Planning Powerful Worship Sets

I was recently inspired by this David Santistevan post on crafting powerful worship sets.

His very fine article presented four key ideas:

1. Teach – sing songs that declare who God is.
2. Engage – make it as easy as possible for people to sing, clap, and participate with the music.
3. Inspire –  lift their vision higher, help move people’s eyes off their circumstances onto the greatness of God.
4. Convict – turn our hearts away from self and towards God, that is repentance which leads to change.

My experience is that planning worship is a mixture of practicing theology, musical artistry, and understanding human dynamics.

I’d like to add these morsels to the buffet of ideas. Bon appetite!

1) Express

Our worship must proclaim theological truth. We tell the  truth of who God is and what he has done for us. That’s the vertical dimension of expression; God to man, and man to God.

But let’s not just stay there in the head, in the realm of the intellect. Let’s encourage people to connect deeply with their hearts.

Let’s rejoice in how God feels about us! God’s love and delight for his children is passionate and ever faithful.

Specifically, yes, sing songs with wonderful theology like “In Christ Alone” and “How Great Is Our God”. But let’s also include some desert to go with the meat and vegetables, songs like “Your Love Never Fails” and “How He Loves”.

A good worship diet is not only theologically solid, it is personal. Worship expresses emotion.

2) Journey

Generally speaking, we lead people on a journey that begins farther away from God, and finishes closer to God.  We progress from the “outer courts to the inner courts”, then into the most holy place.

When worship begins,  our focus may be scattered and  less aware of God presence. We draw near to Him (James 4:8) through giving Him thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100).

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Psalm 100

We travel from being distant with God to being intimate with God.

“The nearness of God is my good.”  Psalm 73:28

That’s why we begin with an in-gathering song or call to worship, to draw our attention from being scattered to seeking His face.

As we draw close to Him, revelation is released and the presence of God impacts us in life changing ways. We are convicted of sin, or encouraged, or healed.

God gets our attention profoundly and that transforms the human heart.

Lead people on a journey that takes them closer to God. Of course, only the Holy Spirit can truly do that, but cooperate with him.

3. Reverence

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10

Let’s lead in way that fosters respect for the holiness and worthiness of God.

In our quest to be modern, relevant, casual and contemporary,  do we under-emphasize the necessity of approaching God reverently?

It is true, “I Am A Friend of God”, yet he is also the “God of Wonders” who is “Holy Holy Holy”.

Bold celebration is appropriate when built on a foundation of humility and reverence.

Approach God reverently, not presumptuously.

4. Edification

Encourage one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19

Corporate worship is not only vertical between God and man,  it is also horizontal. There is a horizontal dimension of expression; people to people.

We edify, or encourage one another. That’s how we live out community in the spirit of  unity (see Ephesians 4:11-16). It’s also part two of the Great Commandment. Love God and love people.

Some of our worship songs are for the encouragement of the body of Christ, like “Hold Us Together.”

As I’ve thought through this topic, I realize there is so much more to be explored about the art of worship planning. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

There are many more ingredients to a healthy worship diet. What would you add?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “Planning Powerful Worship Sets

  1. Hey Rob,

    Such good stuff here. I especially loved the two phrases:

    "Planning worship is a mixture of practicing theology, musical artistry, and understanding human dynamics."
    "A good worship diet is not only theologically solid, it is personal. Worship expresses emotion."

    There is much to be learned in those short phrases! Thanks for sharing.

    My recent post Worship Is Display

  2. This is so "spot-on" – thanks! Two things I want to add to this: 1) emphasis on singable songs–so often we hear a great Christian solo and want to make a congregational song out of it–if it is hard to sing, people just don't sing it. We cannot presume everyone listens to KLove, etc. 2) Reverence–I am reminded of Moses and the burning bush and holy ground. The lack of reverence just makes praise "noise" – reverence is that holy hush that reminds us we are in the presence of the God of the Universe–our "Abba" as well as the Almighty. It's a tough balance sometimes but reverence, respect–those things should never go "out of style." Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Cyndy, that is so good. "Singable songs" and "less noise, more Holy hush". Great insights. Thanks for contributing!

  3. Great thoughts guys, am passionate worship leader, this is really enlightening, so guys how do i avoid bringing on a sense of performance during a worship session guys?

    • Hi Ivan, great to have you on the blog and an excellent question. I may write a post on it.

      The issue of "performance" can be tricky to discern. I think there's 2 major things to consider :
      1) Is my heart motivation for people to admire me? Is my expression of "passion" a type of soulish "showing off" ? Only you and God can answer that question.

      2) How do people perceive what is happening? Here the context of the culture where you are leading makes a big difference. As a leader you need to be sensitive to what your people are experiencing, is your "passion" inspiring them to join you or is it off-putting?

      Hope that helps and thanks for a great question!