Why We Sing What We Sing Part 2

Why We Sing What We Sing Part 2

By Dan Pahlau

In Part One of Why We Sing What We Sing we looked at the fun and weightiness of selecting worship songs and how worship songs come to our attention at Faith. In Part Two we’re taking a look at the higher level values of our worship songs – the robust set of guiding values that ensure our worship is truly worshipful!

Read Part One of Why We Sing What We Sing here

For every worship song at Faith, we have to answer the higher level question of, “Is this a song we want shaping the spiritual life at Faith Church?” For this, we need a robust set of guiding values. Years back, our Worship Planning Team, which currently includes Brad Jensen, Charlie Sandberg, Valerie Bouchard, Nick Sullivan, and me, set down these values for our worship services, and they continue to serve us well:

Response Producing
Believer Edifying
Seeker Accessible
Artistically and Culturally Engaging

Response Producing simply means that the worship service is intended to make participants of everyone who attends. This can look like singing, thoughtful contemplation of lyrics, prayer, engaging with the sermon, the taking of communion, celebration of baptism and more. The worship service should be the entire room responding to the work of God in us individually and corporately.

The songs we choose should be response producing - they should put forth the truth about God and his beauty, his worth, his work, his power, etc. in a way that draws us into participation in some form. Music is inherently an emotional venture, but when combined with undeniable truths and reminders about what God has done, what he’s going to do and the love he has for you and for me right now, we should be able to respond with our hearts and our minds with thanksgiving and joy.

Another key component of “response producing” is familiarity. Certainly people can worship through listening to musicians performing beautiful pieces, and we include pieces like that often, but at Faith, we want to be a singing church and so we aim for 80% of the songs in our Sunday services to be familiar enough for the congregation to be able to sing along comfortably. This means we limit the number of songs we use to keep the songs we love familiar enough for people to sing along. Often this means saying no to good songs so we can keep the great ones. Other times it means we decide to not keep a song that we thought would be easy for people to sing but in the end proved a little too complicated for congregational singing.

Believer Edifying means that the worship service is intended to build up those who are trusting in Jesus. It should help in deepening understanding, strengthening faith, and encouraging in a meaningful way. Zac Hicks, in his book The Worship Pastor, likens the weekly worship service to a spiritual meal taken together, and if that is the case, our musical diet should put some theological meat on our bones and be encouraging. After all, it’s our weekly time together and we are celebrating the goodness of God!

The importance of doing this together cannot be overstated. Ephesians 5:19-21 tells us to be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Our time together is irreplaceable, so the songs we sing and how we sing them should have a sense of togetherness for our encouragement and God’s glory.

Seeker Accessible is how we remember that Sunday morning is usually someone’s first experience with us as a church. Wherever they are in their relationship with God, whatever history they have with the church, likely they will experience one or several of our services before actually talking to individuals from the church. For the worship team and teaching pastors, this means extra responsibility to speak in a way that makes it clear what we are doing and why, but it also means that even the songs we sing should be mostly intelligible to a visitor.

I remember vividly one song with a chorus that was incredibly moving, a passionate cry to be known and made holy by God, but there was a single line in the verse that was so out there, so lacking in context and colloquial, we ended up scrapping the song in order to eliminate the distraction. This is where the ample supply of great songs for worship, both old and new, is a blessing: when we cut that song, we didn’t lose our only option for a song about pure hearts; we found two songs that worked better and moved on. 

Artistically and Culturally Engaging means we want to do what we do, well. When picking songs for our Traditional service or our Modern Service, we are asking two main questions beyond the topic for the week: “Is this a good cultural fit for the people we have coming?” And, “Can we do it well?” Because of the subjective nature of music, we recognize that there are a variety of styles that draw people in and lift hearts to worship, so depending on which service we are planning for and which musicians we are working with, we can end up with very different service plans centered on the same sermon topic.

This value gives us freedom to try new things and to stretch ourselves artistically within reason, but it should also be noted that this value intentionally comes last. At the core of Christian worship is a heart that knows we have no hope outside of Jesus Christ and that responds to that daily whether there is artful worship or not, amazing songs or not, a big auditorium or not. But because God blesses abundantly and beyond what we need and deserve, we get to use the various gifts he’s planted in our church body to bring artful and skillful music into our times of worship together.

The last part of the song selection process is to use these values to determine what songs we are going to be singing in this season of life in our church and then to pair the songs as well as we can with the sermon topic for a particular Sunday. This is precious to us because we believe that musical worship is better when it is rooted in God’s Word and when it helps us respond to God’s Word. So come any Sunday and hopefully you will find that the songs we sing are helping us to engage with God in heart and mind and soul as we open the Bible to see what God has for us. And, by all means, keep sending us your song suggestions! 

Dan Pahlau has been on staff at Faith for nine years as the Worship Ministries Director. At Faith, he coordinates and leads our worship services and one of his favorite parts of his job is building teams and relationships with people. 

Dan is a Fort Collins native who enjoys roasting and brewing coffee, staying active and quoting The Office.












3920 S Shields St Fort Collins, CO 80526


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