Where to Find “New” for Worship

     What shall we include in worship? We are often looking for something new.  The question of what to include in worship can plague evangelical worship leadership whose churches worship in the free church tradition.  As proud as we are of  our independence from any ecclesial hierarchy, the question can be haunting when it comes time to start putting some plans on paper for Sunday worship – choosing songs, placing dramas or readings.  In talking with worship music leaders in our state and beyond I find the vast majority of Baptist worship leaders work their weekly worship order from a sort of “blank page.”  I have spoken with pastors who indicate they try to get into series preaching, either working their way through exposition of a book of the Bible, or designing a thematic series to address perceived pastoral leadership needs within his congregation.  Many Worship Music Ministers are relieved when they have their pastor’s preaching series information as it allows them to select music and other material that will compliment the direction of the sermon theme.  Though relatively few and far between, there are those evangelical pastors and worship leaders who use a lectionary to guide sermon, song, and readings selections for weekly worship, or who in some other way follow a Christian calendar in planning worship.

I am always interested to know how worship planners get started in their worship planning process.  I like hearing from seasoned veterans and from newbies where they start to write out a worship plan and how they make decisions about what they will and won’t place as part of the worship liturgy.  I know some worship leaders are strongly driven by songs they hear and want to incorporate into the worship language of their church.  I know there are some pastors who demand a certain timbre in the worship environment, whether somber or celebrative.

In this new year there are likely some who stretch to find “new” in the novelty of new music material, or in dazzling digital graphics.  With all the newly published music packets music ministers receive, it may take hours to find that gem that somehow moves the emotions of the worship leader that he or she presumes will likewise be a surefire hit with the congregation.  Lost in the sonic world inside the headphones a worship planner can lose sight of the core of worship, much as a pastor might if he gets sidetracked into planning a sermon beginning with an illustration that he thinks is just too good to pass up.  Nothing wrong with a great new song, or an effective illustration, but it seems important to maintain equilibrium as to the heart of worship and the source of transformative power.  The best “new” we can possibly offer in our worship gatherings is the new that is the heart of the Gospel itself.

Spurgeon says it well:

We ought not, as men in Christ Jesus, to be carried away by a childish love of novelty, for we worship a God who is ever the same, and of whose years there is no end. In some matters “the old is better.” There are certain things which are already so truly new, that to change them for anything else would be to lose old gold for new dross.

The old, old gospel is the newest thing in the world; in its very essence it is for ever good news. In the things of God the old is ever new, and if any man brings forward that which seems to be new doctrine and new truth, it is soon perceived that the new dogma is only worn-out heresy dexterously repaired, and the discovery in theology is the digging up of a carcase of error which had better have been left to rot in oblivion.

-taken from Kingdom People blog by Trevin Wax

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

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3 Comments on “Where to Find “New” for Worship”

  1. Zach Young Says:

    Thank you for this good word Paul. To answer you question about how I start the service planning process, I do typically depend on a list of coming Scripture passages from my pastor. He doesn’t use a lectionary, but he does typically give me 6-8 weeks advance notice. It’s almost like he creates a mini-lectionary for me every couple of months. I try to select choir anthems 5 – 6 weeks out to allow plenty of rehearsal time, so I depend heavily on the “mini-lectionary.”

    We have also discussed an over-arching year-long emphasis for 2012, so that helps me especially with long-range anthem planning and selecting certain congregational hymns and songs that we will revisit often throughout the year. Anyway, back to planning.

    1. On Monday, read the Scripture passage for the following Sunday message and pray.
    2. Find out from the pastor if he has a particular emphasis he will be highlighting from the text. For instance, many passages of Scripture have multiple applications. Which one will he really be “driving home” in the sermon? I try to choose the hymn of response to fit well with his final application point.
    3. On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, start pouring over hymnals and songbooks while praying.
    4. Simultaneously, I think of places where Scripture reading, responsive reading, corporate prayer, etc…will be appropriately and effectively incorporated into the service.
    5. I’m not a fan of random novelty, so I typically follow a general template for the order of service.
    6. On Tuesday by 4:00 p.m., the service is finished.
    7. On Wednesday, I rehearse the congregational music with the choir before rehearsing any anthems. It is important for the choir to provide STRONG leadership for the congregation.
    8. Thursday – Saturday: Pray more, and study the song texts to get them in my head and heart by Sunday morning.
    9. Oh, and during all that, Sunday evening worship is getting the same process (though I confess I’m not always as diligent and detailed with my evening worship planning).

    • Paul Clark Jr Says:


      I am sure many worship planners could resonate with your description of process. Thank you for sharing it where others can see it. The good relationship you share with your pastor is a good model for others serving in ministry through music. You make a great team, and your mutual respect translates into strong worship leadership among your church family. May your tribe increase.


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