By the time your Sunday services begin, thousands of decisions have been made—both macro and micro. In each of these deciding moments is an opportunity to be faithful, or not, to the purposes God has called us to. If we are to be faithful, we must set our priorities in order long before even the smallest decision is made.
Priority #1: Truth
As Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Truth from Scripture must be the framework and standard by which every other priority is subjected. If we have a gathering with killer music but no truth, we have a pointless gathering: we’ve led people astray by placing their focus on something far less important and valuable than a God who redeems broken sinners. The songs that we sing need to not only have the ability to stir affections (any pop song can do that), but also to teach. The choice of song can be as simple as “Agnus Dei” or as deep as “Before the Throne,” as long as it is shows our people who God is or who we are in light of him.
Priority #2: Corporate Response
If the songs we play are only true, but not singable, memorable, or enjoyable, our people will be far less likely to have their hearts stirred by the truths we are presenting. They will be distracted with trying to get around the music instead of into it. Songs that teach and admonish are best when they are SUNG! Jonathan Edwards says that what we see on the outside “is no sign one way or the other, that religious affections are very great, or raised very high.” Responsiveness is hard to gauge. Just because hands are in the air doesn’t mean hearts are being changed. At the same time, if everyone in the congregation is staring at your lyric slides like zombies, chances are their hearts aren’t being changed either. God looks at the heart, and whether corporate worship is a true reflection of the lives within our church or not, it will be seen by the fruit we bear in our day-to-day worship.
Priority #3: Musical Style, Arrangement, and Execution
When we gather to sing, the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” are the means by which truth is prompting people to respond. Though this is our third priority, it is only because it is in subjection to priorities 1 and 2. The music serves truth and responsiveness. I say all of this because the medium matters.