Writing Christian music is hard. Writing congregational worship songs is harder. At least to me it is. There is pressure in writing congregational worship. #1. People need to be able to follow along and be able to sing it easily. #2 people need to want to sing it. Those two things are what trip me up. How do I simplify and write something that is fresh and relevant? I’ll go to the Psalms. How did David do it? David’s visually imagery in his Psalms is simple yet thought provoking. How did he do this? If I look at Psalm 23 I can see a stunning metaphor of my God as my shepherd. Although I haven’t done a lot of shepherding in my life I can get the idea of what he is trying to get across. Now imagine if I had lived during David’s time when shepherding was among the major occupations. I would know that during that time “shepherds walked in front of their flock. A flock new its shepherd’s voice and would follow only him. Often for protection, flocks were lodged together at night and separated in the morning when the shepherds called their sheep by name. They provided their flocks with water and food. They knew each sheep and lamb. When one was lost, they went out to find it. Small lambs, unable to keep up with the flock, were often carried next to a shepherd’s breast inside the fold of his outer garment. The shepherd also protected his flock, risking his life if necessary.”(New King James Study Bible) So now knowing this I can imagine that when David presented this Psalm the people might have turned to each other and said “ohhhh! God is like my shepherd! I get it. I know what that means,” and then would’ve been able to tuck that revelation of the Lord right into their memory banks to call upon when needing reminding. People are not going to remember “Praise Phrase.” That is my term for the Christian-ese phrases that songwriters plop into their songs when they are out of fresh insight. They think, “I know I’ll just add a little praise phrase and maybe no one will notice I was being a lazy songwriter or that I am having writers block.” The problem if we let ourselves be lazy then we are stoking a huge fire. The vast majority of people from the ages of 16-41 attended a Christian church during their high school years. But now days this group is less likely to return to church later. Why is this? I think that if I am writing music that has no depth or real-ness to it then I am portraying a God that has no depth or real-ness to Him. If I write songs that show a real God working in real ways in my life then the congregation will see there is a real God who can also work in real ways in their lives. These are the songs they want to respond to. These are the songs that will resonate with the church. One last example. My friend Brenton Brown is a songwriter for the church. His songs have been sung all over the world and many of his songs are on the charts as the most popular worship songs in the world. Looking at his song “Everlasting God” I know where his inspiration came from. After being on the road with him I heard him tell the church many times about his life and where he was when this song was birthed. Brenton had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrom. This is a syndrome of prolonged and severe tiredness or weariness (fatigue) that is not relieved by rest. It was in this moment of weariness that Brenton read Isaiah 40:28-31. It says: 28 Have you never heard or understood? Don't you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. 30 Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. 31 But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Brenton’s real life application of these passages into song has now ministered to people worldwide. It has connected. He said exactly what we need to say and now we have the song to sing out loudly as a proclamation to Lord as if it is our own words. I am thankful for the worship songwriters out there who humble themselves and write so that we can have the right words to sing. I’m thankful that they don’t allow themselves to be lazy and let their notoriety or nice voices carry their songs. I’m encouraged by them and hope that I will be constantly reminded to do the same each time I put pen to paper.