The Original Psalmist Was an Angsty Hipster

The Original Psalmist Was an Angsty Hipster

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Church Music, Psalms, Songwriting | 2 Comments

Much of the church music we sing on Sundays is inspired by the Psalms.

Typically, from a single verse. Typically, from near the end of the Psalm.

The only problem with this approach is that the entire Psalm is the song – written by one of the original songwriters, King David.

And when we pull a single beautiful line from the Psalm, and center a new song around it, we lose all context of the original.

Because often in the Psalms, David expressed doubt. Fear. Anger. Confusion.

Real emotions. The reality of his heart in the midst of the reality of his circumstances. And only after that emotional release – his honesty before God – is he eventually able to return to a realization of the sovereignty of God – the love of God – despite his circumstances. And give us those beautiful one-liners we focus our songs around today.

But we have removed the prelude. The doubt. The fear. The anger. The confusion.

Because those emotions seem inappropriate for Sunday morning. Yet, they are real.

There are those of us who wish our church music would revert back to the glorious hymns of the past. I want to go back much further – to a time when the original Psalmist was writing angsty hipster music – and bring back true outcry to the modern worship experience.

The Musical Premium of Average Taste

The Musical Premium of Average Taste

Posted by on Oct 4, 2011 in Songwriting | No Comments

Having average taste is helpful as a songwriter.

It’s not a bad thing. It means you know what people like.

Your focus isn’t on “art”. Your focus is “accessibility”.

You create easy-to-sing songs that people remember.

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.

Matching the Mood to the Meaning

Matching the Mood to the Meaning

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 in Church Music, Songwriting | No Comments

One reason some people don’t like drums and electric guitars at church is that it doesn’t match the “reverence” they’re looking for when singing about the holiness of God.

Whether or not you agree, there’s a universal lesson to be learned here.

Try singing Amazing Grace to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.”

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”

It almost hurts your soul, doesn’t it? To take those beautiful lyrics and place them within that sea shanty?

This is an extreme case. But, it’s a great lesson when writing to make sure the mood matches the meaning.

Sticking to Psalms Protects us From Bad Theology

Sticking to Psalms Protects us From Bad Theology

Posted by on Jul 6, 2011 in Church Music, Psalms, Songwriting | No Comments

Some churches today only sing songs that lyrically come straight from the Bible. This conviction requires them to stick largely to the Psalms. Whether you agree with their reasoning or not, here’s the big benefit I see with this approach.

Sticking to Psalms protects us from bad theology.

If we’re writing our own songs, we run the risk of being theologically inaccurate. If we take from the Psalms, we’re safe.

The only problem is – the reason the Psalms were such powerful songs was that they directly reflected the current cry of the people. Their situation. Their fears. Their faith.

If we stick only to scripture, the best we can do is find our closest substitute. Mimicking someone else’s prayer-songs, rather than our own.

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?

“God Songs” by Paul Baloche: A Review

“God Songs” by Paul Baloche: A Review

I’ve read quite a few instructional books on worship music. Paul Baloche’s “God Songs” is the only one I found even tolerable. More than that, I found it inspiring.

Immediately after finishing it, rather than moving to the next book in my stack, I thumbed back to the beginning of the book and started over again.

A beautiful mix of theory, songwriting tips and church music history makes this the most practical book I’ve ever seen for worship leaders who strive to be songwriters.

Many posts so far here at Relevant Reverence have been inspired by the ideas Baloche presents in the book. I am certain many more in the future will also. Thank you Paul, not only for your musical giftings to the church, but your leadership in helping promote the creation of better art.

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!