The Red Book" or "the Red back " is in reference to THE CHURCH HYMNAL. This song book was first compiled and published in 1951 by Pathway Press in Cleveland, Tennessee. Pathway Press is a publishing house of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). The hardcover of the Church Hymnal may be found in the color of green or blue . However, the Church Hymnal is commonly purchased in a maroon color, generically referred to as: "red", commonly referred to in many churches as: "The Red Book".
Since 1951, many Baptist churches in the southeastern part of the United States have used "The Red Book" . Though not exclusively, many of these Baptist churches were "country churches" found in rural areas, such as Southern Appalachia.
Among Independent Baptist, many who used The Church Hymnal were criticized for using a "Church of God book" (same is true among SBC). Because of this, many who were criticized began to vocally defend their use of "The Red Book".
The defense of "Red Book", I assume, was given for various reasons. Perhaps to many it was preference (shape notes); to others tradition. HOWEVER, to many then and NOW, it is not a defense so much for the song book itself, but for the direction of the music and the worship services within local churches.
Most who vocally defend "The Red Book" are doing so because they see two extremes in modern day churches:
#1. "Dry or Dead Worship" - This is formal worship, "round mouth singing".
#2. "Contemporary Worship"- This is carnal worship. The term "contemporary" used within the context of our topic does not simply mean "current day" worship or music, but rather a style discerned to be patterned after the world. Many churches who use "The Red Book" also incorporate songs written within the last few years.
At this point, I desire not to critique either of these two extremes. However to encourage believers to observe and discern what is spiritual worship and spiritual singing, my desire is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). I can and will, if needed, give several O.T. and N.T. passages that show what the Lord considers spiritual. Worship is an inward act. Praise is an outward expression often of this inward act. All believers do not worship exactly the same and I understand this. However in relation to our topic and Ephesians 5:18-20. I am sticking with "The Red Book".
Two last thoughts:
#1. Often the mission field is brought up in relation to this subject. In August of 2012, I took a group to Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I doubt the Xhosa people know much about "The Red Book". However I discerned their worship was spiritual. They sang Hymns, even some "Red Book songs", as well as traditional Xhosa songs. Their worship, while different, did not (in my not so humble opinion) fit into the extremes of "contemporary" and without a doubt it was NOT dead, dry, or formal. Truthfully , as previously stated, I do not believe The Church Hymnal itself is the real issue.
#2. As a young pastor for a period of about a year (perhaps a little longer), I led our church to use another song book. It had a few of the same hymns found in "The Red Book". However, it did not have the "shape note songs". It was formal, good songs, but formal. It killed our worship. I discerned very quickly I had made a mistake. I do not believe we would have the spiritual services nor an atmosphere we have at Fellowship Baptist in Maryville,Tennessee if we incorporated either of the two extremes mentioned in this note.
Taken from one of my Facebook notes.
Fellowship Baptist News
A place to catch up on the latest events...