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In 2006, after nearly a decade of careful preparation and thorough field testing, The Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) published a new hymnal: Lutheran Service Book (LSB).

Synod President Rev. Matthew Harrison recently noted that some years ago naysayers of the new hymnal project negatively commented, “You're going to have a whole warehouse full of those things.”1 However, as President Harrison pointed out, those naysayers were woefully wrong, as LSB has become one of the best-selling books in the history of Concordia Publishing House with more than one million copies sold. Prior to LSB, Lutheran Worship (LW), known as “the blue hymnal,” was used in 56% of LCMS congregations. Today LSB is used in nearly ninety percent of our Synod's congregations! Needless to say, LSB has been received quite well!

Why the LCMS Composed a New Hymnal

Many have asked, "Why did the Synod need to compose a new hymnal?" The first answer to this question was and is a desire for unity among our Synod's congregations. For more than 25 years, our Synod had been a two-hymnal church. Congregations used either LW or TLH (The Lutheran Hymnal). The committee charged with composing the Synod's new hymnal tried to carefully blend the best of both hymnals into LSB. Secondly, it was also important to make use of the rich new hymnody and new expressions of the Gospel available to the church. LSB in its introduction put it well:

In every age God also blesses His people by raising up hymnwriters who have honed their craft to create rich and fresh expressions of praise. Produced during the most prolific period of English-language hymn writing in the history of Christendom, Lutheran Service Book delivers a rich feast of Gospel-centered hymns from every age and from many lands.Lutheran Service Book, (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), ix

Thus, the goal of LSB was not only to preserve and hand on treasures of the past, but to make available new hymns and service material for the worship life of the church.

Why Adopt and Use the LSB?

Here at Saint John's, we already use various new materials and hymns from LSB. And since we do not even use our current hymnal, why in the world would we even consider adopting and purchasing a new hymnal? Good question! The answer is really twofold. First, we are called to be good and faithful stewards of God's resources and His creation. Our Sunday worship bulletins are top quality and very well done to be sure! However, in an increasingly green society and as responsible and faithful stewards of God's gifts, if we were to use our hymnal and look up two or three hymns a Sunday, we could save ink, paper and money.

Some of you remember a time when youth were given their very own hymnal at the time of their confirmation. This was due to the fact that hymnal is really a prayer book. Using a hymnal on Sunday mornings reminds us that it more than just a book sitting on a pew rack. The hymnal if filled with prayers, psalms, hymns, orders of service for various times of the day, the Small Catechism and more! Aside from the Bible and the Small Catechism, “nothing has done more through all generations to shape the faith of Lutheran Christians than the hymnal.”2 Using the hymnal teaches us the value of its devotional use for our everyday lives.

A Worship Friendly Hymnal

The beautiful cover art of LSB proclaims the richness God's grace. Aside from its beauty, LSB is a masterfully composed hymnal for use in worship. One of the goals of the LSB committee was to make this hymnal extremely easy to use for both congregants and visitors. Rather than having two sets of page numbers (liturgy pages and hymn numbers) and some numbers at the top and others at the bottom, LSB has one set of numbers that are all at the top of the page. On the back interleaf are printed the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds as well as the Lord's Prayer. If one needs to reference these in worship, they can simply open the back interleaf to find them. Prayers for worship are printed in the front interleaf to aid worship. Unlike TLH or LW, a glossary of terms is provided in front. Various words or phrases such as “Nunc Dimittis,” “Chrism” or “I raise my Ebenezer” are defined throughout the liturgies and hymns (cf. LSB 165, 502, 686). Bible references are also provided throughout. Artwork, prayers and Bible verses are used to fill in blank spaces. Even the type-face was carefully chosen for easy reading.

A Musically Friendly Hymnal

Over 100 new and recent Christ-centered and biblically based hymns are included with the 636 hymns in LSB. New and old hymn words and musical settings were carefully examined. On various occasions both were changed or restored to aid easier singing. In some cases keys were adjusted or lowered for the same reason. LSB includes hymns from countries around the world, including Kenya, Tanzania, Argentina and the Caribbean, to name a few. The breadth of the church's song spans from chant in the early centuries of the Christian era, to the chorales of the Lutheran Reformation, to the numerous waves of English hymnody, to American folk hymns, all the way down to contemporary hymns. The church today learns from the church's song both past and present. LSB provides plenty of services and hymns that are familiar, while at the same time providing a wealth of wonderful new materials to enliven our worship for years to come.

New Hymnal Project for Saint John's

At our Spring Congregation Meeting in April, the congregation voted to adopt LSB and use it for worship. A new hymnal committee has been formed and will be working together to implement LSB here at Saint John's. How can you help? I would encourage your family to gift a copy or two of LSB to Saint John's when orders begin to be received this summer. Gifts may be given in honor or memory of family members, godchildren, in celebration of baptisms, wedding anniversaries and more. A complete list of options will be available when orders begin to be received. I would also encourage you to purchase a copy of LSB for your home and let it accompany your family's devotional life. Hymns sing the truth of God's Word into our hearts. LSB is a wonderful gift to the church! It should not just be kept on the pew racks, but used here and in our homes!

  1. Matthew C. Harrison, “Music in Service of the Gospel” (The Lutheran Witness, October 2014)
  2. Paul Grime

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.