- The story behind the writing of the powerful, now-classic, worship song.
(Written by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding)
With Ben Fielding
(Originally published in Worship Leader March/April 2012, subscribe today for more articles like this one.)
WL: Tell us about the circumstances surrounding the writing of “Mighty to Save”?
Ben Fielding: “Mighty to Save” is a song that came not from one situation or circumstance in our lives, but as the sum of many. Our God who is all powerful, chooses not to turn his power against us, but towards us, drawing us to himself, writing us into a new story—his salvation story. We have seen it in our own lives. We see it every week in our church, Hillsong. God is all about restoring people to himself.
Jesus said “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). It’s almost as if Jesus was talking directly to songwriters. There’s nothing better than sitting down to write and having a thought from God’s word bubbling up and spilling out onto the page. “Mighty to Save” comes straight from Zephaniah 3:17, God is with us, he delights in us, his heart is towards us.
On the day we began working on “Mighty to Save,” Reuben and I were sitting in his living room working on another song. We had sort of reached a dead end and decided to move on to a new idea. We definitely didn’t realize at the time the significance of that decision, as we began to sing the words “mighty to save.”
WL: Tell us a bit more about your process of co-writing this song?
BF: Songwriting is part inspiration, part craft and part really hard work. I don’t know of any song I have written or co-written (that I like) where these three elements haven’t coexisted. “Mighty to Save” certainly had its share of each.
Reuben and I have been friends since I was 15 years old and that helps a lot when co-writing, to feel comfortable to present ideas and to be honest throughout the process. “Mighty to Save” was the first song we ever finished together.
Co-writing seems to magnify inspiration, the craft and the hard work. Reuben is brilliant at the craft of songwriting and more specifically rewriting. He will rework an idea, a melody, a lyric over and over until the options are exhausted and the best option rises to the surface. I’ve learned a lot from other writers through co-writing, none more than Reuben, who I believe is undisputedly one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters for the Church on the planet today.
I’ve learned to push harder and to aim higher. It meant finishing “Mighty to Save” was a lengthy process. Over the course of several months we wrote and rewrote verses and bridges with literally hundreds of ideas that never made it through.
Generosity is a must in collaboration. Effective collaboration doesn’t hold back the best ideas, but it gives them away, believing that they will be replaced by even greater ideas.
We have learned to set clear direction for our co-writing. It helps a lot to be on the same page at the outset.
WL: When did you first share this song with others and what happened to it from there?
BF: I love being a part of a songwriting community. I like to think Hillsong Church has a great culture around songwriting. Our writers are almost always writing, and almost always showing each other ideas and collaborating.
We showed “Mighty to Save” to a few of our key team and it made its way on to the setlist for a Sunday night service at our Hills Campus.
I’ll still never forget the first night I heard our local church singing that song. It’s the kind of moment you live for as a songwriter. That particular song spoke to a period of time we were at in our own church life. It resonated with our home.
It still blows me away to read and hear stories of “Mighty to Save” connecting with people at defining moments in their life, as it has in my own life. It is deeply encouraging and humbling at the same time to realize that it is all by God’s grace. God is able to take a song from a living room in the suburbs of Sydney to places we could have never imagined.
WL: “Mighty to Save” has been incorporated into services around the globe. What necessary elements make a worship song widely accepted?
BF: God uses obvious and obscure things and both obvious and obscure people. So it can feel trivial to try and break down what gives a song influence in the Church. Ultimately it is the grace of God. I think on a practical level for songwriters we always need to have our local church in mind. It can be a distraction trying to write a ‘global’ song when really we have an immediate responsibility and commitment to serve our own local church, to write for and into our own communities.
“Mighty to Save” was written for our local church. The influence the song has had beyond that still amazes me.¶
A few thoughts though: write the Bible into your lyrics, write memorable melodies, have someone in leadership in your church screen and challenge your lyrics, be open to feedback!
WL: The two verses of the song have singular points: 1) the need for our Savior and 2) surrendering to his way. Can you share how those points meet in the chorus?
BF: The good news of the Bible is that while we were still distant from God, in need of rescuing, He reached out and made a way through Jesus. We all need His compassion and unfailing love.
God’s love for humanity is unchanging and His grace available to us, though it requires our response. Surrender is the response that puts Jesus in His rightful place in our lives, not as an add-on, but as Lord.
God’s saving character and intent is then coupled in the chorus with the great promise of Romans 10:9 that if we confess with our mouths that He is Lord (surrender), and believe in our hearts that Jesus conquered the grave, we will be saved.
WL: What is your goal when writing music?
BF: A song is one of the most powerful ways to connect a thought with an emotion. My goal for writing songs is to connect people with God, to connect his truth with our reality. The ultimate goal is worship.