Don't Just Write for the Church
Songwriting is easily one of the most frustrating, rewarding, time-consuming, life-changing, soul-healing things a worship leader can do. God uses our creative thoughts put to music to inspire, and to help others deeply explore life. So don’t get me wrong here—writing for the church is good and God-glorifying, and I truly love doing it. I wonder, though, if more honest songs would arise if we didn’t only write for the church.
When I write songs for the church I take a passage or a message and create melodic, singable melodies to fit a structured theme. I get the chance to tell the story of a specific idea or thought inspired by Scripture. I write songs of hope that the church will be able to sing together as a family.
All these things are good and God-exalting, but they aren’t the end of songwriting. We ought to also write about the life God gives us. We should sing and share these things with the body of believers.
Write About Life
We often get caught up in trying to put on the perfect face or be the perfect example. So instead of allowing our flaws to point to Christ’s perfection, we disconnect our songwriting from the honest healing suffering brings.
So many of the songs I grew up on told such great stories of real, raw, genuine struggles in the life of the human being. I remember connecting with these songs because of that. These were the songs that inspired me to write music. For me, songwriting became life penned to paper and sung in melodic form.
So when I say, “Don’t just write for the church,” I’m saying, yes, keep writing for the church, but let the life God is allowing you to live inspire those songs as well. Write from the heart. The hard honest reality of suffering in this life needs to be sung! David did it—why can’t we?
Write for Your Own Heart
I look at the way David wrote many Psalms and I’m so thankful for his boldness. He didn’t sugarcoat how he felt; he was raw with God and truthful with his soul. This must have been good for him to sing—so good and healing for his heart and mind to let out the things that were trying to consume him.
We as songwriters need to be doing the same. We get to enjoy the blessings that come from pouring our souls into the songs we create. We can easily get distracted by the allure of writing specifically for the church. Instead of just writing for the church, let the life God allows you to live inspire your songs.
So, where’s your heart at today? How do you feel today? What’s on your mind today? Where does God have you today? I ask myself, “Why not write about these things and not simply turn them into ‘happily ever after,’ but into the honest here and now?”
Write songs that tell the story of your own life. Compose things that are real, honest, and unstructured. Tell the story of heartbreak, life lessons, trials, and joys. Write out your prayers—not just the prayers you pray out loud, but the ones in your closet, where the only ears listening are yours and God’s. Let vulnerability influence creativity.
As Christian songwriters we ought to be writing about every aspect of life. So don’t just write for the church; write for the Christian you see in the mirror every day. Write for the person you know best. Encourage that sinful heart of yours. Dig deep into the suffering of that person you get to see daily, and allow your writing to be honest and real. Your soul needs you to write about the things life has allowed you to live. Not just the victories, but the failures also.
Let God Choose Songs for Your Church
Romans 5 will easily become something not just lived out in your own life, but written about, and eventually sung as your songs point people to God. While you vulnerably share your joys, trials, and tribulations, you’ll begin to see even more how God uses suffering to produce endurance, endurance to produce character, and character to produce hope, and hope does not put us to shame.
Keep writing for the church, yes, but as you do, have this in mind: don’t just write for the church—write for your own personal walk with Jesus, and let God do the work of choosing songs from that life to inspire the church and bring hope to those hopeless hearts as well. We need to be singing those songs too, just like David did.
Jimmy McNeal (@JimmyMcSings) has a sincere desire for the body of Christ to devote their whole lives to worshipping God both in and outside the walls of the church building. Serving as one of the Worship Pastors at The Austin Stone, God continues to challenge Jimmy and his bandmates to live out the call He has placed on their lives to love, serve, live in community, and live on mission. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Staci, and their two children.