Leading a worship song I don’t personally like

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman has been #1 on CCLI, on the Planning Centre weekly aggregates, and sung at nearly every conference I’ve been to, or listened to, or heard about recently. People have told me how blessed they have been singing this song in their private worship and other areas.

Now, I love singing Matt Redman’s songs (e.g. How Great Is Your Faithfulness, Blessed Be Your Name, Once Again).

But I’m OK to go on record saying that I don’t like 10,000 Reasons.

Sure, the musical hook is perfectly crafted, it’s loosely inspired by Psalm 103, and the theme of praising the Lord in all seasons is helpful (even “on that day when my strength is failing”).

My personal gripes are the use of the words “sing like never before” (how? why?), the absence of the gospel explicitly (though that shouldn’t be a problem in itself), the plodding feel of the song (even though it’s marketed as an “anthem”), feeling that other songs cover this topic better, the desire not to do a song “just because everyone is doing it”, and a feeling that the Body of Christ won’t be singing it in 50 years’ time.

But I don’t think my personal reservations break the song, and so (though Cheryl disagrees with me on this) on Sunday I introduced it at our home church for the first time. And it turned out fine: it fit the flow of the service (a time of thanksgiving after explaining and praying for the new missions initiative, for church family recovering from illness, for the opportunity to give financially), and the congregation sang it with immediate gusto.

Psalms Hymns Spiritual Songs

And I’ve also had to think through this when using other songs I don’t personally like (Shine Jesus Shine comes to mind).

But for leaders and service planners (and a reminder to myself in future), here’s a few reasons to occasionally use a worship song that we don’t like ourselves:

  • The words speak Truth that we should be singing to one another (e.g. the attributes and actions of God, our response to His revelation, the person and work of Jesus Christ)
  • The congregation can already sing it well (especially when both the high school student and the senior citizen get it!)
  • You might end up liking or appreciating the song.
  • No one died from singing an occasional song they didn’t like!
  • It’s good practice when we get to Heaven, where no one person’s musical preferences will be entirely catered for. I like this quote by Marva Dawn:

“If our churches are really going to reflect the diversity that makes up the body of Christ then everybody is going to have to sing songs they don’t like.”

Laying our preferences aside

Ultimately, a song I don’t like gives me an opportunity to show love and encouragement to brothers and sisters with different tastes to mine.

Just as Jesus laid his preferences aside in humbling himself to the point of death on a cross (Phil 2:1-11), we can likewise lay our preferences aside at times in order to bless each other.

Mike Cosper asks in his book “Rhythms of Grace”:

“I know many worship leaders who cringe at the thought of incorporating one of CCM’s big “hits” (I often cringe myself), but we need to think about who our church actually is. Do the people listen to those songs? If so, they’re ready to sing them in worship—they’ve been listening and preparing all week! Is it worth incorporating one or two of those songs in our gatherings to serve people who are encouraged and blessed by their style and substance?”

I’ll still have my own musical preferences, and in leading worship I’ll still pass on using unhelpful or untrue songs and texts. But I’m happy to hear, and join in, if we’re singing:

Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your Holy name!

——-

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