Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.
The question then arises: Just how do we find songs that fit the preacher’s choice of theme and text?
Recent trends in song compilations make this more difficult than usual. These days, the song list for each Sunday is chosen on the basis of “what songs we want to sing”. The worship leader will go through the songs available and pick out the ones s/he recognises and enjoys, and these become the songs we sing on Sunday. That’s why, since the 1980s, most compilations list the songs in alphabetical order. See Mission Praise and Songs of Fellowship songbooks. This implies that the themes, or associated Scriptures, are irrelevant to our choices of what to sing. The key factor is personal favouritism: “I like this song!”
It’s time this trend was changed! We must enable the ideal of the integrated service, where Scripture and sermon and songs are integrated into a single cohesive package. The congregation becomes more focused, and the people leave the service with a clear impression of what God has said to them this day, and how they are responding.
Otherwise, the holiness of God interfaces with contradictions that harmonise evil and virtue for the extension of God’s kingdom through praise and worship for repentance and faith in Jesus. This same Jesus will return at the end of the age. Believers must love one another as Christ loved them. Be baptised in the name of the Trinity. God made a covenant with Abraham because Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Oops! You were rightly puzzled when you read the above paragraph! It doesn’t make sense. Each word on its own has meaning, but the words were strung together haphazardly. The result is a nonsense paragraph. This is what happens subconsciously when a string of songs is sung, each one meaningful on its own, but together they deliver no cohesive message.
How then do we find the songs which can be linked together to support the chosen Scripture and preached sermon?
Use two important indexes provided in the music copies of your songbook.
The first useful index is the Scripture index. The pastor has already told you (the worship leader) the Scripture reading(s) and the sermon text. The Scripture index will list the songs related to that Scripture. Some will have more obvious relevance than others. Use your discretion in short-listing the best ones.
The second useful Index is the thematic index. The pastor has already told you (the worship leader) the subject of his sermon. The thematic index will list the songs related to that theme. Some will have more obvious relevance than others. Use your discretion in shortlisting the best ones.
Compare the two shortlists and choose your songs for the service song list. Then arrange them in order around the public Scripture readings and sermon. Create a flow of integrated thought throughout the service. Use the most applicable song at the end, a punch-line song that will embed the message and its application in the minds of the hearers.
But what do you do when the Scripture is not in your song book’s index? What do you do when the pastor’s sermon subject is not in your thematic index? You find the nearest suitable song — or, even better, you write “a new song” to fit the Scripture and/or theme. That’s the skill we will discuss next month.