“Not all our hymn texts will be, or even should be Rolls Royces; but they should all be decently roadworthy, and as true to Scripture, as free from blemish, as carefully constructed, as appealing to imagination, heart and will, and as user-friendly as we can make them. The fact that God deigns to accept our human efforts, and to bring good even out of their deficiencies, is no mandate for a casual approach to our work.” — Hymnodist Timothy Dudley-Smith
- True to Scripture
- Carefully constructed
- Appealing to imagination, heart and will
- User friendly
This is an excellent checklist for worship songwriting. Of course the most important part is to be true to Scripture and, next, to be carefully constructed. But this list points out a dual challenge we have when writing music for the church: our songs must be “appealing to imagination, heart and will” on one hand but “user friendly” on the other. An adventurous Radiohead song appeals to the imagination but even if it were written for Christian worship it would not be very user friendly to the average congregation. But a set list full of tunes like the Happy Birthday song won’t appeal to many imaginations.
There is no magic formula that will tell you how imaginative is imaginative enough, or how user friendly is user friendly enough. This is the risk that worship songwriters take. We can lessen that risk by trial and error, by critique groups, workshops and the feedback of trusted friends, by trying out songs on small groups and congregations. In the end, there is no getting around the fact that writing music for the Church is difficult, and that many of our efforts will be dashed on the rocks. Prepare your heart for this.
Thank you for reading our post. You can download our 4-song worship album “The Whole Big Story” for free in the top-right sidebar of this website. We’ve also heard from many churches who have enjoyed leading these songs in worship services. If you’d like to do so, download free chord sheets from the “Gilles Music” tab at the top of this page. And you can subscribe to this blog for free by clicking the RSS icon or signing up via email in the right-hand sidebar.
– Bobby & Kristen
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