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Hey Josh.....

I'll answer 2 questions I heard you pose.......yes, I do use series (religiously?). We put quite a bit into each series (set design, video production, graphic design, website design, etc.) so doing anything less than 5 weeks gets my creative team ticked due to the pure workload requirements. Also, our people tend to show up every 2-3 weeks, so most only get 3-5 messages out of the series, anyway.......I usually go 5-7.  I'd say 7 is where I/they lose interest. I also alternate between topical and book-driven series (Ruth, Jude, Amos, etc.).

In reference to letting the congregation pick, they LOVE what we're doing right now. We're calling at "interactive" series - we've lined the sanctuary with whiteboards and I have voluntarily committed to only speaking on the questions they pose with answers from Scripture. Its led us into lots of discussions of sometimes-difficult topics like the problem of evil and homosexuality, etc.

I would defintely say that series are the way to go.....

Here's our 2 Advent setlists so far........I'd say the border on they creatively insane (makes me love our worship leaders :)):

Nov. 28 Setlist:

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog (Three Dog Night)

Joy to the World (Traditional)

Jesus Messiah (Chris Tomlin)

O Holy Night (Traditional with violin solo)

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Jars of Clay version)

How Great is Our God (chorus/bridge only)


Dec. 5 Setlist:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (dark, minor, guitar-driven)

All Who Are Thirsty (Vineyard)

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (Chris Tomlin)

The Glory of It All (David Crowder)

O Little Town of Bethlehem (traditional with lead guitar feature)


Advent is always a hard time for churches with full bands because musicians STRONGLY DISLIKE traditional Christmas carols, for whatever reason (they claim boredom).  Every season, I seem to lose 1-3 musicians during Advent.  This year, I've already lost 2.  We really tried to incorporate some of our regular music that has Christmas overtones (All Who Are Thirsty is a great example with its chorus, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come").  Its a tricky business and a great challenge for our young worship leaders - but I think its exciting, too, to give them the challenge of picking great Christmas music AND challenging our musicians.

Hey Nick.....

I often think that in most things in ministry, when our numbers drop or fluctuate highly, we need to look at ourselves first. One of the key elements in growing churches is a vibrant children's ministry. Geoff Surratt, in his GREAT book "10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing" says that our aim should be to make the hour we have with the kids "the best hour of their week". If you do that, I think kids will come. If not, it begs the question, "How do we get there." I tend to think we let ourselves off the hook a little too easily in maintaining high levels of quality and substance in our children's ministries because they are people who aren't on councils and don't have as large of a voice as other age segments of our population.

To that end, we start with a "no excuses" policy for quality - rather than see ceilings, we look for innovative ways to get our intended result. Also, resource and staff your children's ministry for the size you WANT it to be. If you resource and staff your ministry for 5-10 kids, that's the most you'll ever get. We learned that the hard way when we immediately doubled our attendance and weren't ready to deal with it from a resources/staffing standpoint. Finally, identify some churches who do children's ministry REALLY well in your community - likely young, modern-style churches, even plants. Send your volunteers there for a Sunday or two. Most churches will let you do this and pick their brains for innovative and creative ideas to hit those high quality of programming levels that make that hour "the best of the kids' week".

Okay, y'all lured me back into the conversation - good points by all above.

It seems to me that there some "hymnal philosophical elephants" in the room and I'd like to point them can see my actual position below.

1. In some ways, I really feel for Faith Alive/CICW here. Whether or not the really WANT to produce this hymnal, Synod asked them to do it. The other angle is that they are both publishing/resourcing agencies who, to varying degrees, are supported by what they SELL. Therefore, even with the best intentions, there is a financial/marketability dimension to this discussion. Quite frankly, they know some of us won't own this hymnal or purchase it for our churches, regardless of how good it is - so why try to please us? (You can't please everyone, right.)

2. On the other hand, one visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. That's not a bad thing - they're good at what they actually do, except for the fact that it becomes the de facto position for our denomination and it comes to a head on things like a denominational hymnal. Another good example is "Reformed Worship" magazine - which some might see as a descriptive source for how Reformed folks handle worship....when in fact, it only represents a segment. It has to do with representation......I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs (I'm talking more Hillsong and Tomlin here than Shine Jesus Shine).

3. While the idea of a "core collection" is nice, its probably any more not feasible any more than a multi-denominational confession is. At my last church, which was in a different denomination, they got mad because I wasn't playing "old hymns". I was, in fact, playing old hymns....they just weren't the hymns that were part of their core. Over the next 50 years, as churches become less denominational and more congregational or united by common theological/practical affiliations (WCA, Acts 29, etc.), the local expression becomes more important....I think we're already past that tipping point in most places outside West Michigan. (Not to mention, the Grey Hymnal substituted verses and word changes that made them dissimilar to the "core collection", anyway).

4. Allen's point about "the rubber hitting the road" is a great one. No matter the good intentions of the hymnal publishers, we know from experience that, at the local level, some organist/pianist will refuse to play a supportive role in the band as the church progresses in their worship expression and will use a denominational hymnal as THE excuse to do so. "Look", she'll say, "I'm just playing the notes that are in the hymnal the way I always have. If it was meant to be led by a guitar or have drums, it would say that." (If you really don't believe me, go to the Grey Hymnal and find the notations saying "guitar and piano should not sound together".) Putting modern worship music, particularly when there is a refusal to represent it in its long-form, does an injustice to the genre and FUELS the worship wars more than quelling them. It also drives a deeper divide between "hymnal" churches and "non-hymnal" churches, rather than letting us learn from eachother in a constructive environment.

I should say I'm not against publishing a hymnal - Faith Alive and CICW can do whatever they want. What I am against is labeling it a DENOMINATIONAL hymnal when there's been precious little evidence that the denominational de facto leadership on worship have understood the genre change or trying to resource the modern worship element of that denomination. Just publish a book of hymns and "world music" for the churches who actually want to buy it - its good business sense and it isn't as off-putting to us on the other side. That, if it had significant differences from my other 15 hymnals and, I'd probably buy to have on my shelf as a resource.

By the way, we're still calling this a "HYMNal".........?

Hey Chad....

Thanks for the comments, its good to have folks like you and Joyce to give actual information to our discussions :).

I wasn't trying to bemoan CICW/Symposium for what they do......they do what they do well....perhaps the bigger problem is that we lack a strong leaders on the other end of the spectrum.....something like a modern-worship-CICW, be it a supplementary organization or whatever, within the CRC's who want to move from traditional towards something more modern are left without many good Reformed options.

Maybe those of us who are doing it need to create something of the sort? I'd love to have a regional or national gathering of CRC/RCA churches specifically targeted at a more band-based approach to worship. Greg Scheer and Paul Ryan led a workshop like that at Redeemer a few years back that was fairly well done, but imagine a whole "modern" Symposium.....that would be great fun for us modern worship junkies and be a great resource for congregations that are longing for it. I'm not sure trying to work that into the current Symposium is achievable without major concessions from both sides.

I think we probably will disagree about the hymnal however, be it philosophically or practically in nature - anything hymn-related I can usually find easily online or figure out the usually-easy chord progression so I just don't see the need locally. But like I said....if Faith Alive can make net profit on it, go for it. However, I also hear what Zach was saying....give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish.....

Mark Hilbelink on April 22, 2010

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[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:


Love it! Even if it doesn't result in any efficiency action (ie, combining some things), the conversation will bless us greatly, I anticipate.

Hey Jeff......great thoughts/questions. We're facing the reality in our church that my generation (20-30-somethings) aren't really very interested in membership at all. They're not uncommitted - in fact they are some of the most committed people in our church - they just don't feel it necessary to work towards membership and if I didn't think it was a requirement to work there, I'm not sure I would either, so its tough to blame them! I think part of it stems from a generational perspective that places heavy emphasis on authenticity - and we grew up watching some church "members" not act in a very authentically Christian way without any we wonder where the value is.

Then this question arises....can only members be leaders (ie, elders, deacons, ministry area leaders). If so, the leadership pool we have to select from is necessarily older and non-representative of our church as a whole (especially when we're passing up great up-and-coming leaders due to their membership beliefs/practices).

...just another wrinkle.

I would tend to agree if I hadn't visited and been a part of congregations that operate perfectly fine without membership - still holding eachother to accountability and still differentiating between those who were part of the committed body and those who are less so. There are ways to do church discipline and honor articles 28, 32 & Q&A 54, I believe, without paper membership - many of us are already playing on that field out of necessity, if not principle.

At a different time in my life, it might have been a thing that I triumphed, as well, but I have trouble doing so when there's no real Scriptural precedence for this sort of thing. I'm all for being cross-cultural, but is paper membership really an area of the Church that we feel like we should be expending large amounts of energy to "preserve" when the Church is eroding in so many other areas? I'm not sure its realistic, necessary or even Biblical.

Mark Hilbelink on October 4, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hey Rebecca....

It was experimental and fun! You can get a flavor for the conversation here:

The short answer to your other question is that the questions come from YOU! And anyone else who asks them! Questions can be submitted via Twitter hashtag #yalthangout. Audience is whoever shows up - I'd say our audience is about 50% young adults and 50% young adult influencers (or wanna-be influencers!). So whichever you are, join us!

The next one is coming up on October 17 with Chris Mitchell from New England Chapel. Chris is great and left a lot of questions on the table at re:kindle this summer, so we're really excited.

Mark Hilbelink on September 20, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I like Wendy's line of thinking here. Maybe the issue is more systemic than we want to give it credit for. Could it be that the unfortunate division of word and deed at a denominational level is indicative of the division of word and deed in many CRC congregations. While I think this is a necessary discussion at the CRWRC level, I think its simply pointing out the lack of smoke instead of trying to do the hard work of igniting our local congregations towards missional word/deed ministry that impacts our communities.  Healthy denominational ministries with balanced word/deed dynamics flow out of healthy congregations with balanced word/deed dynamics. Many of our churches are pretty good at talking and putting money in plates but not at seeking the shalom of their cities - that's the bigger issue.

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