Does Baptist Worship Ignore the Holy Spirit?

If our hymn singing is any indication, then the answer seems to be a resounding yes. That, at least, is the suggestion of new research discussed today in Church Executive Magazine.

Hymns sung in most Baptist churches historically have been “More About Jesus” than about either God the Father or the Holy Spirit, several church music experts agree. “From a Baptist perspective, I don’t think the hymnody has ever been Trinitarian,” said Clell Wright, director of choral activities and Logsdon professor of church music at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Consequently, when it comes to Baptist understanding of the Godhead as reflected in congregational song, “Our Trinity is more two-point-something rather than three,” said Terry York, associate professor of Christian ministry and church music at Baylor University’s School of Music and George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. “One way to gauge that is by looking at the index in the back of the hymnal under ‘Holy Spirit.’ Looking at the 1991 Baptist Hymnal [produced by the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm], for instance, there’s not much there. And I was on the committee that put that one together, for crying out loud.

And

“Baptist churches divide themselves in worship according to which Person of the Trinity gets the most emphasis,” he noted. Baptists who say they want to “worship the Father in the beauty of holiness” generally favor more formal, liturgical worship. Baptists who want to “praise Jesus for who he is and what he has done” may tend toward a more revivalist and evangelistic worship style. Baptists who say they want “the Spirit to come down and bless us” often follow a less structured worship format. “Generally, we are less than balanced,” York commented. “Few churches stand in the middle.”

Any form of Church life that ignores one or other member of the Trinity is doomed to be unsatisfactory from both a theological and practical point of view.

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