Dear Song Leader

Dear Song Leader,

You have a tough job. You’ve been tasked with leading the congregation in song, choosing music that flows with the sermon to be preached and is actually enjoyable.

And everybody has an opinion on what “enjoyable” means.

Including me.

There are some songs that are just offensive to my taste. There are some songs that are just impossible for me to sing because I’m a guy and the key is just too high (and I can’t pull off the skinny jeans that could make it possible to hit those high notes). I don’t like songs that go on for seven minutes when they have six words.

And I don’t like Hillsong United.

Truthfully, I could go the rest of my days without ever hearing another one of their songs and die a happy man. Because honestly, I doubt we’ll be singing any of their material in Heaven—not even “Mighty to Save.”

That’s my taste—and it’s something I am trying to get over every time I hear one of their songs. My taste is not what’s important. What’s important is that our songs are pleasing to Christ and communicating truth about Him and praise to Him.

Song leaders, I have a request:

Challenge us when we sing.

I’m not saying that you need to start rocking the classic hymns. (Although you could. They communicate the truths of the gospel in a way that many modern songs simply don’t even come close.)

I’m not saying put Romans 8 to music, or write a song that goes through the doctrines of grace or advocates for the free will of man in salvation (if such is your theological position).

I’m asking you to make us think deeply when we sing. Make us think deeply about what we’re singing. Confront us with our sin.

Help us rejoice in our salvation.



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  • Amber

    Sometimes I’m singing along to a song and have to go, “Wait, what?” because the lyrics are so fruity tooty, I have no idea what I’m actually singing or if I agree with it! These more “artistic” lyrics can be good for the artists own personal expression (perhaps), but bad for congregational worship.

    Our church has a policy that in our Sunday worship, we’ll only sing songs focused on God and worshipping him – not on ourselves or our feelings. It’s surprisingly hard to find many appropriate songs, but it’s such a refreshing way to worship!

    And I’m with you on the high thing:

    • Aaron Armstrong

      That’s a terrific policy! Our church has one that’s relatively the same, and Steve (our worship pastor) goes out of his way to find God-honoring songs, sometimes even going so far as to change lyrics on ones that are generally “okay” to make them more precise.

  • Tammy Churchill

    Aaron, I agree with much of what you stated. What is popular is not always the most edifying, and the whole point of the worship music is to bring us into a worshipful, open and intimate fellowship with our God, while at the same time preparing our hearts for the message to come. You are correct, everyone has an opinion, and I value some more that others based on the reasons for their preferences. For example, I am a big fan of some of the classic hymns because of the doctrinal truth they contain and like some of the new contemporary arrangements because they reveal these truths in a fresh and engaging way. I am not likely to take seriously those opinions that are based on ‘entertainment value’ alone or based on the premise of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’, The answer? To honestly take each suggestion to prayer and ask the Father to reveal to my heart the best answer or some hidden prejudice I am holding that may be negatively influencing the ministry. And I couldn’t agree more – we need to be challenged to be actively engaged with the message of the music and not just passing the time until the sermon begins. Thanks for sharing!!

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  • Alex McLean

    I completely and enthusiastically agree with your closing statement. Songwriters, leaders, musicians, please inspire us to magnify God, to exalt him, and then to go out and be a part of building His Kingdom. The Hillsong United thing, well that’s preference – but I think you might want to consider where the music comes from (long history of worship/music ministry), generational preference, and what the music is actually doing. It’s alot about bringing light to dark places, revealing injustices in the farthest parts of the world and speaking Christ into those places, encouraging, and asking us & others, “what can we do about this?”. I’m not a huge United groupie and I agree that some songs are a little indulgent. But, there’s some good stuff happening in and from the ministry. Thanks for the great post!

    • Aaron Armstrong

      hey Alex,

      Thanks for your feedback; absolutely the Hillsong thing is (almost) pure preference. There’s a long history of doing solid stuff for sure and some of their stuff I actually enjoy. Just not a lot. Anyway, thanks for your excellent feedback – take care!

  • Don

    Aaron, I like the challenge of your last two paragraphs. For me, the litmus test is what motivates the writing and promotion of new ‘worship music’.

    Today, producing the latest top-of-the-chart worship hit (read sales) is often an underlying motivation to the proliferation of worship music. Perhaps in conjunction with this is the desire for star-status and ratings.

    The evangelical music market is big money, and much of the promotion that comes under the guise of of an outreach campaign or in the form of slick merchandising is nothing more than a quest for DVD/CD sales. Christian entertainment is rich market to be exploited.

    One popular production company has discovered the ‘Christian-nostalgia market’ and produces an endless stream of TV shows for the sole purpose of promoting DVD and Video sales. This motive is so blatant, that even the singers on the shows occasionally make fun of this. Some of the ownership of these production companies have no interest in worship or God, but they know how to promote so that their bottom-lines are positively impacted.

    There are exceptions. Some of the contemporary worship music is a genuine reflection of the author/producer’s desire to glorify God. The lyrics are deeply meaningful reflecting a rich biblically based theology. But these are, I suspect, exceptions and difficult to identify.

    There is much to be said for the traditional hymns of the church. They grew out of a genuine attempt to glorify God and often/usually are rich in biblical theology – the ones that have lasted, that is. The weak song/hymns have disappeared as the ones written today will.

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  • J. K. Jones

    Being a song leader is difficult.  I try to lead our little PCA church in time-honored, theologically-rich hymns.  But I am increasingly being drawn to singing of the Psalms.  The Psalms cover almost every concivable mood and every attribute of God I can think of.  Maybe those OPC guys were onto something.

  • Jake Klassen

    I’m just going to quietly enjoy this post and pretend I wrote it as it so closely resonates with my own heart. Thanks Aaron.

    • Aaron Armstrong