Sunday, August 16, 2009

Michael Spencer - The Internet Monk; Worship Toolbox.

Rev. Spencer has a nice article in his "Evangelical Liturgy" Series.  "The Toolbox" explores the necessary tools for "giving distinctive evangelical content, flavor and boundaries to the worship service."  Michael's perspective is distinctively "evangelical" and not everything fits our Lutheran perspective, he gives some nice thoughts to contemplate.  Here's his section on "the Hymnal."  (Emphasis mine)

2. The Hymnal. I know, here we go.

The hymnal is a crucially important evangelical worship resource. While it can be supplemented, it should never be replaced. The education of a congregation to use and appreciate the resources in a hymnal will be the single post ecumenically broad, historically deep and theologically enriching experience most church members will have. There is more diversity, tradition, theology, church history and content in a good hymnal than almost any single book that you can put in the hands of a congregation. The hymnal represents and captures the journey of the church throughout history, and joins the worshiping congregation to the church around the world and throughout all time.

We are nothing short of idiots for getting rid of them, and I choose that word carefully. Who in the world decided that we would throw out two thousands years of worship because it didn’t fit in with our current plan to sound like the secular music of the last 40 years? Good grief, what a demolition job this has been. I know a lot of young people “like” the new music, but we have a responsibility to those who came before us, not to prefer or like what they did as much as they did, but to use it with respect and honor for the value that is in it. Handing the entire musical and lyrical heritage of two millenia of Christianity over to a “worship leader” to be eradicated in favor of contemporary music only is insane.

As a child, I spent hours in the hymnal during church. I learned vast amounts. Had the pastors and worship leaders used the resources of the hymnal wisely, it would have been even more enriching for me.

I want to commend the Lutheran Service book for putting the complete hymnal and ALL corporate and individual worship resources together. Having that hymnal in your hands- a tactile experience- is a significant part of worship we’ve underestimated. Use new music. Have the band from time to time. Project away. But the church of the past 2000 years is in that hymanl. In fact, we need more historically and culturally diverse hymnals, not more music for evangelical white people.

Hymnals vary widely in every way. Choose carefully and be forgiving of the inevitable flaws. The current 2008 SBC hymnal is a project involving both book and projection resources coordinated together. This is surely the direction of the future and holds real promise for ending the ridiculous war on hymns that evangelicals have perpetrated. We ought to hang our heads that we have become a generation more concerned that our children know the latest Hillsongs’ piece- which is fine and good- but that they NOT know the top 100 hymns in Christian history! Just reading the lyrics of Christmas carols is a theological feast.

For many evangelicals, the hymnal is the closest thing to a book of common prayer and worship resources they will have. Hymnals should be chosen carefully so they can be used t include calls to worship, litanies, creeds, etc. Keep making great hymnals out there, somebody! We need them.

Look at Bob Kauflin. Look at Indelible Grace. Look at good, blended worship at Piper’s church and conferences. Get a grip evangelicals!

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