In a recent post, we discussed the motivations for congregational singing. Generally speaking, authentic worship naturally happens when Word-saturated and Spirit-controlled believers meet together (Col 3:16; Eph 5:18-19). Since the Word and Spirit are the foundational motivations for worship, it makes sense that we should sing hymns that are doctrinally rich and accurate. Although Biblical accuracy is the highest priority, there's more to choosing songs than just a doctrinal criterion. Here are two more considerations to think through when selecting hymns:
KNOW YOUR CHURCH
After selecting a doctrinal body of hymns, ask yourself, "To whom am I ministering and which of these hymns will positively connect with them?" At first glance, this seems easy, but it’s actually hard to do. Why? Well, you carry a lot of bias into your decision making. You naturally gravitate towards songs that speak to your heart and that are familiar to you. Unfortunately, this approach usually creates a singular demographic of preference in the church. But Ephesians 4:1-16 tells us that the church is not supposed to be uniform, but rather, unified, even though it represents a diversity of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities. So know your people and choose doctrinal songs that positively connect with them.
Thinking about your church body encourages you to surrender your preferences for the building up of the whole body.
EMBRACE HEALTHY TENSION
Your church represents a diversity of people, so it's important to craft services that reflect the God-given diversity that each individual brings to your church body. The problem is that there are many opposing preferences to worship that create tension, and it's hard to determine a balanced course of action. You might be tempted to concede to please a singular, yet vocal group. Don't concede. Lovingly embrace the diversity in the body of Christ. Teach your church that we are members of one body that must mutually submit to one another and to Christ (Eph 5:18-21; Phil 2:3-4). You can publicly demonstrate this mutual submission by crafting services out of love for everyone present, diverse though they may be.
A preference is "a greater liking for one alternative over another or others," not a biblical mandate. There's a big difference between the two. Preferences are often developed by what is familiar to us in our current context.
1. Submit every song (new & old) to the test of doctrine.
2. Consider your church family: individuals and groups. What combination of songs will minister to the whole?
3. Embrace the tension because it will be there every time you craft a service. Don't run from it or try to control it. Teach your church members to mutually and joyfully submit their preferences in worship for the building up of the gathered body.
So, how can you make your church’s corporate singing more meaningful? It begins with Word-saturated and Spirit-controlled believers. When choosing songs, start with doctrinal truth, then move on to loving others. Ask yourself, “Which songs doctrinally 'say it best’ in a way that connects with my church family?”
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What if we invested as much time/thought into arranging congregational music as we do choir anthems, small groups, and solos? We think congregations everywhere would notice and respond positively. In a future post, we will show you a few ways you can stylistically approach congregational singing.