Sunday Recap – A Worship Dilemma
Every week, our team sits down and plans what song we’re going to do on Sundays. I typically take a first stab at a set list, and then we pick it apart and swap things out. Lately, as we’ve been discussing songs we’ve noticed a dilemma – and we need some help.
Here’s what we’ve been noticing: over the years, as “modern worship” songs have developed and become more widely spread, they have drifted toward the top end of the “singability” range. I’m one of the worst culprits of this: write a song with a super low verse full of emotion, then a chorus that’s high and screamy that makes people shout (which means you can’t lower or raise the key of the song). It works in youth environments, and in arenas full of people gathered for a worship event. Not coincidentally, arenas and youth groups are the places where most of our current worship songs are born and recorded. The songs that come from these events are very cool, and they’re inspiring to listen to in the car or in the right worship environment.
But here’s the problem – people that come to a church service at 9am typically aren’t in the “arena-rock, shout your guts out and get all sweaty” mindset. I, for one, don’t feel like shouting and jumping when I get here on Sunday mornings, and I don’t have to wrangle kids to get out the door. Consequently, when we do these songs on Sundays, they never quite come off with the passion and corporate fervor that you hear on the recording, or even on a Night of Worship.
Now, contrast that with this Sunday. We introduced Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons,” which has quickly become my favorite worship song. It was quiet, beautiful, subtle, and easy to sing; the opposite of the typical rock-song vibe we use. People jumped in immediately and sang it like they’d been singing it their entire lives. And it’s not a “dumb” song, either. It’s got a lot of lyrics, the melody of the chorus is different with every phrase. It’s really a modern hymn, but people sang like crazy.
So, that has lead us to a big question: “Are we shooting over the heads of our church, for the sake of doing cool music?” Fifteen years ago, we were singing “praise choruses,” and if you think about it, those songs had simple melodies that were very singable (side note – many were written in alto girl keys, which are easier for guys to sing than the current songs we try to pull off), and you could hear the church sing them like crazy. The same goes for hymns, and for some of the worship songs in our recent history (“Everlasting God” comes to mind).
So I’ll include our set list below – it was a great Sunday, one of the best we’ve had in a while as far as worship is concerned. Plus, Chinua and Chris Blackwell were incredible for pre-service music. But more than that, I’d love to know your thoughts…
How do we balance the need to do “current” sounding music, but making it singable for our audience? Do we need to take a step back in order to move forward?
Pre-service: Signed, Sealed, Delivered – Stevie Wonder, Sailing – Christopher Cross, Stand By Me – Ben E. King
Worship: Blessed Be Your Name – Anthony Evans’ Version, 10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman