4 Keys to a Well-Balanced Worship Set

There’s an old word of advice given to brides that they should wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” on their wedding day to ensure good luck. I don’t put too much stock into luck but I do believe that within this rhyme lie three keys to a well-balanced set list for worship. If we modify it a bit we can make it an even four! “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something you.”

Familiarity is a worship leader’s friend.

New songs require energy to learn. Not only is the worshiper trying to learn the melody and the lyrics, but they are also evaluating it. They are trying to decide if they like it and if the songwriter’s words are worthy of becoming part of their personal worship vocabulary.

Familiar songs, on the other hand, have had time to settle nicely into the hearts and minds of worshipers. The worshiper has already developed a “worship history” with the familiar song and, more than likely, has an easier time engaging with God through it.

However, as valuable as familiarity is, as they say, it can lead to contempt. And boredom.

Are you familiar with the aroma of freshly baked bread? I believe this aroma points to the ever-freshness of God! His personality and presence never grow stale but are always fresh and full of life! We are the ones who get stale and regularly need to get refreshed in His presence. I believe our worship should reflect the “freshness” of God.

Another reason new songs are needed is that lovers are always trying to figure out new ways to say, “I love you” to each other. It’s only natural that we would want to find new and fresh ways to express the “same old things” to Jesus:  We love You, we trust You, we need You, we thank You etc…

Finally, I believe God is always doing something new in His people. There’s a new revelation of Himself that He’s bringing, or a deeper work in His people’s hearts, or a new level of freedom etc… Since worship is a response to who He is and what He does, it’s only natural that a new revelation or new work of God would result in a new response. We see this principle in Isaiah 42:9-10, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare…Sing to the Lord a new song…” New “songs” follow new “things.”

This next one may not even be worthy of mention since most church’s worship does consist of songs that are “borrowed,” but because I see value in it, I’ll comment on it.

Ephesians 1:23 says the Church is the fullness of God. This is not talking about my church or your church but the global Church that stretches across time and space. I believe every local congregation bears a unique expression of who God is. No one church, as awesome as it may be, has the whole picture. The verse in Ephesians states that God is so big that it takes the whole Church to even get close to adequately reflecting who He is.

Similarly, no one songwriter, church, worship ministry etc… is adequate to squeeze all of who God is and what He’s doing into its “home grown” songs. Because of this, I believe there is value in using songs from a swath of songwriters and movements, not just songs that spring up out of your corner of the body of Christ.

However, I do believe that a song that springs up within a community can have more impact on that community than a song written by a “professional” across the pond. An original song is able to voice the specific longings of its community unlike any other. Also, the community experiences a sense of ownership of the song.

It’s so powerful when songwriters are able to put into song the specific promises God is speaking to a community. Moses did this in Deuteronomy 31-32 when he wrote a song and taught it to Israel so they wouldn’t forget what God had spoken to them.

Whether you lead worship for conferences or home groups, I encourage you to give this a try and write some original material. See what happens, you might be surprised.


“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something you.”


One thought on “4 Keys to a Well-Balanced Worship Set

  1. This is a well-worded, nicely illustrated, bite-sized piece of the worship feast. It is a well-proportioned tip of the iceberg because the whole iceberg is too ponderous to take in all at once. The rest of the iceberg is that I believe we’re trying to get to something more or beyond the singing of songs – intentionally or unintentionally. I know the writer of this blog believes this too. A “worship set” is always to facilitate getting to the place of interacting with God individually and corporately. This usually cannot be captured in a 3 to 8 minute recording, but lots of the trouble in the Western church is a satisfaction to fill the compartmentalized time called worship with this song set and not with the interacting, the praying, the waiting, the listening, the responding, the exploring, and the discovery of God that a worship set is designed to spark. That all takes a bunch more blog posts, but lest anyone go away too easily satisfied with this solid article on this great beginning point, be tantalized that there is much much more and there is deeper and even deeper.

    Liked by 1 person

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