Songwriting for Your Movement
I’ve heard it said that worship is the currency of heaven. The first time I heard that statement, I laughed thinking it was a one-liner, and a cheesy one at best. But I can’t shake the thought now. It’s been planted in my head and comes to the forefront of my mind whenever I approach the Lord. The more I chew on it and think on heavenly things, I understand how much truth is in that simple statement.
Worship is the purpose and destination of heaven. Face it though. Everyone worships something. We worship ourselves and we worship others. For those of us receiving the saving grace of Jesus, we worship Jesus. But let’s be honest, it’s mostly in part. In heaven we will worship Jesus in full awareness, understanding that He has always been with us. But when you are face to face with Him, what will you do? What words can you have in that moment?
It is hard to put into words what you want to say to the Lord in lyric and melody. Your mind has to go to that heavenly moment, that moment when your pain seems so distant all because of His current resurrected reality. Too often we forget that God meets us face to face in our worship. We step into something much greater than lyric and melody; we touch the eternal. I believe the songwriter can connect to the eternal economy, blending language and love into a focused prayer to the Lord.
Many writers craft songs that talk about the Lord, and those songs are valuable in their own light. I lean towards writing songs to God in comparison to writing songs about God, because in corporate worship, I truly believe what Scripture says: “He inhabits the praises of His people.” (Psalm 22:3). The song portions of our services are not just segues into the sermon, but are the focused times when we all pray or say the same thing. As we intentionally quiet our worlds, we can more clearly hear from Him and give Him our worship.
Every movement has a soundtrack and it’s littered with choruses and cymbal swells that embody the cries of every person. Music is the fastest way to the heart. It bypasses most of your walls and defenses, and can powerfully connect you with the Lord in ways that other mediums cannot. Music softens your heart and calms your mind. When you have a Gospel gap, the Spirit of the Lord can do what He does, convicting or repairing you in whatever way He sees fit through the lyric and melody. Our worship songs have a critical place in our gatherings, and I love that our people write the soundtrack for our movement, writing what our congregation needs to hear.
The reality is that if you want to write songs for your movement, then you need to have clarity in mission and purpose, allowing freedom to succeed and fail. Songwriting is not a science, but an art, so it’s comforting to know that the greatest works of art oftentimes resulted from hundreds of failed attempts. “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed” (Robert H. Schuller).
So, how do you create an environment that produces gospel-centered songs that will provide the soundtrack of your movement? Here are a few helpful hints:
- Spend quality time in prayer and meditation.
This is probably without an instrument for most of us. We need time thinking and processing all the conversations in our minds, going before the Lord in thought and pen. Some can write simultaneously with instrumentation, others write while commuting to work or on bike rides or walks. I am simply suggesting to first take some time to reflect on the Lord, and then go to song-crafting.
- Listen to your communicator’s language.
Each communicator God uses has a unique way of presenting the gospel, so that it connects with their people. Listen to their language and let it permeate your writing. The message of the Gospel never changes, but the delivery can, so let their examples fuel your writing.
- Know that if a song you are writing moves you to worship, then it will move others.
We are not as unique as we think we are. There are human fundamentals that God has placed in each of us.
- As I stated above, if you are leading people into the manifest presence of God, write songs to Him and not about Him.
It would be a bit weird to sing a song about someone if they are right in front of you. Might as well just sing or pray to them directly. Just makes sense to me.
- Think Bible study not arena.
Most of our songs will never be sung in an arena. Write them out of the overflow of your own struggles and experiences. What is God asking of you, and are you saying yes? Sing about that.
- Think about whom the songs are for.
First and foremost these songs are your personal expressions and prayers to the Lord. God gifts us so that we can share our gifts in humility with our movement. If He chooses to use them to lead others to Him, then all glory goes to Him.
These are just a few thoughts. There is much more to learn about the how and why we write songs. Seek help from your pastors to understand what God is saying to your people about your movement and mission. This will give you direction, then simply write about that and see what God does.
Ben Williams is the Worship Pastor at The Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, FL. Eleven22 Worship is releasing their third full-length album “Before All Things” on September 4. eleven22worship.com.