How to Include More Heaven in Your Worship Music
Songs often sink into worshipers hearts and influence how they understand and experience life. As you include more songs that mention heaven, pay attention to the beliefs that permeate them.
Do the songs present heaven as ethereal or embodied? Do they encourage escapism in believers, putting forth a view that once God punches your ticket to heaven, all you have to do is wait for that final ride? Do these songs speak of God´s future as occurring in this world, the next world, or both?
You might help worshipers look at the heavenly beliefs in such songs, perhaps through a bulletin announcement or by verbally introducing the song. Many old favorites, such as “Jerusalem the Golden,” work well as discussion starters.
Service or concert plans
Judy Congdon, professor of organ and college organist at Houghton College in upstate New York, played an organ recital of music with heavenly themes—explained in the program notes.
This live recording of a hymn festival, A New Heaven and A New Earth, includes program notes that may help you choose songs for your worship services.
For any service
These songs, which work well throughout the liturgical year, deal with the “already and not yet” character of our hope for heaven.
- “O God Maker of Earth and Heaven (Hear Our Prayers)” by Keith and Kristen Getty starts out, “O God Maker of the earth and heaven/Given to a world in need/Act now in Your power to deliver.”
- “Father in Heaven,” also by Keith and Kristen Getty, is easy to learn and especially suitable paired with a sermon about The Lord´s Prayer.
- Heaven Shall Not Wait by John Bell reminds worshipers that God´s redemptive plan is deep and wide. This song is included on a CD and in a hymnbook of the same name.
- Mary Louise Bringle has written hymn texts that appear in many hymnals, including her ownJoy and Wonder, Love and Longing. The latter includes the song “God of Futures Yet Unfolding,” which includes the verse: “God of futures yet unfolding/Ever making all things new./Grant us pathways in our wand´ring/Light when darkness dims our view.”
- The choral anthem “We Will Rejoice” and hymn “View the Present through the Promise,” both arranged by Roy Hopp, set our hope for heaven in a big-gospel context. The anthem is available from GIA (scroll down) and the hymn is in Sing! A New Creation.
Several communion hymns make the point that God´s kingdom has broken into our world but is not yet complete, such as this little used verse of “Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”: “In Christ your Head, you then shall know/Shall feel your sins forgiven/Anticipate your heaven below/And own that love is heaven.”
Mary Louise Bringle wrote “In the Mystic Banquet Hall,” which includes the phrase “when we feed the hungry poor, Christ is fed as well.”
Two older communion songs with heavenly themes are “Be Thou My Vision” and “The King of Heaven His Table Spreads.”
Martha Moore-Keish recommends several songs that appear in Sing! A New Creation: for communion: “Remembering with Love and Hope,” “Table of Plenty,” “This is the Threefold Truth,” and “This is the Feast of Victory.” She also suggests using the well-known “Let Us Break Bread Together” and “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord.”
When God makes all things new, people from all nations will gather to eat together. You can choose communion songs that reflect this truth, such as “Here from All Nations.” Here is guidance on choosing songs from African, Asian, and Hispanic countries.
Advent is a good time to help worshipers connect their lives here with the hope of heaven, as this service plan shows.
Other appropriate hymns include “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” “Let Earth and Heaven Combine,” and “View the Present through the Promise” (#90 in Sing!).
You might also consider Advent and Christmas songs from Asia and Argentina.
This article describes the hymnal Sing! A New Creation.