*Micah Lang is one of the Worship Leaders at Chapel of the Cross in Westborough, MA. He will be presenting at Simply Worship 2014. You can learn more about him and follow his writing at his blog, Young and Devoted.
It is easier than ever to find new music to sing in our Churches. There is a plethora of skilled musicians and songwriters that love Jesus and have a passion for creating new music which glorifies God and serves the local church; however, with this new found convenience, many worship pastors and church leaders fall into the trap of picking songs without much thought or intention behind their selections. Furthermore, we might be able to go to the CCLI Top 100 or praisecharts.com (which are good resources to use) and go with the songs that are currently the most popular; however, that might not be the most beneficial decision for our congregation.
When we come to the worship service on Sunday, we are coming before the throne of God to submit our praise and adoration. Because worship is ultimately about God and not us, we should recognize the importance of our song selection. We come together as the bride of Christ and, with one voice, declare truths together in song to our Savior. In light of this, we should be intentional with the songs we choose to add to our liturgy. The following are 7 thoughts to consider when choosing songs for the Sunday morning worship service.
1. BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL FAITHFULNESS
Every generation’s view of God will be shaped (however subtle it is) by the songs we sing. We see this in our culture and we see this in the Church. Now, I do not think every song that we sing needs to be a theological treatise; however, we need to make sure that the songs we sing are biblically correct and theologically faithful. The Bereans were commended for testing the preaching they heard against scripture (Acts 17). The same faithfulness should be true of the songs we sing. After all, it is not just one preacher declaring truth, but an entire body of believers in unison.
2. BREADTH AND DEPTH
Just as there are some people that only like one kind of food, some worship leaders only like one style of worship music. However, I have found that variety (or BREADTH) can push the meaning of commonly heard truths to be realized in a new, impactful way. I am currently a part of a church that has 4 different worship leaders, all with different styles and preferences, and this shapes me as a worship leader. I can learn from them and become a more well-rounded leader, especially when it comes to the songs that I choose.
Also, there should be a DEPTH to our songs. We might have the occasional set-starter that is simple and repetitive (keeping in mind point 1); however, we should also have the songs that test our minds with their depth and meaning. Our minds AND hearts should be affected and challenged through our music.
3. WE NEED NEW HYMNS.
In Psalm 96 and 98, we are commanded to “Sing to the Lord a NEW song…”. One of the ways we differ from the rest of creation is in our ability to create (which I would argue is one of the signs of God’s image on us). This is a gift from God that should be used for His glory. I would argue that every local church, if possible, should be attempting to create NEW music. It is not only implied in Scripture (if you are going to SING a new song, someone has to WRITE it), but is a way to use gifts in the Church to glorify God. I know that many churches frown on contemporary music and they have some good reasons to be apprehensive, but I do not think Scripture indicates that we should be only singing songs written centuries ago. The impression I get is that we are to be singing biblical truths in ways that are tested and true, but also in ways that are new and accessible.
4. WE NEED OLD HYMNS TOO.
It is important for us (especially those of us who serve in a more contemporary setting) to realize that the traditional hymns and songs of the Church that has come before us are beneficial to us today. We have 2,000 years of church history behind us that has produced many wonderful songs that still ring true and there is a reason why they have lasted. It would be foolish of us not to utilize this amazing resource, even if we decide to express the songs in a more contemporary way. I don’t think I will ever NOT be moved when I hear Be Thou My Vision.
5. MUSICAL EXCELLENCE IS IMPORTANT AS WELL.
I heard Keith Getty once say “If you are writing a worship song and the melody is not outstanding, then you are wasting your time trying to push it into churches.” Another way of putting it might be this: you don’t go into a restaurant because the food is edible, or even that it is nutritionally valuable, but because its taste is phenomenal! This is the kind of food that makes your mouth water to just think about it. In the same way, our worship MUSIC should be so excellently written and executed that our congregations long to sing it and get excited about it.
6. BE INTENTIONAL.
Song choice should not be arbitrary. Consider the message of the sermon and passage of scripture being taught from. Do the words and mood of the piece reinforce the overall theme and mood of the service? Does the song fit best at the beginning of the service, or does the text really indicate a response that should come later in the service? Sometimes the wrong context makes even a song that is worthy theologically and musically a poor choice for that part of the service.
7. BE PRAYERFUL.
Even if we take all the right steps in the creation of our musical repertoire, we must still understand our insatiable need for the power, presence, and guiding of the Holy Spirit. Pray before choosing songs and prayer after you have as well. Pray that God will move your heart and mind to choose songs that are glorifying to Him and edifying to your congregation, but also pray that His Spirit will apply the truth in those songs to the lives of everyone who hears and sings them.
Worship ministry is a humbling thing. We must always remember our desperate dependence on the work of God to accomplish that which we could never do on our own. To Him be the glory.1