My second ever post on this blog was in January 2010. Here’s a small part of it:
Songwriting in a church context is definitely rewarding. The feeling of hearing our church singing a song that I’ve either written, or had a hand in writing is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever known – In fact, the point that I was probably most close to God in all of 2009 was at a conference we led in Albania, singing a song I helped write called “Jesus Reigns”. It was almost as if God had rewarded the hours of pouring over and reworking that song by transcending both language barriers and cultural differences, as everyone in the room worshipped passionately in the knowledge of who God is. I am so grateful that people could worship to that song with such exuberance! That’s what it’s all about.
Songwriting in a church context, however, is definitely not easy. Looking at some of the lyrics I take most comfort from in times of worship, you’d think it would be an easy thing to do:
“Thank you,Thank you for the cross,For the cross”
“You are my strength,Strength like no other,Strength like no other,Reaches to me”
“Jesus, be glorified in the earth,Be glorified in the earth,Jesus your name be glorified”
It amazes how such simplicity can be so profound. Yet it’s so difficult to achieve. Musicians don’t ‘do’ simple. It’s almost as if we’re programmed to try and make things as difficult as possible and consequently, we have to train ourselves to keep things simple. I remember my old music teacher always saying “KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid” and it always stuck with me; only I never fully understood how difficult that really is.
(Click here to read the post in its entirety)
Over two years have passed since then and I’d like to tell you that I’ve found some magic formula for writing songs that can help Christians engage with their Creator. I haven’t. In fact, I’ve spent the entire day furiously, impatiently waiting for God to divinely inspire me to create something with my acoustic guitar that will be a powerful resource for people. I came up with a few ideas, but nothing that will ever leave this room. It was a distinctly uninspired day.
My ability to write songs is something that I’m incredibly grateful for, but it’s not a natural gift. For me, it’s like panning for gold and trust me, it’s not often that I experience any kind of gold rush. The constraints within which to write for ‘mainstream’ worship can often be crippling – simple to sing, catchy, lyrically profound whilst saying something new, easy enough for anyone to use in worship, theologically accurate yet creative in nature and of course, it has to draw people into the presence of God. All of these constraints are self-imposed of course, but they are observations I’ve made in seeker-friendly, corporate worship settings of songs that really connect with the congregation. Add to that the added difficulty that there are so many fantastic worship songs and hymns already around – I’m not arrogant enough to think that I could even attempt to say anything better than some of the awe-inspiring songs that have already been written. Sometimes it feels like a battle there’s no need to fight.
But God has put songs in me that I know He wants me to release. Yes, it might be less like being on tap and more like waiting rain in the Sahara desert, but they are in there. I still don’t believe God speaks more to the well known Christian songwriters than he does to anyone else and so I can’t give up trying. Today might have been yet another fruitless day in what feels like a never ending drought, but I won’t give up. In all honesty, I feel a huge amount of pressure to write good songs. In all honesty, I know that the period I was most inspired was when I was reading the Bible for a few hours day…I don’t read so much now as I did then. In all honesty, I know I can often be distracted by whatever mood I’m in. I just wish songwriting came a little more naturally. Still, stay tuned. I’ve not thrown in the towel just yet. Far from it!