Communication That Connects: Our Preaching, Bible Version, Confession, Branding, and Songs
In the previous installments of this series, I’ve addressed the importance, definition, and biblical support for accommodating our gospel communication to make it intelligible to the people we’re trying to reach.1 Below I’d like to highlight five different areas in which we should seek to apply this principle of accommodation to the way we communicate biblical truth in church ministry.
The Church’s Preaching of God’s Word
I won’t spend too much time here since contextualization and preaching is addressed more fully in our course on preaching and teaching.2 However, since preaching and teaching play such a large and central role in church ministry, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.
“Able to teach” is one of the requirements Paul gives for those who would be pastors (1 Tim 3:2). Thus, those who preach and teach publicly on a regular basis should be good communicators. This doesn’t mean we all must be master rhetoricians. Paul himself may not have been the most gifted speaker (2 Cor 11:6). So I’m not suggesting that we’ve got to look for another calling if our preaching gift doesn’t rise to the level of a C. H. Spurgeon.
On the other hand, those who preach and teach publicly on a regular basis should have an adequate level of proficiency in communication skills. They ought to be able to connect not only with the members of the church, but also with the lost people the church is trying to reach in its community.
As I indicated earlier, effective communication doesn’t just consist in using the right language and vocabulary. A good communicator is one who’s good at illustrating and applying the truth. An effective preacher is someone who’s good at drawing analogies and telling stories.
Somebody says, “But we left churches because the pastors were only good story tellers; they weren’t good expositors.” I’d respond by suggesting that good exposition is often marked by good storytelling. Think of Jesus’ teaching. The Gospels are full of his stories or “parables,” as we call them. The difference between Jesus and many storytellers today is that he didn’t use stories merely as “ice-breakers” or “filler.” Jesus used stories to make a point or to illustrate some biblical truth. Parables like “the Sower,” “the Good Samaritan,” and “the Prodigal Son” were powerful tools for illustrating gospel truth.3
We also find biblical authors like King David or King Solomon using powerful analogies to illustrate the truth:
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him (Psa. 103:13).
Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears (Prov. 26:17).4
So if you’re a pastor or if you hope to be a pastor, labor to be an effective communicator. Spend adequate time studying the biblical text. But don’t stop there. Study your audience. Exegete the people to whom and the culture into which you’re going to speak.5 Then, and only then, will we be able to make an effective connection between the world of the Bible and the world in which we minister.
The Church’s Official Bible Translation(s)
It’s my conviction that most churches in the English speaking world need to stop using the King James Version and update to a modern English translation of the Bible.6 I’m not suggesting that you forbid the members of your church from using the KJV as their personal Bible study. Some of them have grown up with it and are used to it. It’s fine if they want to continue using it, and you can assure them that KJV is a fine translation.
Nevertheless, I believe that in most contexts today the use of the KJV is inconsistent with the biblical and confessional principle of intelligibility. We’ve already surveyed an OT passage (Deut 30:11-14) and a NT passage (1 Cor 14:1-26) that call us to communicate God’s word in the common language of our audience. And for those of us who affirm the Westminster Confession or the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, we have a creedal constraint:
But because these original tongues [Hebrew and Greek] are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language [i.e., vernacular] of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope (emphasis added; 2LBCF 1.8b).
The people we are trying to reach don’t speak Elizabethan English. Not only has English vocabulary changed but even word order in sentences. Some of the word order in the KJV reminds me of the way Yoda speaks in Star Wars: “Great Jedi Warrior make you I will.” It’s all backward!7
God helped me see the problem when I was doing street evangelism in downtown Greenville. After sharing the gospel and reading several passages from my pocket KJV to a man on a park bench, I offered up prayer in the Elizabethan language of my favorite Bible. And when I was done, the man looked at me with this puzzled glare and said, “Man, what kind of language is that?!”
Brothers, do we really want visitors leaving our church services saying what he said?
Some may argue that there are still people here in the Bible-belt who like the “Queen’s English” that and we should use it to attract them.8 If those were the only people I wanted to attract, I might go back to the KJV. But those are not the only people I want to reach. I want to reach young people and middle-aged people who may not have grown up with the KJV. I want to reach un-churched people who’ve never heard of it before. Indeed, I’d like to reach some people in our area who may speak English as a second language and who, therefore, need a translation that’s clear and up-to-date.
If that’s your desire, I’d encourage you to use a modern Bible translation for you church ministry that’s faithful to the original text but that also reflects the English of the people to whom you’re ministering.9 Moreover, if you did a lot of reading and memorizing from the KJV when you were younger, as I did, try to break yourself of the habit of using old Elizabethan language when possible.10
Of course, some members in your church may be resistant to this kind of change. I recommend lots of patience and every effort to win their conscience through careful teaching and gentle exhortations. On the one hand, “the one who acts hastily makes poor choices” (Prov 19:2b). On the other hand, “farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant” (Eccl 11:4).
The Church’s Confession of Faith
For those of use who use a Puritan Confession like the 1689, we have the same problem with our confession of faith as we had with our former Bible—they were both written in the 1600s.
While I still like the theology of our Confession, I’m not crazy about its language or its title. Personally, I think it’s time for a change. And so I’ve written a whole series of blog posts under the title “Updating and Revising the 1689 Baptist Confession.”11 I argue not only for modernizing the language but also for adding clearer affirmations of important doctrines like, for example, the church’s mission to the world.12
Some are worried that guys like me are trying to steer our churches away from our Reformed heritage. My response is I’m trying to steer people towards our Reformed heritage. But I don’t think we’re going succeed if we insist on keeping that Reformed heritage dressed up in Puritan “garb” with a “powdered wig.” I mean, let’s get real. People in our generation don’t talk that way anymore.
Ideally, I’d like to see churches like ours draft a new Reformed and Baptist Confession for the 21st century, building on the foundation of the older Reformed and Puritan confessions.13 In the meantime, I’d recommend that we stop using the old version of the 1689 and start using the one that employs modern English. Thankfully, there are some well-written modern English versions of the Confession currently available.14
Our Church’s Name, Website, and Literature
Some of the primary and basic ways or mediums we can employ to “introduce” ourselves today include the church’s name, its website, and literature. Naturally, we want the people in our community and other churches to know who we are (identity), what we believe (creed), and what we’re about (mission). The question we need to ask ourselves is this: what’s the best and wisest use of these means or mediums for communicating this information to people whom we’re trying to reach in a way that’s intelligible and that’s not unnecessarily odd or offensive.
As the name of our seminary suggests, I belong to a theological tradition and ecclesiastical circle that’s “Reformed” and “Baptist.” Not surprisingly, many of the churches with which we have close communion have both those terms in their name. The previous two churches I pastored were named “Covenant Reformed Baptist Church” and “Grace Reformed Baptist Church” respectively. I was first ordained as a pastor in the “Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
Earlier in the history of our churches (1970s-1990s) this sort of explicit identification with the “Reformed” heritage may have served a useful purpose. Lots of Christians were dissatisfied with the Fundamentalist or broad evangelical churches of which they were part, and they were looking for a church where Reformed theology was taught. So putting “Reformed” in the name made sense. Adding “Baptist” distinguished us from paedobaptist communions.
But along with the advantages of wearing “Reformed” on our sleeves, there are also disadvantages to which I’ve become more sensitive. For example, sometimes you’re liable to attract folks who are especially attracted to a particular distinctive of Reformed theology that may be secondary to you and your church’s identity, beliefs, and/or mission. But to them, that “Reformed distinctive” may be the most important doctrine in the Christian faith.
More importantly, I’ve come to believe that the term “Reformed” may be an unnecessary obstacle for getting people in our cultural setting, whether Christian or non-Christian, to visit our church. In my experience here in the South, for instance, most people don’t have a clue what it means. One person I spoke with assumed it meant our local church had formerly disbanded but had later on “Re-formed,” that is, reconstituted as a church.
I’ve tried to make the connection with the Protestant Reformation, but that usually doesn’t work. “What’s that?” they say. Then I tell them about the great Reformer Martin Luther, and they immediately think I’m talking about the civil rights leader. So I think to myself, “Maybe I should connect the term with C. H. Spurgeon since he’s a famous Baptist and most folks around here are familiar with Baptist churches.” But when I mention Spurgeon’s name, I lose them again. Some wonder if I’m talking about a species of fish.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating we ban the term “Reformed” from our vocabulary. I’m merely suggesting that it may not be helpful to put the term in the name of our church so that it’s the first thing people see or hear about us. I think it’s more helpful if we place in prominence what’s most important to us and about us as a church.
Consider the words of that great Reformed and Baptist pastor C. H. Spurgeon drawn from his first sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, “It is Jesus Christ.”15
We’re not ashamed to identify ourselves with Reformed or Calvinistic theology. But that doesn’t have to be the first thing we advertise about ourselves.
Far better to stick with terminology that’s drawn from the Bible or that directly conveys some Biblical truth in the Bible. “Grace Baptist Church,” “Christ Community Church,” “Covenant Bible Church,” or something like that. But the terms “Reformed” and “Calvinist” are terms that primarily refer to historical movements that are unintelligible or misunderstood by most folks we’re trying to reach. It might even be argued that the term “Baptist” tends to emphasize a secondary doctrine or practice and may not be as useful today.
Of course, some of us have inherited the name of our church, and it might be hard to change it at this point. But if we can’t do that, perhaps we can make some modifications to our church website and introductory literature. As Bible-believing churches and even Reformed churches we ought to be all about such biblical realities as Christ, Grace, Faith, Scripture, and Mission. These are what visitors to our website should see emphasized on the homepage and main parts of our website. Yes, if you click on a certain link, you’ll find out that these are the great truths the Reformers and Puritans loved. But let’s not put old portraits of all the Puritans on our home page or use Old English fonts.
Our literature table or racks should be stocked with plenty of solid books and pamphlets that address a broad range of biblical and ethical issues with which people (believers or unbelievers) may wrestle. It’s especially important for us to have biblically based literature that shows the people we’re ministering to how the Bible relates to modern questions and issues. Even here, though, we should beware of giving the impression that we’re a church primarily concerned about issues that are secondary to the gospel itself. Therefore, let’s make sure that we have plenty of good books on the great central truths related to the gospel.16
What’s more, I recommend that we avoid giving out literature that’s poorly formatted and printed.17
The Church’s Songs for Worship
I can’t help but point out something that’s sometimes overlooked or minimized. Namely, the songs we sing in worship do not merely have a vertical focus, i.e., praise to God; they also have a horizontal focus, i.e., teaching and admonition for those present in the service. The key texts are found in Ephesians and Colossians:
“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph 5:19).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).
If one of the main purposes of our hymns and songs entails the communication of gospel truth to those around us, then the church’s singing must use language that’s intelligible.
Several years ago in the former church I served as a pastor, we decided to transition from the older “Blue” Trinity Hymnal to the new “Red” Trinity Hymnal. We did so because the Red hymnal contained more modern hymns and because the editors even went through some of the older hymns and, where possible, updated the language. They changed a lot of “Thee’s,” “Thou’s,” and “Thine’s” into “You’s” and “Your’s,” which modern people are more accustomed to.18
I’m not in favor of doing away with all the old hymns. For many of us, they’re still favorites. Moreover, they keep us connected with the “great cloud of witnesses” who’ve gone before us.19 But there are some of the older hymns that I’d prefer not to sing often, especially in front of visitors, because of some of the archaic and potentially confusing phraseology.
Take, for example, Joseph Addison’s hymn entitled “The Spacious Firmament on High.”20 Does our 10-year old child know what that means? What about the unbeliever who’s visiting? What in the world is a “Firmament”? he’s thinking. If we put dictionaries in the pews, people might be able to figure it out. Or if they study the context carefully, they might be able to figure it out. But meanwhile, the piano keeps playing and the congregation keeps singing, and they’ve already missed the rest of the first stanza because they just can’t get that odd word out of their mind. They’re still trying to make sense of “Firmament.” “Could that be,” they think to themselves, “what happens to grape juice when it sets too long?”21
Other phrases that have become less intelligible and need to be explained or reworded would include such phrases as “O trysting place where heaven’s love and justice meet!”22 “When hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,”23 “As pants the hart for cooling streams when heated in the chase,”24 “No dart can harm: we’re in His care,”25 and “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”26 Other examples could be added.27
Once again, I’m not suggesting that we do away with all the older hymns. But I think we could rewrite them to make them more intelligible to the younger generation and to older people who weren’t exposed to a lot of English hymnody growing up. Instead of complaining, “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns”28 we may want to explore the question, “Why Johnny Chooses Not to Sing Hymns”?29
However we do it—whether by providing a prefatory explanation, updating the lyrics,30 or by using more contemporary hymnody31 —we ought to strive to ensure that the worship music of our church ministry communicates in a way that’s both true to Scripture and also that “connects” with the hearers—whether they’re believers or unbelievers.32
In summary, we need to accommodate our communication to the people we’re trying to reach, to the people we’re trying to edify because God accommodates himself to us in his revelation and because the servants of God, like Jesus and like Paul the apostle, accommodated their communication to their audience. Brothers, if we want to win souls, if we want to see our churches grow, if we want to increase the edification of our current membership, then we must become all things to all men. We must accommodate (not compromise) in the area of communication.
- See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. [↩]
- Pastor Robert Elliott devotes three lectures to the subject of contextualization and preaching in our practical theology course PT 611 Preaching & Teaching. I highly recommend his lectures. See also see the chapters “Preaching as Bridge-building” and “The Call to Study” in John Stott’s Between Two World: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 135-210. [↩]
- For some helpful studies on the parables of Jesus, see Simon Kistemaker, The Parables: Understanding thee Stories Jesus Told (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002); Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006); idem., Preaching from the Parables: From Responsible Interpretation to Powerful Proclamation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004); Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008); Benjamin Keach, Exposition of the Parables (Reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishers, 1991). [↩]
- Helen Sword underscores the importance of using concrete language even when addressing abstract or technical information. She writes, “The more abstract your subject matter, the more your readers will appreciate stories, anecdotes, examples and other handholds to help them stay on track.” “Zombie Nouns,” in The New York Times: Opinionator (July 23, 2012); accessed Nov 9, 2012 on the Internet: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/zombie-nouns/. On the importance of using good illustrations, anecdotes, and, stories in preaching, see C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 362-443; D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 224-43; Jay Adams, “Sense Appeal and Storytelling,” in The Preacher and Preaching, ed. Samuel T. Logan (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986), 350-66; Richard Mayhue, “Introductions, Illustrations, and Conclusions,” in Rediscovering Expository Preaching, ed. Richard L. Mayhue and Robert L. Thomas (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1992), 242-54. [↩]
- There are many ways this can be done. Spending time with your people as well as non-believers outside the congregation is great for starters. Social networking on Facebook can be helpful to some degree in terms of making you aware of what people are thinking and discussing. Know their “watering holes,” i.e., social hangouts, hobbies, and pastimes. It’s good to at least glance at the front page of a major news network page to keep up with events on an international, national, or local level. And in some cases, it may be helpful to check out books and study the history and culture of the particular region of the world in which you’re ministering. See the “Leading a Missional Community Guide” offered by Kaleo Church; accessed Jan 10, 2013 on the Internet: http://www.kaleochurch.com/media/leading-a-missional-community.pdf. [↩]
- There are probably exceptions. For instance, there are some congregations made up mainly of older Christian’s who’ve grown up with the KJV. For such contexts an immediate change to a modern version may not be advisable. But sooner or later the older members are going to depart from this world to glory. If the church wants to continue proclaiming and teaching God’s word to a younger generation, it will eventually need to educate the congregation on the need for change. [↩]
- Even the New King James Version retains some of this older sentence structure. That’s why Jack Lewis, speaking of the NKJV, says, “The hands are those of Esau but the voice is still that of Jacob”—an allusion to the old King James. The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991), 340. [↩]
- Of course, even people who may like the language of the KJV, usually don’t speak it themselves in normal discourse. You won’t hear them saying to the bank teller or grocery clerk, “Wouldst Thou passeth me Ye Olde handful of coinage.” [↩]
- The church at which I labor currently uses the English Standard Version (ESV), which is a fairly recent translation and, like the New American Standard Bible (NASB), leans toward “formal equivalency” in its translation philosophy. On the other hand, the New International Version (NIV [1984 version]) is a popular version that employs the “dynamic or functional equivalence” approach and yet is usually true to the original text. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) strives to pursue a middle course, which it refers to as “optimal equivalence.” Each of these versions has its strengths and weaknesses, but they’re all probably adequate for use in most ministry contexts of twenty-first century America. For a review and evaluation of modern English translations, I recommend the following resources: David Ewert, A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990); Jack P. Lewis, The English Bible from KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991); Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English: Criteria of Excellence in Bible Translation (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002); Gordon D. Fee, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007). For those who wish to dive deeper into the linguistic science of translation or the controversial issue of gender inclusive language, see John Beekman and John Callow, Translating the Word of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984); D. A. Carson, The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998); Wayne Grudem and Vern Sheridan Poythress, The Gender-Neutral Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000); Glen G. Scorgie, Mark L. Strauss, and Steven M. Voth, The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003). [↩]
- For example, the term “brethren” is somewhat antiquated. That’s why I’ve tried to work on using the more updated forms of “brothers” or “brothers and sisters.” [↩]
- The entire study consists of seventeen parts or articles. For the “Introduction” and a table of contents with links to each article, click here: http://drbobgonzales.com/2011/updating-and-refining-the-1689-baptist-confession-introduction/. I can also make single PDF of the series available for those who are interested. [↩]
- Perhaps in the Puritan’s sacral society context where members of the commonwealth were also members of the state church, one didn’t need to emphasize evangelistic outreach to the degree it needs to be emphasized in a society like that of Paul’s day or that of our post-Christian society today. [↩]
- I address this in the series above. Modern Reformed Baptist churches could use the new version to introduce potential members to the church’s beliefs and to ground current members in sound doctrine while still affirming substantial agreement with the great orthodox and Reformed creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Canons of Dort, and the 1689. The same would be true for church-plants on the missionfield. Rather than simply translating a confession that was forged in a 17th century British context, the foreign church could adapt the theology of a confession like the 1689 to their own historical and cultural context. Keller provides a brief but helpful discussion of the need for adapting creedal statements to cultural contexts in Center Church, 120-21, where he relates the challenge Korean churches have had in simply adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith without modification or augmentation. [↩]
- The two modern versions I’m most familiar with are the one edited by S. M. Houghton’s A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 Rewritten in Modern English (Leeds, U.K.: Carey Publications, 1975) and the more recent work of Stan Reeves, Confessing the Faith: The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012). [↩]
- Lewis A. Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1992), 288. [↩]
- Of course, I’m not just thinking of gospel tracts or really basic presentations of the gospel, though these are important. I’m also thinking of books and pamphlets that address all the various truths connected with the gospel, such as the person and work of Christ—his incarnation, atonement, and resurrection, ascension, session, and Second Coming; the place of God’s grace in election and conversion and sanctification; gospel-motivated faith and obedience, etc. [↩]
- Beggars can’t be choosers, and sometimes we have to work with what we can afford. But I’ve found that some free or inexpensive Christian tracts, pamphlets, or books are so poorly formatted and printed that they’re bound to cast a poor reflection on our church, particularly if we’re ministering in a context like the United States where a level of quality is expected. [↩]
- I acknowledge that may be necessary in some cases to retain the older pronoun for the same of preserving rhyme. [↩]
- Bob Kauflin provides some healthy perspectives on why we shouldn’t simply discard the older hymnody for the newer. See Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 189-93. See also Kevin DeYoung’s helpful article “In Defense of Musical Diversity,” where he argues for a kind of blended worship; accessed August 26, 2009 on the Internet: http://www.revkevindeyoung.com/2009/08/in-defense-of-musical-diversity.html. [↩]
- Published in 1712. [↩]
- The first time I heard the hymn, I thought of the “line” one put in a fishing reel, i.e., filament. [↩]
- The second stanza of “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” which was composed by Elizabeth Clephane and published in 1872. A “trysting” place is an appointed place. [↩]
- The third line in the fifth or sixth stanza (depending on the version) of “How Firm a Foundation,” which has been attributed to various authors but was published by John Rippon in 1787. Most people know that “hoary hairs” adorning “temples” is a reference to white or grey hair adorning the heads of those in their senior years. But I’ve read one Christian’s testimony who said he thought the hymn was celebrating the fact that prostitutes (“whores”) shall some day inhabit God’s “temples” in heaven! The same adjective is found in “The Love of God” (1919) in the phrase “When hoary time shall pass away.” To the ear this may sound like “whorey” time. [↩]
- Some may not know that “hart” refers to a deer. They may think, instead, that it’s an older spelling of “heart” and picture a runner who’s about to faint with exhaustion. [↩]
- From Thomas Turner’s “Where Others Conquered.” Most will understand “dart” as something harmful. Yet to the modern reader, a “dart” is not longer viewed as a serious weapon but is viewed as a small hand propelled object with a point that’s thrown at a targeted corkboard in sport. [↩]
- Actually, “Ebenezer” isn’t technically an archaism but a transliteration of the Hebrew phrase “stone [or memorial] of help.” Unfortunately, many don’t realize that and may associate the term with Charles Dickens’ “Ebenezer Scrooge” and thus import a bad idea into the text. I’m not sure we should remove it. But it may warrant an explanatory comment in some contexts. [↩]
- For a few more, see the article “Singing with Understanding” by Brock Hartwigsen; accessed January 7, 2013 on the Internet: http://www.carolinamessenger.com/images/100301.pdf, as well as “Unusual Old Words” on “Hymns Old & New” published by R. L. Allan & Son (1987) accessed January 14, 2013 on the Internet: https://sites.google.com/site/hymnsoldandnew/home/unusual-old-words. [↩]
- The title of T. David Gordon’s critique of modern hymnody and praise songs: Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop-Culture Rewrote the Hymnal (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2010). While Gordon offers some helpful criticisms, he’s guilty of over-generalization and an unbiblical bias against pop culture. For a critique of Gordon’s overly negative view of pop culture, see Ted Turnau’s Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2012), 107-164. [↩]
- Paul Wilkinson’s critical review of Gordon’s book; accessed January 7, 2013 on the Internet: http://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/why-johnny-chooses-not-to-sing-hymns/. [↩]
- See the brief but helpful article, “Modernize Hymn Lyrics for Contemporary Worship” by Don Chapman; accessed on January 7, 2013 on the Internet: http://worshipideas.com/modernize-hymn-lyrics-for-contemporary-worship/. [↩]
- For an overall cogent defense of the use of modern hymns and songs in worship, see John Frame’s Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997). [↩]
- Some argue that songs for congregational singing should be aimed at God (praise) and at believers (teaching) but not at unbelievers. I disagree. First, we must remember that Paul was concerned that the entire worship service be intelligible not just to believers but even to “outsiders,” i.e., unbelievers (1 Cor 14:25). Second, the psalmist frequently issues a call to the “nations” to praise Yahweh (Pss 18:49; 57:9; 66:5; 67:3-5; 96:10; 108:3; 117:1), suggesting the appropriateness of an evangelistic thrust in some of our songs. For more, see Kauflin, Worship Matters, 201-04, and Timothy Keller, “Evangelistic Worship,” which is available in PDF format: http://redeemercitytocity.com/content/com.redeemer.digitalContentArchive.LibraryItem/9/Evangelistic_Worship.pdf. [↩]