I love the Counting Crows. In fact, I can remember the first time I heard the song “Mr. Jones.” I remember sitting in my black Mercury Topaz with the radio cranked, hearing the line “oh no no, she’s looking at me” and believing him because of the emotion in his voice. I remember thinking “who is he trying to convince, Mr. Jones or himself?”
There was an aching, a desperation. And it resonated in me because I had an aching and desperation in my soul.
While they’re still touring, I can’t tell you the last time I listened to the Counting Crows.
I love to listen to Podcasts because I enjoy hearing the why behind the what. My favorite podcasts are ones where authors of all types of writings tell stories behind songs, books, scripts, etc… While I enjoy hearing these stories sometimes I walk away feeling disenchanted and thinking that ignorance, in some cases, truly is bliss.
I found a podcast about songwriting and I was pretty amped because I am a songwriter and I was looking to find some great inspiration in hearing how others do what I do. The subject of this particular one was on Adam Duritz, the lead singer of the Counting Crows.
After listening to the entire episode, there was no shout of “Eureka!” from the nuggets of songwriting gold and there was no jackpot to be found. Disappointment would be more accurate. Instead of hearing great stories behind his writing I learned that it was all just jibberish. And he was ok with that. He was ok with writing lyrics that meant nothing because they “sounded cool.”
To quote Taylor Swift from the song Never Getting Back Together…
Who does that? Who writes nonsense and then tries to pass it off as art? I mean, who are you trying to fool? Short answer:
And if we’re not careful, we can take this same approach when putting a set list together for our worship services.
This isn’t a blog post about the importance of lyrics, although it could be. What I’m getting at is song choice. Often, the songs we choose can be the difference between Heaven invading Earth or, if done poorly, people internally asking: “WHAT?”
It basically comes down to this approach: are we trying to simply feed the congregation with a cool demonstration of our musical prowess, or are we looking to nourish them with lyrics that proclaim the Good News of the Gospel? Fed or nourished. There is a HUGE difference here and the difference lies in our intent.
I do most of the cooking in my house because my wife is a successful businesswoman and I’m… well, I’m an artist. What that means is that I have more time to cook than she does, and I also enjoy it because it’s another creative outlet. When I think about feeding my family, I don’t just grab whatever and cook it however and then throw it together with a loud and proud bon appetit!
I carefully plan what I prepare, considering many variables like carbs, fat, sugar and overall nutrients. Why? Because I care about what goes into my families’ bodies. And because I care, I prepare!
When I consider the worship set, I take the same approach. I prayerfully consider what words we, as a church family, need to sing this week.
Just like the food we put in our bodies, the words that we put in our mouths can nourish our souls.
I don’t want to approach things like Adam Duritz and choose what would be “cool.” I want to choose songs that bring water to the dry places and food to the malnourished. I want the lyrics to bring hope to the hopeless, peace to the enraged, grace to those feeling ashamed and love to the unloved.
If all we have are the words we say, I want to be sure that the words we say are the ones that God wants us to sing. With an ear to Heaven, I look to fill the menu with songs of praise and worship that nourish the souls of the ones I’ve been entrusted to lead.
I realize that there are other factors to consider when creating a set list for Sunday: song keys, transitions, space, tension, interludes, quiet moments and crash outs. But nothing is as important as lyrical content. In fact, it is the only aspect that separates the secular from the religious.
We use the same notes, chords, measures, BPM, etc… as everyone else making music. What sets worship apart from just “music” is the spirit behind it; the intent behind the notes, chords, measures, BPM, etc…
So, what do you intend to do with this Sunday’s worship set?
This is a question worth asking and one worth answering. And the answer could determine whether we end up feeding the congregation or nourishing them.
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