Telling The TRUTH

My focus for the most recent 10 years, has been working with writers of today’s most popular church songs … those sung by congregations around the world on a weekly basis. And as unfortunate as it is, I’ve come to realize that too many Christians today learn or develop their theology from the songs they sing.

Christian Songwriter, did you hear what I said?! That puts a HUGE responsibility on you to write Biblically sound lyrics!

In the Hillsong book on songwriting entitled, Songs of Heaven, author Amanda Fergusson says it this way, “Worship songs and hymns are a powerful medium for teaching truth because they are memorable and so it is especially important to make sure that our songs are theologically sound.” She goes on to point out that Jesus spoke only what He heard the Father saying and that likewise, everything we say in our songs should be submitted to the Word of God.

Any songwriter that has ever worked with me can tell you how much I stress the importance of the lyric in a Christian song. Yes, from a creative and commercial standpoint (as you will note from many of my blog posts), but even moreso from a theological standpoint. As a matter of fact, in a songwriting mentorship session just this week I pointed out to a student that we need not ask God to do what He has already done. Instead, we should thank Him, or rejoice in, explain or proclaim, what He has done.

Songwriter Joel Houston, from Hillsong Church said it this way, “I want everything I write to be based in Scripture, even if it is a prayer. I want to make sure that every line has biblical substance and integrity. That doesn’t mean that it has to be word for word Scripture, but the tenor of my thought has to line up with the tenor of the Word of God.”

Songwriter Jennie Riddle, writer of REVELATION SONG, once told me that when we write worship songs we are putting, “words on the lips of the Bride”. That’s what’s in Jennie’s mind when she writes songs that the Bride of Christ is going to sing.

How often we forget that the Word of God is living and active. We have the ability to put the most powerful words ever spoken into song. Don’t let your lyrics take the back seat … ever. If you’re more of a “music person” or a “track person”, then by all means find a “lyric person” to partner with you in your songwriting. Please don’t simply throw something together lyrically because it sounds right, or sings well, or rhymes, or because you’ve “heard it said before”. Always remember the responsibility we have as Christian songwriters to tell the Truth!

Link to TELLING THE TRUTH (pt 2)

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11 comments on “Telling The TRUTH

  1. True…I’m tired of hearing songs like “You’re my Jesus, You’re my Jabez”…
    what?!?!

    even if it’s not heretical it is too easy to “cheapen” the Christian walk with shallow songs not based in the truth of the Bible…

    • Thanks David! This one has received a lot of great feedback! Hope you’ll check out some of the others and pass the word along. Peace!

  2. When we worship, we are listening to what God is saying to us through his Word in scripture readings, music, sermon, each other. It is NOT telling God how good we have been or what we have done or what we are doing (i.e., “Here I am to worship”).

    • Thanks Carolyn. Yes, worship is certainly not about us in any way. It’s all about the One we serve … exalting and honoring Him. And although He has no obligation to speak to us when we worship Him (He could simply receive our worship), He does speak to us, out of His great love!

  3. Great conversation here folks!

    While I truly think the message of this post is powerful and worthwhile, if we are truly going to write lyrics reflective of the book of truth, we must be willing to write them with the breadth of the entire story of scripture.

    Carolyn and Steve, saying worship is about God, is of course, true! But saying “it is not about us in any way” is a dangerous exclamation that pushes into gnosticism when taken to such a logical extreme. It is about God, but as far as it comes into the story he has placed us in, it is part of our story too. Please hear me on this, as I believe you are missing fairly strong (not obscure) biblical truth by trying to articulate language that pushes humans out of the entire story of worship. The article is about telling the scriptural truth. And to do so, we must look at the scriptures. And those scriptures, while lifting our eyes to God’s character and goodness, often explore that in light of the human agent bringing the offering to God.

    Yes, our overarching focus must be on God for a song to be devotional, but worship (as described in the Bible) is ultimately about giving God honor and glory while we are bowing low (Psalm 95:6), humbling ourselves, and placing the only offering we can give on the altar of God- ourselves, our hopes, our dreams (Gen 22:2,5).. Since he has made the one penitential offering for sin (by making the offering of Christ on the cross) we have only the offerings of thanks to be giving to God (Heb. 13:15). What else do we have to offer but what God has already purchased- that is, ourselves (again, Heb. 13:15/16).

    In offering our lives to him, we can’t ignore the very vivid language of the Psalms of David, in which he clearly states that he (David) is yearning for God (Psalm 42:1-2), declaring he is going to worship and leading others as well(Psalm 42:4b), and even articulating joy at bringing an offering to God (1 Chron 29:9). As you look through the scriptures you find time and again, people doing this. The language of “Here I am to Worship” may not be happy for you, but it is very similar to David’s language of offering to God.

    What we need is to take in the scriptures and allow its entire narrative be our guiding script. I, like you, don’t want to see selfishness in devotional and worship music- that is wrong. But saying that we can’t mention or explain the human quest as we bring our offering to God sounds like false humility to me, and not grounded in the scriptural tradition of the psalms, but rather more likely the gnostic /platonic influence that tells us only spiritual things are good and life hear on earth is of no consequence or good.

    Just wanted to bring that balance to the reflections I was seeing here.

    • Thanks Kim. I apologize for any confusion. The point I was making was simply that worship is about us exalting and honoring God (or bringing our offerings before Him, whatever they may be), only because He is worthy, and not for what we can get for ourselves out of the process … Including even hearing from Him. Hearing from God may often be a benefit of worship, but not a reason for worship. Thus, my statement that it’s not about us, but about Him.

    • No, you still don’t quite get my point. It’s not about “the One we serve” but rather about the One who serves us—unconditionally—sheer grace. Luther said: Worship is simply this, that God comes to us through Word and Sacrament and we respond with praise and thanks.” (We only react.) I don’t go to church “to worship God” (to do something for God); I go to “HEAR GOD” (God does something for me). The direction of Christian worship is not from us to Him, but from Him to us. The other way is pagan.

      • Worship is response. yes. I never said it wasn’t. In fact, that is the point. We must respond. Response is what we do. We worship out of response to God’s grace yes.

        It appears what you are trying to do with your direction is to command a theological imperative for all worshipers to ascent to your monergism. Since this kind of theological discussion is likely not what Steve intended, I will stop here, except to say that if you remain a strict Calvinist (Luther would be described as a much more modified monergist than a strict one) its not going to be easy to use very much of the very well written, and biblical-centered, modern worship songs.

      • Everyone – Kim is correct in saying I never intended for this to be a place of theological debate. It’s really about songwriting. As a final comment, I’ll say that I believe we’re likely talking about two sides of the same coin here, anyway. God is worthy of worship simply because of who He is, even if He had never chosen to show grace to the human race. However, because He did choose to show amazing grace to us while we were yet sinners, we also respond to Him with deepest thanksgiving and love. It’s both/and.

        For now, let’s move on to more songwriting discussion. Thanks to everyone!

  4. How do I jumpstart a songwriting process? almost all my songs rise up in my spirit practically finished (lyric and music together). However, I wish to be able to start a songwriting process and complete it within a reasonable amount of time. Suggestions please…

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