Songwriting Tip: Pursue Doctrinal Accuracy

Every word in a worship song should be doctrinally accurate.

Worship songs can teach, declare and celebrate the truth of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ.  They should help us dwell richly on the word of Christ:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Co 3:16).

Our worship songs should be full of truth about Jesus’ character and deeds.  Therefore we want to make every word as doctrinally accurate as possible.

This is challenging because songs are poetic – they use metaphors, pictures, and colorful language, like the Psalms.  But our metaphors must be clear and biblically accurate.  I really like Delirious and our church has been blessed by a number of their songs, but I don’t know what they mean by these lyrics from Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble:

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Although these lyrics are great poetically, I don’t know what they mean (of course, I could just be dense). But is this song about this age?  Or the millenium?  Or heaven?  What do they mean by “Dancers who dance upon injustice”?  When did the mountains tremble and oceans roar?

Once a man I didn’t know called me about one word in a song of mine that had been published.  One word!  The line of the song was, “If you make righteous, who can then accuse us?”  He said that technically, God doesn’t “make” us righteous – he “declares” us to be righteous.  He “imputes” Christ’s righteousness to us, but we never become righteous in and of ourselves.

My first thought was, “Picky, picky, picky!”  But I checked with another pastor who confirmed the man’s point.

“But if I change it to ‘You’ve declared us righteous’ that will be too many syllables – it won’t fit the rhyme scheme,” I said.  My friend responded, “Truth affects peoples’ lives.  We don’t want people thinking that somehow they can ever be righteous apart from Christ’s righteousness.   Better the song be a little less easy to sing than doctrinally inaccurate.”

He was right.  I changed the words of the song to “You’ve declared us righteous.”  The line wasn’t quite as easy to sing, but it was more accurate.

Be diligent.  Be ruthless.  Make sure every word and metaphor is clear and accurate.  Get your pastor to look at your lyrics.  And read sound theological books like Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem.  It matters what we sing.

Photo by Xoe Craft

What Does Jesus Think About Being Busy?

We live in the culture of the busy. Do more, work more, be more productive. Go to the bookstore and buy a book that tells you how to be 100% more productive in 50% less time. Set goals, meet goals, destroy goals. Wake up early, guzzle coffee, and get stuff done.

Our culture makes heroes out of highly effective people, and we find a lot of our identity in our productivity. The more we produce, the better we feel about ourselves. At least that’s how I feel.

Unfortunately, I often carry this “be productive” attitude into my relationship with Jesus. I feel like I’m more pleasing to Jesus when I doing more for Jesus. But I don’t think Jesus sees it that way.

In Luke 10, Jesus is spending time with Martha and Mary. Luke 10:40 describes Martha in the following way:

But Martha was distracted with much serving.

Martha was doing a wonderful thing by serving Jesus. Servants are great in the kingdom of God, and Jesus regularly emphasized the call to servanthood. But Martha was distracted by serving. Who was she distracted from? Jesus.

What was Mary doing while Martha was being productive and efficient? Sitting at Jesus feet, listening to his teaching and delighting in his presence. She wasn’t getting anything done for Jesus, she just delighted in being with Jesus.

When Martha commands Jesus to command Mary to get up and serve, Jesus gently corrects her by saying:

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Martha had gotten so caught up in doing that she forgot about delighting. Serving Jesus became more important than delighting in Jesus. Her priorities were backwards.

I’ve got a lot of Martha in me, and if I was there I would have probably received the same correction. I often find myself more concerned about accomplishing and achieving than simply being with Jesus and delighting in his presence. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be zealous for good works, but I want my time in the presence of Jesus to take precedence over my performance for Jesus.

What about you? Any other Marthas out there?

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+photo by Irish Typepad