Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Write a Bad Worship Song

Came across a great article this morning from Bob Kauflin (the guy from Sovereign Grace Music), outlining the Top Ten Ways to Write Bad Worship Songs. Up front, let me say that I am not musical, lyrical, or even very creative. And I have great respect for those people who God has equipped with these gifts to serve His Church by writing good worship songs that facilitate my worship of the One. People like Bob Kauflin, and the writing team at my own church. They are a gift to the body of Christ. And unfortunately, as Kauflin's post reminds us, they are rare these days. Maybe that's why what he has to say resonated with some things I've been thinking lately regarding this whole genre of popular worship music, and where it seems to be now, and headed.

Among these top ten ways to write bad worship music that Kauflin lists are: Aim to write the next worldwide worship hit. Don’t consider the range and capabilities of the average human voice. Never let anyone alter the way God originally gave your song to you. Cover as many themes as possible. Use phrases and words that are included in 95% of all worship songs. But the one that I really connected with was number 6: Make sure the majority of your songs talk about what we do and feel rather than who God is and what he’s done.

Maybe it's the strong doctrinal and theological bent in me, but this is a trend that I see in so much of what passes for worship music these days, and it bothers me. In fact it bothers me so much that I find myself evaluating worship songs as I hear them, sometimes even in church. I find myself counting the number of "I" and "me" words over against the number of "You" words as an indicator of how Christ-centered and Godward-directed the song is. I sometimes even find myself altering words as I listen or sing, so as to focus more on the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is, what He has done, what He will do, His glory, His power, His majesty. Because in a real sense I think this is what a worship song, by definition, must do. Declare the worthiness of Christ, be directed towards Him. Focus my mind and my thoughts and my heart on the glory and person of Christ, so that I may praise Him rightly. It should facilitate and guide me to into my own personal worship of the King. To be sure, a part of that is remembering what He has done for me and in me. But that's only a means to an end - the end being honor to Him.

Unfortunately there seem to be far too few 'worship' songs being written that do this. Not that this is a new issue - many of the old hymns are at least as bad, theologically and directionally. But I would challenge us all to think about these things as we listen to worship music, or any music for that matter. When we engage in worship, both individually and corporately as the Church, let's be sure that we actually do engage. Worship is an act of the whole person, and must start with the mind and the will. It is not primarily an emotional act, or a rote ritual of singing along with whatever song or words are put in front of us. Let's be sure that we worship with discernment, in spirit and in truth.

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