song selection

Dear Worship Pastors, Directors, Leaders, and micro-managing lead pastors who tell their worship leaders what songs they can and cannot play,

This may be obvious, but here goes anyways: the same guy who wrote “Facedown” and “Nothing But the Blood” also wrote “Dancing Generation“.

Why do I make this obvious point? Because I see sooooo many worship leaders camp out on one side or the other- either super deep, mellow, and dramatic OR every song is a party with no deeper, dramatic meaning.

The same guy who wrote the song about falling facedown in prostrated submission to God ALSO wrote the song about dancing, celebrating, and shouting!

Worship leaders shouldn’t say that one way is good, bad, or otherwise. Worship leaders should lead their congregation in a balanced selection of songs. If you’re throwing a party from the stage every Sunday, then well… you’re probably not very balanced. There’s a time for falling on our faces, but if that’s the mood you’re setting every week then well, you’re robbing your congregation of some serious party potential. If you’re not comfortable leading on one side of that equation, then well… TOO BAD. Sorry 🙂

This applies to those of us that teach too. Some pastors might have 10 years of preaching under their belts, but… they’ve pretty much just taught the same 4 or 5 messages using different verses. You don’t have the freedom to pick your favorites, or to preach on what’s comfortable and easy. That’s what camps are for. Go take your 5 best talks and wow the junior highers up the mountain. But when you come back to your church, be ready to preach the way Jesus did; good, bad, ugly, funny, sad, honest, mysterious… you get the point.


Side note: this isn’t directed at anyone in particular. Seriously.

17 thoughts on “song selection”

  1. You wish you knew how to play the guitar!!!

    Great thoughts Ryan. Music is the sound of hope. The songs of the church are shaping the theology of what we believe, often, more than the teacher (oops did I just say that here?). I think understanding that there is a tight-rope of balance on this issue is so important for Worship Leaders as we lead people deeper in to their Biblical understanding of Worship. I say let’s go for it and be a Dancing Generation, we need more of these kind of Worshiping communities, but, I agree, we must find those sweet moments to bow and let God be God and meet us in our humanness.

    Oh the tension of music in the church and responding to God!

  2. crap. Tyler already said exactly what I had in mind to say.

    I’d like to add that you’re short sighted if you think your congregation will only respond to one side or the other. You’re the worship LEADER, it’s your job to lead folks into experiences and connection with Jesus that are beyond what they think they’re capable of. And don’t underestimate the ability of God’s children to respond to their Father in worship! Of course it’s His job to draw us to Himself, but as worship leaders and communicators, we play an important role in the process. I think Sometimes, the emphasis is placed on hitting a home run every time you’re on stage and not on the gradual growth and stretching that happens when we risk and teach and try new things. This leads to another rut that you referenced: Just doing what you know works. …Let us not be guilty of THAT!

  3. Ryan,

    I think you missed a really big point, most worship leaders want to preach a sermon. And most teaching pastors want to be a rock star. Perhaps that is why so many lead pastors want to manage the worship pastor.

    I know that I wish I was a rockstar who shreds for Jesus…..but I suck.

    I also think Psalms is really good on this to support you case some more. Psalms Rejoices, Laments, Praises, Reflects, re-affirms, Supplicates, and requests Justice. Our musical worship should also reflect this

  4. Nice man! I like the insight and point of view towards worship from a pastor’s perspective!

  5. I agree. I am writing this from a member of the congregation who happens to play guitar and occasionally leads for small studies standpoint. Just as there is a diversity within the congregation: male, female, young, old; there is a diversity of what style of worship songs (and teaching) reach the members of the congregation.

    Further than that, each member of the congregation may be diverse themselves in the style that reaches them. For instance, one Sunday you may be reached by the dancing style and the next Sunday it is the prostrated at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ style that reaches you. Having a diversity not just from service to service, but within each day’s set can be extremely powerful in ushering the people into worship. I think you will all agree that music is a powerful thing. When a decrescendo/crescendo is done well and placed well it can be extremely powerful to those being led in worship.

    The one thing that needs to be taken into consideration though, is the heart of the worshippers. When I first began attending church I noticed a distinct difference between the Sunday worship and the Wednesday night worship, even though the same songs were being played by the same band in the same way. When I asked the worship leader about it he said that the only difference was the hearts of those worshipping. Wednesday nights had a smaller number of people there, but these were the people who were serious about their relationship with God and came with their hearts fully ready to worship.

  6. Amen!

    We need full bodied, well rounded worship that encompasses the great breadth that our lives have. We need songs of mourning for injustice and the consequences of our sin. We need songs of celebration of God’s goodness. We need songs to comfort. We need songs as a call to arms in the spiritual battle. We need songs of Anger at the hypocrisy of the modern day thieves who are pretending to be religious and yet are actually preventing people from a real relationship with our heavenly Father (like Jesus flipping over the tables in the temple). Our God does not fit in a nice neat predictable box and neither should our worship of Him.We do need to be gentle with the flock and still lead them and resist the urge to beat them sometimes. That’s up to the Holy Spirit, not our place 🙂
    The tough part is to find that right balance of pushing the envelope and making things fresh and new real and and therefore risky and a little uncomfortable, and not going to far. I’ve pushed the sheep up the mountain too hard a time or two and had to give them a break and then gently keep them moving…(is the sheep analogy breaking down yet?)

    thanks for the conversation starter!

  7. I totally disagree. God hates partying. My youth pastor told me that every week. God wants me to stop partying. That’s all I ever heard. Don’t party. Stop sinning by partying. You are dead wrong you partying evil man. God wants us facedown and not in our puke after a party. That’s it.

  8. Ryan, Wurzell directed us here from FB. I play drums with Bri over at CS, and my understanding and experience of praise and worship is that it’s vertical: Praise (upbeat) set to start, where we celebrate God, and then worship follows, (deeper, slower) where we share with God, and He responds.

    Depending on the church, the form of music, artists, style, tempo, etc., can vary greatly on both of these sets, but they all communicate the same thing. The keys are the right song selection to complement the message of the service, a worship leader like Bri, Jason, or Ryan (Axtell) who can communicate comfortably with the congregation, and dedicated solid musicians who know how to pick their moment and not lose focus of their true purpose on stage.

  9. So long as every song can be played G C Em D with an Am in the bridge.

    oh, and it has to be Verse/ Chorus/ Verse /Chorus/ Bridge/ Quiet Chorus /Big Chorus !

    Seriously though what you say is true, Hard but true, because often we are drawn to one type of song, or truth and that’s well and good when we play in our rooms, but, we are called to serve the congregation in all truths, and with all styles of “psalm” be it the lament or the dance till your clothes come off.

    If i had one thought it would be to follow TOO BAD with “find someone who can balance you out” for instance, i’m not the dance type guy, but the sum of a worship staff could and should be balanced.


  10. Amen! Being part of a culturally diverse church means we need to be diverse in our music. Different styles means different moods. It really reflects the congregation and our community.

  11. Duncan you’re right. But sometimes I wish that the worship pastor WOULD open his mouth! It would help if he explained and taught threw the songs… for years nobody knew what a “diadem” was, but we kept on singing about crowning God with one!

    Sean I’m with you on the balanced team. Most churches don’t have two or three people that can lead though.

  12. Dude. Quit talking about me behind me back.

    No, but seriously. Stop.

    Ok, really though, good points buddy. But I do agree with Bri, we need more churches who aren’t afraid to come with the Dancing Generation side of the worship leader. There’s a lot of us who can close our eyes and lift a hand up like we’re serving a tray of hor’ d’oeuvres, but how many of us are humble enough and free enough to shout and sing and pull out our best “running man” during a song of celebration?

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