On God and the Gift of Songwriting
(From the May ’08 Worship Leader magazine)
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”
– Gen 3:19
I can remember it almost as if it was yesterday. We were all crammed into in the Doerksen’s London lounge sitting on the floor and filling the sofas. Brian had been talking about doing another worship project. It was about six months after the release of the Vineyard UK’s first worship project called Come Now Is the Time (released as Winds of Worship 12 here in the States), and Doerksen had gathered all the worship leaders and writers involved in it as well as a few more he had found.
Earlier in the month, Brian and I had spoken on the phone, and he would asked me if I’d like to be involved in a second recording. My answer was that I had pretty much used up all my tunes on the last project and didn’t really feel I had anything new contribute. His answer was that nevertheless he would like me to lead worship on it and that maybe a song would come to me by the time we got to starting the recording process.
Well there we were, the lights were dimmed and we were going around the room listening to the new songs being considered for the project. First up was Kathryn Scott who sat down and played a song called “Hungry.” It was unbelievable. I mean really amazing. The presence of God was very strong in the room. There was a real sense of, “Wow. What was that?” Then Kathryn went on to play another song called “Child of God.” After that Michael and Helen Frye were asked to sing, and they shared a song called “Be the Centre.”
At that point most of us in the room were thinking, wow, this could turn out to be a really cool project! They had pretty much got around the room and were asking if anyone else had a new song to share. And I remember so clearly sitting there thinking that I really wished I had a song. But I just didn’t. I mean sure I had lots of ideas and half-finished tunes, but really I had nothing to present. I didn’t have a “Hungry” or a “Be the Centre” in my back pocket. It felt a little strange. Like a little like a kid who got missed out on the Christmas present list.
But that’s when it occurred to me that, as much effort and energy I might put into writing these songs, as much time as I might devote to our God, in the end, He is the one who blesses us with everything. In a very real sense, He is the one who gives us these songs. And if His pleasure is not to bless us with something this year, then blessed be His Name. For after all, aren’t these songs simply attempts to bless Him anyway? In our lifetimes we will see the hand of favor rest on songs and worship movements and then perhaps lift off and move on to other songs and movements. Our job during these times is to bless the name of the Lord and (as we used to say back in the Vineyard UK) to bless what God is blessing. Applaud when you see God moving through other people. Be quick to bless what God is blessing. In the end our reward is not the gifts we receive from the Lord (the songs, the bands, the recognition even). Our reward is the Lord himself, and He will never disappoint us.
Here are 8 things to help you to be prepared to write the songs that God gives us.
- Take enough time to rest and play.
- Make use of your strong emotions and channel them into writing.
- Make sure you always have a device on hand to capture an idea.
- Spend enough time working on the song—crafting and changing melody, words and phrases until the song captures what you want it to express.
- Make sure you know what the argument is that you’re making and include the logical steps of the argument in your lyric.
- Make sure the song is a prayer to our God rather than just an argument to his people, ie not a sermon.
- Allow the words and stories of scripture to appear in your songs in ways that place God’s people within the story he is telling.
Brenton Brown is the writer of such songs as “Everlasting God” and “Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)” and many more. Find out more at brentonbrown.com.