Using New and Old Songs In Worship Setlists With Intention


Lately, there’s been something stirring within me to revisit older songs and hymns. I think as I grow older and more seasoned, I’m realizing that “new” doesn’t always mean right. And on the flip side, old doesn’t always mean right, as well.

The issue isn’t in the newness or oldness of songs, the important factor that I think a lot of people miss out when charging full steam into their own offensive rants about why this side or that side is wrong about worship styles and genres in the church, is INTENTION.

What is the PURPOSE of the song?

It’s a simple question, but it might not be an easy question to answer.

Sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves, including this song or that song has more to do with what we prefer, than what the Spirit is calling us to. Here are some basic, unchanging truths about worshipful singing and music:

  • It is GOOD, to sing praise to The Lord. Period.
  • God is pleased with multi-generational worship.
  • There are plenty of examples of musical worship in scripture.
  • Scripture shows us plenty of “flashbacks” with many of the New Testament writers quoting Old Testament Psalms and Hymns.
  • Jesus quoted Old Testament hymns.
  • All of the Old Testament hymns were once fresh and new songs.
  • One of the Hebrew shades of meaning for our basic word “praise” means to sing and play spontaneously.
  • God loves to do new things…but he also calls us to not forget the good things of the past (commanding us to tell our children and grandchildren).
  • The purpose of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is to encourage and edify one another.

So, here’s the deal. Whichever songs you choose to include in your corporate worship setlists, make sure that you are intentional about their purpose. Obviously, the┬áprimary purpose should be to PRAISE and to WORSHIP God through its musical performance and lyrics. But along with that, we should be intentional about songs that bring the congregation together, that reflect truths about the nature of God and His love for us, and in a sense, teach us that preferring one another in love is the way to go.

Jesus said this best when he said, and I paraphrase, “Love God, and Love People!”

Do your old classic hymns and reservoir songs serve those purposes? Or are they just included because you’ve always done them? Are you afraid of offending the older generation by not including them? These older hymns and classics can be a great way to tap into the heritage and history of the Church that weaves back hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years.

Do your new songs serve that purpose? Love God, Love People. Or are they included because you want to attract a certain demographic? Are you afraid younger generations will be “turned off” by not including them? These newer songs can be a great way to tap into the youthful zeal and energy of younger generations.

The key? Intention. I pray that as we craft setlists each week that we are intentional. Not only do we craft sets that rock, and that move people, but that we can really search for and find the THOUGHTS of God as we prepare our hearts and song lists for the weekend.