I recently sat in a service and heard a song that was “good church” but made no sense. The lyrics contradicted each other, but the beat was good.
We all know the songs we sing in church, many of them for years, that really don’t make spiritual or, in some cases, logical sense but we still sing them. Now, this can be an indictment on songwriters. Yes, I get that, but I don’t have a number one song out so I’ll keep my commentary for songwriters brief and to the point: Write songs that make sense. However, as a Levite responsible for song selection for different types of services (youth and young adult Sunday, Pastor’s anniversaries, Christian holidays, communion service, etc), I want to address the process of song selection in our worship services. Let’s get right to it.
First and foremost, God is your best advocate for song selection in His worship service. If God is the lead of our services, then He knows what He wants to hear in each worship encounter. Ask Him and He will lead you. I’ve found in my experience that God will lead me and even confirm for me what He wants the musical aggregations I’m responsible for to minister, and even when and at what point in the service He wants to hear it. I find that my greater challenge is having the faith to do exactly what He says how He says it, when it may go somewhat “against the norm”….but that’s another blog….
Check God’s Word
Check every song you minister against what you know and even what you can study and find within God’s Word. None of us knows everything located in the Word, however, as we mature in God, any song that we select should bear witness in our Spirit that it is in line with what God has said or is currently saying. An easy hint for most of us as minstrels is to weigh your song selection against what is currently being taught or preached in your church. What is God saying to your local assembly? Maybe your Pastor is in the midst of a sermon series. But if not, what is the recurring theme of the Word that is coming forth across the pulpit? Following the Word for accuracy, consistency of message, and confirmation will always steer you in the right direction.
Look at Logic
If the song does not actually make sense logically, then it probably won’t make too much sense spiritually either. Check lyrics to see if the addressed audience changes. This won’t necessarily make or break a song and its delivery, but it should at least be noted so that the delivery is accurate and precise. Look at the lyrics for wording and themes. Is the message easily relatable to the majority of your audience? Check the song to be sure that the lyrical content isn’t over your audience’s head. There are some great songs that may work in a recording, for those singers, or for that church, but may not work for yours.
Know What Your Singers Can Handle
God graces all of us, even sometimes when we bite off more than we can chew. As a choir director, I’ve been there, multiple times. We all have. I’ve had to learn to be sure to pick music that my choirs or praise teams can minister effectively, confidently, and without me having to have a heartattack in order to make sure it goes off without a glitch. The message is most important, but the effectiveness of that message can be hindered by the ineffectiveness of the lead Levite’s discretion or preparation.
Eliminate Your Emotions
There is a definite and real temptation to do music that you know will “get the room” or move people emotionally. Sometimes, like in the example I referenced earlier, this can be more about the beat or the feel of the song than the content. Trust me on this, none of you love a good beat more than me. Just trust me. However, energizing the room is not equivalent to ministering to the room’s inhabitants.
Seek God Again
We all miss it sometimes. Throughout the process of selecting, teaching, and presenting music for your worship service, be open to God and the fact that you may have missed it. Find where God is and meet Him there. This may mean going back to a familiar tune that will prepare the people’s hearts for what God wants to do in the service, or it may mean defaulting to a selection that you didn’t plan that will take the service to another level spiritually, increasing the faith and excitement of your listeners. Or it may even mean decreasing yourself, doing something simple but appropriate, so that God can shine through something or someone else in the service. Deny yourself. Trust God. He won’t fail you.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:19