisions that involve advance planning and preparation. In an effort to help you anticipate these decisions, we list a number of questions and issues here. Other material...

January 19, 2010 0 0 comments

Psalm singing is most certainly making a comeback. By Psalm singing, I mean something more than songs which feature a single verse from the Psalms or which use Psalm-like language. I mean musical settings which follow the shape of the Psalm—a musical setting which is either identical to the Psalm text (chant) or is a kind of singable summary of the Psalm, usually in metrical form like a hymn.

January 19, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

If you’re wondering whether projected technology is all it can be in your congregation’s worship, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach. 

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

You intuitively know that words set to music sink in more deeply than plain text does. They become part of your muscle memory.

That’s why the new hymnal Singing the New Testament is important. Its 260 songs directly quote or closely paraphrase Bible passages. The first 115 songs trace...

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

What do you say to family, friends, and team mates gathered to mourn a life cut short by cancer at age 16? What comfort can you offer the grandparents who raised the young man?

When Jesse Leimbach died three years after being diagnosed with cancer, the people of Granite Springs Church in...

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments

What if you could find five people in your congregation, perhaps each representing a different decade (one child, one teen, one thirty-something, one fifty-something, one-eighty something)to tell you what single Psalm verse best expresses the praise and thanks that they personally long to offer God.   The results are likely to be inspiring. Someone might choose a verse from Psalm 150, another a verse from Psalm 30, another a verse from Psalm 63. 

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Let down and a little lonely. If that’s how you feel after communion, it’s possible that other worshipers in your church might also wonder after the Eucharist, “Is that all there is?”

Rather than blame yourself or decide that communion is meaningless, consider whether your worship space...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

As Christian Reformed congregations reclaim the importance of baptism, they’re making the sacrament multisensory and helping worshipers “live into” their baptisms.

The desire to make baptism memorable can result in families hiring a photographer, choosing schmaltzy music, and catering a...

January 12, 2010 0 2 comments
Resource, Article

The following is an emerging draft of all of the worship-related resources provided by the Christian Reformed Church and its agencies and educational institutions—and easy place to gain access to the audio files, bulletin covers, liturgies, videos, and publications that worship planners and...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Worship planners are called to a task that is part priestly and part prophetic. Worship planners are like priests because we shape the prayers of God’s people. We also have the holy task of being stewards of God’s Word. Worship planners are like prophets because we select the texts and themes...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments

Henry Nouwen once argued that the three greatest temptations for Christian leaders are to be a) relevant, b) spectacular, and c) powerful (In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Crossroads, 1987). 

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Churches are constantly navigating the copyright maze when they use music, other print resources, and videos. Each medium has slightly different laws regulating it. Here is some information to help you. If this still doesn’t answer your question, contact the publisher directly. The publisher’s...

January 11, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article


Just as the types of prayers will include a great deal of variety, so should the methods in which we pray represent a variety. Perhaps if we suggest an admittedly incomplete listing of some different methods, it will stimulate your ideas, discussions, and planning.


January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

In the interest of making Scripture reading in worship more interesting, noteworthy, and formative, we offer some suggestions for worship planners to consider.

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

At its best, intergenerational worship begins with an understanding of worship rooted in scripture and informed by the wisdom of believers in all times and places, and then asks how each member of the body of Christ can participate actively, fully, consciously in that (which is quite different...

January 7, 2010 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

What is authentic worship? What makes it genuine, real or true? I recently posed this question to my students. They argued that worship is authentic when it is true:

true to their emotions,true to their knowledge level,true to their culture,true to their experience, andtrue to their language...
January 7, 2010 0 0 comments



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 www.worshipplanning.com. I don't know much about it other than I've seen their ads in Worship Leader magazine. Another is www.fqworship.com.

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: http://www.biblegateway.com/, 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?

I too had some concerns when our worship team suggested this type of format for the summer, but after trying it for the past two years I see that truly it is worship, afterall, worship is not defined by the seats we sit in,but the spirit we come with. Table seem to make the environment familiar to those unacustomed to a church setting and thus remove one barrier to true worship. All of the element of a traditional worship service are present, hymns, prayers, confessions, benedictions, sermons, and scripture, but what has changed is the seating. The early church was very familiar with interaction as those who gathered were expected to take their turn in reading the Word and offering their comments as with Jesus in the temple. I guess the only element that may be foreign to conventional worship is allowing coffee around the tables during the service, but it is amazing how this has been used as an illustration around communion (which is also served around the tables in NT fashion) and people now reflect on Christ's sacrifice not only while receiving the cup during communion, but while drinking coffee during worship and in their homes. I have had a number of worshippers tell me that they never realized that the common elements were given so they would always be in front of them to reminid them. This has given new meaning to even their home worship times.
So I guess that is my long way of saying that I have been convinced that worshipping around tables, fostering dialogue with the message and the Word and sharing in communion fellowship in this setting is truly worship in the truest sense. What started as a move for some practical reasons, has emerged as a theologically teachable moment and living illustration of NT worship.

posted in: Worship Vacation?

But is this really "worship" or some other type of gathering?

posted in: Worship Vacation?

At Hope Church for the past two summers, we have rearranged our sanctuary to include tables and invite everyone to grab a cup of coffee and a muffin and sit around tables for the service. At the end of the message, we have one or two questions that everyone is invited to share around their table and learn from one another. As well we have instructions for each person to commit to their own action plan for that week to implement the new learnings from that weeks service.
Rather than scale back in the Summer, we have intentionally ramped up the Summer services to use the more relaxed atmosphere to accomplish things that the more formal fall and winter services can't achieve. While we have no more people in attendance in the Summer we have found that visitors find it more inviting and easier to feel comfortable with the new settings as it is familiar.

posted in: Worship Vacation?

Yours is a great analogy. Even in older hymnals many of the songs are sung in diverse congregations with different rhythms and pronunciation of the same words.

I would have hoped that the author would have given either (1) a summary of new data that shows the increasing popularity of older worship songs ("hymns") among the youngest generations, or (2) a careful description of the essential differences between "hymns" and "choruses" accompanied by an argument for the value of the unique features of hymns. Unfortunately, the author offered neither and, as a consequence, seemed to have offended many who love newer worship songs.

Instead of carefully defined categories and thoughtful comparison, we read nearly meaningless arguments for hymns like the following:

[quote=Kevin Twit]Hymns tend to engage our imagination, intellect, and will together... While praise choruses do use imagery, they sometimes get stuck in clichés that no longer engage our imaginations....[/quote]

Really, an argument for hymns is: hymns "tend" to do x, "choruses" "sometimes" don't do x, therefore hymns are better? The problem is not unique to that bullet-point, either. The article is filled with generalizations about both "hymns" and "choruses" which claim far too much for hymns and far too little for "choruses."

The one argument that I could agree with in the article is that "hymns" (if we understand them as older worship songs) remind us that the church is bigger than ourselves and this generation. That's true. But it was too bad I had to read the whole article before I got to that one valid point at the bottom.

Since the Network is about the "nuts and bolts" of ministry, it would be far more helpful to read articles carefully describing different categories of songs (musical and textual) and their drawbacks, benefits, and best use. Or perhaps descriptions of different worship leadership practices (band-led, pastor-led, etc.) comparing them with what is effective and satisfies Biblical and confessional requirements. But this kind of weak article (both intellectually and practically) adds nothing to the conversation.

This article appears to be trying to ease tensions between people who advocate for different kinds of songs and styles. However, the author succeeds in ramping up the rhetoric by suggesting that people who don't like hymns are unformed, immature, thoughtless, heartless narcissists with no imagination.

Great article and I totally agree 100% with what is said.

But, I want to suggest that this can be given another point of view. Why do we have different congregations which sing different songs? It's because each one of us has a unique and independent voice. My wife and I may say the same phrase with the same words from the same sentence [word for word], but how we say it, the accents and tones we use differ tremendously. Even though we have the same feelings for the same statement, our voice differs.

This is the same for every congregation! Each one of us has an incredible voice that sings a tune of celebration to Christ our King: to deny that is to deny a gift that Christ has given each and every one of us.

It's a beautiful diversity to celebrate and a relevant tension to live within.

Disclaimer: I believe Borger would agree with me on this so don't think this is original on any level. I only felt called to point this out.

In fact, the hymn tradition has tremendous things to offer the emerging generations—things they are really longing for and that are frequently lacking in the praise and chorus music so often marketed as “college worship.”[/quote]

While some of this article makes sense, it really highlights a few institutionalized faulty assumptions. For instance, the references to Webber and Carroll's books are roughly 10 years old and my suspicion would be that, if the research was redone, the numbers would be different due to changes in the modern worship landscape and the decreasing prevalence of the Emergent movement.

Then, there's this:

Hymns offer a fuller emotional range of expression. Hymns help us work through emotions and they cover a wider range of emotions than many modern choruses do. Although we may associate hymns with a lack of emotion and modern choruses with emotional excess at times, careful study reveals that the emotional range touched on by modern choruses is rather narrow.

Come on! Talk about scratching my pet peeves. Can we all start playing nice and stop calling modern worship songs "choruses"? For Pete's sake.......its a title with an internalized slam: "these songs aren't even real songs, only choruses". 1980 was 30 years ago!

And while some hymns do "work through emotion and cover a wide range of emotions", there's plenty with pithy, irrelevant lines in hymns. The same is true of modern worship - while there are some that are pithy texts/tunes, many are unbelievable, for instance:

"Break my heart for what breaks Yours - everything I am for Your Kingdom's cause. Show me how to love like You have loved me." -Brooke Fraser's "Hosanna"

Not yet convinced? Try this one on:

[quote=jborger]Hymns teach us the rich theology we really need.[/quote]

Really? That's quite the unwarranted, back-handed slam on modern music. Should we start with the theology of "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" or "Beams of Heaven"? I love hymns....in fact, I love them a lot, but let's not get into a war of "my-songs'-theology-is-better-than-yours".

To me, the real question is this: why is modern worship so often the victim of under-handed, poorly-justified slams and why are we spending so much energy trying to convince people that "hymns are making a comeback" when we could simply be trying to resource where the Church is feeling the Spirit move? And why is it coming from our denominational leaders? (http://www.crcna.org/news.cfm?newsid=1805&section=1) Call me sensitive, but I'm offended by this. We on the modern side are happy to acknowledge the legitimacy of traditional worship, but it doesn't seem to be true in reverse......so what's with the agenda-pushing?

At our last Cruise, Christians gathered for a service as well as a daily bible study together. We never asked each other's church background but had a good discussion and found unity in Christ.

At Synod, we wondered sometimes what keeps us together as CRC family, but that question sometimes means; what keeps us from worshiping with other Christians??

Favorites: 'Precious Lord, take my hand...' re: My supplication to acknowledge my need for God to be in my life.
'Just a Closer Walk With Thee' re: Walking with Jesus gives me peace.

The group of songs categorized as "Dr. Watts" re: they are call and response songs

My little girl Yana has been through a number of surgeries to treat a significant heart defect. A long road full of struggle for all of us. As we walked this road as a family, there were a few songs that resonated with us as heart songs.

"Be still and know that I am God." - simple and profound message. Especially the second verse: "I am the Lord that healeth thee."

Here are a few hymns that drifted to the surface in these times:
"Great is thy Faithfulness."
"When Peace like a River"
"My Jesus I love thee"
My wife and I have both noted how hymns are often the first songs that come to mind in times of trouble.

Some more contemporary songs that resonate deeply with me:
Be Unto your name
The River
Ancient Words
How Deep the Father's Love for Us
Let it be said of us
My heart is filled with Thankfulness
Blessed Be Your Name
How Great is Your Love oh Lord (No eye had seen)
For the Lord is Good
Here I Am, Lord

I think most of these songs will end up being "canonized." Or at least they will be in my heartsongs list.

And of course there are the joy songs... More upbeat drum music, generally. Days of Elijah, Not be Shaken, the list goes on for a while.

I think many of us look at the forms as guidelines that point you to the key components that should be included.

Since they are not that personal in nature and somewhat generic, I think it's important to add some creativity to the mix.
I've often told Sunday School teachers that the curriculum are guidelines not scripture that must be molded to their setting and their students. And a teacher knows their students better than the people who developed the curriculum.

Be pragmatic in your approach, but keep the central points.
I too like the Worship Source book to help with the creative process.

Mine is "Let All Things Now Living." The first time I heard it was at a funeral of a young man, sung there because it was his favorite. I thought the words and images were beautiful and I memorized the first verse.

I love the comfort of "who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us, who guides us and leads to the end of our days." The image of "a pillar of fire shining forth in the night, 'til shadows have vanished and forward we travel from light into light" fills me with hope. I was afraid of the dark as a kid and liked the image of that pillar of fire the Israelites followed, and I imagine myself going from one lily pad of light to another.

I sang this song to my kids as a lullaby, and now that they're grown, it is often the memory of their little baby selves that comes to my mind as I sing it. When my oldest went to Calvin College, at the orientation service for parents, Chaplain Cooper read a letter from his daughter and then we sang, you guessed it, "Let All Things Now Living." Men & women alike were sobbing. :)

The lilting tune is a joy. When I led evening praise time years ago, I'd go through the hymnal looking for Welsh tunes because I knew I'd like them. And the descant soars above the song "triumphantly," as in the first verse.

I'd love hearing about others' heart songs.

What a great idea! Hey, let's share a few here, too!

Everyone....what's one of your 'heart songs' and why?

Our congregation is doing a summer sermon series called "Heart songs of God's People." We invited members of the congregation to submit to a pastor their favorite worship song and why (the "why" being the important part). We are asking everyone who submitted to share on a Sunday morning why a song is their "heart song." This is venue for members to give a theological reflection or a personal testimony. Then the sermon will be on a Bible passage that the song references. We are doing this partly because Sept-May we have two morning services, one traditional, one contemporary, and we would like to pull these groups together rather than having effectively two separate congregations. We hope that this will shift the emphasis away from style and towards God.

The reason I mention this in this thread is because I don't think it is in our best interest to attempt to create a "core set." People have their "heart songs", the songs of their old age, for many different reasons. I think worship leaders and pastors have a responsibility to find out what they are. I realize that this makes the possibilities pretty endless, but I think the diversity can be helpful and enjoyable for the church.

We just baptized our daughter this past Sunday (June 20, 2010) and incorporated many of these ideas to make it a memorable and meaningful event. Our church has not always treated baptism with the thoughtfulness it deserved, so we suggested some things to our worship coordinators that would help us move forward in that. I sewed a special banner for the occasion (using a design I found in Reformed Worship magazine as inspiration), we chose special hymns, had everyone who witnessed the baptism sign a photograph of our daughter as a way to affirm their part of the baptismal vows, and used a pitcher that had been given to my husban and I as a wedding gift to pour her baptismal water (some of which came from the Jordan River) into the font. It turned out to be a lovely service, and I heard lots of people say it was the nicest baptism our church has celebrated.

Details are on my blog: http://growingupsharp.blogspot.com/2010/06/from-generation-to-generation...

Amen to both above comments!

Be creative--don't continue with .. "form or superstition" mentioned in one of the [older] forms.

How exciting, Tom! I would utilize all of these languages in the reading of scripture and in prayers. I would also have songs from all of those backgrounds represented--with the appropriate instruments if possible. A song such as "God is So Good" can be sung in a variety of languages to unite all cultures. I'd encourage you to think global, and enjoy the opportunity of worshiping with so many different "nations."

Hey Ken......we do monthly meetings (conversational, but also evaluative) with all our main ministry leaders, so this may have to be tweaked some, but here's what we use (from our Worship Leader job description):

Major Points of Accountability:
1. Personal spiritual growth
2. Spiritual growth of team members
3. Commitment to excellence
a. Worship Experience Flow
b. Preparation/Communication
c. Rehearsals
d. Execution
e. Back-End Evaluation/Debreifing
4. Cultivating a creative environment
5. Marked improvement in team over time

Points for Monthly Conversation
1. Personal spiritual development
2. Spiritual development of team members
3. Professional/Social development of team atmosphere
a. How are you holding team members accountable – are there accountability issues?
4. What worked well this past month?
5. What did not work well during this past month?
6. What are the team’s overall strengths and growing edges? Have those changed this month?
7. Song Selection
a. Appropriate use of repetition (using songs often enough but not too often; new songs)
b. Signature Songs (songs only your team does to the point of memorization)
c. Pork Barrel (are you using your songs or forcing yourself to create new)
d. Use of different worship music eras (hymns, 80’s/90’s songs, 00’s songs)
e. Emotional balance (fast-paced, celebrative songs vs. slower, worshipful, contemplative songs)
f. Balance with the global Church (how many top 25 CCLI songs are you/we using?)
g. How does your song selection match our church's mission/vision/core values?
8. Personal creative growth
a. What new/different worship music have you been listening to?
b. What non-Christian music/genres have you been listening to?
c. What one new worship leader “trick” would you like to try this month?
d. Have you learned anything new musically this month?
e. Handling and processing any praise/critique from the last month.
9. Collaboration
a. Communicate series themes for upcoming months
b. Keeping tech team members up to date and working closely alongside
c. How well and how far in advance are you communicating playlist/order to your team?
10. Prayer for one another

I've been a part of both traditions - reading a form and extemporaneous speaking through the sacraments. I see value in both, but I think in each it was the delivery that created a worshipful moment or a dull going-through-the-motions event. My congregation had been using forms until recently. In the last few years, I enjoyed putting forms together from the Hymnal or The Worship Sourcebook to add some variety to the sacrament liturgy by including ancient words (e.g. the sursum corda), weaving in refrains or other songs, or adding other spoken parts by the congregation. Now, even though forms are rarely used, the theology of the sacrament is still covered, the promises of God are still recalled, and quite frankly, it doesn't take as long.

The church I'm on staff at has a very vibrant orphan/adoption ministry (www.hope127.com). On Mother's and Father's Day, instead of handing out flowers or trinkets that are forgotten by the next day... we take the money we would have spent on those things and direct it straight to that ministry by way of a presentation of a large cardboard check. We share to the congregation that this money is better spent to enabling families to adopt children that might not ever feel the love of a mother or father. It helps us take a 'Hallmark" holiday and refocus it into a ministry opportunity.

"Holy Spirit" by Keith and Kristyn Getty (© 2006 Thankyou music/Adm. by worshiptogether.com songs) is one of my favorites. I found it for use at Pentecost a couple of years ago, and now use it throughout the year. We also sing "Holy Spirit, Reign Down" by Russell Fragar (© 1997 Russell Fragar/Hillsongs Publishing). This one has more of a gospel feel. Hope this helps!

In our church, we recognize the day with prayers for mothers/fathers, and also for mother and father figures. We are also sensitive to those who cannot have children, so we pray for them as well. We generally give a small gift (bookmark, pen, keychain...) to ALL women or men on their respective days, recognizing that we have all promised at the time of baptism to nurture the children of our church.


I agree with Chad. And coming from a personal stand that my wife and I will not have children of our own is a difficult thing to observe on these days. So to pray for mothers and fathers during a prayer or the thought of how important all adults are to children during a children's message is one way to present it. But to theme your service around Mother's Day and Father's Day would be celebrating "st. halmark".

I agree that there is a disconnect between the desire to have a common "core set" across the denomination and the reality of how most congregations find songs to sing. We just don't all use the same, single source anymore.

It seems to me (but I might be wrong about this) that one of the unfortunate consequences of the Gray Hymnal was a decline in singing the Psalms because many of the tunes were unfamiliar and difficult. I would imagine that many people who spent much of their lives with other Psalters have Psalms as many of the songs they remember into old age. But I, having sung mostly out of the Gray, know very few. That's too bad, and I hope the new hymnal includes many singable, memorable songs using Biblical texts so that some of what we cherish into old age is scripture.

Maybe we won't be able to have a unified effort across the denomination, but in each of our congregations we should work to sing Biblical texts often so that these become our life-long favorites. I also make a point of saying, "This song is based on _________," whenever we're about to sing a song from scripture so that hopefully people begin to remember that "Create In Me A Clean Heart" comes from Psalm 51, for example.

Hi Angela,
This can be a delicate topic. Many worship planners and pastors believe Hallmark & national holiday celebrations (Mother's/Father's Day, Valentine's, 4th of July, Labor/Memorial Days, etc) do not really belong in worship, and for very good reasons theologically and pastorally. God transcends national and international borders so our worship should reflect that; some congregants may have histories of abuse by their fathers and mothers, or there are worshipers who do not have children for what may be from painful circumstances. Others believe that ignoring these holidays altogether, especially when they fall on a Sunday, disconnects the church from the culture around them, thus making them irrelevant. I understand this point to an extent. As for simple things: you could include prayers of thanksgiving for mothers/fathers within the context of a larger prayer, or a simple "Happy Mother's/Father's Day" along with other pastorally sensitive words at the welcome would be fitting. For a greater challenge, the pastor could use Mother's Day as a teaching moment to explore the characteristics of God that are like a mother (similarly, this is often done at Father's Day).

I just look at it this way, in worship God is the audience we are the participants. As covenant people we show our love to God and reflect how much we do to those "outside" who may also be there. In the process, God "inhabits the praises of his people" and his Spirit moves through the worship experience.

Mark, in response to your tangent about why we don't think the summary of the commandments applies to songs, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that worship music, much less worship itself, should conform to that commandment. Communal worship is usually understood to be commanded by the first table of the law, which is summarized by the first half of what Jesus said -- love God -- not by the whole summary. Furthermore, the pattern for worship is usually derived from acts of covenant renewal found in places like the book of Deuteronomy or Joshua 24. Certainly our primary obligation in worship is to love God, but if worship is primarily covenant renewal, it wouldn't seem right to put the interests of those outside the covenant ahead of those inside. Obviously we shouldn't worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to outsiders, but that doesn't mean that we should therefore worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to those inside for the sake of those outside.

Given the nature of the biblical commands and models for worship, I am inclined to think that perhaps our worship priorities are, in fact, first to God, then to those in the covenant, and only third to those outside. Certainly this still means that the interests you have as an individual never come before the interests of others in the church in worship. And certainly the pattern would apply only to communal worship and not to other aspects of life as the body of Christ. But perhaps I'm missing something in this argument.

[quote=Brian Kuyper] I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? [/quote]

Hey Brian......good to welcome a another Dordt/CalvinSem grad to the discussion.

I won't try to overwhelm you with info like most of my posts, but for the purpose of this discussion, we've been talking musically in these terms:

1. Traditional (hymnody)
2. Contemporary (Gaithers-->Michael W. Smith)
3. Modern (Tomlin, Hillsong to current)
4. Neo-Traditional & world (see the Green Hymnal)

The #2/#3 difference is an important one, though often misunderstood. Musically, it was the shift from keys-led to rhythm/guitar-driven and yet became more complex in structure (ie, a full band was more necessary than before). Lyrically, it also ushered in a new standard for quality in lyrics and became much more justice and missionally-oriented, IMHO).

I've got an entire blog post on that here:

You can see much more than you probably want in our other discussion: http://bit.ly/9ISH7w


Normally I dont respond to things like this, but this caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One being the fact that as I read, I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? In the church I am currently serving, we have a praise band that leads worship once every three weeks. The lady who helps me plan the worship service is very intentional about trying to keep a balance with hymns and "Modern" songs, because of the local setting we are in. But the "style" of this praise band is unique in my opinion, but does it make it more or less "modern?"

I have had the opportunity in my life to be a part of a lot of different congregations, mainly CRC. But I have was raised in Suburban Los Angeles, I went to school at Dordt College and Calvin Seminary. I married a Canadian from Ontario, interned in Ontario, and now serve in Southern Alberta. As I have read above, there is so much diversity all across the board when it comes to worship. Each congregation finds its way of "doing" worship. I feel as long as it is genuine and from the heart it is giving praise and glory to the Father. It doesnt have to be "perfect" or sound exactly like Hillsong.

Another reason this intrigues me is because my wife is on the committee as well. She has a wealth of music and theological training and I think that is an asset, along with her background of living in different areas as well.

One thing we have to realize is that yes, there is a higher percentage (i dont know the number myself) of churches who do use hymnals. The church I serve has the blue and the gray! There is a lot of information available online yes, maybe we dont utilize the right websites, but I find that when you do a search for a song for guitar chords lets say, or even just the lyrics, there can be a number of versions. For example on Good Friday we were going to put the words up on the screen for "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" as well as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." There wasnt just one set of lyrics for these songs. It was easier for me to type them in from the hymn book.

I myself have struggled with the question why do we need one when a lot of churches use the Screen. But, as April said earlier, when serving in a rural church, it is very useful. I think that having a hymn book that gives us a set of "core" songs will be helpful in the long run.