- 2005 2 May
When it comes to songwriting, I must begin by saying: God does not need any of our songs. He is not waiting for one of us to write the song that will signal the second coming, but He is worthy of our songs. He is worthy of songs that remind us of who He is, what He has done and what He is going to do. He is worthy of songs that encourage the Church and tell of His greatness.
There are over 100 references in the Bible about singing to the Lord. I would encourage you to read Exodus 15:1-21. It is the song of Moses and Miriam. Some scholars believe it to be the oldest song on record. Of course, there are many references in scripture that exhort us to sing new songs. Psalm 33:3 says, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 95:1-7 gives a wonderful invitation to worship the Lord. Psalm 98:1-9 is a song of God’s victory. All of these songs praise God for who He is and what He has done. They paint a large picture of our God.
I am blessed to know that God has not lost his ability to inspire new songs in the hearts of his people. He moved on Moses; He put songs in the hearts of writers such as Fanny Crosby and Charles Wesley; and He is still moving in people like you and me. Praise the Lord for his never-ending power!
As we look at songwriting, I believe there are three important questions we must ask ourselves:
1. What is our motivation?
Worship music has never been more popular than it is right now. It has given quite a financial boom to the Christian music industry. In light of that, it is certainly fair to ask what motivates us.
Remember the story of Annanias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-10? Annanias sold a piece of property, brought the money to the apostles and said they were giving the whole amount to the church. In reality, they were keeping some of it for themselves. They could have kept it all, but they lied to God and His people. Have you ever wondered what motivated them to lie? Pride? Recognition? Glory for themselves? We do not know exactly what their motives were, but we do know that God killed them for their actions that day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that God will kill those who are writing songs with wrong, self-seeking motives. I am suggesting something even worse. If our motives are not pure, He might just remove his hand from the talents and gifts that he has given us. He might just leave us to our own devices with powerless songs that lack the authority that only He can give. He will not yield his glory to another (Isaiah 48:11). Our songs must be for his glory alone.
2. What makes a good song from a theological or Biblical perspective?
A lost person who comes to our worship services will more than likely hear two themes in our songs: God is love, and God is Holy. Of course those are true statements, but He is so much more. I could go and find a secular, godless band and ask them to write a song on God’s love, and I bet that they could come up with something. They could just think about their wives or girlfriends and use God’s name instead. I do not take lightly the love of God. I even wrote a song called “You Are My King (Amazing Love.” But God is so much more than love.
Do our songs accurately represent the attributes of God? Do they give us a bigger picture of who He is? There are so many subjects we can write about. We all hear songs about the grace of God, but what about a song that declares that grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12). What about songs on the Word of God, the power of God (Psalm 68:32-35), the sovereignty of God, songs that declare we are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:6-10). Even more, songs that remind us of the great commission would honor the Lord. Let me take a moment to point out to all of us that Jesus’ last words on earth were, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Matthew 16:15).
3.What kind of preparation should we put into songwriting?
Some writers write from an emotional perspective, but our feelings can change from day to day. Who God is never changes. When you sense a song welling up in you, do you simply write down everything that comes to mind or do you also make time for study on whatever subject the song contains? As I write this article, I am in the middle of working on two songs. One is on the power of God, and the other deals with the fear of the Lord. At this point, I am not writing lyrics. I am researching the scriptures anywhere the power or might of the Lord is mentioned. I’ll do the same regarding the fear of the Lord. The truth is that I might not ever write a song on either subject. If I don’t, that will be fine. I will have a better understanding of the power of God and deeper insight into the fear of the Lord. If I do write a song on these subjects, I will most definitely have the authority of the Word of God behind these songs. Let us continue to use our God-given talents to paint pictures that give glory to a great God.
In closing, I want to encourage those of you who are reading this article to keep writing. It is easy to get caught up in what songs are on Christian radio and CDs and feel that those are the only ones that matter. Many of us have songs that may never be picked up by other bands or Christian labels. Some of us will write songs that we alone will sing to God. Still some will write songs that only their local church body will use. But let the “success” of our songs be measured by this: Do they bring glory to God? Do they accurately represent His attributes? Do they encourage and teach the Body of Christ? That’s all.
Billy Foote and his wife Cindy live in San Antonio, TX. Billy is an itinerant worship pastor whose main goal is to help believers incorporate worship as a daily lifestyle rather than just in song. He has traveled full-time for fourteen years, leading worship for youth, college and church-wide events. God has gifted him most in the areas of worship leadership, guitar skills and song writing. Some of the songs God has given Billy to write are widely-known including “You Are My King” (Amazing Love), “Break Our Hearts,” “Sing To The King” and “I Have A River.” To learn more about Billy’s work and ministry, visit his web site at www.billyfoote.com.