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Songwriting Workshop 1: Ready to write?

How is the water in your well?

In a Christian song, you are speaking God's truth, delivering God's message. Your song should be like cool living water, reaching a parched and thirsty world.

Your role is similar to a prophet or preacher. Handling God's word is a huge responsibility. Understandably, God has dire warnings for those that claim to speak in his name, but aren't faithful to his message.

If you are going to draw up water from the well inside your soul, and serve it to others in Christ's name, you need to make sure that water is pure.

If you wait to write until you are perfect, you're not going to write any songs here on earth. But you can fill your mind and your soul with God's pure word, you can talk to God, and you can listen to God.

You can use pastors, teachers and others with godly wisdom as resources to help guide you to the right places in scripture, but it is your responsibility to write and sing the truth. God warns it would be better for us to have a heavy stone tied around our neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea, than to lead those that know less astray.

Take the time to be certain the water you are serving is pure, and that what you write and sing lines up with scripture, God's living word.

Mission: Impossible

Given the awesome responsibility to get your song right, how could you ever do it?

In our own strength, it would be completely impossible.

But as you'll have read, time and time again God has equipped his willing messengers with everything they need to accomplish his purpose. If you are called and if you are willing, he will provide you with the insight, the wisdom and the love to deliver his message.

Resolve to pray every day for God to give you the wisdom and strength to faithfully deliver his word. Listen for his guidance.

Your song, but God's word

Don't wait to read God's word just when you are going to write. You can't refresh the water in your well that quickly - especially if any mud has been seeping into it.

God's word is alive, and way sharper than any two-edged Ninja sword. Make it a habit to read every day, even just one chapter.

You'll find if you read sometimes with a view to songwriting - underlining verses or passages that inspire a song - you can end up with several songs in a single chapter.

[Remember that if you use a translation that is subject to restrictive commercial copyright, such as the NIV, you cannot use the scripture word for word. Consider using a version such as the American Standard Version, the Open English Bible, or others that do not present copyright problems.]

As you read with a view to songwriting - and don't always read like that, as God has other things he needs to tell you too - you may be surprised how many verses you will come across that have been made into hymns or choruses. If you look carefully, you may also find how some songs have taken just a verse or two that sound inspiring, but have left out the hard parts right before or right after. Decide that is one mistake you just won't make: Don't ever write a song based on a single verse without considering the whole context of the chapter and book, and even of God's bigger story through the whole bible.

Similarly, don't write a song that seems to have no scriptural basis. You might imagine that might mean there are things you can't write about at all, but nothing could be further from the truth. All of human experience is reflected in God's word, the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly.

The topic you are thinking of will have a scriptural perspective - you might just have to cast your net a little more widely. Your pastor or Christian friend may be able to think of scriptural parallels you haven't thought of. Of course God's opinion on some topics may not be our own, and certainly may not be what is fashionable at any given moment.

To paraphrase Queen Victoria, it doesn't matter so much what we think of God's word, what matters is what God's Word thinks of us. We need to conform ourselves and our songs to him and his word, never the other way around.

Don't worry that putting your songs on a solid biblical basis is going to make them soft or stuffy. In fact, you'll find that God's word never shrinks back from saying what needs to be said, maybe sometimes making you and your listeners pretty uncomfortable. Your challenge is going to be to always tell the whole truth of God's word, without leaving out the tough, life-changing, soul-saving parts.

Whatever you do, don't go wandering off on your own with God's word - no-one wants to be the blind leading the blind.

Exercise 1.1

Ah, you didn't think we were serious about the workshop part?

God has never left the business of miracles. He's perfectly capable of sending you an angel with a song already worked out. But that wouldn't be your song. And for our own good he normally requires us to work at what we do.

The biggest miracle of course is that he has saved you to sing his word, but now you need to get good at your craft by putting in some hard labour. If you want your songs to be seriously good, you need to be seriously serious about working on your writing.

  1. Stop now. Get a notebook. (You're going to need this stuff written down later in the workshop.)
  2. Write down three things you've learned in the past month or two from your time in God's word or hearing a sermon.
  3. For each item, write down a song idea that would communicate that truth.
  4. Pray that God will set your own feet on a solid foundation, and that he will guide you in writing your songs to faithfully deliver his word to your listeners.

Hopefully that wasn't too painful!

If you got organized to actually write your answers down, you are already on your way to becoming a better Christian songwriter.

Next part: Why are you writing?

Is there lots of living water ready to draw from your well?

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