Several weeks ago we introduced a new song to our congregation. It’s a well-written song that is rooted in Scripture and focused on Jesus. But for some reason, it did not “click” with our people. As a worship leader, this is frustrating because we only have a limited amount of time to engage with our people every week, and I want them to leave singing the songs we lead. That didn’t happen with this song. In fact, several people came to me afterward and told me they didn’t really like it. When I asked why most couldn’t give me a straight answer. It is a little more difficult to sing, but we sing songs like that often, and the whole congregation belts out the lyrics. So why didn’t this song work?

Good Songs That Don’t Work

I asked myself that question the rest of Sunday and into Monday. And then I thought about our people. Valley Life | Tramonto is a notoriously broken church. By that, I mean that we have addicts, adulterers, and Pharisees singing with us every week. We recognize our desperate plight. We know that we have no hope for real peace in this world, except by the grace of God through Jesus. When we sing “Oh trampled death/Where is your sting/The angels roar for Christ our King” we know that we are a people of hope because the tomb is empty and our great enemy, Death, has been soundly defeated by the resurrected Jesus.

Our people want to sing songs of desperation. The song we tried to introduce recently is not a bad song. It’s actually quite good, and I’m sure people in other churches sing it with passion. But the message is, “Jesus sustain me. Correct me when I go off course.” This is not a bad theme to sing about, but right now, our congregation is transfixed on the truth that Jesus has saved them out of their filth. That’s what they need to sing about.

Get to Know Your People

I know this because I know our people. Every week I hear stories in my office, at the coffee shop, and in our community group. I must lead our people to respond to the gospel of Jesus every week. I need to know what words to put in their mouths that will support the sermon and the Scripture for that week and send our people out as missionaries in Phoenix.

Worship leaders, get to know your church. Spend time with them and hear their stories. It is critical that we know what is going on in the lives of our people so we can lead them well. Understanding what people need to sing every week will make you a better leader and fill every Sunday with excitement and anticipation about what the Holy Spirit is doing in your church.

Jared Johnson

Jared Johnson

Jared Johnson is the worship and communications leader at Valley Life | Tramonto.