“Let me write the songs of a nation, I care not who writes the laws.” Plato
I will never forget the first song I wrote. I was a seven-year-old riding home with my mom from a particularly stirring church service. I began singing in the car, mostly to the window. Mom asked me where the song came from and I told her, “It came from my head.” My mom took a brief moment to encourage me and tell me that I should keep trying to write songs. Those simple words of encouragement sunk in and set me on a path that I am still traveling. The song was called “They Would Not Listen” and offered a strangely prophetic insight to my early career as a writer. Thankfully, in spite of the obstacles and challenges, I’ve been able to hear the voice of my mom encouraging me to start writing and keep putting the message of the gospel to music. I hope to do for you what my mom did for me: encourage you to keep writing songs that celebrate the gospel and inspire affection for Jesus.
Songs are the secret link connecting the truth of a message to the heart of a listener. Authors and orators can work to great effect but rarely does their effort reach the influential potency of a lyric set to melody. Political campaigns use them to celebrate their candidates, sports teams shout them to rally determination in their players and cereal companies use them to help us love breakfast more. And, it works fabulously. Where would soft-drinks be without “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” It’s hard to explain, but music has its hooks into us and it’s always been that way.
As worship leaders, we bear the responsibility of being the mouthpiece of our congregations. Songwriters have replaced philosophers in modern culture as the ones who give voice to our collective feelings, longings, and truths.
Songwriting is challenging, not a lazy man’s work, but for those of us who have the chance to create music and influence those who hear it, it is a responsibility that must not be squandered and a mandate that cannot be ignored.
You may have yet to write your first song, but if you’re called to lead a group of people in worship, I think you better get started. There are tons of excuses that could hold you back: “What if my songs aren’t good?” “I’ve never written songs before.” “People will make fun of me.” “I’m afraid,” and most popularly, “There are already plenty of good songs out there.” All of those, probably valid, reasons fail to diminish the truth of a wonderful verse from Psalm 40:3. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD” (NIV).This verse is reason enough for those who are able, to write and share their work.
Fruit of Engagement
New songs elicit a response. They call people into an experience, compelling them to engage. If you are fortunate enough to write a song that leads people to fear and put their trust in the Lord, can there be a better return on your talent?
For the local church, there is no better voice to speak on their behalf than one who not only knows about, but also shares in their burdens. Who better to rally the prayers of the congregation on behalf of a sick member than one who knows personally the one who is sick? What voice could give better context to a season of uncertainty and confusion than one who is walking the same paths as everybody else? A song I wrote for my grandfather’s funeral may never see the light of day in a professional setting, but as I joined what I was feeling to the hearts of my whole family, it brought comfort and peace to a moment of greatest loss.
Your congregation has a voice and they want it to be heard, help them express what they have been longing to say. The following pages have been pulled together to help you get going on writing for your congregation. You don’t have to be the next Bach, just continue to be the first you.