Have you seen anything beautiful?
Has your heart been melted?
Have you been brought low, all the way down to tears and weeping?
Have you laughed and had your very bones soaked with joy?
Have you heard the voice of God?
Have you felt the love of the Father, even when you weren’t exactly doing great?
I could keep asking questions. You could keep a running tally. We could keep score. But truthfully it wouldn’t even matter. Point is, the beginning of any song, especially a song that will be sung by the church is some sort of an encounter with God.
I know some people might push back on that idea, fearing that I’m proposing a life with God that is solely based on feelings – or perhaps I’m suggesting that songwriting is meant for those brief moments when one is filled with inspiration.
Trust me, I understand the traps of only writing when one feels inspired. The net result of that approach is a notebook filled with half-finished songs, which are about as good as half-baked brownies – a little too gooey, and lacking the addictive, crunchy corners…
As for a life with God based on feelings, I say why not? He did in fact give them to people, and when he declared creation ‘good’ he was declaring feelings and emotions good as well. I know that our feelings can trick us, but so can our intellect. I know that faith and feelings are not the same thing, but life with God is richer and more textured than a purely intellectual, reason-based faith will allow.
I bring it all up because people often ask me about songwriting and how to develop a culture of songwriting. The most basic answer is this – what have you seen, experienced and come to truly know in God?
Worship is essentially responding to God. Seeing Him for who He really is and then responding to that in what ever means is available to us. Songs are really great for responding to God because songs contain another dimension of truth, melody. People sing when words alone are not enough, when they encounter truth that sits in a space too lofty for language.
If you want to write songs, encounter God. If you want to create a culture of songwriting, make a space where people can encounter God. Take some time to reflect upon His goodness, help the people you are sharing life with to see the nearness and affection of God. He isn’t avoiding you or your church. He’s right in our midst, if we can just see him. And if we can catch a glimpse, we can write, and sing, and respond.