How to Introduce "Is He Worthy?" by Chris Tomlin

When I first heard "Is He Worthy?" by Chris Tomlin I didn't get it.

How do you introduce a song in worship that begins with a question? Didn't we move on from call and response songs after "Hail hail, Lion of Judah"?

After listening through for awhile I had a change of heart. The song is different and you can use a song that doesn't follow the usual format to create a moment in your set; the key is to give it context. There are a number of steps that you can take to introduce this tune to your community.

Use the Set

Trying to introduce a new song at the top of the set is doomed for failure. Rarely is your congregation fully engaged at the beginning. They are still closing conversations, going for a refill at the coffee counter or thinking about what they need to do after church. Wait for a few songs in before introducing something new.

Different songs lend themselves to different leading styles.

Use Your Words

The first few times you sing this song you'll want to explain the song a bit and give everyone the "why" of what you are doing. Something like, "The song we're about to do is called 'Is He Worthy?' Now your response to that title is probably 'OF COURSE HE IS!' and that's the point. Worship is both vertical and horizontal. We lift the name of Christ and we exhort one another. This song is about exhorting one another to worship Christ." You may also want to hit on a few of the biblical themes in the song and comment on where they come from.

Use Your Team

Because of the call and response nature of the song, you'll need to coach everyone on how to sing it. Start by demonstrating the verse with you singing the main line and the vocal team responding with "We do." Got through an entire verse so everyone can really distinguish the difference in the melody. Once you feel like everyone has it, start the song from the top and take it all the way through. You may want to use hand or vocal cues to continue to coach through it.

Use the Screen... or Don't

Usually if someone's eyes aren't closed, they are glued to the screen. Displaying the call in normal style and the response in italics will help. You may also choose to forgo the screen altogether. If all anyone needs sing is "we do" and "He does," they probably don't need the words. What a great opportunity to remove the screen from the equation!

Different songs lend themselves to different leading styles. Don't dismiss a song just because it's unfamiliar. Be willing to listen through the words and be creative with how you lead it. You might just find that song becomes your new favorite. Oh, and if you want to learn how to play it, check out our tutorial.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

Login to post comments


Hail Hail Lion of Judah

Thanks for this post, Jason. I was a little bummed at your negative context for Hail Hail Lion of Judah though. Maybe you didn't mean it to come off that way, so please correct me if that's the case. I think younger worship song leaders need to be careful not to slam (again - maybe you didn't mean it that way) older songs that were "before their time". HHLOJ was written for the church and anointed by the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by its longevity and CCLI reports. Every time I incorporate it into my worship set list (even though it's only once a year or so), the congregation raises their voices more than the other songs in the set and it ends up being a very powerful moment in worship. Just because the call/response song form isn't popular among worship song writers in 2019 doesn't mean we need to "move on" from using that form ever again. I hope my words here haven't offended you, as that's definitely not my intention as your sister in Christ. Peace.

Thanks for your thought, Toni!

First of all, I LOVE using older songs in worship. A good lyric and melody should be able to transcend time and space. In no way intended to slam that particular song, but was only meaning to point out that most churches don't have a context for that type of format so we need to teach into it.

Sorry for any confusion and I appreciate you taking the time to reach out. The whole point of this space is to have discussion so you're winning :)