I am excited about this week’s post, installment #9 in principles of leading worship. I have blogged previously about how crucial our song selection is, how our services should be fluid and natural, and how our songs must be meaningful because they are a major teacher of theology. I want to use this post (and possibly a few future ones) to describe why it is important to “sing a new song” in our churches.
There are numerous Scripture verses that explicitly state that we are to “sing a new song” to the Lord, including Psalm 98:1, Psalm 96:1, Psalm 40:3, Psalm 33:3, Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 144:9. I will present that although these and others may refer to a literal new composition (and some do), most probably refer to a metaphorical new song, i.e., the song of the redeemed. The song of our hearts before we received Christ’s salvation was one of desperation, fear, and shame; the new song of our hearts has become one of thankfulness, celebration, and joy because of the salvation from God through Christ. Perhaps the “new song” of Scripture has more spiritual implications for us than a literal new piece of music.
But, there actually exists a phenomenon called “semantic satiation” where words lose their meaning after continued repetition. On a small scale, like when you say the word “plaza” over and over again until it no longer sounds like a word. On a larger scale, when you hear the same song over and over again, you mindlessly sing along and it means nothing to you anymore. Over-exposure produces desensitization.
And what a crime if we as worship pastors and worship leaders allow our churches to become desensitized to the songs we select to bring them into the manifest Presence of Christ.
It is important to bring variation into our worship sets, so as to avoid stagnant singing, stale songs, and mechanical worship. Besides, new is God’s idea.. all throughout Scripture, God intends to lead His people into new territory, new blessings, new life, new victories. He never wants us to become stagnant, but always moving forward – and new songs naturally bring new perspective, new vision, and new passion.
In choosing a new song for your worship repertoire, ask yourself – what will best serve your church? A “new” song is actually relative; for example, someone who has never heard “Great is Thy Faithfulness” will find it to be new. What is the demographic of your church? What is the demographic your church would like to reach? All this factors into when, how, and why you bring a new song to the table… and which song!
This presents worship leaders with a number of options to provide a “new” song for your church.
- The first is obvious: Find (or compose) a literal new song. Present the Person and Work of Jesus with new melody and music. The message never changes, but the vehicle (song) may.
- Develop a new arrangement of a familiar song. If the lyrics are meaningful and your church has loved the song in times past, sometimes all it takes is a fresh arrangement to bring new light. Try doing an acoustic arrangement, or have a woman sing a traditionally male-sung worship song. Bring a new element to it.
- Incorporate a key change into an important part of the song. I don’t know why, but key changes necessitate a little more oomph from the people in our churches.
- Simply place a song into a different part of the service. If your church is accustomed to songs at the start of the service, placing one familiar but key song at the end can be jarring enough to bring some newness back to it.
- If there is a critical lyric in the song that you sense your church glides right past, take a moment to explain why the line is special. Provide some context from Scripture, and verbally exhort your church to worship the Lord with all their minds.
P.S. Be sure to check out some of my thoughts on how to introduce a new song in our churches.