If you’ve ever been responsible for choosing songs for a gathering of believers, you’ve encountered this tension. If you don’t think you have, you definitely have but you just haven’t noticed yet.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. We all have. However, as we gain experience in selecting songs, we have a decision to make.
We have to choose between picking the perfect, most applicable set to accompany a current series or sermon being given or picking from a pool of previously selected songs, prescribed for the theological health of the church body. Or do we . . . well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
The Best-Fit Option
I think that most of us are taught or are prone towards the first option. Ever since I could remember, I have been lead to look for songs that bolster and support the main message communicated that morning. Talking about 2 Cor 12:9 that morning?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)
Then why not your look into singing Your Grace is Enough? Maybe we could sing Amazing Grace or Grace Flows Down or All Because of Jesus or From the Inside Out? However, there is an inherent problem here. Maybe I can better illustrate it with food.
Lets say you’re cooking dinner.
You’re looking through your kitchen, and you decide you’re only going to eat fruit. So, you get some pears, apples, grapes, bananas, all sorts of fruits. Now, there is nothing wrong with fruit, in fact, it needs to be a part of a balanced diet.
However, if you only eat fruit, you won’t get to taste and see what steak is like, or even vegetables. You won’t get fed properly and it will lead to you most likely getting sick. See the connection yet?
If all we sing about is grace, then all we’ll think about is grace. While grace is a very worthy thing to think on and to give attention to, what about repentance or the grandeur of God? If all we consume in our musical worship is grace, we develop a theological imbalance in our theology of worship. You can’t get the protein you need from an orange.
The Strategic Option
On the other hand, what if we selected a set of songs that we would intentionally use for a quarter or part of the year. The songs are chosen to represent the various themes and doctrinal truths that should be evident in the theology of a Church’s worship. It is a masterfully crafted list, and you can’t go wrong when you have covered all of your theological bases like you have.
Lets look back at food to see how this could effect our church.
Say you’re back in the kitchen, and you’ve decided to start a strict diet where you’re only going to vegetables and tofu. Gross, I know, but stay with me.
Lets say you do this for a week or two, and its going great. You’re losing weight and you’re satisfied with your diet so far.
Then Thanksgiving comes. When it would be most appropriate for you to enjoy the bounty of food with your family, you are stuck with your diet. You’re still eating, and being fed well, but it doesn’t make sense that you’re only eating vegetables and tofu when you could be enjoying turkey, sweet potatoes, and the rest of the delights that come out once a year.
We could have the most complete and well crafted set of songs that range from a focus on the trinity to creation to mercy to sanctification, but what if there are some songs outside of this prescribed set that are more appropriate songs for the situation?
What if the songs we selected out of our set were rich and good for a theological diet, but had nothing to do with what the topic or direction of the morning? For instance, the focus is communion, but all the songs focus on baptism or something else. It would feel a little random and disjointed, and organized, orderly worship is something we should value as we plan (1 Corinthians 14).
I’m obviously pointing out the faults on both sides, and I know these illustrations have holes in them, but I don’t think these two sides are mutually exclusive.
Honestly, I’ve struggled to find the right balance. I feel like we do a great job of supporting and aiding the message we deliver on a Sunday morning, but I don’t think I’m being conscious enough of the overall theology of worship we’re teaching through our songs.
I think I may be leaving holes and not considering the effect they’re having on my congregation. I think that a balance between these two is possible, but I’m still searching for it.