One of the many benefits of children growing up with a hymnal and singing from it, is that it allows to continue Christian education. In addition to reading from Gods word, doctrine filled hymns instill biblical truth in a way that makes it easier to remember. Words are always easier to remember when set to music, and if those words are biblical doctrines and scripture, a lot of the bible could be memorized. Bible truth forms the Christian's world view, thoughts, and actions. Bible truth that is set to music, God-honoring music, forms a good portion of the life of the Christian.
Creating a Visible Identity
From our modern vantage point, perhaps, some see hymnals as outdated accessories of a worship service, but the doctrine filled hymns of the faith serve a larger purpose. These hymns are a great way for congregants to apply a sermon, a way for families to instruct their children, the start to appreciating great poetry, and the way that individuals become the worshiping people of God. Hymns help to bind the people of God together and hymns in worship nurture a biblical unity in truth. Author Christopher N. Phillips in his book "The hymnal: A reading history" traces the history of this sacred genre and its use in three sacred spaces: the church, school, and home. It is not simply the content of hymns sung, read, or memorized that informs our thinking and spiritual appetites, but the hymns themselves—and how they’re read and sung,—shape us. To put it quite simply, we are formed, not only by what we read but by how we regard what we read and what we hear.
We must consider what Christianity has lost by neglecting the timeless and doctrine filled hymns, and the music of that sacred genre. But what is our experience of worship: Are we being formed into the family of God with the Bible on our phones and words on the screen in most evangelical churches, are we being molded into the church by the feelings and emptionalism created by worship teams singing the Christian top 40? Perhaps it's that way because it is too easy to be a group of loosely networked individuals, where devotional practices and worship are experienced in such an individualized manner that what the Bible says is taboo?
The Furniture of Worshipping Christians
Hymnbooks were so well-worn prior to 1820 that many haven’t survived—they were touched, held close, and their covers, spines, and bindings show what Phillips, quoting another scholar, calls “hand piety.” The hand piety we exhibit most often today manifests in sore pinkies from holding our phones and hunched backs from staring at screens. It might seem easy to harken back to a “golden age” of hymnals or pews only on special occasion, instead, believers today should begin to consider the larger questions about how the truths found in hymns inform us. After all, there is form and content, both in the music and in the lyrics that teaches a message when properly married to the other.
I wonder if such a concept to have furniture, so to speak, to disciple Christians into worshipping Christians would be so welcomed into churches today? Would the reciting of scripturally specific prayers, like the apostle Paul, or returning to doctrine-filled hymns, and responsive readings grow repetitive and monotone? Or would they create a texture and tapestry to faith that grew in resonance the more we returned to them? How would the weekly flipping of pages, with a “small brick of a book” (Phillips) nestled in one’s palm, inform my spiritual practices? Would faith become more solid and more assured with timeless, perhaps more scriptural, practices? These practices may have been the “furniture of worshipping Christians” a century or two ago, but perhaps today, what we have lost can once again become what can be gained by trading out our new furniture and "hand piety".