I once had an opportunity to serve as a musician on a mission trip worship team during the Christmas period. We were invited to lead a rally at the host church, and our worship leader planned a setlist of songs matching the message. After all, that’s the hallmark of a good program: a seamless, integrated experience from start to finish. However, when we met with the fellow musicians from the host church for rehearsal, as it was going to be a combined team, their worship leader looked at our “perfect” setlist and politely remarked, “We don’t know any of these songs. May we suggest songs we know?”
Just like that, all our planning and pre-mission trip rehearsals went out the window. I was bracing myself for a sleepless night of listening and practicing, but when the revised setlist came back to us, we were pleasantly surprised: the host church’s core repertoire consisted of songs from 20 years ago, songs that we all grew up with and could play from memory. But a voice was nagging at the back of my head: “The songs don’t match the message at all!”
Trusting in our hosts, we went ahead with their setlist. And when it came to the rally, the experience was electrifying. I had never seen people sing with such gusto and excitement, jumping as high as they could, belting at the top of their lungs. And it all came to a climax with “Shout to The Lord”, a song that we musicians, if we’re honest, roll our eyes at because of how clichéd we feel it has become.
But there was something different about that rendition we led at the rally. Aside from hearing it in their native tongue, the atmosphere was bursting with deep spiritual hunger for God’s presence. We didn’t have to understand what the people were saying—we could see it on their faces, we could hear it from their loud voices resonating through the worship hall, and we could feel it as they raised their hands or bowed their knees. There were so many responses to the calls of salvation and recommitment that I wondered if the response would have been different had we insisted on our initial setlist, as polished and seamless as it was.
“Shout To the Lord’” is still in the CCLI Top 100 list, and is one of the most widely translated songs today. Its lyrics declare Jesus as the incomparable ruling Saviour who comforts, shelters and performs wonders. He is worthy of the praise given to Him by all creation, bringing Him glory, and the themes of the song are easy for unbelievers to comprehend due to the accessible language of the lyrics. Worship teams will do well to memorise this song so that they can play it without practice in the mission field!
In time to come, when we can cross borders to share the gospel again, let us exercise greater care in our mission trip song choices, with a flexibility to change our well-crafted plans if the situation calls for it.
Shout To the Lord
My Jesus, my Saviour, Lord there is none like You
All of my days I want to praise the wonders of Your mighty love
My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am never cease to worship You
Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You
Words and music: Darlene Zschech
© 1993 Wondrous Worship (1993) (Admin. by CopyCare Asia Ltd [Singapore Branch])
Justin Chan is a Programme Executive at Methodist School of Music, Worship & Worship Department. As a reformed rock musician, he believes hymns and heavy metal can co-exist for the glory of God.