So, it’s hard to pick songs for worship. i usually start with where i’m at, or where it seems that the people i’m singing with are. Is there some aspect of God’s character that i have been personally impressed with lately, or something that i am praying for Him to show Himself to be? There’s always a starting point. You are always somewhere. It might be harder to find if we’ve been doing a lot of hiding lately, but that’s another post.
Once that is established, i usually jump straight to the end. Where are we going? Is there a song that speaks that message clearly? Often times, this requires a conversation with the Teaching Pastor, or whoever is speaking later in service. Corporate worship is a wonderful thing. We are all coming together and learning about and expressing our love for and communicating with the God we serve. If there are multiple leaders in this time, they all need to be on the same page and headed in the same direction, otherwise you can be very distracting. If you plan the whole service together with the leadership team, that’s a great way to get everyone going in the same direction, but more often than not, that turns into a committee meeting and you start voting (can i make it any clearer that i grew up Baptist) on what songs you like better… not worship.
So you’ve got where you are and you’ve got where you’re going. The road that leads from one to the other can be a treacherous one. Sometimes it is relatively simple. One song leads to another and another and another, throw a prayer and a key change in there, and HEY, you got a worshipful hour on your hands. More often than not, though, you run into a snag. Well, this is a great song, but 60% of the congregation doesn’t know it. Or, gee i’d like to use this one, but i’ve gotta make room for a couple hymns so i don’t get sister Bertha upset with me (Sorry if that one hit too close to home, but you know it’s true). i find myself wondering who we’re actually worshiping in these hours.
Here’s why i think picking songs for worship is difficult. i’ve wrestled with this for a while. It’s not because i can’t find songs that say what i think needs to be said. Between the Hymnals and CCLI there are so many options, it can be a little ridiculous. It’s not that it’s hard to get from point A to point B with a clear train of thought. And it is CERTAINLY not that we have a hard time finding things about God that we think are worthy of praise! The issue is, this is CORPORATE worship. It’s not my private quiet time. It’s not time for me to try out the latest guitar riff i’ve been working on. As a worship leader, it is time to help a group of people get their mind off the distractions that seem even more rampant on Sunday morning, and focus on the One True God. And i have yet to see a church that is made up of people who all think and act the same way. Side-note: it wouldn’t be much of a church if they were all the same anyway… note Paul’s reference to us being a body and having multiple parts… He was talking about the global church, i think, but the same is true for the local church.
Anyway, you put all these distracted people in the same room and you say, “Hey! Pick a song!” Good luck with that. Especially when the options are everything from “Holy, Holy, Holy” to “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”… you know what i mean. The point is, i’ve tried the “make everybody happy” route and i’ve tried the “tough luck, this is what we’re singing” route and neither one of them is effective. The truth is, sometimes you’re going to sing songs that everyone knows, and sometimes your going to sing songs that people need to learn. But it is your job to make sure that whatever you sing, you sing it for the glory of God. If you sing “Blessed Assurance”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Come Thou Fount”, but can’t still your mind enough to be in awe of who God is, it’s not worship. In the same sentence (even though it’s a different one), if U2’s “With or Without You” gives you a clear picture of the love and sacrifice that Jesus has for people who don’t deserve it… guess what… that junk is worship.
If you lead the people of God in worship, you accept no small responsibility. There is no easy way to wrestle with the hearts of God and man, but should it be easy? Keep fighting. Keep pushing yourself and those around you to examine your motives and come back to true worship. It requires sacrifice, and it’s worth it.