Andy John Smith has tips to help those who want to provide fresh servant songs for the church.
1 Write from an authentic heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life Proverbs 4v23
“Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” Jesus – John 7v38
I find these two bible verses really helpful when thinking of songwriting. Each verse talks about something life-giving flowing out from the human heart. When songs stream from who we really are, it creates empathy with the listener and in turn, touches their heart. When brought to life by the power of the Holy Spirit, it can be as if the song was written for that very moment in the life of the worshipper. It perfectly expresses their own devotion to Christ or affirms truth that strengthens their faith. If we had just taken phrases or even truths and set them to music, there may not be the same power. You will never write a meaningful worship song unless it flows from a heart of worship. You can’t just cram the theory, you have to be a practitioner. So write from your heart, let the words and music connect with authenticity, to flow out to others as living music. You don’t have the luxury to pretend. Let your guard down, start the creative flow.
2 Write from your pain
I love the Psalms. They are full of the stuff of real life. David wrote many of his Psalms when his back was against the wall: He was on the run, rejected and dejected. At times he felt abandoned by his God. “How long? Why? When? Come Quickly, Defend me, Help me, Rescue me, I’m thirsty, I’m needy, I’ve been betrayed, Cleanse me, Forgive Me”
Check the header notes of the following Psalms:
Psalm 63 – Written in the desert.
Psalm 61 – Written in the midst of battle
Psalm 59 – Written as Saul sent men to kill David
Psalm 57 – Written when David was hiding in a cave
Psalm 56 – When the Philistines had seized him at Garth.
Psalm 54 – When David was in hiding.
Psalm 52 – When David had been betrayed to Saul
Psalm 51 – When David faced up to his sin of adultery
For sure there are songs of great victory too. There are affirmations of the greatness and Majesty of God. In nearly every Psalm, David spells out his trust and hope in God to be able to pull Him through.
There are treasures in dark places (Isaiah 45v3) and songs in the night (Job 35v10) . You don’t have to wait for the joy of the mountain top for your creativity to flow. Start today, even in the midst of your struggle. Pour out you aching and longings to God as music and songs.
3. Keep the melody accessible for regular folk
Worship songs are servants of the Body of Christ. They help God’s people to draw close to Him. Sung worship opens our hearts to be seeded by His word. We need to keep our songs accessible for ordinary people in regular churches. Don’t go for sophisticated melodies, complicated arrangements or put the song in a key only professional singers can manage. Most churches are small to medium and don’t have the luxury of session-standard musicians. Worship (IMHO) needs to be reclaimed for the masses: those who lead ordinary lives and come to church with the burden of family life or finances. They may be lonely, depressed or working through sexual struggles. They could be wrestling with unfulfilled dreams or going through bereavement. They don’t need to be impressed into worship. They are not generally bothered about the licks, the loops, or the worship leader’s latest tattoo. They need the Spirit’s living water to sooth their thirst. They need to be pointed to Jesus, the One in whom is all fulfilment. We should hold open the door and give them a rich welcome into God’s presence. Think about these people when you are writing, not just the cool worship crowd!