An Open Letter to Worship Songwriters, Part 2 (Start)
I’m overwhelmed by the reactions and responses my recent Open Letter to Worship Songwriters received. Many had great feedback and some were offended.
With this follow up letter I want to communicate the fact that my previous letter was not to criticize worship songwriters, but rather to share some thoughts from what I’ve observed and challenge songwriters. I have many friends who are songwriters, both not-so-well-known and whose songs are on the top CCLI list. I have tremendous respect for them and any worship songwriter doing it for the right reasons.
In this letter my desire is to share the flip side of my previous letter…some things that are good practices as a songwriter…things you SHOULD do.
START by examining your heart. I believe as worship songwriters we have a great responsibility to write songs that come from our heart and communicate accurate theology. Therefore, we must examine our hearts and be sure that our relationship with the Lord is in a good place. A camper cannot cook a meal over dry wood, he has to light up the wood and start a fire first. In the same way, we need to make sure our fire is lit before we try and write songs.
START by opening up the Bible. I don’t think that you can’t write a good worship song without the Bible open, but I do believe it’s a good principle. Search the Bible on the theme of the song. If you’re writing about our new life in Christ, start by studying what that means. You can use the Bible, commentaries, and other books on that topic to gain insights and understanding. That will often help you write songs that are deeper and carry a fresh revelation.
START by slowing down. We live in a busy world. We’ve got gadgets and apps for everything. We’re always in a rush. It’s so easy to rush our songwriting as well and try to finish a song in one sitting or in one day. Songwriting is more like a crock-pot than a microwave. It takes time. Sometimes a song may get finished in one sitting, but more often than not a song can be significantly improved if you write it over time…go back and revise, go back and revise. Songwriting is a process, not a project.
START by sharing your song with people you trust. If you think your song is done, it might be a good idea to share it with your pastor first. Hopefully, you respect your pastor and you two have similar theological beliefs, so your pastor would be a great person to get some feedback on the song’s theological accuracy and even singability. You can also find some family or friends that you trust, who you know will give you honest, constructive feedback.
START by thinking outside the box. The box I’m referring to is your songwriting toolbox. Every songwriter has one. Some have more tools than others, but everyone can continue to add more tools to their toolbox. Experiment with different styles of music. If you’re used to always writing rock-style worship songs, try writing a hymn. If you always write with your guitar, try writing acapella or on the piano. Ask other songwriters about what tools they use when they write. Maybe a dictionary? A thesaurus? A rhyming dictionary? A certain website or app?
If God has put it on your heart to write songs for Him, do it with all your might! Don’t let anything or anyone discourage you, but be sure to always check your heart. Are you writing to please man or God? Be a lifetime learner. Be open to learning from seasoned songwriters as well as newbies. You can learn from anybody. I actually learn things about songwriting from my 6 year old son!
I pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire you as you write!
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