One privilege you have in planning worship services is the opportunity to mix and match songs. Colossians 3:16 tells us to teach each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Giving attention to the flow of thought from one song to the next facilitates this kind of teaching.
There are many ways to apply this principle. One effective way to drive a truth home is to put two songs with parallel themes together, the second one building upon the first.
This can be done with any combination of congregational hymns, choral anthems or small group specials. In other words, consider what song would be a logical response to the solo you have scheduled. Or put two or three worship songs together that build on each other. Pray for God’s direction in how to frame the flow of the service.
Just to give you an example, we recently put two choir anthems together with the theme of “Jesus Saves,” inviting the congregation to join on the second song. The choir sang “Hallelujah, Jesus Saves” by Williamson, then we went directly into Heather Sorenson’s arrangement of Travis Cottrell’s “Jesus Saves,” with congregation joining on the second song.
God put His hand on this combination in a service when our church family needed special encouragement from the Lord. The personal questions of Williamson’s “Hallelujah, Jesus Saves” – “Who am I that you would want me, that you’d come to bear my cross?” and “Who am I to come so boldly?” – along with the affirmation of the chorus “Jesus Saves, Jesus Saves. Hallelujah, Jesus Saves,” are enough to encourage any believer. Combine that with the climactic build of “Jesus Saves” and the story it conveys of the life of Christ, and the result was overwhelming.
Giving thought to the flow of thought in a service facilitates teaching and encouragement.
After “Hallelujah, Jesus Saves,” the pianist modulated to the next key, started the intro of “Jesus Saves,” and we invited the congregation to stand and join the choir in singing, “Freedom’s calling, chains are falling, hope is dawning bright and true.” As the song built with “‘It is done!’ will shout the cross!” and the last verse’s “The redeemed will sing forever, ‘Jesus Saves,'” the only way to put it is that it was absolutely overwhelming.
I might get push back that this kind of planning is manipulative and just working up emotion. However, I would contend that good teaching is well planned and that good teaching impacts not only the mind but also the emotions. Additionally, this kind of focused attention on one truth is necessary for good communication in our hyper-distracted world. Giving thought to the flow of thought in a service facilitates teaching and encouragement.
On a side note, any time you invite the congregation to join in on a choral anthem, it helps if the church has heard the arrangement enough to be familiar with it, or the people will be distracted by what makes it an arrangement – rhythmic changes, key changes, high sections, etc. It also helps if the song is a winner. “Jesus Saves” is a favorite at our church. Even though it’s a challenge to sing, it works, because it’s so good.
So, pray for God’s leading as you plan your services, and consider what could be a powerful combination.
I would love to hear from you about a combination of songs that was effective in teaching a truth to your congregation. Comment below.