During last weekend’s message, in a short side note, Pastor Matthew shared:
“I sat next to my wife as we sang All I Have Is Christ. Do you realize? I hope you were paying attention because Pastor Matt and our worship team work so hard to give us good songs. He has a really important job, cause he puts words in your mouth - so you can think about the words you’re saying. It makes my heart feel so good to listen to you be confessional as you sing. You said in a song this morning, I don’t need anything else but Jesus.”
What Matthew shared is very true, and I’ve received bits of feedback this week indicating a thankfulness and appreciation for the work we put forth in song selection.
Yes, I said ‘we’ and that’ll make more sense in a moment.
That kind of feedback means a lot, and I thought it would be a good use of my blog post this week to briefly share with you the thought and intentionality that happens in our song selection process.
I believe song selection is one of the most important aspects of my role as your Worship Pastor. See, at Calvary, we have the opportunity to introduce around 12 songs per year - 17 songs max. That’s a new song every 3 weeks to a month. Introducing new music too often doesn’t serve our worship gatherings well and can even discourage participation. Not often enough and we could become too comfortable and no longer stirred by the lyrics. We want healthy rhythms of new songs that allow people to get familiar with the songs we sing so they can not only engage, but also firmly grasp the truths we’re singing about. We, as a Worship and Production community, want to do everything we can to encourage engagement! Sunday mornings are not a concert.
Now, to some that may not sound hard - picking 12-17 songs a year. It’s a lot harder than you may think. With a worship industry that pushes out new worship records almost weekly, it can be daunting to sift through hundreds of new songs every year to unearth the best and most timely choices for our church family - songs that help people worship well.
The mission of Worship & Production is to help the gathered church worship well.
“As a Worship & Production Community, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, we will skillfully combine biblical truth with the arts to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church to join in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.”
As your Worship Pastor, I feel the weightiness and responsibility of the song selection process, but I do not choose the songs by myself. Many Worship Pastors do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After serving in worship ministry for over 10 years now, I know there are incredible dangers when the song choices are left to one person. When that’s the case, it’s so easy to lean towards only certain styles, artists, bands and themes. It ends up being the Worship Pastor’s favorite songs and not necessarily the ‘best’ songs for the church family.
To avoid these pitfalls, I have developed a very different process here at Calvary. So let me open up the doors a little and give you a behind the scenes look at the song selection process.
We have a Song Selection Team that serves in selecting the songs we introduce to you, the Calvary family. This is an incredibly healthy approach that I’ve seen the benefits of time and time again. After having made song selection decisions all on my own in the past, this is a much healthier model.
On this team, we each bring songs to the table and have an equal vote after considering each song. Yes, an equal vote. That means my song ideas don’t always get voted in, and that’s a great thing - that’s healthy. I’m thankful for that! I, of course, still hold full responsibility of what gets introduced, and have pastor veto power that I can exercise if needed. (I’ve only had to do that once and the team has never let me forget about it!)
This process really has proved to unearth the best and most timely songs. I walk away from each meeting feeling incredibly thankful for each team member and the quality of songs brought forward. Voting is not always easy with so many great songs up for consideration.
Here’s some guiding principles we operate under each time we meet - questions we ask when considering a song:
Healthy Tensions to Feel
- Rooted and Relevant: As faithful stewards of this process, we want to draw upon the rich heritage of the past, while at the same time seeking to communicate the eternal Gospel in ways our culture can understand.
- For The Church & For Unbelievers: Let’s not ignore non-christians when we think through songs at our gatherings. But let’s not allow them to dictate our direction, methods, and values either. Those have all been determined and modeled by the risen Savior who now invites us to celebrate as a family and to invite others to join in on the feast.
Questions to Ask When Considering a Song
- How singable is the melody? It is easy to learn?
- What is the vocal range required to sing the song?
- Is the lyrical content in line with scripture? Does scripture prove it to be true?
- What is the tempo? Have we introduced too many songs of similar tempo?
- What is the theme of the song? Do we have a balance and diversity?
- Is the song just one that I like, or like to listen to, am I venturing out?
- How difficult is the song for the band to play?
- Is the lyrical content deeper or lighter? Do we have a healthy balance there?
- Where is God leading us to lead our church body?
This hopefully shows you the thought and intentionality we put into each song consideration.
You have to know, I’m incredibly thankful for the Song Selection Team which currently includes Christy Freeman, Berto Ramos, Josh Svendsen, and myself. I’m grateful for each of these team members, their unique perspectives, their heart for Jesus, and their heart for the church family. Each time we gather is such an encouragement. We have better songs because of this team effort and I’m grateful for their impact on our musical worship.
I hope by opening up the door to what goes on behind the scenes, you are encouraged and reminded to keep us in your prayers. We do not take this responsibility lightly and feel so humbled and privileged to serve among the other Worship & Production volunteers as we glorify God together and serve you, the Calvary family.
Thank you for engaging with us each week as we glorify God together!
If you’ve been reading along in this little series—congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the first week. As a reward to both of us, you the reader, and myself as the writer, I’ve decided to make Sundays a “Grace Day.”
Day Five: Be Attentive To Wisdom
While it is hard to nail down a precise figure (I looked at a number of studies), one large study pulling together a number of other studies reports: “To conclude, a close analysis of [the] Infidelity rate and its growth pattern clearly indicates that nearly one half of all married men and women are involved in extramarital affairs.”
Day Four: Orienteering
Many who know me are quite aware that I am indoorsy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going for a run, a bike ride, or even a hike through the woods or in the mountains. It’s just that I don’t want to sleep out there. I believe God inspired us to create hotels and houses for a very good reason: to return to, enjoy, and sleep in. It’s a very important part of what separates us from the animals.
Day Three: A Heart of Wisdom
When we baptize someone at our church, we always remind our people that baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. This picture of being lowered fully into the water and rising up again that happens on the outside for all to see, is a window into the soul of the baptized, revealing a heart cleansed, purified, and surrendered to Jesus, and thus saved, transformed, and made a part of the family.
Day Two: Our God Will Supply
It’s important we pause for a moment and look at the simple structure of Solomon’s book of Proverbs. The first nine chapters are extended descriptions of wisdom, largely in story form with instructions from a parent to a child, using at times images of “Lady Wisdom” and “Woman Folly.” They are there to explain two pathways, one that leads to a wise and good life, and one that leads to destruction. And these first nine chapters are there to help us see why we should care about chapters ten through thirty-one, which contain all the individual sayings of wisdom for which the book is famous.
Day One: The Fear of Yahweh
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, English Standard Version) I argued in yesterday’s post how God has hardwired wisdom into all of creation, and that wisdom is an applied skill in working with the grain of his design, and not against it, so that we may have a good life. An immediate question arises: if this is true, wouldn’t that mean a good life is available to all who recognize and pursue this, whether or not they believe in God?
Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs. One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).
This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.