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Balanced worship touted at LifeWay conf.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Worship services that are more balanced and theologically focused — supplanting years of conflict over worship styles — were envisioned by music ministers, worship leaders and lay musicians at a worship leadership conference sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The unified tone was set when the conference’s first worship service encompassed traditional hymns, contemporary worship songs and gospel music, all from the new 2008 Baptist Hymnal unveiled at the June 2-6 gathering at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. Each song in the hymnal underwent a rigorous evaluation process to ensure theological soundness and lasting endurance.

Modern hymn writer Keith Getty, who helped pen the worship song “In Christ Alone,” summed up the criteria for a good hymn with two points: “We have to write songs that teach great truths of the Bible and that every generation can sing together.”

Sound theology was the critical factor for seeking harmony on style and song content in selecting the 674 entries in the new Baptist Hymnal, said Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We are taking the Word of God and putting it in the hands of people and a word of praise in their mouths,” Harland said.

“We are going to take this ground back, folks -– this division of new songs and old choruses,” he said. “When we get past style and making decisions based only on that, we can have unity.”

The LifeWay Worship Project has produced three key tools for local churches: the Baptist Hymnal, a Worship Hymnal and digital resources offered through LifeWayWorship.com.

Additional print resources include the large print hymnal editions, pulpit editions, piano and organ editions, the singers edition unbound, and the resource and planning edition which contains lyrics for all of the 975 titles in the LifeWay Worship Project. Meanwhile, Web-based planning tools are offered through LifeWayWorship.com.

Patrick Watts from LifeWay Worship, who introduced the Worship Project to conference attendees, explained how the tools were created to meet the needs of every type of church music ministry, from printed hymnals and worship charts for “paper and pen planners” to digital downloads and PowerPoint backgrounds or others.

“Every ministry is unique and every ministry is going to need a unique mix of these resources,” Watts said.

Jonathan Riggs of LifeWay Worship introduced the videos and the basic and advanced worship media provided through the Worship Project. “Having lead sheets and worship charts on CD-ROM gives churches a choice of whether they want to have the print or PDF edition,” Riggs said. “We wanted to provide solutions for churches no matter where they are on the spectrum of technology.”

LifeWay Worship also has made available accompaniment tracks for all songs in the hymnal, with additional songs online at LifeWayWorship.com.

“The number one complaint we heard from worship leaders is that they don’t have enough musicians,” Riggs said. “So we created accompaniment tracks for all 975 titles. This is helpful for small churches or even missionaries serving overseas.”

Greg Nelson, songwriter and major contributor to the Worship Project, emphasized the spiritual significance of the new hymnal by sharing a story of a musician who was drawn back to Christ during the recording of an accompaniment track.

“I don’t think this is about the new technology, but it’s about this one person who God is changing his life,” Nelson said. “People don’t just hear the words and music, but they are changed and that is essential.”

Conference seminars provided technical training for orchestra musicians; keyboard, organ and piano players; drummers; praise team vocalists; audio and visual teams; and children and youth worship leaders.

Wayne Barber, pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, N.M., led seminars on worship and God’s love and how they are reflected in Scripture yet are in conflict with the world. He also taught during the daily worship services about worship being a lifestyle, not an event.

“If there is no walk, there is no worship,” Barber said. “If there is no obedience, there is no worship. The more you are with the Lord, the more you want to worship.”

Music minister James Whitmire, who served at the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church for more than 40 years, shared wisdom about building a music ministry in today’s culture, while younger worship leader Dan Odle from Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., spoke about leading balanced worship services with a blend of traditional and contemporary elements. His seminar “What’s Re-CHOIRed” focused on the relevance of a church choir in today’s culture.

“The culture’s changing and it will be more challenging to grow a choir,” Odle said. “But there is value to having a large group leading worship.”

In addition to corporate worship each day, every evening ended with a performance featuring a multitude of acts with traditional and non-traditional elements.
Jenny Rice is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information about the LifeWay Worship Project or the new Baptist Hymnal, visit LifeWayWorship.com.

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  • Jenny Rice