Currently, the whole music team at Crew is starting to go through Bob Kauflin’s book Worship Matters. It’s an incredibly insightful and helpful book covering tons of topics. Here’s an interesting excerpt on handling song suggestions as a leader that gives some insight as to why we should pick songs:
You know what it’s like: People approach you and exude extravagant praise for a song they heard at a conference, on the radio, or at another church, and you brace yourself for the inevitable: “Why don’t we sing this song at our church?” How should you respond? Here’s what I typically try to do. First, I check my heart. I know this can sound redundant, but I have too much indwelling sin still hanging around to bypass this step. I’ve often assumed that someone suggesting a song means they’re unsatisfied with the songs we’ve been doing. That’s sinful judgment. Whatever my response, I want to speak graciously, humbly, and clearly. After my heart-check, I thank them for their suggestion. It’s great when people in the congregation actually care enough to offer an opinion. They’ve apparently encountered God in some way while singing that song, and they want others to have the same opportunity. Third, I ask what they liked about the song. Maybe a particular line addressed a specific situation they’re going through. Or maybe they just enjoyed the sound of the band or the catchiness of the melody. I don’t know unless I ask.
Once I’ve listened to the song closely (and maybe obtained a few other opinions), I may decide it’s not right for us, and I’ll need to explain why. I don’t want to dismiss a song just because “I don’t like it.” God has used many songs I didn’t like to minister to people. However, just because a song is popular doesn’t mean it’s good or the best song for us to use.
Let me give you an example, using the popular song “Above All.” There are many things I can commend about the song, but when asked to do it, my response might run something like this:
“There are a number of things about this song I really like. The melody is beautiful and easy to remember. The lyrics wonderfully contrast God’s greatness and Christ’s humility at the cross. Both the poetic images and harmonic progressions are creative. But two parts concern me. The first is the line ‘you took the fall.’ It seems like an understated, almost colloquial way of describing what Jesus did. Plus, it’s confusing.
“The greater problem for me is the line ‘and thought of me above all.’ I have no question that Jesus ‘loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). But he didn’t think of me ‘above all.’ Jesus went to the cross to satisfy God’s righteous judgment against a sinful humanity. He thought above all of his Father’s holiness, justice, and glory.
“This is no theological nuance. It’s the difference between our faith being man-centered and God-centered. I don’t think that’s what the writers intended, but it might cause some confusion in people’s minds. Other songs are clearer about the relationship between Jesus’ loving me and wanting to glorify his Father.” …
…Other elements in a song that might cause me to shy away from using it include choruses that don’t say much but are sung repeatedly, lack of clarity, lack of originality in music or lyrics, or scattered content that covers too many themes. At times I’ve changed my mind on using a particular song after thinking more about it or because it seemed to work in a specific context.
I’m sure we’ll make some wrong decisions in choosing not to sing certain songs. But if our goal is always to sing songs that exalt God’s glory in Christ in people’s hearts and minds in the clearest and best ways, we won’t have any regrets.