Let the People Sing: A BLUEPRINT for Hymn Singing -- By: Randall McElwain

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 02:1 (Sep 2006)
Article: Let the People Sing: A BLUEPRINT for Hymn Singing
Author: Randall McElwain

Let the People Sing:
A BLUEPRINT for Hymn Singing1

Randall McElwain2

Noel B. Woodbridge3


Using the acronym BLUEPRINT, the authors offer practical guidance for selecting and presenting hymns in a way that maximises the power of Christian worship as both an expression of praise to God and a vehicle of instruction for His people.

1. Introduction

For 2000 years, hymns have played an important role in the theological and Biblical teaching of the Christian church. From early Christian hymns such as Philippians 2:6–11, Colossians 1:15–20 and Ephesians 5:14, to Ambrose’s Trinitarian hymns, theologically sound hymns were part of the worship of the early church.

The Medieval era saw a decline in congregational participation in hymn singing as choral singers trained in the Schola Cantorum performed service music without the involvement of the lay worshipper. Reflecting their belief in the priesthood of believers and in the value of hymns as tools for teaching theology, the Reformers returned hymn singing to the people.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, hymns no longer provide a primary tool for learning the Bible or theology. In a reversal of the Reformation, the art of song has been returned to professionals as the assumptions of our performance-oriented society have infiltrated the church. Whether replaced by trained choirs, soloists or praise teams, congregational song is at risk in many churches today.

Hymn-writer Brian Wren laments the loss of congregational song: “‘Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God,’ said Isaac Watts. Many people know God quite well and refuse to sing. Some say they cannot; others cannot see why they should” (Wren 2000:47) With the loss of congregational song, the church loses a vehicle for teaching the Bible and theology to laymen.

This article examines the role of the worship leader in encouraging the congregation to sing hymns (whether traditional or contemporary) that teach Biblical truths in a memorable manner. This article suggests a BLUEPRINT for more effective hymn singing. The BLUEPRINT model can be divided into two sections. Part I provides principles for the careful selection of hymns, while Part II offers principles for the careful presentation of these hymns to the congregation. Each of these aspe...

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