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No one wants to write bad song. No one. I have never met one single person who wakes up in the morning and mid-stretch-yawn has the thought – “today someone around here needs to conjure up some pithy lyrics for a tired melody!” This is especially true these days when it seems like any misstep ends up going viral on youtube. That said, every songwriter I know writes bad songs. It’s not just a disease that the bottom feeders get, it’s systemic! The difference between an average and master songwriter is frequency – master songwriters tend to write fewer bad song (obvious, right? I know.)

In an effort to keep the ratio a positive one, here are a couple of thoughts

Great songwriters learn from their bad songs. Now, this requires a certain amount of self awareness. I mean, you would have to realize its a bad song to begin with. Average songwriters tend to be wired in one of two directions. Either we are paralyzed with insecurity and cynicism to the point that we hate all of our work (and 99% of everyone else’s too) or we are so self absorbed that we think that everything we write is freaking genius. Both of these extremes tend to militate against growth.

This is where its really great to have some trusted friends – a “sounding board” if you will – people who can be honest without crushing that part of you that is inspired and artistic. This can be a bit tricky, because I don’t want 100% of my affirmation and reason for writing to hang upon everyone else’s opinion, but I have noticed that an honest critique to be really great for shining light on my own writing blind spots.

When I first started writing melody was a real challenge to me, and it still is. It’s just that now I know it, and I know it because my wife and a close friend pointed it out to me. Words like “boring” and “monotonous” were coming up – a sure sign of a lifeless melody. Now I write with a mind towards singable, but compelling melody.

Great writers are writers who just keep on writing. They persevere. Because inspiration has been sparked there is a drive on the inside that must be satisfied. Great writers are not discouraged by a bad song. They will rework it. They will rework it again. Then, they will move on, regardless of the the last songs outcome they continue to write. They simply must give voice to the symphony of the heart.

I once heard Kathryn Scott (author of the worship song “Hungry”) say that song-writing was like digging a well – at first muddy water comes out, but if you persevere, then eventually, the clear water will come.

Great songwriters are not deflated by a song that didn’t “turn out” or “connect with the people”. A bad song is just muddy water, unfit for drinking but a sure sign that the clear water will come. Similarly, great songwriters are not overly enamored with their work, knowing that too much splashing around with self confidence will surely stir clear waters murky again.

We’re all digging wells here – lets not be discouraged by the cloudy water, lets embrace it as a part of the process. Clear water is right behind!



matt redman – writing for the local church!

Songs Are a Sign of Life

Wherever you find life you will likely find God hanging around, because God is life. The signs are everywhere. Creation is a sign: with a few words God spoke creation into existence. Life exploded out of nothingness. Everywhere Jesus went he extended life to dying bodies, sick minds, and hopeless situations. Healing, deliverance, and hope are signs of life. Salvation and baptisms are signs of life. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon a group of 120 men and women resulting in 3,000 new births. God and life are inseparable.

Songs are a sign of life. In the same way that creation, healing, deliverance, hope, love, community, generosity, salvation and baptisms are signs of life, I would like to add that songs are a sign of life. When the God of heaven is truly among us, there will be singing.

In Exodus 15, when the people of Israel were delivered from slavery and the army of Pharaoh was destroyed, Moses and Miriam both sang to the Lord. Chapter four of Revelation, which is a picture of heaven and God’s throne, show us songs and worship constantly erupting.

I’m a pastor–to be exact, a worship leader turned pastor. The pastor part of me is always looking to compare our own church to the people and churches found in the Biblical narrative. I want to model our life and experiences after the live and experiences of the people of God found in the scriptures. I’m a bit compulsive about it because I believe it’s essential.

How can we measure in simple, quick ways whether we are on the right path? by asking questions like “Where’s the life in my church?” or “What is alive and vibrant?” or even “Where is there excess and abundance?” Often we will find the life of God in unexpected places and within unlikely people.

The centuries of church history confirm the connection between the life of God and the songs that are signs of life. God moved in the ministry of John Wesley and the result was life: untold numbers of salvation and a hymnal full of songs. Wesley’s brother Charles penned some of the most important songs in the history of the church during those years. Here is Love is my favorite hymn of all-time. It was written during the Welsh revival when a young man named Evan Roberts upended a nation by partnering with the Spirit of God. 100,000 people came to the Lord in just one year, and Here is Love became their anthem.

Both the scriptures and church history teach that songs break forth from the activity of God. Songs point to the fact that God’s presence is among us.

Where is the life in your church? is it evidenced by fresh songs and worship that are unique to your church’s experience with God? If so–awesome! If not–then what’s in the way?



JMM – influences

JMM – great songs

JMM – culture of creativity

JMM – the process of writing

JMM – why write songs for the local church?

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