Feb 10, 2008

Do hymnals affect our worship?

Next time you are at church, try to take special notice of what you do during the music. Are you holding a hymnal? Are your hands lifted up in praise? Do you stare at the instrumentalists, or at the song leader? Perhaps you simply stare at the hymnal or overhead, or maybe at the other church members? Maybe there is that one special someone you watch each week, and think: “I wish I was as free to worship as them”; or “Why can’t they just honor God with their voice? Why do they have to raise their hands and hop around like that? Who are they trying to impress?”

Have you ever noticed that we really didn’t have so many problems with singing in church back when everyone used hymnals? According to a simple Google search, the first dedicated hymnals started showing up in the ninth century. Prior to this hymns were collected in the back of other books; they obviously deserved their own special section, just like the Psalms are their own special book in the Bible. Hymnals became the predominant collection of spiritual songs among nearly every denomination of Protestantism. The only things that differentiated were the actual hymns as well as how they were performed.

In many modern churches, the congregation has ditched the hymnal for the overhead. Instead of bending your head to read from a book, you are now encouraged to look above the worship leader or group in order to read the lyrics. This has encouraged more music leaders to take chances on newer songs, as well as providing a sort of uniformity across multiple churches. But what has this simple 45 degree change done for our modern church goer? It has freed their hands.

1Ti 2:8 “So wherever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”


Does lifting your hands in worship draw you closer to God? The Bible really doesn’t say one way or the other. There are many who have attempted to twist Scripture to prove either argument, that it is either encouraged or discouraged to lift your hands while singing. However, using the Bible to prove whether you should or should not do it can be a tricky thing. The Bible also shows characters such as David dancing and shouting before the Lord, and while there are many churches that frown upon such outward displays of emotion, not once did God rebuke them for doing it. Consequently we have many churches today that encourage such outward displays of joy in God.

But this brings us back to the original question. What do you do during the singing section of your church service? Do you think more people will be involved with the hymns and songs if they do not have a hymnal in their hands? Will it encourage people to show more emotion, to perhaps sing with a smile on their face? Or do we only honor God by providing a worthy performance with our voices?

Next church service, why not try singing without your hymnal. For all you know, it might be a great blessing to you not to use one. Perhaps you could organize a service where everyone already knows all the songs that will be sung, even if you can only sing choruses. It is possible that if more people let go of their hymnals and free their hands in worship churches will start to see a new life and passion that wasn’t there before.

It’s worth a try. It might bring a new spiritual life and revival to your church.

4 comments:

The Peterson Posse said...

Very interesting read Stu! =)

Anonymous said...
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Airtightnoodle said...

Amen, Stu. I grew up in a very conservative church where hymnals were used. I knew the entire service by heart, and by taking catechism classes as a teen, I knew what each part was for. I understand completely why they did things the way they did. However, it did not have much meaning for me on a personal level. I was basically just reciting everything every Sunday without much personal reflection. I now attend a non-denominational church that is much more "liberal" in its worship, you could say. In fact, to put it bluntly, my church's music team is flat-out AWESOME. They honestly do better on some of the popular songs than the original artists themselves. But I digress. If one is comfortable with a hymnal and feels free to worship God in a manner pleasing to Him by using one, then so be it. But if you feel like something is lacking from your worship, then try it without the hymnal. No harm in trying, right?

Stuart B said...

Exactly. I was just suggesting that leaving the hymnal behind might allow people to get more involved physically in worship, leading to a deeper worship experience and prayer before God.

Same with me. Hymnals up until I was about 20.