Selecting songs for Sunday morning
The songs we sing on a Sunday morning influence what we believe about God. They communicate God’s Word. They preach. And because of this, we must take them seriously.
Not only do adults learn about God through the songs we sing, but kids also articulate their theology through catchy lyrics and melodies.
I remember singing the well-known hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” as a child. And to this day, no other message or song has so clearly formed my understanding of the Trinity.
The hymn reads, “Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”
Reginald Heber wrote this hymn with Revelation 4:8-11 in mind. And it reads, “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’” (ESV).
There are times when I lead my church in singing this hymn. And I wonder how many kids will one day look back and say, “I believe in the Trinity—just like that song says. He is God in three persons.”
Of course, there are other songs—and newer songs—which effectively communicate the Trinity. I’m simply using “Holy, Holy, Holy” as an example.
If you choose songs for your church to sing, you have an influential role in how your congregation develops an understanding of God’s Word.
By God’s grace, I’ve had the opportunity to both preach and lead worship on several occasions. And I’m convinced that—in the long run—whoever selects the songs has just as much of a sway on the congregation’s understanding of God’s Word as the preacher himself.
My aim in this article is to encourage those of you who choose songs for your congregation. This is not something to be taken lightly. While I’m far from perfect myself, I have learned a couple of things about stewarding this call responsibly. Allow me to share them with you.
First, help your congregation make a connection between the songs they sing and the Bible they hold.
People need to understand why the lyrics say what they say. A worship song should always be based on the truth of God’s Word. If a song fails to adequately communicate what God’s Word says, then it should not be on the “setlist.”
A good way to help your church make the connection between God’s Word and a song is to read some of the Scripture references found in the songs you sing. For example, it might be helpful to read Revelation 4:8-11 when singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” as a congregation.
I intentionally open our worship services with God’s Word. Why? Because the Bible guides everything we do on a Sunday morning. It’s our standard for knowing what lyrics to sing. It’s our standard for knowing what sermons to preach. It’s our standard for knowing what prayers to pray. And everything in between.
Unfortunately, it’s common for churches to only read Scripture aloud during the sermon. But if we’re going to help people make a connection between the songs they sing and the Bible they hold, our services must include more reading of God’s Word.
Second, put the gospel in the mouths of your people on a weekly basis.
As a song leader, you’re literally putting words in the mouths of your congregants. Think about it for a second. The songs you choose determine what page people turn to in a hymnal or see on a screen. The songs you choose determine what people sing.
With that in mind, regularly put the gospel in the mouths of your people. Allow me to explain what I mean.
In a nutshell, the gospel message is this: God is holy and perfect. He created us to know Him and serve Him. But our sin keeps us from living for His glory. Even still, God promised a Messiah who the prophets foretold. And God kept His promise. Jesus Christ came to earth, died in our place, and rose again. He is alive today, and He is coming again. All who repent from their sin and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior are empowered by the Spirit to know and serve God forever.
To put the gospel in the mouths of our people means to intentionally choose songs that communicate those truths. Why? Because it is through the gospel that we find hope. It is through the gospel that we become more like Christ.
I intentionally include songs on a weekly basis that highlight God’s glory, our sin, and the beauty of God’s grace through Christ. Why? Because that’s the gospel. That’s our hope.
May our churches sing songs that are faithful to Scripture and adequately express the good news of Jesus Christ. And if you’re responsible for leading your church in this way, I pray this article encourages you to do it with even more joy and intentionality.