Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In 1991, the Southern Baptist Convention press, now Lifeway, gave us the Baptist Hymnal. This hymnal is the one my church uses today. Lifeway is currently working on the New Baptist Hymnal, scheduled to be released July 1, 2008. This new offering will contain around 650 songs, only a few less than the prior version. Lifeway is also supplementing the pew version with an online resource and database of 1000 songs that will be available to churches in various formats: a multimedia database of texts, a recorded database for churches without musicians and, orchestrated accompaniments for larger churches. Lifeway is hoping to add 100 songs per year to this online database, giving churches access to new songs as well as all the old standards that many baptist churches love to sing.

The aim of such an online database is to provide a centralized resource for worship planning and to confront some of the problems of hymnal publishing that are unique to our digital age and to put better tools into the hands of worship planners, giving more options than the standard pew publication provides. It also shows foreword thinking for those on the mission field and small churches who may be worshiping where musicians are not available. Granted, the idea of playing an MP3 recording for my congregation to sing to is not exciting to me, but considering that most of our convention's churches have less than 100 members, with limited budgets for paying accompanists, it appears that Lifeway is truly seeking to help churches where they are.

The printed hymnal will be dually titled The Baptist Hymnal and The Worship Hymnal. Both editions will be available hardbound in order to market the hymnal to non SBC churches who may share our hymn tradition and theological perspectives but may be of another denomination and aren't interested in many of the "changes" to texts that many other published hymnals of the past few decades have indulged, such as gender neutrality and theological tweaking to take away "unhelpful" themes like "sin" and "judgment" and "eschatological triumph." Many denominations today find these as unnecessarily provocative and harmful to the christian message and have changed traditional hymn texts accordingly.

The publishers say that they have found that most Southern Baptist churches use around 300 of the hymns in the 1991 hymnal. They have retained these baptist standards and are supplementing these with over 200 new songs that have been published in other hymnals but have been absent from the Baptist Hymnal. They also will debut over 100 hymns that have never been published in any hymnal to date. Maybe this will include modern hymns like "In Christ Alone." I'm crossing my fingers.

Oh, in one article, they explain that "I'll fly away" will make it back into this edition. That will make my church family glad!

For more information, check out for news and updates on the new hymnal project.


G. F. McDowell said...

It would not have to do much to be an improvement over the current BAPTIST HYMNAL, but it will require a radical change if they want it to be worth buying. Our church considered it when we were looking to replace our ratty old hymnals, and it came in dead last for a lot of the reasons you've alluded to here. We wound up going with the Christian Life Hymnal because it contained so many of the hymns we sing frequently. ( It is slowly growing on me, but its bass parts stretch below my range too often. :(

Worship Leader Ron said...

Good to hear from you Guillaume. Dannielle and I were talking about you just a few days ago. You are missed!

I agree that the 91 hymnal isn't the best. I am particularly partial to the Celebration Hymnal. I think it has a good blend of modern songs (around 1998 or so) gospel songs, and traditional hymns. When anyone asks about updating hymnals, I always recommend it. (

I just spent about 20 minutes perusing the song list from the Christian Life Hymnal. It looks fantastic. They note that they keep the original texts and explain archaic words at the bottom of the page. That's so helpful. Better than dumbing them down. I need to get a copy of that. Thanks for the suggestion!

I am looking foreward to see what they are offering in this new edition. From what the articles they have released at lifeway say, they're acknowledging new music and are trying to face the overwhelming demand from "blended" congregations while always catering to the traditional churches. This could be fantastic, or they could simply do all three badly!

We'll see!

Rev. said...

This is the first time I heard that there was a new hymnal on the way. I'm glad to hear that. Wonder if they will put the 10 Commandments back into it (in the responsive reading)? Hope so. Of course, we don't use the '91 in the USAF. Like your pastor (used to be), I'm a chaplain.

Rev. said...

Are you from St. Louis?


Worship Leader Ron said...


Thanks for stopping by. Are you an Air Force Chaplain? My pastor Is Col. John Sanders. I didn't know if you knew him or not. I believe he was the Pacific commander (or however that relates in chaplaincy terms.)

I enjoy your blog and like your commentary, however I am not from St. Louis. While on a Southern Seminary Choir tour through St. Louis, I got this picture along with several of the new Cardinal Stadium. I am not a Cards fan either, but I do root for the NL when, like every year, my Pirates are a statistical impossibility!!!

Anonymous said...

I am very excited about the new worship project. Looks to be revolutionary in the way hymnals are produced.

Hey, I've been looking for a place to discuss the new baptist hymnal, they have just released their songlist and a lot more info. Is there a forum or anything like that, that you might know of?

Worship Leader Ron said...


I don't know of any forum like that. Feel free to comment here! I recently got the songlist myself and was planning to post soon on the new hymnal at this blog again.

I can't say I'm entirely happy about some of the poorer quality new songs that they included. They included some praise and worship songs from the late 90's/early 2000's that I haven't heard in any church in the last 5-6 years. Not classics, that's for sure!!! But, In Christ Alone is there and several others that will be good. Thanks for visiting!