Could a blindfolded monkey write some of our worship songs?!

So let’s not reach for ‘fridge magnet phrases’ – let’s be poets and wordsmiths whose quest to find fresh expressions is itself an act of worship… It’s about having discernment, knowing when to use a phrase and when not to. I’d err on the side of “not”, even if just for a personal exercise. When tempted to slip into fridge magnet ‘praise phrases’, let’s choose instead to try harder, dig deeper, and craft a more beautiful, fresh and unique way of describing our beautiful and unique God.
A worthy exhortation.

Easy for me to say as someone who doesn’t write worship songs but…  My experience of those songs that really ‘work’ are that they appear to have been written out of a deep experience and consistent lifestyle of conviction by the Holy Spirit and revelation of Jesus.

It’s perhaps not surprising that as we struggle to put into words what we have come to know in our hearts, that we find ourselves adopting the register of scripture.  Creativity and familiarity can co-exist.

I think the call for creativity and fresh expression, though, is recognising that the worship ‘scene’ can be a bit of an echo chamber at times, reflecting the language of other worship songs rather than fresh engagement with truth.

In any case, heartfelt worship songs that ‘connect’ will have more to do with the position of the worshipper and the journey of the community no matter how clever the lyrics.

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2 thoughts on “Could a blindfolded monkey write some of our worship songs?!

  1. You make a valid point, but speaking from the other side of the ‘divide’, I wonder what comes first – the tired / vapid songs or the pastors / culture which demands singability and simplicity? Everytime I’ve tried to write something a bit deeper, it hasn’t taken off; and the songs which get included in the worship albums are the simple ones which lots of people can connect with.
    The problem for a worship songwriter is that you have two conflicting values – that of the artist and that of the servant. Your songs want to reflect the beauty of the Lord that you have gazed on, but you also want to serve people by giving them the potential for an encounter with God. The servant focuses on inclusion; the artist on unique expression.
    They’re pretty hard to hold in tension. If you write a simple singable tune, you get bashed by the theologians for being superficial. If you write a deep treatise on the trinity using wonderful, rich language, yuo get bashed by the pastoral type, looking to create a seeker sensitive church.
    Nick Page once wrote a book called “And now let’s move into a time of nonsense” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lets-Move-into-Time-Nonsense/dp/1850785848) which gave a strong call for good lyrics, but often confused poetry for nonsense.
    One aspect of worship songs that gets attacked alot is the repetition; but most of the worship songs of heaven are repetitive because the full revelation of God is ongoing; there is always more of His holiness to see, so the elders and living creatures repeat endlessly . “Holy, Holy, Holy”. On earth our revelation is less complete, so we get bored easier.
    But like you say, it’s the culture of the ‘echo chamber’ that is the main problem. We have the worrying situation where worship leading has become a career choice. You can get training, and internship and the natural thing to do is start writing some songs and get an album out. When you’re trying to fit in, imitation follows, so you write songs withing the same genre as what’s gone before. genuinely different voices are rare in the worship scene, because they typically don’t sell. Which is sick in itself.
    Anyway my comment is now at least as long as your post, which is bad. Thanks for raising the issues Sam

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  2. Thanks Matt, that’s a very helpful comment.
    I think you’re quite right about the tension between artist and servant. That’s why, incidentally, I’ve always had a hesitation about ‘worship smallgroups’. Gift mentoring is vitally important and I recognise these kind of groups are often trying to foster this, but the development of the ‘artistic’ gifting shouldn’t be made at the expense of the service element.
    Developing gifting in any area of the Christian life without also fostering humility and service very quickly becomes self-seeking and self-defeating.
    Anything we can learn from Oh, Canada! ?!
    On the whole singability and simplicity thing, I guess there’s a whole variety of spirit-given artistic gifts that don’t (rightly or wrongly) get a look in on your average church gathering. Perhaps if pastors / culture expects or responds to a certain vapid style our starting point, at least, is to serve in this context and push the odd boundary under the authority of our leaders.

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