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Handled with reverence and care

I appreciate Joel Beeke, the pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids and the President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, for his ability to combine sound theology with warm devotion, while not undermining the former or distorting the shape of the latter. If you have not noticed, he has a fairly prodigious output of writings.

At a recent conference, I picked up his little booklet Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). Since I am a Baptist and a dispensationalist, you would be right if you concluded from the very title that I would have a few important theological disagreements with this booklet. But, overall, this is a good and helpful book for counseling parents (even Baptist parents, if they are well-grounded in their theology) on the importance of evangelizing their children. You might try to pick it up.

One theme that we have picked up here at Religious Affections is the importance of how we train our children. Several of us have insisted on the importance of teaching great hymns to our children, and that we be deliberate in this. Beeke briefly touches on this in his emphasis on family worship (p 41). “Stress those songs,” he says, “that emphasize core truths of the gospel, and that are rich for devotion, instruction, or admonition.” He encourages parents to teach their children to sing the psalms with a good psalter. He rightly believes that we should weigh the manner in which we teach very young children especially.  Mix in occasional new hymns with those the family already loves, he counsels. Beeke also believes that proper singing itself should also be stressed.

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He concludes,

“Remind your children that they are singing portions of God’s Word which should be handled with reverence and care. Pray with them for grace in the heart so that they may sing to the Lord as He commands in His Word (Col 3:16). Meditate on the words you sing.” (41)

Truly, how we sing says a great deal about what we sing. This is imperative. In our manner of singing, we communicate our estimate of God’s person and greatness, and I believe we communicate this in profound ways to our children. For example, if we sing without that sweet mixture of joy and solemnity, they will perceive our coldness. This does not need to be feigned. It requires labor in devotion to God. Even worse, I believe, is when we sing irreverent or silly songs about God. God and His Word are not to be trifled with. May God help us not to do so with either carelessness or intentional trivialization.

Ryan Martin

About Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too.

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Review of Worship in Song in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017) and is the author of Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: "The High Exercises of Divine Love" (T&T Clark, 2018).

One Response to Handled with reverence and care

  1. Good words, Ryan. I have learned that if you begin to stress this when your children are very young, they understand very quickly. When it is time for family worship in our home, and I ask our children what they would like to sing, they never choose one of the silly songs they know. Conversely, when we are being silly together as a family, they only ever sing silly songs-never hymns. It's not something I ever "instructed" them about per se; they've just come to understand the difference themselves by practice and example.

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