Yesterday I met with my music team to evaluate our previous Sunday morning service and plan ahead for the coming Sunday. I thought it might be helpful to write here the guidelines we use to carefully plan (under the direction of the Holy Spirit of course) what will be included in the coming worship services. Naturally this is still a work in progress. We are still getting to know one another and learning how to work together, plan ahead, and evaluate.
In choosing the sermon text I am first greeted with the warm reminder that “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). So I cannot go wrong when preaching from any text- God will do His work through it (Isaiah 55:11; Hebrews 4:12)! Practically I try to plan in advance the direction we as a congregation need to go and preferably I preach through books of the Bible systematically and expositionally. Currently I am preaching through Matthew on Sunday mornings. I have tried to plot out which texts I will cover over the course of the next six months. The Lord may throw me a curveball in my study time and change the direction one week, but at least it gives me a plan. My music team knows in advance the texts I will cover and when I will preach them (they are provided along with the whole congregation a “worship card” which provides the date, sermon title, main text, opposite Testament text for devotional reading, and memory verse). While I do not write the sermon until the week of, this gives us a guide to plan the music and other worship elements.
In choosing the songs my music team is first to think through each song from a theological perspective. They must ask the question, what do these songs teach us about God? Second, they are to think through each song from the perspective that Sunday is a corporate gathering. In other words, they must ask the question, is everyone included in this praise offering? Third, they must think about how the musical praise offering portion of the worship service flows in (or from) the preaching portion of the worship service. So they must ask the question, how do these songs prepare ears for the Word of God to be preached? Finally, they are to think through each song from a practical perspective. The question has to be asked- is the song sing-able? Is it a good fit for our instrumentalists, lead singers, and congregational singers?
In arranging the order of worship I primarily trust our worship leader and music team to arrange the order of service but typically includes (besides the sermon of course) songs of praise, meditation, Scripture readings, and focused times of prayer. Does order stifle the Holy Spirit? I believe 1 Corinthians 11-14 command and encourage that we have order in our weekly gatherings. It isn’t about being rigid or rehearse but about being intentional and instructional in our privilege to worship our King. In should also be noted that preparation is not an alternative to being Spirit-led. In fact we believe that the Spirit leads in the preparation meetings, in the choir rehearsals, in my study, and during personal devotions throughout the week. Preparation is the practice of submitting to the Holy Spirit and discerning His leadership more thoroughly.