Selecting Songs for a Specific Occasion

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

As we said at the beginning of the book, the qualities you strive for in writing worship songs are the same ones you look for in selecting them. You will look for songs that are easy to learn, hard to forget, emotionally touching and spiritually powerful.

There are hundreds, even thousands, of titles to consider. It can become a mind-boggling process. Let’s say you find one with an interesting title—this sounds like the message you’re looking for. But—the tune is dull and unmemorable, or the words are trite and unlyrical, and the hooks are non-existant. Pass this one up. Your congregation may try to sing it because you ask them to and they’re good sports (after all, they’re a captive audience.) Then again, they may not. At any rate, they won’t remember it, nor, if given the opportunity to vote, will they

But there are some other factors to consider in planning a worship set:

1. What is the Holy Spirit saying to this congregation now?

2. What is the pastor ministering on in this service? (This may or not be important. Some pastors prefer the songs to relate thematically to the sermon, while others feel that a good worship experience is all that’s necessary.)

3. Where are the people in their corporate experience, and what are they ready for now? Spiritually? Culturally?

4. What songs, and in what sequence, will best lead the people into an awareness of the Presence of God? Choose songs that move progressively through the gates, into the courts, then into the Throne Room. (Psalm 100:4) Avoid mere musical variety for its own sake.

5. Consider using at least one great hymn of high praise, then select worship songs that relate to its theme.

6. Know where you’re aiming, but be ready to change as the Spirit leads. A sensitive leader will on occasion go into a song that hadn’t been planned, because the Holy Spirit is doing something unanticipated among the people and the leader feels the need to linger on this theme and let God do his work. This can only happen in cases where the leader is mature and able to minister and has the trust and permission of the pastor. But if God wants to do something that we hadn’t planned for, it would be a shame to tell him, “Sorry, Lord, but You can’t do that. It isn’t printed in our bulletin.”

7. The handoff. What will the pastor do when you finish the worship time? He may want to continue in an unbroken stream of ministry. The handoff song should be carefully chosen to achieve this.

8.  In all your praise and worship writing and leading, don’t forget Jesus. Not every song needs to be about Him, but with all the recent emphasis on Old Testament patterns of worship and setting psalms to music, He sometimes gets left out. But the preaching of the cross and the name of Jesus are where the life-changing power is. All the symbolism of the Old Testament altar consisted of types and shadows of which Jesus is the fulfillment. (But who wants to live in shadows?) When you’re putting together a worship service, give some thought to this. And when you’re praying about what to write—The church needs songs that:

1. Invoke the presence of God, to minister to and to be ministered to by Him.

2. Declare the glory, authority and power of God.

3. Acknowledge the faithful provision of God in every need.

4. Acknowledge the work of the Cross for reconciliation and access to God.

5. Respond to the claims of the Cross to all we have and are.

6. Ask for God’s blessing and intervention in our nation.

7. Ask for God’s blessing and intervention in the nations of the world.

8. Declare our position and authority in Christ and wage spiritual warfare.



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