Posted by James Tealy on 29 June 2016

As songwriters, we all long to write songs that are enjoyed, used, and - yes, let’s admit it - noticed by a wider audience. Yet the number of new worship songs being released these days is staggering. How can you ever hope your song will stand out? Here are 5 questions to ask...

1. Is it true?

Is it honest? Is the song a true expression of your personal experience? Does the line "God I always feel you when I'm hurting" express your true experience? If you don't believe what you're writing, no one else will either. Don't try and sell people false platitudes and niceties. Give them something true and then invite people to sing along. 

2. Is it biblical?

There are too many worship songs that sound good but aren't actually biblical. Perhaps the greatest threat to the church today is not that which is anti-God but that which is almost-God. If you think you're quoting scripture, look up the reference and make sure you're not putting words in God's mouth. Get theological input from trusted pastors. You might MEAN something that is not being communicated clearly in your lyrics.

3. Is it singable?

Congregational singing is tricky business. Can a room full of non-musicians sing this song you're writing? You might sound great performing this in front of people but can your church sing along? The new hybrid of worship-artists often write songs that they sound great performing but many congregations have difficulty singing. A TOTAL melodic range of an octave or less is a good starting point. Writing a captivating melody in an octave or less that is easily singable by a crowd is a challenge.

4. Is it fresh?

How many songs have been written to and about God? It must be millions by now. But while there’s nothing new to say about God, the challenge to every writer is to find a new window onto a timeless idea. So many songs feature repeats of tired cliches and trite phrases. Find fresh new ways for the church to experience the timeless truths of the gospel. Maybe then people will gladly raise their hands and sing along.

5. Is it excellent?

Surely an excellent God deserves excellent work from His children. We say "that'll do" way too often as Christian craftsmen. Is it beautiful? Is it thoughtful? I have often heard well-meaning Christian songwriters tell the same "God gave me this song" story only to perform a cliche and poorly crafted song. If God has inspired you to write a song, then follow Paul's advice in Colossians 3:16-17, 23 and do the difficult work of crafting that song to richly reflect God’s glory. Dig deeper. Re-write it one more time. Find a richer metaphor. Sing a more interesting interval. The One Most High God deserves no less.

James Tealy is the worship pastor in Redemption City Church (Franklin, TN) and teaches songwriting at Belmont University. He has penned chart topping singles for Kari Jobe, Josh Wilson, Unspoken, Lauren Daigle, and more than 80 others.

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