Should We Sing This Song?

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The following list is my initial attempt at drafting a “triage” for how to evaluate a song for use in corporate worship. Behind the three-tiered system are the following two assumptions: (1) the tiers get progressively less critical, and (2) the tiers get progressively more subjective.

This is a work-in project, and I’m working from scratch. I haven’t found anyone else doing this sort of thing (but I haven’t searched for it either.) So, if you have any input, drop them in the comments. Is there a category I’m totally missing? Would you re-order some items?

  • Tier 1: Is it true?
    • Does it clearly communicate scriptural truth without unreasonable distortion or imbalance?
      • Is there anything contrary to scriptural teachings or principles?
      • Can the emphasis of the song be shown biblically? (Especially in the Psalms)
      • Does it place an inordinate emphasis on one truth so as to lead the hearer toward an untruth?
      • Could any imbalance be amply corrected by placing it in a certain context/liturgy?
    • Does it communicate truth in a way that will be understood? Is it clear? (1 Cor 14:9)
      • Does the poetic imagery present obstacles to understanding? Is it opaque or excessively artful?
      • Is the vocabulary readily accessible to the majority of our community? (1 Cor 14:11)
  • Tier 2: Is it useful?
    • Does it aid a particular act of worship in an effective way?
      • Is there another song we could use that does the same function better?
      • Does it try to do so much that it lacks focus?
    • Does it help us present the full-counsel of God?
      • Does it declare truths we might otherwise overlook, or shrink from? (Acts 20:26–27)
      • Does it fill a particular lacuna in our vocabulary of worship?
    • Does it facilitate corporate participation?
      • Is the melodic range reasonable for the average untrained voice?
      • Is it melodically and rhythmically accessible for our congregation?
      • Does the corporate singing carry the song? Or is it utterly dependent on accompaniment?
  • Tier 3: Does it fit?
    • Do both the lyrical and musical style reflect the values and culture of our community?
      • Does it provide adequate contrast to the functional repertoire to create sufficient diversity?
      • Is it such an outlier that it would seem utterly out-of-place in the context of our service?
    • Can the people called to serve in our ministry perform it with reasonable integrity?
      • Is it too difficult for our musicians to perform?
      • Is the style associated with a particular culture unrepresented by our musicians? Is there someone within our congregation who could be invited to participate with more “integrity”?
      • Does the song rely on technology or instruments that we do not currently possess?
    • Would the artistic expression be reasonably understandable to our people or to an outsider? (1 Cor 14:16, 24)
      • Does the style require high-context literacy? (e.g., many forms of jazz, atonality, avant-garde, etc.)
      • Would a visitor likely view this song as the product of intoxication, goofiness, or mental instability? (Eph 5:18-19, 1 Cor 14:23, 36, 40)
      • Does the style of the music seem to support the message of text?
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