Why is singing a “new song” essential to Christian worship?

Think of your favorite song…

Why is it your favorite? What kind of memories does that song bring along with it every time you hear it? Music has a way of creating and capturing moments in fewer words and simpler methods than any story teller could ever hope to do in their writing. Songs have an awesome way of conveying messages to sometimes unaware listeners that will stick with them longer than any sermon they will ever hear.

Thinking about the level of comfort that comes along with “old” and familiar songs makes me wonder why in Scripture we are commanded to sing “new” songs unto the Lord and not “old” or familiar songs. In fact, three Psalms start with the words, “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalms 96, 98, and 149). Isaiah 42:10 says:

Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.

Why such the emphasis on singing a “new” song… won’t any song of praise work?

Nowhere in Scripture do we find a command to sing “familiar” songs to the Lord… because we do that anyways. Human beings are creatures of comfort and we don’t need to be reminded to do things that we love. Does anyone have to tell you to drink your favorite refreshment or partake in your favorite activity? No! We enjoy that particular refreshment or activity and we naturally gravitate towards it. Singing and worship works in the same way. If we aren’t careful we can get stuck doing the same things and singing the same songs over and over again until they become bland or ritualistic. The Lord desires a “new” song and because of that desire we are reminded over and over again through Scripture.

Other than the Biblical commandment to do so, why is singing “new” songs essential to healthy corporate worship?

  • It creates a “freshness” in our worship.

Have you ever been in a rut? It’s a bad feeling that many of us know all too well. By devoting ourselves to finding, learning, and singing new songs we can help fight against ruts in our corporate worship lives. We have already established that songs capture times, moments, and memories within themselves and hopefully as we mature and advance in our walk with Christ we feel the need to create new memories and moments. New songs can capture new seasons of our church bodies lives and speak to particular situations that are around us currently. We all have those particular “go-to” songs that our congregations just love and have grasped on to, but I would like to encourage you to not go-to those songs so often. God presents new mercy and grace everyday and because of that we should offer up new praise and worship. With new songs comes a freshness in worship. I know that it is easier said than done, but a new song a month or every other week is a good way to get your congregations searching, learning, and seeking new music as well as creating new memories and moments that they will get to relive forever when they hear those particular songs.

  • It provides opportunity for an expansion of our worship vocabulary and library.

How many of us can quote more songs word-for-word than Bible passages? Unfortunately, I know that I can. Songs are memorable and contagious. We hear them, learn them, and memorize them without much effort. By continually playing the same songs we are just feeding that behavior and those words eventually begin to not carry as much weight as before. By introducing new songs we are introducing new material for our congregations to learn and think about without even meaning to! Let’s put new words, thoughts, and phrases in their minds to enable them to worship in new ways, with new words! I catch myself throughout the day humming or singing a particular section of a song without meaning to and I know that I am not alone. As worship pastors, leaders, and teams we should have a desire to place as much Biblical and Godly content into the heads of those around us as possible. What that ultimately comes down to is learning new songs. Let’s put forth an effort to finding solid songs and to teaching them to our congregations so that their worship libraries can be expanded for those times when their minds drift to musical content. Music is widely available everywhere and ultimately we want them worshipping Jesus and not Bieber… so we need to give them songs new songs to sing.

  • It causes us to put forth effort.

In the end, it is just easier to sing old and comfortable songs. It comes natural. But, we serve a God who shows us new mercy and grace everyday and provides a way for us to worship and be creative. If we are going to be good stewards of the abilities the Lord has given us then we need to put forth some effort in our worship. Our eternities in Heaven are going to be spent singing praises to our God, and I’d like to imagine that those praises aren’t going to consist of “Amazing Grace” 1,000,000,000 times… Let’s begin to live our eternities now and praise our God in new and fresh ways. It will take effort, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

Let’s take the challenge together to sing new songs!

I don’t want you leaving this blog thinking there is no place for familiarity because that is not the point at all. To be applicable I will state that I never do more than one new song a week and typically play a single new song two weeks in a row before introducing anything else. But… every church is different and you are the best judge for your particular situation. In the end, we should be singing new songs with songs that we already know and love. God has given us memories of the past for a reason, but we are also made new in His love daily and we should celebrate that with new praise unto Him!

The Importance of Christian Meditation

When you hear the word meditation what do you immediately think of? A fat little bald man? How about peaceful monks sitting Indian style humming and focusing their minds? Meditation is something that is commonly misunderstood in the Christian world and preconceived notions and false ideas have colored our vision into what it really is. It’s absolutely true that some types of ‘meditation’ are not helpful to the Christian. Do not confuse these ideas with true Christian meditation. The religions of the East fall into this category. Even some forms of meditation that are taught by Christian groups are not really helpful. One teaching on meditation tells you to clear your mind, sit comfortably and repeat particular phrases or patterns of sounds until you feel at some sort of inner peace. Personally, I don’t understand the benefit of it because it neither promotes the repentance and fellowship with the Spirit that God enjoys. In this blog post we will explore the idea of Christian meditation and the affect it can have on your personal spiritual health and life.

Scripture meditation is something that I have done and taken very seriously since last semester when I was blessed to be able to take a “Personal Spiritual Disciplines” course at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have seen obvious life change with intentional and deliberate meditation on God’s Word everyday. I believe that Scripture meditation is perhaps one of the most neglected disciplines in the Christian life these days. I believe that very few Christians have been taught how important it is to pay close attention to what they think about on an everyday basis. We have all heard the statement, “You are what you eat.” You may wonder how that ties in, but I believe we can put it this way, “You are what you think about.” What we think about is an accurate and personal portrayal of who we really are. You see, today we as believers have become really good at putting on masks or appearing one way when the truth is entirely different. In Matthew Jesus makes it very clear when talking to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law that outward appearances mean nothing when they are false representations of who we really are on the inside. Jesus had this to say in Matthew 23:25-28:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

What a shocking statement Jesus makes here. For the longest time I even fooled myself into thinking that if I appeared to have it “all together” then I must really have everything together!

The Pharisees to us are an obvious case of hypocrisy. But do you really think that they intentionally became hypocrites or do you think that they slipped little by little? You see the Pharisees spent all of their time making sure that they obeyed the law perfectly from the time they were children. From the outside, it appeared that they were keeping God’s law perfectly and were therefore righteous men. But guess what…

In spite of all our outward work God is not impressed with what we appear to be!

But what God is really interested in is what we are like on the inside. He wishes to change us from the inside out. His goal is to make us clean on the inside so that we would naturally be clean on the outside.

I have said all of this to frame the conversation for meditation. To meditate means to engage in contemplation or reflection, or pondering, or to focus one’s thoughts on. To ponder is to weigh in the mind, to think about, and to reflect upon. Meditation is a function of both the mind and the heart. You cannot disconnect either the mind or the heart and still be meditating on Scripture. They go hand-in-hand.

Whether we realize it or not, we all spend a large portion of our time in some form of meditation. The thing is, what we meditate on may or may not be worth our time. In fact, what we habitually think about is could be unhealthy for our growth as Christians. Often it is simply unproductive or sinful. Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 104:34 says, “May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” Paul even urges the Philippians to meditate on the things and ways of the Lord in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Lastly, in Romans 12 we are urged to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” so that we can better do God’s will.

In the end, we all have to ask ourselves… What do I meditate on daily?

  • Money?
  • Hobbies?
  • Work/ Success?
  • Relationships?
  • Technology or the newest gadget?
  • Sinful behavior?
  • The pressures and stresses of everyday life?

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea… Those things aren’t Jesus.

Meditation is intentional and a lifestyle. It won’t happen on accident. I have learned that meditation can be done at all times of the day. It requires a bit of planning and extra effort to keep focused because it is work. It is also foreign to the natural state of our hearts, which are naturally depraved and sinful. Meditation is something that we MUST choose to do.

Do you want to hear from God? Seek Him through Scripture meditation and prayer.

Brothers and Sisters, we have briefly thought upon the importance of Christian Scripture meditation, so I will leave you with the words of Joshua 1:8,

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Intentionality is Key

The Merriam-Webster defines intentional or intentionality as something done with intention or on purpose. How often do we do things purposefully? When we act with intentionality towards someone or something we are giving them or it perceived worth in our eyes. That’s huge. To whom or what do you give worth?

Here are a few things within our ministries that we as worship leaders should approach with intentionality and allow God to in turn use for His glory:

Your Personal Relationship with Christ

This may seem like a given, but it is far too easy to get in the flow or into a routine and to become a full-time worship leader and a part-time follower of Christ. We as human beings are very good at faking things by becoming “excellent” at what we do without even thinking about why we do it. We all have the church or spiritual mask that we can put on to make people believe we have it all together even if we don’t. Sometimes I myself can be so “task-driven” or goal oriented that I forget to be intentional with Christ. Improving our ministries and getting things done isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if we do those things while sacrificing personal devotion then what are we really working for? I lead worship a lot… but I hope that I can be a personal worshipper of Christ even more. Let’s decide right now to never become more focused on the things that we do and how we do them than the REASON behind what we do. Take time to spend with Jesus… your congregations will thank you.

Your Communication

Communication is key! Be intentional to communicate among your leadership and your ministry. I have found that the leadership in any church loves to take time in order to find out what is happening within the body. Fill them in! We don’t have to do this alone.

This also can have another side to it. As worship pastors we are really good at spending time to create structures and worship services and then keeping our reasoning to ourselves! Let people know why you choose the songs you do and place them at certain parts of a service. Some people are better at putting the pieces together than others and I personally am very poor at providing them with all the pieces on a weekly basis.

Your Time

Think back to the last time someone or something had a problem that they approached you with right before rehearsal or a service… if it wasn’t sometime in this last week I am thoroughly surprised. It would be hard for an outsider to understand the amount of stress and last minute emergencies that we as worship leaders deal with on a weekly basis. I have just come to accept them as a part of leading within a body of believers. I also know, from personal experience, how easy it is to stay busy and yet get nothing done. Our time as ministers is limited and often times we are stretched in every direction, but in order to serve our congregations with Godly excellence we must work to be intentional with our time. It’s far too easy to get overwhelmed by all the last minute things that come up, but if we are careful about scheduling in advance and thinking ahead not only will we get more done, but we will free up more time to be intentional in other areas that are on this list. We should strive to never treat our ministries like a list of tasks or jobs that we have to get done every week, and one way to do that effectively is to have a schedule!

Your Relationships

 Jesus was intentional about building relationships with His followers. We should follow that example in order to disciple and mentor those around us. As “Worship Pastors” we need to be acting like a pastor, and that requires more than just singing or playing an instrument. Being intentional within a relationship is essential in establishing influence and developing those around us into productive disciples who can, in return, spend their lives mentoring others. Jesus walked, talked, and ate alongside His disciples. They experienced life together. It was in that way that they were able to be ministered to.

Chip Bell says, “Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer unconditional, faithful acceptance.” There can be no discipleship without relationship… and relationships are intentional.

Making a conversation out of our Worship

How do you view worship? How does your congregation view worship? When we sing “ Lord, I will follow you” or “You give and take away” we are making serious statements to God. Do we treat our worship as a ritual that we do because we are told to or do we see it as a serious conversation between ourselves, our congregations, and God? Hopefully we can say we treat it as the latter.

Believe it or not the order of our songs can tend to lead us into conversation through our worship more than anything else we can plan to do. There is really no set way to plan a service or worship set… we can have general plans or ways of doing things but in the end the choice of certain songs is unique to each congregation. In worship planning there are really no right or wrong songs to use… different songs are useful for different things and while one song might provide incredible insight into God’s character and majesty another may provide simplistic but meaningful conversation about our reliance on the Lord. In the end, some songs are written “about” God and are filled with statements about His character (many hymns are written about God). Other songs make statements “to” God, as if in a conversation.

My suggestion is to sequence the songs in a revelation to response method by placing the ones that reveal things about or talk about the ways or attributes of God closer to the beginning of the service as the congregation is preparing themselves and getting in the frame of mind that congregational worship demands. When we provide revelation first it allows the people within our congregation to think and sing about God and it moves them into the mindset of desiring a conversation with the One that they know and hold dear. The method here is much like a gathering or party. Right at the outset of the party typically people aren’t willing to open up and share the personal parts of their lives with each other. Instead we start with “ice-breaker” and casual conversations… we learn about each other (jobs, relationship statuses, hobbies, attributes, etc). Conversations usually become more personal as defenses fall and authentic communication can be accomplished. Therefore, we need to do the same thing with our designed worship experiences… we first learn about God ad meditate on Him and then we can begin to open up and respond to Him through conversation.

Our revelations about God should call us and our congregations to respond. 

Hopefully with this loose structure in mind we can begin to more effectively plan and organize services that have a way of moving people into genuine conversation and worship of God. The ball is ultimately in each individuals court, but we should be good stewards of the leadership that we have been given.