I have never felt completely comfortable writing songs for others to sing. There is a particular skill set in writing songs for corporate singing and it has never come naturally to me.
However, as my wife has led worship in our congregation, the difficulty in finding songs on some themes became really clear. There are gaps. Not complete vacuums perhaps, but some themes are much more common than others.
Then our pastor preached five brave sermons in a row, which provided inspiration. I found myself inspired and scribbling lyrics on the back of church bulletins.
That triggered my recent attempts to write for collective singing in worship.
Some songs are simply worshipful. For example, a favourite Psalm is Psalm 121.
Other songs are intentionally written into ‘theological gaps’. For example, I think we live at a time when God is calling us from a focus on personal salvation by ‘grace through faith not works’ (Ephesians 2: 8-9) to salvation into lives formed around our God-given purpose: ‘we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2: 10). Good works may not save us, but given we are saved into a life of God-intended good works, it is disastrous to believe they should be avoided.
Songs which aim to address this gap created by a focus on our personal salvation without enough attention to the life of good work that we are saved into, include Citizens of Heaven and Trinity of Love, while The Way By Grace draws attention to the message of Ephesians 2:10.
Similarly, there are parts of the Church which tend to withdraw from ‘the world’ – while other parts envisage engagement with the world as the role of individual disciples rather than the corporate Body of Christ. Jesus came to establish an ekklesia – an outward focused purposeful gathering, not an oikos – a private household. But churches tend to be more like the latter, with the work of mission left up to individual disciples.
The gospel of the New Testament was about being saved into a world-saving movement where we, the Church, participate with Christ in God’s reconciliation of all things rather than being saved from the world (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5: 11-20). While individuals can testify and witness, there is a role for the collective voice in confronting today’s powers and principalities.
All are Welcome is a song which welcomes visitors and newcomers into the body of Christ and its mission as world-changing movement rather than a private worship club in fearful retreat.
Light a Candle is a Christmas song which works as a Christmas carol but expands the focus from ‘cute baby who will save us from our sins’ to one which emphasises the world-saving movement of reconciliation which we are saved into.