“My sin- oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!-
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!
It is well with my soul, it is well with my soul!”

You may know the story of Horatio G. Spafford who wrote the words to the longstanding and beloved hymn It Is Well With My Soul. If you do not or can’t remember, Spafford lost his four daughters when their ship wrecked headed to Europe from America in 1873. His wife survived, but sent him the message: “Saved alone…” Rather than renounce his faith he leaned into it. This song (I’m sure among others) was certain to be a source of strength and a reminder of God’s hand even in very tough times and circumstances.

Many of the “great hymns”, as we know them, seem to have been written out of heartbreak or life’s “beating down”. They usually have a verse long awaiting the second coming of Christ.  They were always written with such depth of lyrical content that they could be studied for daily devotion. Also, when you begin the first lines of several of them (such as “Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”) those ages 4-104 begin to sing with you and can finish the entire lyric. These songs are really strong.

You may be thinking, “Uh oh, we are about to praise the hymns and slam the new choruses”. Not at all! What I am insisting is that you ask yourself: “Are the worship songs I’m choosing worthy of being sung?” And: “Am I being careful about what words I’m putting on the lips of those who sing them?”.

Worship leaders have as much responsibility for the content of their message as a senior pastor who preaches his message each week. It’s our job to protect the integrity of what we invite the congregation to sing. As we are effective in this our congregation learns to trust us. It’s when we choose music because of it’s ‘cool factor’ that we begin to get in trouble. When choosing a worship song that you will work into your church’s catalog the first question ought to be: “Does this song stand up to the truth of scripture?”. The second is almost as important: “Is there enough spiritual depth for this to be sung corporately or is this better suited for a smaller group dynamic?”. Some oppositely feel the need to ask: “Is the message of their songs simple enough for people to easily connect?”. I don’t always think that simple is important, rather validity is important. The dumbing down of the Christian message into consumable bites taken out of the context is dangerous. While it may be beneficial in children’s church or even as late as junior high we have to hope our congregation, made up of intelligent and mature people, should be able to grasp a complex idea.

Choosing music that will enter your catalog should be fun and it should be thoughtful. If you already have an extensive repertoire it’s time to confirm that all the messages in each song lines up with what your church believes. Make sure that there is spiritual depth deep enough to cover what your senior pastor believes is right for your congregation today. It’s okay to go back to the drawing board and develop new material. That may show more maturity on your part than pushing through with insignificant songs.

I’m sure that God wants us to praise Him with our hearts and our minds. If only one is represented when you sing then you are missing the other half. There has to be spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Who are some popular worship artists that seem to be supplying songs that meet this criteria? For me, I’m a huge fan of Jared Anderson. His songs speak to both sides of the coin for me. Chris Tomlin, Bethel, Hillsong, Ben Cantelon, Matt Maher, Matt Redman, Kari Jobe, Keith Getty and others are in the club for me. I’m not going to write down those whom I do not enjoy. What artists or songs work great for your congregation? What about the songs do you like? Do you know the stories behind any of the material you present?

Looking forward to hearing from you this week!
-Micah Brooks