Joshua and Caleb sang two songs at the World Missions Conference at First Baptist Church Valdosta GA last night. They did a great job, and the theme for the evening seemed to be, “to make Him known, and to make Him famous.” Once they had finished their songs they sat down with me and right about the time they reached my pew the director of worship was directing the congregation to turn to a certain page in the hymnals. I reached for the hymnal and began looking for the page when Caleb looks up at me and asks, “dad, what is this?”
I explained that it was a hymnal, a book with songs written in it. It is a way for everyone to know the music and the words for particular songs. By this time we had begun to sing, and I showed him how to follow along by sliding my finger over the words and lines. Caleb caught on quickly, and it was at this point that I laughed to myself. I realized that even though my children have been in church their whole lives, that the boys at the age of nine, had never used a hymnal.
There are churches all over the nation that have been planted and use projectors and media instead of a hymnal, and because of this there will be a generation that will never know what a hymnal is nor how it was used. I am not commentating on the value of one over the other, but I am glad that my children will be able to experience both. There should however be some way of showing children how church has “been done” over the centuries so that a respect for history can be appreciated. My generation seems to disdain things like organs, hymnals, “dressing up”, but what they put in it’s place is not necessarily new, only new adaptions of older ways of doing things. It is amazing to me how the church goes from one way of doing things to another, thinking they are “cutting edge.” Let me give you an example.
The churches in Europe hundreds of years ago desired to teach the Scriptures to the masses of people who would come to their services. The problem was that most people were unable to read. So in order to teach them the stories of the Bible they had glass cut depicting images of the gospel, or they had statues placed throughout the worship area depicting various personalities of the Bible. The pinnacle of these depictions was Jesus on the cross. The problem was that eventually these statues became idols where people would pray to specific “saints,” and the method of teaching became corrupted. So protestants correctly did away with the statues, and Jesus on the cross in its houses of worship. The hymnal is a very useful tool for a congregation to follow a specific song, and still be “on the same page.”
But there are many (of my generation) who feel that it had become limited in the repertoire of songs and to sing songs outside of the hymnal were discouraged. So they got rid of it all together. But to not appreciate the songs that are in it, is just as foolish as discouraging the new doctrinally sound songs that have been written by artists today. We must be careful to not corrupt a method of teaching (or worship) nor to do a way with it if it is accomplishing its intended purpose. We must also, at the same time allow new ways of teaching and worship into our services. The universal church is generally slow to change. This is good in that most fads come and go without affecting the church with heresy. But at the same time good methods of worship and teaching are ignored (or even falsely discredited simply because it is new). The church as a whole, as it abides in Christ  and seeks to be obedient and faithful to Him will be able to accurately negotiate these treacherous waters.
So perhaps I will add writeÂ church history appreciation for kids to my “to do” list.
Dr. Edward Buchanan has written a series of books on sharing church history, the arts, and other church related items with children. Click here to find out more.
 Ecclesiastes 1:10-11
 John 15:1-11