Category Archives: Selection Help

The Top Five Reasons for Rejecting Some of Today’s Music

I do not reject any contemporary song for the sole reason of it being “too light.” If I did, I would also have to reject the singing of Psalm 117 and cringe at what the angels are singing in heaven. Sorry, I am not about to do that!

But there are some good reasons to reject some of the Christian songs coming out today. Perhaps what I am about to say is only for my denomination based on it’s doctrines, but I don’t think so. Every Christian should take heed.

Here are the main reasons why I reject certain songs coming our today:
  1. The focus is on man, and our actions rather than on Christ, God the Father or the Holy Spirit. There are too many songs about us worshiping, us bowing down, us loving, us praising, us lifting, us singing, us, us, us, me, me, I, I … You get the picture. Some of this is fine but the song must also include the reason for our actions. Incredibly, too many songs fail this test!
  2. The next big one is what I would call “decision theology.” This is where we have the wherewithal to accept Jesus on our own, without acknowledging that He loved us first and that He chose us first. He is the initiator. I am very leery of songs that even use the word “choose or accept” in their lyrics unless it’s Jesus doing the choosing or accepting.
  3. There are huge denominational differences on the Sacraments. You need to be very careful on Communion and Baptism themed songs. Run these all by your Pastor before even giving them a blink of your eye.
  4. Watch for legalism. It’s in the lyrics. Stuff we have to do to gain eternal life as opposed to what Jesus has already done on our behalf.
  5. Watch for lyrics that can easily be misinterpreted. One that always gets my Lutheran ears ringing is actually a line in the Athanasian Creed that says: “Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.” I’ve heard this one rightly explained but it takes lots of backpedaling. My advice – avoid similar notions in your song selections.
These are the big 5. There are others, but I find that most contemporary writers shy away from deep theological and doctrinal statements in their music that would limit their acceptance in Christendom.

All that being said, there is a plethora of incredible new music being released every day!

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2014/2015

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2014/2015

It was popular last year, so I am doing it again. Here are my “new song” recommendations for each of your Lectionary-based worship services in the upcoming church year. On many of the Sundays I have included a choice of songs.

Email me at sjbrown58 “at” yahoo “dot” com if you would like a copy of this file.

Contemporary Song Choices for 2014/2015 based on the Lectionary Readings
Date Song Title Writer Scripture Ref
Nov 30 Advent 1 Since the World Began Mac Powell Isa 64:1-9
Dec 7 Advent 2 A Baby Will Come Bill Wolf Isa 40:3-5
Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Mark 1:1
Dec 14 Advent 3 Our God Saves Paul Baloche Isa 61:3
How Can I Keep from Singing? Chris Tomlin 1Thess 5:18
The Way Jeremy Camp Jn 1:5-7
Dec 21 Advent 4 Born That We May Have Life Chris Tomlin Luke 1:26-38
Dec 24 Christmas Eve We Have a Savior Reuben Morgan Isa 9:6
Emmanuel (Hallowed manger Ground) Chris Tomlin Lk 2:6-7
Dec 25 Christmas Day Glorious Day Mark Hall Jn 1:1-2
Dec 28 Christmas 1 Name Above All Names Tim Hughes Isa 45:22-24
God of Justice Tim Hughes Col3:12
Build Your Kingdom Here Rend Collective Col 3:14-16
Jan 4 Christmas 2 I Will Sing of My Redeemer Chad Cates Eph 1:1-7
Sing and Shout Matt Redman Eph 1:1-8
Let Our God be Praised Michael Farren Eph 1:3
You Alone Can Rescue Matt Redman Eph 1:4
Salvation’s Song Stuart Townend Eph 1:13
It is You Peter Furler Eph 1:7-8
Jan 6 Epiphany Mighty to Save Reuben Morgan Isa 60:1-3
Children of God Mac Powell Eph 3:6
One Small Child David Mecce Mt 2:1-12
Jan 11 The Baptism of our Lord Like a Lion David Bashta Acts 16:25-26
Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Mk 1:1
Jan 18 Epiphany 2 Word of God Speak Bart Millard 1 Sam 3:9
They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love Peter Scholtes 1 Cor 6:17
Jan 25 Epiphany 3 Go Fish Micahel Schmid Mk 1:17-18
Feb 1 Epiphany 4 You are Able Christy Nockles Dan 3:17
Lord I Need You Matt Maher 1 Cor 1:30
Redemption Song Marc Byrd 1 Cor 1:30
Feb 8 Epiphany 5 10,000 Reasons Matt Redman Ps 103:1-5
Feb 15 Transfiguration Farewell to Alleluia To the tune of “Ode to Joy”
Open the Eyes of My Heart Paul Baloche
Feb 18 Ash Wed The Scandal of Grace Hillsong United 2 Cor 5:20-21
Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin 2 Cor 5:21
Feb 22 Lent 1 Counting on Your Name Tim Hughes Rom 8:31-39
Across the Lands Getty & Townend Rom 8:34
Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Rom 8:35-39
Whom Shall I Fear Chris Tomlin Rom 8:38
Mar 1 Lent 2 Awesome in This Place Dave Billington Gen 28:17
Amazing Love (You Are My King) Billy Foote Rom 5:8
Grace Like Rain Todd Agnew Rom 5:8
Sweetly Broken Jeremy Riddle Rom 5:8-11
White Flag Chris Tomlin Mk 8:34
Give Me Jesus
  1. Ortega & Jeremy Camp
Mk 8:36-37
Mar 8 Lent 3 The Scandal of Grace Hillsong United 1 Cor 1:23
Mar 15 Lent 4 All Because of Jesus Steve Fee Eph 2:4-5
And Can it Be? Bob Kauflin Eph 2:4-7
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us Getty & Townend Eph 2:4-9
Grace Alone Scott Wesley Brown Eph 2:5-9
Wonderful Maker Chris Tomlin John 3:16
This is Amazing Grace Phil Wickham Jn 3:16
Jesus Saves Jeremy Camp Jn 3:16-17
Light has Come Matt Maher Jn 3:19
Mar 22 Lent 5 Be Glorified Chris Tomlin Jn 12:23
Be Lifted High Chris Tomlin Jn 12:32-36
Mar 29 Palm Sunday Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin Php 2:1-11
Like an Avalanche Joel Houston Php 2:1-16
Lamb of God Twila Paris Php 2:6-11
Hosanna Brooke Fraser Mk 11:9
Hosanna (Praise is Rising) Paul Baloche Mk 11:9-10
Apr 2 Maundy Thursday Make Us One Twila Paris 1 Cor 10:16,17
Apr 3 Good Friday Lead Me to the Cross Brooke Fraser Heb 4:15
Lord, I Need You Matt Maher Heb 4:16
Nothing but the Blood Matt Redman Heb 4:16
Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman Heb 4:16
Apr 5 Easter (Dawn) First Song of Isaiah Jack Nobel White Isa 12:2-6
In Christ Alone Getty & Townend 1 Cor 15:51-57
Across the Lands Getty & Townend 1 Cor 15:54-55
Mighty to Save Reuben Morgan 1 Cor 15:54-55
Christ is Risen Matt Maher 1 Cor 15:55 & Jn 20
Let God Arise Chris Tomlin 1 Cor 15:55
Resurrection Hymn Getty & Townend 1 Cor 15:57
Apr 5 Easter This is Amazing Grace Phil Wickham 1 Cor 15:20-23
All Because of Jesus Steve Fee 1 Cor 15:22
Apr 12 Easter 2 Arise Paul Baloche Acts 3:19
Like a Lion Michael Bashta 1 Jn 5:4-5
Apr 19 Easter 3 In Christ Alone Getty & Townend Acts 4:11-12
Your Name Paul Baloche Acts 4:12
Nothing but the Blood Matt Redman 1 Jn 1:7 & 2:1
Apr 26 Easter 4 You Are so Good to Me Ben Pasley Acts 4:31
Because of Your Love Paul Baloche 1 Jn 3:1
Lost in Wonder Martin Layzell 1 Jn 3:1
Children of God Mac Powell 1 Jn 3:1-2
How Great is the Love? Paul Baloche 1 Jn 3:1-5
May 3 Easter 5 I Need You More Marc James Jn 15:5
May 10 Easter 6 The Highest and Greatest Tim Hughes 1 Jn 4:4
Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin 1 Jn 4:10
May 14 Ascension Jesus Saves Tim Hughes Acts 1:8
Jesus Saves Jeremy Camp Acts 1:8
Glorious Paul Baloche Acts 1:10
Glorious Day Mark Hall Acts 1:11
The Scandal of Grace Hillsong United Eph 1:18
Open the Eye of My Heart Lord Paul Baloche Eph 1:18-21
Overcome Jon Egan Eph 1:20
May 17 Easter 7 Alive and Running Kristian Stanfill 1 Jn 4:14
My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness Getty & Townend 1 Jn 4:18
You Never Let Go Matt Redman 1 Jn 4:18
Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin 1 Jn 4:19
The Power of Your Name Paul Baloche Jn 17:11
The Name of Jesus Chris Tomlin Jn 17:11
May 24 Pentecost Awake My Soul Chris Tomlin Ez 37:4-10, Acts 2:1-3
Holy Spirit Rain Down Russell Fragar John 14:26
May 31 Holy Trinity I See the Lord Chris Falson Isa 6:1-3
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty Matt Maher Isa 6:1-8
Our Great God Fernando Ortega Isa 6:2-6
Wonderful, Merciful, Savior Dawn Rodgers Rom 8:14-16
June 7 Pentecost 2 The Way Jeremy Camp 2 Cor 4:6
June 14 Pentecost 3 Overflow Matt Maher 2 Cor 4:15
June 21 Pentecost 4 By Faith Keith Getty 2 Cor 5:7
June 28 Pentecost 5 Cannons Phil Wickham Job 38:4-7
The Scandal of Grace Hillsong United 2 Cor 5:15, 20-21
Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin 2 Cor 5:21
East to West Mark Hall 2 Cor 5:21
Holding Nothing Back Tim Hughes 2 Cor 5:17
July 5 Pentecost 6 Whole World in His Hands Tim Hughes Lam 3:21-24
I Lift My Hands Chris Tomlin Lam 3:21-24
Faithful Chris Tomlin Lam 3:23
The Lord Our God Kristian Stanfill Lam 3:23
In Christ Alone Getty & Townend Lam 3:23-25
July 12 Pentecost 7 Your Grace is Enough Matt Maher 2 Cor 12:9
Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman 2 Cor 12:9
His Strength is Perfect Steven Curtis Chapman 2 Cor 12:9-10
July 19 Pentecost 8 I Will Sing of My Redeemer Chad Cates Eph 1:1-7
Sing and Shout Matt Redman Eph 1:1-8
Let Our God be Praised Michael Farren Eph 1:3
You Alone Can Rescue Matt Redman Eph 1:4
Salvation’s Song Stuart Townend Eph 1:13
It is You Peter Furler Eph 1:7-8
July 26 Pentecost 9 Through the Cross Ben Cantelon Eph 2:15-17
Aug 2 Pentecost 10 They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love Peter Scholtes Eph 4:2-4
May the Words of My Mouth Tim Hughes Eph 4:15
Oceans – Where Feet May Fail Joel Houston Eph 4:14-16
Aug 9 Pentecost 11 Take My Life Scott Underwood Eph 4:23-25
Breathe Marie Barnett John 6:35
Aug 16 Pentecost 12 People Need the Lord Greg Nelson Eph 4:35
Savior of the World Ben Cantelon Eph 4:39-42
Miracle Maker Martin Smith Eph 5:1-15
Come Just as You Are Joseph Sabolick Jn 6:47
Aug 23 Pentecost 13 Holy Spirit Keith Getty Eph 5:18
Aug 30 Pentecost 14 Rescue Jared Andersen Jn 6:68
Rescuer Jn 6:68
Son of God Ed Cash Jn 6:69
Sept 6 Pentecost 15 O Church Arise Getty & Townend Eph 6:10-18
Sept 13 Pentecost 16 O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing David Crowder Isa 35:4-6
Everything, God in My Living Tim Hughes James 1:17
Everything Chris Tomlin James 1:17
Overflow Matt Maher James 1:17
Friend of God Michael Gungor James 2:23
Sept 20 Pentecost 17 Word of God Speak Bart Millard Isa 50:4
White Flag Chris Tomlin Mk 8:34
Sept 27 Pentecost 18 Yesterday, Today and Forever Viccky Beeching James 3:17
The Servant Song Richard Gillard Mk 9:35
Let the Children Come Michael Card Mk 9:37
Oct 4 Pentecost 19 Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer Keith Getty James 4:8
Oct 11 Pentecost 20 Come and See Lenny LeBlanc Heb 2:9
Worthy is the Lamb Jeff Nelson Heb 2:9
Let the Children Come Michael Card Mk 10:13-16
Oct 18 Pentecost 21 I Stand for You Jon Ellis Mk 10:21
By Faith Keith Getty Mk 10:27
Oct 25 Pentecost 22 In Christ Alone Getty & Townend Isa 53:10-11
Purify My Heart Jeff Nelson Isa 53:11-12
Once Again Matt Redman Isa 53:11-12
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us Getty & Townend Isa 53:12
Our Great God Fernando Ortega Isa 53:12
Thy Word Amy Grant Heb 4:12
Before the Throne of God Vikki Cook Heb 4:14016
Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin Mk 10:45
Nov 1 Reformation Salt and Light Jon L’Ecuyer Jer 18:6
O Church Arise Getty & Townend
Nov 8 Last Judgment Here’s My Heart Chris Tomlin Mal 4:2
The Wonder of the Cross Vicky Beeching Heb 9:28
Glorious Day Mark Hall Heb 9:28
Nov 15 Saint’s Triumphant How Can I Keep from Singing? Chris Tomlin
Nov 22 Christ the King O Worship the King Chris Tomlin Dan 7:9-22
And Can it Be? Bob Kauflin Rev 1:4-6
Amazing Love (You are My King) Billy Foote Rev 1:5
The Scandal of Grace Hillsong United Rev 1:5
Behold the Lamb Keith Getty Rev 1:5
Glory to God Forever Steve Fee Rev 1:6
Nov 26 Thanksgiving My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness Keith Getty
Enough Chris Tomlin Php 4:19
All We Need Charlie Hall Php 4:19


Sing to The Lord a New Song in 2014

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2014

Resolve in 2014 to sing a New Song to The Lord! Why not empower an energetic teen or young adult in your congregation who plays the piano, keyboards, or guitar to lead a worship team in offering one new song for each day of worship in 2014? You can do this for as little as $500/year, which should be enough to purchase three or four arrangements per week (piano, guitar and lead sheet) from a digital download site such as With God’s blessings, you should easily find a donor to fund such an activity within your church – especially when you mention that the teens will be enthusiastically involved. If not, reduce the commitment to one Sunday per month – in which case your costs will be under $100 for the entire year.

I have searched for appropriate songs and prayed for guidance but your Pastor should still review and approve each piece in the list below. Here are my recommendations for one song in each of your worship services in 2014.

Contemporary Song Choices for 2014 based on the Lectionary Readings

Date Song Title Writer Scripture Ref
Jan. 5 Christmas 2 Lord I Lift Your Name on High* Rick Founds Jn 1:14
Jan 12 The Baptism of our Lord One Small Child* David Mecce Isa 42:1
Jan 19 Epiphany 2 Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Jn 1:29
Jan 26 Epiphany 3 Follow You Leeland Mooring Mt 4:19
Feb 2 Epiphany 4 Speak O Lord* Keith Getty Mic 6:8
Feb 9 Epiphany 5 Offering (Christmas Version)* Paul Baloche Heb 12:1 & 13:15
Feb 16 Epiphany 6 Beautiful One Tim Hughes 1Cor 2:8-10
Feb 23 Epiphany 7 Living Stones* Michael Schmid 1Cor 3:10-14
Mar 2 Transfiguration We Fall Down Chris Tomlin (with Steven Curtis Chapman)
Mar 5 Ash Wed The Scandal of Grace Hillsongs 2Cor 15:20-21
Mar 9 Lent 1 The Power of the Cross* Getty & Townend
Mar 16 Lent 2 Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin Jn 4:25
Mar 23 Lent 3 The Heart of Worship* Matt Redman Eph 5:8-10
Mar 30 Lent 4 Come Let Us Return Brenton Brown Hos 6:1
Apr 6 Lent 5 Days of Elijah* Robin Mark Eze 37:1-14
Apr 13 Palm Sunday Hosanna (Praise is Rising) Baloche & Brown Mt 21:9
Apr 17 Maundy Thursday Broken and Poured Out Kevin Bueltmann 1 Cor 11:23-29
Apr 18 Good Friday How Deep the Father’s Love for Us* Getty & Townend
Apr 20 Easter Christ is Risen Matt Maher Jn 20:1-18
Apr 27 Easter 2 Come People of the Risen King* Getty & Townend Acts 2:26
May 4 Easter 3 Beautiful the Blood Steve Fee 1 Pe 1:18-19
May 11 Easter 4 You Never Let Go Matt Redman Ps 23:4
May 18 Easter 5 Living Stones* Michael Schmid 1Pe 2:4-10
May 25 Easter 6 Jesus Saves Tim Hughes 1 Pe 3:21
May 29 Ascension Glorious Day Mark Hall Lk 24:51
June 1 Easter 7 Your Name Paul Baloche Jn 17:1-11
June 8 Pentecost Awakening Tomlin & Morgan Acts 2:1-21
June 15 Holy Trinity Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty* Matt Maher
June 22 Pentecost 2 Your Grace is Enough Matt Maher Rom 3:23-25
June 29 Pentecost 3 The Same Love Paul Baloche Mt 9:13
July 6 Pentecost 4 Amazing Love (You are My King) Billy Foote Rom 5:8
July 13 Pentecost 5 Jesus Died, My Soul to Save Matt Boswell Rom 5:15
July 20 Pentecost 6 The Wonderful Cross* Chris Tomlin Rom 6:6-11
July 27 Pentecost 7 At the Foot of the Cross Kathryn Scott Mt 11:28-30
Aug 3 Pentecost 8 The Way Jeremy Camp Rom 8:19-22
Aug 10 Pentecost 9 In Christ Alone* Getty and Townend
Aug 17 Pentecost 10 Sovereign Over Us Aaron Keys Rom 8:28-30
Aug 24 Pentecost 11 Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Rom 8:35-39
Aug 31 Pentecost 12 Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Joel Houston Mt 14:25-32
Sept 7 Pentecost 13 In Christ Alone (with chorus)* Getty, Townend & Stanfill
Sept 14 Pentecost 14 We Cry Out Jeremy Camp Ps 34:17
Sept 21 Pentecost 15 White Flag Chris Tomlin Rom 12:1-5
Sept 28 Pentecost 16 Who is Like You? Mac Powell Gal 2:20
Oct 5 Pentecost 17 Amazing Love (You are My King) Billy Foote Rom 14:9
Oct 12 Pentecost 18 Overflow Matt Maher Php 1:26
Oct 19 Pentecost 19 Jesus Messiah Chris Tomlin Php 2:1-11
Oct 26 Pentecost 20 O Church Arise Getty & Townend Php 3:13-15
Nov 2 Reformation Mighty Fortress Shust & Baloche Ps 46
Nov 9 Last Judgment O Worship the King Chris Tomlin Da 7:9-10
Nov 16 Saint’s Triumphant Glorious Day Mark Hall 1 Th 4:16-17
Nov 23 Christ the King Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Mt 27:29
Nov 27 Thanksgiving My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness Keith Getty
Nov 30 Advent 1 All to Us Chris Tomlin
Dec 7 Advent 2 Behold the Lamb of God Shaun Starbuck
Dec 14 Advent 3 Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) Chris Tomlin
Dec 21 Advent 4 Waiting Here for You Chris Tomlin
Dec 24 Christmas Eve Glory in the Highest Chris Tomlin Lk 2:13-14
Dec 25 Christmas Day Born in Bethlehem Mac Powell Lk 2:10-11
Dec 28 Epiphany Offering (Christmas Version)* Paul Baloche Heb 12:1 & 13:15

* Easy enough for the congregation to sing along

For WELS and ELS members only – I am available to help should you have any questions – inasmuch as I can do based on my location. Contact me by replying to this feed or by email (sjbrown58 “at” yahoo “dot” com).

I pray that you witness passion in worship that is wonderfully contagious.

Sing a New Song this Sunday

Sing a New Song this Sunday

“Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.” – Psalm 149:1

With our Pastor’s concurrence, I pick the music for our blended worship services. Sometimes I take this task for granted.

I once shared a comment from our Pastor with a friend of mine. In this particular comment, my Pastor mentioned that he particularly liked a contemporary song and that he in fact wanted to add it to his list of contemporary favorites. My friend replied that I was giving my congregation new and fresh ways to praise their savior and that this was an incredible privilege. He is right.

This is what singer/songwriter Michael Card says on the subject of new songs:

“To sing new words that have never been sung just this way before, to play combinations of notes that have never been heard, to wonder whether they will have the desired effect on the listener, whether people or God – the sharing of the new song is an experience unlike any other.

In the wisdom writings of the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) we see excitement about the singing of a new song. The simple act of writing and singing something new demonstrates that the truth contained in the Scriptures can now be placed in the heart of the community as they sing together the truth of who God is. By singing the new song, they have made this truth their own. “
– Michael Card

I think that we miss something as worshippers if we only recycle the same old songs. The next time that you sing with your fellow believers, imagine how the songs sounded to those who heard them for the first time. Notice how it affects your perception of the songs.

Psalm 33:3 Sing to him a new song;play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Psalm 40:3a He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Psalm 96:1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Psalm 98:1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.

Psalm 144:9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,

Isaiah 42:10 Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song:“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Revelation 14:3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

He wants us to use a New song. A song that is Copyright 2012. Could it be that God wants us worshipers, and particularly us musicians, to keep writing new and fresh music for and about Him?. New music must be pleasing to God.

USE IT! – Consider introducing a fresh new song to your congregation this Sunday.

Guitar Friendly Keys

Guitar Friendly Keys

In a lot of church bands, the pianist/keyboard player picks out the music for the band. Most digital web-based music suppliers offer their arrangements in a variety of keys. The best way to select the right key for your band is to base the choice on your vocal abilities, but sometimes taking your instrumentalists capabilities into account is also a consideration. On behalf of most guitarists, this is the order of keys that we like:

Favorites: A, Am, C, D, Dm, Em, G and Gm

Acceptable: E, F

Can Struggle Through: Bb

Avoid if Possible: Eb, F#m

Say what? Ab, B, Bbm, C#m, Db, Ebm, Fm, F#, G#m

The above list is also helpful when it comes to transposing music, because a difficult key signature can become easily played if transposed into a friendlier key. Usually the guitarist will transpose down and then use a capo to bring it back into the original key.

Here’s some examples:

Transpose a song in the key of: Into the key of: And Capo at:
E D 2
F D 3
Bb A 1
Eb D 1
F#m Em 2
Ab G 1
B A 2
Bbm Am 1
C#m Am 4
Db C 1
Ebm Dm 1
Fm Em 1
F# E 2
G#m Em 4

A Scoring System to Determine if a New Song is Congregational-Friendly

A Scoring System to Determine if a New Song is Congregational-Friendly

How does a worship leader evaluate a piece of sheet music in terms of congregational singability once the lyrics have been approved by the Pastor?

After evaluating music for a number of years, I have come to the conclusion that there are about eight different criteria that need to be considered.  Just considering these criteria are usually sufficient to evaluate music.  However, some people prefer a more methodical and logical approach.  For you mathematicians, a scoring system from 1-9 might work, with one being the easiest and nine being most difficult.  A song that does not have any of the below listed trouble spots would be scored a “1” and would be considered very easy for congregational singing.  One trouble item would score a “2”, two trouble items a “3”, three trouble items a “4”, etc.

These scores can then (for example) be classified as:

1 – 2 = OK for congregational use without any teaching required

3 – 4 = Must first be sung by a band or choir so that the congregation can hear it before attempting the piece

5 – 6 = Must first be taught and should only be attempted by a congregation that has many gifted singers

7 – 9 = Band or choir only

Personally, I do not take my song evaluations to this quantitative level, but I do keep the following criteria in mind as I select music:

  1. Watch for the high notes.  Almost all people can easily handle a high C.   Moderate songs would stretch this range to high E.  Most people can reach these as well, provided that those extreme notes are few in number.  Anything beyond this pitch is difficult and should be left to soloists.  As an aside, higher notes are easier to hit on songs having faster tempos.
  2. Watch for syncopation.  This is especially important for contemporary music because it’s what people like Chris Tomlin thrive on.  It’s a hip sound but it’s difficult to do.  It’s basically singing on the off beat.  You will notice it as lyrics without any notes printed above them, or as lyrics slipped in between musical notes.  This is not used often in hymns.  Hymns have a regular meter with a lot of quarter notes.  This however is not the case for a lot of contemporary music.  A little syncopation is OK for corporate singing but it can be troublesome if the song has a lot of syncopation, for example either the verse or the chorus is totally based on syncopation.  As an aside, a good band can play a syncopated song and lead the congregation without using the syncopation.
  3. Watch the tempo.  Upbeat sounds that move quickly, like over 130 bpm are difficult for the congregation to get all the words out.  They also require a lot of vocal energy.
  4. Most contemporary songs have different parts like verses, choruses, bridges, CODAs, tag lines, alternate endings, etc.  This is confusing to the general membership.  Avoid highly convoluted pieces and always include a few instructions in the bulletin to help people know the song flow.  For example, print something like this in the bulletin for each song: “Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, End.”
  5. Watch for songs that require singing over showy musical passages.  This is fine for solos but it throws the congregation if sung corporately.  I don’t see a lot of this in congregational music but if you try to use something in worship that sounds great on the radio – then this might be an issue.
  6. Kind of related to item 1 above, you also need to watch songs that have a big vocal range.  An octave is an 8 note range (low C to high C).   Songs having over say 12 notes in range (referred to as an octave and a forth) are going to be difficult.  The Star Spangled Banner, which most people can’t sing has an octave and a fifth range (13 note range).  Practically speaking low C to high C are easy, low A to high E are difficult but doable, anything outside this range should be left for the pros.
  7. ¾ and 4/4 time signatures are easiest.  There are a lot of 6/8 signatures in contemporary music.  These are a bit more difficult but are usually doable.  Similarly, 5/8, 9/8, 12/8 and other compound meters can be difficult.
  8. Watch for music that has large jumps in pitch from one note to the next.

Here’s a few scoring examples:

  1. Amazing Grace” by John Newton would score a “1”.
  2. Amazing Grace – My Chains are Gone” by Newton / Chris Tomlin would score a “4” with the difficult items being pitch (item 1), syncopation (item 2), and complex song flow (item 4).  This song should therefore first be taught to a congregation and then can be used corporately.
  3. How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty would score a “2” with the only difficult item being the time signature (item 7 above).  This song is congregational friendly as is.
  4. Resurrection Hymn (See What a Morning)”, also by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty would score a “4” with the difficult items being pitch (item 1 above), range (item 6 above) and timing (item 7 above).  This song is congregational friendly but must first be taught.
  5.  “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher would score a “6” with the difficult items being pitch (item 1), syncopation (item 2), complex song flow (item 4), singing over difficult musical passages (item 5) and range (item 6).  This song should therefore be taught to a congregation and then used corporately only if the congregation has several gifted singers that can carry the tune.

And yes, I am an engineer by trade.

Divine Bookends

Divine Bookends

With a new Pastor, comes some new ideas & new practices.


One of the things that our new Pastor has instructed me to do is to consider beginning each service with a song that has a message that helps to prepare us for worship.   He does this with hymns and my task is to do it with contemporary music as well.  Unfortunately our songbook’s thematic index does not have this as a category, so I paged though the songs and found the following song choices to be appropriate as opening music:


“All Over Again” by Michael Zehnder

“Because of Your Love” by Paul Baloche

“Celebrate the Lord of Love” by Paul Baloche and Ed Kerr

“Come and Behold Him” by John Chisum

“Come and See” by Lenny Leblanc

“Enter In” by Billy Christopher

“Here in This Place” by Bobbly L. Schroeder

“I Want to be Where You Are” by Don Moen

“Let it Rise” by Holland Davis

“Lift Him Up” by Billy Funk

“Only by Grace” by Gerrit Gustafson


While I’m at it, here are some contemporary songs that have closing or benediction-like messages:


“Everyday a Celebration of His Love” by DeGarmo & Key

“May the Peace” by Keith Getty

“Peace be Yours” by Blaire A’Hearn

“the Hope of Your Call” by Don Chapman

“the Lord Bless You” by Don Chapman


These songs are “divine bookends” for our worship.

More on Choosing Music

More on Choosing Music

If you are a fan of American Idol, then you know that “song selection” is critical.  It is for us Pastors and Worship Leaders as well.


The Contemporary Christian Music EXCEL database file that has been available for download in my “FILE DOWNLOAD AREA” (located in the lower right hand column) has been updated (filename: ccm songs 2.xls).  Many of you have downloaded the original version of this file.  It contains a listing of hundreds of contemporary songs that John Kehl’s band has either used at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Appleton, WI or has evaluated for use in worship.  In addition to song titles, the database includes other useful information such as lyrics, song categorical information and other helpful resources.


One of the things mentioned in the database are some of the criteria that John uses to evaluate contemporary songs for worship.  I have excerpted his comments here:


1.      Look for lyrics that are scripturally sound with a Christ centered, gospel centered, and grace centered message.

2.      Look for music that focuses on God and Christ and what God did and does for us.

3.      Lyrics should be clear, not vague or shallow and should have substance.

4.      The music should emphasize the message, not the music, or the musician, or the beat.

5.      Look for music and style that is worshipful and reverent that fit the lyrics.

6.      Look for music that is singable for the congregation.


Here are some other helpful comments:


  1. Look for biblical language in song lyrics.  Words, phrases, and attributes that identify God as the God of the bible and not some generic God.
  2. Watch out for “decision theology”.  These are lyrics that imply that we have “chosen” to accept Jesus as Savior.  We are a chosen people.  It’s the other way around – God has chosen us!
  3. Watch out for legalism.   These are lyrics that imply that we have to do certain things, above and beyond what the bible says to be saved.
  4. Look for songs, that when you read through the lyrics, you can immediately point to a section of scripture that it is based upon.


Here is a list of songs that have done just that for me:


Chris Tomlin – “Forever” is based on Ps 136

Chris Tomlin – “Holy is the Lord” uses Neh 8:10

Chris Falson – “I See the Lord” is based on Isaiah 6

Matt Redman – “Better is One Day” is based on Psalm 84

Matt Redman – “Lord Let Your Glory Fall” is based on 2 Chro 5-7

Matt Redman – “You Never Let Go” is based on Ps 23

Amy Grant – “Thy Word” uses a verse from Ps 119 as it’s opening line

Brenton Brown – “Everlasting God” is Isaiah 40:28-31

Paul Baloche – “Open the Eyes of My Heart” is based on Eph 1:18-19

Charlie Hall – “Give Us Clean Hands” is based on Psalm 24:3-6

Matt Maher – “For Your Glory” is from Ecc 3:1-8

Matt Maher – “As It is in Heaven” is from Luke 11:2-4

Matt Maher – “Unwavering” is from Mt 5:3-11

Michael Schroeder (WELS) – “the Greatest Gift” is also from Mt 5:3-11

Telecast – “Psalm 27” is based on Psalm 27

Vicky Beeching – “Yesterday, Today and Forever” is based on Heb 13:8 and Ps 102:26-27

Bob Fitts – “Victory Chant” is based on Rev 5:5

Gary Sadler – “Ancient of Days” is based on Dan 7

Robin Mark – “Days of Elijah” contains Isa 40:3

The Desperation Band – “I Am Free” is based on John 8:36

Big Daddy Weave – “Let it Rise” is based on Isa 60:1

Lincoln Brewster – “Majestic” is based on Ps 8:9

Jennie Riddle – “Revelation Song” is based on Rev 4:8

Delirious? – “Miracle Maker” is based on John 5

“On Eagle’s Wings” is Ps 91