How do you get a new worship song bedded in with a congregation? I think some of it depends on the raw qualities of the song itself. Musically, is it easy enough for an average singer to pick up, perhaps with a little twist or two to add interest but nothing that will make people feel uncomfortable or incompetent. Lyrically, it also helps if there is something to distinguish it from well known songs but it needs to be routed in words that are trustworthy; where it ventures onto new ground, it is better to make the familiar fresh again rather than to make a dissonant statement.
When I attend an event like Soul Survivor or listen to a new ‘worship’ album, I’m trying to engage with the experience but I’m also thinking about what meets those criteria. The stand out song from this year’s conference, from my corner, was Cory Asbury’s ‘Reckless Love’. It makes the bold-sounding assertion that God’s love for us is ‘reckless’ but places anchors in passages like Luke 15 which make it clear that this is nothing that God hasn’t already told us.
It was the stand-out new song for me from the conference and I’m going to try it at church tomorrow morning, which brings me onto the other part of getting a new song established; it won’t get anywhere until someone has been bold enough to try it and, probably, to repeat it several times. At Soul Survivor, I think it made an impression on me even the first time I heard it but I think it was probably also one of the most used songs of the week – I’m sure I heard it at least once a day and it might have come up more often if I wasn’t off stocking up on provisions during some of the meetings.
Tomorrow, St Clement’s will get it just before the service and again just after the sermon. They will get it again next week and, since one of our other worship leaders also picked it out of the new songs from New Wine, I think it will probably come up a number of times this term. Doubtless there are other new worship songs with better musical qualities and theology that is richer still but, through repetition, I think this will be one of the new songs that, by mid-autumn, my fellow congregants will hear a snatch of on the radio and be instantly reminded that God doesn’t wait for them to get sorted but actively, passionately and even recklessly seeks them out.