By Garrett Wooten
The God of the universe, who is the first and the last, who was before all time, is now, and forevermore will be, has made Himself known to us in His Word.
In God’s Word, we see a cycle of revelation and response. God reveals His nature, His character, who He is, and how He works. And this revelation, in turn, demands a response.
At Paramount Church, where I serve as the worship pastor, we hold Scripture in the highest regard, as noted in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Thus, our actions support these beliefs. If we believe the Word of God is God’s revelation of Himself to man, then each time a body of believers gathers for corporate worship, we should want to put Him on display.
Put God on Display.
We do this by basing each element of every corporate worship service on the text of Scripture. Our pastor preaches book by book, section by section, through the Bible, and each week, we strive to center our services around the text we’re studying.
One of the first meetings I have each Monday morning is with our lead pastor to begin to chart out the upcoming Sunday services. He tells me the passage he’ll be preaching and any main points or specific themes present in the text.
After that meeting, I read through the text on my own, looking for recurring themes, phrases that catch my eye, or lines that may trigger a memory of a line in a song. I like to have the text sit in my heart and mind before I put pen to paper to plan a service, and so I usually let the text simmer overnight and don’t try to plan anything out for a day or so.
Sit Down to Plan.
When I do sit down to plan, I read through the text again and have a journal out to note words or phrases that seem to jump off the page, as is the nature of God’s Word.
Often, songs or other Scripture passages come to mind to shine a spotlight on the truth of the text we’ll be studying the coming Sunday. I then begin to create a list of song options that will work well with the overall theme of the text.
Many weeks, I have a list of ten or more songs! But that’s when elements like key signatures and “flow of service” enter the picture.
In gathered worship, we have people’s attention for just over an hour. Given this short amount of time allotted to us, we want to have a laser focus on God and how He’s revealed Himself to us.
There’s no time to waste.
For six long days throughout the week, there’s been a fight going on for our focus. On Sunday morning, we need to do everything we can to center our hearts and minds on the life-giving Word of God.
We certainly do this through the preached Word, yet I encourage you to also do this through the sung Word. Find the right song—the best song—for a Sunday.
Don’t settle for a good song or just a non-heretical song. Be intentional. As the pastor exegetes the Word through preaching, to the best of your ability, exegete the text through singing.
Songs have a way of nestling deep inside one’s heart and coming to memory when most needed. If a song has its foundation in the Word of God and has found its way into your musical vocabulary because it clearly articulates the truth of who God is and how He works, use it to arm your people for battle.
Choose songs that matter.
A few final thoughts:
- Our pastor has preached through Colossians, Jonah, Romans, Joel, Habakkuk, Titus, Esther, and currently, Matthew. Because of this, we’ve sung songs about God’s grace and kindness toward us in Christ, His faithfulness even though our eyes may not see Him clearly, His wrath, His love, and the list goes on.
- When you base your song selection and service planning on the Word of God, you allow your church to sing of God and His many attributes. It’s always appropriate to sing of the greatness and other-ness of God. We need to remind ourselves week-in and week-out there’s no one like Him.
- It’s always appropriate to sing about Jesus and His finished work on our behalf. If we believe that all Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation, we need to make a beeline to Jesus with every text preached and every song sung.
- Many have influenced my thinking on planning services this way. I gladly encourage you to reference the work and writing of Dr. Joe Crider, who first introduced me to what he calls Scripture-guided worship, also, Dr. Greg Brewton, Dr. Chuck Lewis, Dr. D.A. Carson, Ron Man, and Matt Boswell.
Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to a previous article from Wooten’s pastor, Andrew Hébert, on planning worship around the Word which you can read here.
GARRETT WOOTEN (@garrettwooten) serves as the Worship Arts Pastor at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas. He and his wife, Brittanie, have been married for 10 years and have two boys.