Every six months (give or take) this question is brought up to me, “Why don’t we write our own songs?”. Sometimes it’s more of a statement of fact, rather than a question. “You know, you should write your own songs. How great would that be?” Most of the time I just smile and nod, and try to change the subject to something else. However as I was thinking about this question recently, I figured it might be good to have some document to refer back to about why we aren’t doing this.
1. There is something special about singing the same songs as the global church.
If you aren’t familiar with the idea of the global church, it’s pretty straight forward. We at Good News are a local body of Christians who meet together on a regular basis. However, if we were to speak of the entire body of Christians, the world over, then that would be the “global church”.
Every week the global church is meeting and they are singing. How powerful of a thought is it to think that many of the songs that we’re singing at Good News are possibly the same songs being sung in Canada, South America, Africa, Australia, China, etc...? That’s something that feels immensely important to me.
The other benefit to this is that you likely can visit other churches and know many of the songs they sing as they are songs that we have sung at Good News.
2. There are many talented people writing, and thinking about, songs for the global church.
Let’s think about some household products that you likely use on a daily basis. Have you ever thought about any of those products that are made and used by millions of people? It’s amazing to think about all the engineering, design, & testing that goes into these products. Then at the end of the day you are left with near timeless products that seem to evolve minutely over time rather than ever be fully re-invented.
I think the same is true of our music from a melody standpoint. As I wrote in the article on “All the People Said Amen”, ‘It's important for songs to be “tested” before they’re sung corporately.’ By allowing those in the church body (who have the ability) to “battle test” many of the melodies we are singing, we receive a bit of protection. These musicians can bring these songs before many other talented people (who we don’t have access to) and eventually take these songs on the road to really see how the church as a whole reacts.
3. We have access to so many songs already.
If sound theology and repetition are important tenets for the music we sing (which we think they are), then we should strive not to “re-invent the wheel” when we need songs for specific purposes.
There is a service we use called CCLI, and it allows you to sort songs by theme. Currently, there are:
- 17,035 songs on “Praise”
- 1,365 songs about the “Son of God”
- 1,016 songs on “Submission”
- Goodness! There are even 12 songs about the “transfiguration”.
Now maybe you need a song about a cantata, and there’s literally only 1 song available in that theme? Sure, go ahead and write a second song in that category. Live a little! For the vast majority of songs that we’re singing though, I don’t know that we need to contribute to many of the categories that are already overflowing with really great songs.
4. We do modify songs.
Even though we aren’t writing our own songs, we do sometimes modify songs that we sing on a Sunday morning to fit a specific idea, or to possibly make aspects of it more singable. Here are a couple examples:
All I Have Is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music)
This is a song we have sung a bit for the past few years, and the chorus says, “Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.” A couple years ago (on the Sunday of commissioning for Royal Family Kids Camp) we sang this song and changed the last line of the chorus to repeat, “Hallelujah! Jesus use my life.” A simple change, but one that reinforced not only our dependence on Christ for salvation, but also our dependence on Him to use those of us volunteering for that week of camp.
Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Crowder)
This has been a favorite for a while now at Good News, and for good reason I think. It’s catchy, upbeat, and is a great song to lead in to a Sunday about God’s love for us in the midst of our sin. However, this song (as recorded) has a very long musical interlude in the middle of it. Instead of simply playing it as written, we added a repeat of “Let the chains fall...” It allows for vocal building and helps solidify the message of the song rather than just playing ethereal music in that section.
So while we don’t fully write songs, we are leaving our mark in other ways. Lastly don’t lose heart!
5. We may write a song one day!
Hopefully it doesn’t seem like I’m very judgmental on writing songs, I’m really not. In this article I really just wanted to squash the idea that by not writing songs we as a church are somehow failing. I don’t believe that. I think the most important thing for us to do as a church body is to fulfill what we have as a mission statement: Love God, Love Each Other, and Love Those Who Don’t Know God Yet. We can accomplish that and I believe God has allowed us to be quite successful in this mission, all without writing our own music.
I do want to leave you with this though...
If you have songs that you want to write, by all means I think that is a wonderful thing to foster. You should continue to try to hone your writing skills. Who knows? Maybe one day it will be a “Good News song” and we’ll be able to share it with the greater church body!