How to Select Worship Songs for “Your” Church

How to Select Worship Songs for “Your” Church

Church song selection has a lot to do with your philosophy on the power of music.

If you merely want songs to be theologically accurate and emotionally powerful, most CCM songs will do.

But, if you believe that music can be more powerful than the sermon – that the words in the songs we sing can be more impactful than the big 3 takeaways on our handout – song selection becomes a greater responsibility.

Then you choose songs with lyrics that match the spiritual reality you want your congregation to embrace.

For a church struggling with humility, sing songs about the depravity of man and the need of repentance.

For a church struggling with faith, sing songs about the sovereignty of God.

For a church struggling with love, sing songs about community and connection.

And if you can’t find songs to match what your congregation needs to cry out, write them.

Jesus Loved Idioms. Hymns Ignore Them.

Jesus Loved Idioms. Hymns Ignore Them.

Posted by on Aug 26, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Songwriting | No Comments

Christ used parables to speak to people where they were, in ways they could understand. He references the blacksmith, and the farmer – using analogies that our pastors have to explain to us today, simply because most of us have never struck iron, nor plowed a field.

In the same way, some of our songs use language and wording that we no longer relate to. We do this out of reverence to tradition, rather than using modern idioms that speak to people where they are, in ways they can understand.

Christian Music Lyrics as Memory Aids

Christian Music Lyrics as Memory Aids

Songs are memory aids.

It’s how you learned the alphabet. It’s how you learned the 50 states. It’s how you, to this day, still remember the theme songs from every single 90s television show….“Whatever happened to predictability?”

The question is, what are we memorizing with our Christian music today?

Lynrd Skynrd front man Ronnie Van Zant reportedly never wrote down lyrics, and is attributed for the paraphrased quote, “If you need to write them down, they’re not worth being remembered.”

Are we as careful with writing our christian music lyrics as we are with our musicality? Or once we figure out a progression, do we just sing some broad God-language words over it?

Because theologically, it’s the most powerful tool we have.

What if We All Sang to Each Other?

What if We All Sang to Each Other?

Who should our Church songs be written to? Not “who should they be written for?” But, who should we be singing to?

God? Ourselves? Each other?

In a congregational worship setting, we largely sing songs about the grandeur of God. Less often, our songs are prayers – personal confessions of weakness written broadly enough for a congregation to be able to internalize. Much less often, our songs consist of exactly what Jars of Clay has created with their latest album, Shelter.

They wrote lyrics that are meant to be sung AT each other. Go check out the lyrics to Jars of Clay’s latest album, Shelter, and see what you think.

Matt Redman Says “The Church Needs its Poets”

Matt Redman Says “The Church Needs its Poets”

Posted by on Jun 21, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Psalms, Songwriting | No Comments

“The church needs its poets – people who somehow congregationally, biblically and relevantly translate all that’s happening around them into words for the church to sing.” – Matt Redman

That sounds to me like we need a lot of modern-day Davids. So, why are we spending our church services singing about the situational relevance of 3,000 years ago, when we could have modern-day poets sing about the struggles of community within the modern-day church?

No one Uses the Word, “Hosanna”

No one Uses the Word, “Hosanna”

Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Church Music, Psalms | No Comments

When’s the last time you used the word “Hosanna” in conversation?

I’m going to guess never. So, why are we using the word in our church songs? Now, I can present an argument for the ‘beauty’ of the word. For the ‘reverence’ of the word. Choosing to use holy phrases to sing of a holy God.

But, in the Psalms (where we’ve hijacked the word) the Psalmist used the word, “Hosanna”, because people used the word “Hosanna”. It was, in itself, a word of great meaning to the Israel community. It meant, “God, save us”.

But, it doesn’t mean that to the modern-day church, because we don’t use the word. And I wonder how many people, if pressed, could even define it? The truth is, we sing it because it sounds ‘holy’. But can a word devoid of meaning really be that?

We Need More Words for Love

We Need More Words for Love

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Songwriting | No Comments

Agape. Eros. Philia. Storge.

The Greek language offers four different words to help define the idea that is “love”. In English, we get one.

As a songwriter, that’s simply unfair. The word “love” has become definitionally meaningless. Yet, in 1 John 4:8, we read that God himself is love. This word in the Greek is “Agape”, meaning unconditional divine love.

Most pop songs sing about “Eros”, sensual desire. Most children’s songs sing about “Philia”, connection between family and friends. All use the single English word we have, “love.”

It’s just not fair. And it’s about time we make up some new ones. If you’re with me, say Agapellujah!

Don’t Write Songs Without Something to Say

Don’t Write Songs Without Something to Say

Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Songwriting | 2 Comments

“I’m writing a song.”

“Awesome! What’s it about?”

“Hmm…I guess it’s just a praise and worship song with positive, yet arbitrary ‘God’ words.”

Not good enough. Music is a language of communication. Don’t abuse it just because music makes everything sound better. Don’t waste your words. Don’t just sit down and decide you’re going to write a song. Make sure you have something to say first. This is arguably the biggest reason for the shallowness of most Christian musical fare today. They are songs written without anything specific to say. They are simply broad, yet vaguely accurate songs about God. Ones that don’t move us to change, because they don’t change the way we see ourselves or our relationship with Him.

Help! Hymns are Dying Off!

Help! Hymns are Dying Off!

Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Christian Music | No Comments

Whenever I talk music with older generations, they seem to have this large and visible fear that hymns are going extinct – and that we need to be singing more of them.

No we don’t. You know why? Because most hymns are terrible. Just like most modern Christian music is terrible. How many songs are you singing this weekend that were written in the 90s? Probably none? And those that you sing this weekend, it’s likely that none of them are going to make it 10 years in our playlists.

But, great art survives. There’s a reason every church in America sings Amazing Grace at least a couple times a year. It’s a perfect song. Likewise, there are Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley hymns with such poignant and profound lyrics that they will never disappear.

But bad art dies over time. And it’s a good thing. We’re not anti-hymn. We’re anti-bad.

Let the Church Rise (In Melodic Progression)

Let the Church Rise (In Melodic Progression)

Posted by on May 10, 2011 in Christian Lyrics, Music Theory | No Comments

When writing songs, make sure that the melody matches the story. For instance, if you have a line, “Let the church rise!”, what sort of melodic movement should we experience in those four syllables?

Upwards, right? (Let – 1) (the – 2) (Church – 3) (Rise! – 4).

It doesn’t have to be that literal (1-2-3-4). But the musical language should match the lyricism. And that probably means “RISE!” should be your high note in that line. It’s one of those things you may never have thought about as a songwriter, but once you understand the technique, you can really make your words sing in new depths of language.