John D. Witvliet outlines ten reasons:
- Hymnals are especially well suited to good group singing of many kinds of songs (though not all).
- Hymnals are portable.
- Hymnals are splendid for home piano or keyboard devotional playing.
- Hymnals are an efficient one-stop worship planning resource.
- Hymnals make it relatively easy to stumble on and fall in love with good music you never thought you would like.
- Well-designed hymnals offer a vision of a balanced thematic diet.
- Hymnals help connect songs with elements of worship.
- Hymnals give people access to a “cultural memory bank” that many desperately want.
- Hymnals can be appealing to seekers.
- A hymnal can be a surprisingly effective catechism for both brand-new and lifelong Christians.
You can read the whole thing here to see an explanation of each point.
In summary, hymnals are a good resource, not the only good resource. And they may not be even the best single resource for every one of these functions. But for overall value, it’s pretty hard to beat a single book that does so many things at once:
- provides a comprehensive reference resource for finding songs and one technological mode of presenting songs;
- functions as a musical collection and a worship book, with prayers and liturgies for congregational use;
- presents a single-volume snap-shot of the diversity of the church throughout time and space, a kind of working experiment in the “catholicity” or “universality” of the church; and
- acts as a single source for strengthening devotional, pastoral care, educational, and liturgical ministries, making it possible to integrate these dimensions of the Christian life.
And hymnals like Lift Up Your Hearts do all this while providing almost one thousand songs for around twenty dollars, or a mere two cents per song.
HT: Bobby Gilles