NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Singing is an integral part of a church service, but the hymns and worship songs are much more than words and music. They are teaching tools that help a group of believers grow in their relationship with Christ and His church.
With this in mind, LifeWay Worship, the music area of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, gathered a group of theologians on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, on Oct. 1 to begin a theological review of songs to be included in the 2008 Baptist Hymnal.
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, said the group will be looking at every song currently selected for the new Baptist Hymnal, making certain each one is doctrinally and theologically sound.
“We began our look at the hymns and songs with the new additions to the Baptist Hymnal,” Harland said. “The new hymnal will have about 650 songs included, and about 300 of these songs will be new ones to our hymnal. Of these 300, about 200 have been published in other hymnals and about 100 are brand-new hymns and songs that haven’t been published in any hymnal before.”
Because the theology of the hymns and songs is so critical, the group was deliberately made up of theologians and musician/theologians.
Jon Duncan, state music director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, served as committee leader of the summit.
Other participants were Ron Owen, speaker/author/songwriter/musician, Bella Vista, Ark.; Kenneth Barker, editor of the NIV Study Bible, Lewisville, Texas; Stephen Johnson, dean of the school of music at Southwestern Seminary; David Nelson, vice president for academic administration, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; T.W. Hunt, author and retired professor of music and missions at Southwestern Seminary, Spring, Texas; Brent Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Church, Carrollton, Texas; and Alan Day, pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond, Okla. Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Naples, Fla., was unable to attend the meeting but will be working as a part of the 12-member group.
Representing LifeWay at the summit were Harland; Terry Terry, manager of LifeWay Worship publishing and operations; and Greg Nelson, Worship Project creative director.
The Baptist Hymnal is one part of The Worship Project, a new set of resources for worship leaders being developed by LifeWay. The goal is to meet the worship needs of churches by coupling the updated hymnal with modern technology. The endeavor consists of two components, the first being a downloadable audio hymn and worship song repository from which the updated hardbound Baptist Hymnal will be drawn. The second part will be a worship planner available through an online portal at www.lifewayworship.com.
During the coming months, Harland said the summit participants will go over the songs scheduled to be in the Baptist Hymnal, checking each one verse by verse to ensure its doctrine and theological soundness.
Each song’s suitability is based on these questions:
— Does the hymn speak biblically of God?
— Is it God-honoring?
— Does the hymn present a biblical view of man?
— Does the song help us to cover the depth and breadth of our theology?
— Does the hymn call us to true discipleship, service, repentance, witness, missions and devotion?
— Does the hymn speak biblically of salvation?
— Does it engage the whole person – allowing a person to express his deepest feelings?
— Does the hymn emphasize that Christ is the Christian’s Lord, Master and King? (the idea of total submission)
— Does the hymn present an Americanized/Westernized gospel? (civil religion)
— Is there a balance with corporate and individual response in worship? (immanence and transcendence)
— Does the hymn speak biblically about the church, the body of Christ?
“When we get all the reports back, we can feel certain that each entry in the Baptist Hymnal will be beneficial and trustworthy for our congregations,” Harland said.
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information on The Worship Project, go to www.lifewayworship.com.