Why can’t you just sing some of the older songs? If you’ve been a worship leader for more than two weeks, you’ve likely had this question. It’s rarely asked in a sincere tone and usually comes with a sting of harsh judgment.
I’ve been involved in worship ministry since I was a teenager. I watched the birth of what we would call the “modern worship music” and have seen it’s blessings over the years. I’ve also been caught up in the crossfire of the arguments and wars over musical style and selection.
I love new songs. I firmly believe in introducing new songs to our congregations. The final “Amen” at the end of the Book of Revelation was not the final “Amen” for those of us who are crafting songs to tell the great story of the Kingdom.
There is also something stirring and powerful about singing the old songs. Many worship leaders just don’t want to hear this. If that’s you and you feel a resistance building up as you read this, I hope you’ll take a deep breath and listen.
A few days ago, I was driving my kid to school and we were playing around with Spotify on my iPhone. He was playing some of his favorite songs for me. I decided to have him search for some of my favorite songs from the past. The conversation went something like this:
“Jon Michael, see if you can find this one … it’s called “The Way It Is,” and it will be by Bruce Hornsby and The Range.”
“Sure, Dad, I found it … do you want me to play it?”
“Yes — you may recognize this. It’s one of the most awesome piano tunes ever.”
As the opening piano riff started my 12-year-old lit up and recognized it immediately. I felt this overwhelming joy rise up in me as memories from the past flooded into my soul. I’ve had so much fun not only listening to this tune, but also playing it. I used to spend countless hours with that cassette tape (yes, cassette tape) rewinding it over and over and pausing it so I could learn the piano solo note by note.
I dropped JM off at Glynn Middle and enjoyed the song three more times at very high volume on the drive back to St. Simons Island. I was elated. I hadn’t enjoyed that tune in a while. It set the mood for the day.
Now, I’ll transition to a Hillsong United concert I attended a while back.
I hadn’t listened to their newer albums as much as I’d done before, so many of the songs were new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed them and found myself worshiping and connecting with God through the music.
Then, it happened … about three-quarters of the way through the night … it started …
The opening riff to “From the Inside Out.”
The venue was packed with thousands of worshipers, and there was this incredible surge of applause and response. To most, this would be considered one of their “old songs.” Yet, it was embraced and celebrated.
- This song had history.
- This song was celebrated because of its meaning.
- This song was powerful because nobody had to stare at the screen for the words. It was memorized by all.
- This song was championed by the crowd as the voices of thousands rose to great levels. It was familiar, yet special.
Worship leaders, please listen … it’s not only OK to sing older songs, you SHOULD sing older songs.
Many of these older songs evoke memories of when a person was first drawn to the love of Christ. They take the worshiper back to a place of significance in their spiritual journey. They renew the passion and feelings of that moment and remind us of what God did.
Think about the Eucharist. It’s a reminder. We celebrate Communion “in remembrance.” There is something about going back to a place and reminding ourselves of what God has done. Old songs can help us do that.
Worship leaders … it may be that the older songs can’t be done in the style that you prefer. It may be that the song means NOTHING to you, but we have to remember that it’s not about us at all.
Would you consider this and be intentional about splashing some of the old in with the new?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!