Four Reasons Your Worship Songs Are Like Random Slogans

by Bobby Gilles

in Songwriting/Hymn Workshop

photo of a slogan used in article about Christian worship songs sounding like random slogansN.T. Wright, in the current issue of Worship Leader magazine:

“And I worry when the words of some of the modern worship songs seem to me just a random selection of Christian slogans, as it were, rather than actually a narrative of the world as claimed by Jesus and rescued by Jesus in his death and resurrection — songs that recognize that the world is still a suffering place, but looking forward to the new creation. Some worship songs are struggling to say that, but if the narrative is broken then it’s not actually helping the people who are singing it in the way that it should … Scripture gives us a gigantic story and says, ‘Hey guys, this is your story, live in it.'”

This is what Kristen and I tried to be mindful of when writing the songs for her worship EP The Whole Big Story (which you can download for free in the column on your right). The songs all tell a story, and taken together they testify of the one big story of God.

But what are some ways in which all of us worship songwriters can fall into “random selections of Christian slogans”? How do we avoid it? Here are some ideas:

Is Your Favored Rhyme Scheme Working Against You?

As I wrote in Are Inconsistent Rhyme Schemes Destroying Your Songs, the popular AABB rhyme scheme makes it all-too easy to write two-line slogans. If this is happening to you, try writing other rhyme schemes, such as ABAB, or ABCB.

Do You Read The Bible As A Coherent Story?

Many of us grew up thinking of the Bible as a collection of pithy statements, wise proverbs or separate teachings. And we either ignore the Old Testament or see it as a collection of individual moral stories, plus the Psalms and Proverbs. Then we divide the New Testament into the Gospels + advice from the apostles + that crazy stuff in Revelation. If we don’t see the Bible as one central story, ultimately all about Jesus, then of course we won’t write songs that way.

Are You Ignoring Important Templates?

Our church fathers developed the Christian Calendar year and worship service liturgical movements to ensure we would rehearse the full story of the gospel in our gatherings, week after week and year after year.

Do You Need Inspiration From Others?

Read my interview with Caroline Cobb, founder of the Scripture To Music Collective. Then, check out for a database of songs that tell the story (and stories) of scripture.

 Photo by Sharon Kubo, used via Creative Commons license

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