Filed Under (Song of the Week) by Rob on 07-01-2012

Yes, my New Year’s Resolution for 2012 is to compose – and post on this blog – a new worship song every week!

Ambitious? Yes! A bit crazy? Probably! Well, I’m pledging to do fifty songs, so that I get a week or two off at least. The thing is, I’ve been composing for over two decades and I get tunes and ideas in my head all the time. So, all I have to do is note them down and share them with you.

I’m setting down a few ground rules for the songs, to try and make sure they’re original and intesting enough for you to use. Also, because I have a great burden (due to my line of work) for moving Western worship songs on from the ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ style stuff, to deeper, more inspiring songs which are completely honest, challenging and real. Here are my rules:

(i) No Christian jargon!
So much of the vocabulary in today’s Western church songs is not accessible to the outside world; we need words – and themes – they can really understand and relate to; words used in everyday life today. So words like ‘redeemer’ are out (but I might just about get away with ‘saviour’). Also banned are: glorious, rejoice, Gospel, grace, mankind, exalted, all of which can be replaced by more contemporary alternatives. But still allowed are: faith, hope, wisdom, love, sacrifice, everlasting, Prince of Peace.

(ii) No more clichés, please!
Although many of these start out as innovative phrases, they are copied by other composers and become overdone. So, no more: “it’s all about you” “Bow the knee” “Before your throne” “He has made me glad” “It’s your blood”. There is so much more out there there we could be using!

(iii) Make use of vocabulary currently in the media
Like it or not, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and even some pop songs use words of spiritual significance. Use them in church and there will be an instant identification with these. For example, “Praise Him” was used in Dr Who and words like “sacrifice”, “curse”, “dark powers”, “soul” – and many many others, are to be found in Harry Potter. The word “halleluia” was recently made known again in the Leonard Cohen song, but we need to use it in it’s true sense. The same is true with the phrase “Oh my God”, which desperately needs to be reinstated with its original meaning of awe and wonder.

(iv) Use new or different harmonies
If you at current ‘worship songs’, way too many use a I,V,VI,IV chord sequence (or VI, IV, I, V, which boils down to the same thing). This makes church music into a sub-culture of its own and, again, less accessible to the outsider. What we should do is:

(v) Draw musical inspiration from the secular world
Over 100 years ago, William Booth said: “Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?” I’ve got news for you: in most cases he still does! Booth, Wesley and many others took popular tunes of the time for their songs, yet we have got into our own rut of Christian sub-culture, musically speaking.

There is no ‘church music’, there is just music used (or not) in church. Any style can – and should – be used. So, if you’re writing a new song, try not to get your influences from other worship song writers; this will only perpetuate the ‘inbred-ness’ of these. Why not listen to some current pop, rock, reggae, jazz, latin, R & B music and use those styles? These needn’t be overly complicated, but at least we will have a balanced musical diet in church.

(vi) Tied to Scripture
Every song I compose will be linked to Bible passages, from which at least some of the lyrical content will come. I recently read the statistic that 75% of church-goers in the UK do not open their Bible once between Sunday services (if that’s you, do something about it now!) If this is the case, how can we expect an hour or two a week to bring enough spiritual growth? If out songs contain more than “God you’re great” or “Jesus I love you”, then there’s a chance some of the truth and doctrine will stay in people’s heads and touch their hearts and minds during the week.

Now, I know I will fail at the above, but I can at least try (and you should too!) If you could make it your New Year’s resolution to try out at least one of the fifty songs in your church at some point this year, that would be wonderful (and when you do, let me know how it goes!) Some of the songs will be quite good, others less so. This is a kind of experiment. I figure that even if one person reads one song and is touched by it, I will have served a purpose. I’m also happy for you to send your opinions or suggestions about the songs.

2 Comments posted on "50 New Songs in 2012: My New Year’s Resolution!"
Caroline H on January 7th, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

Great! Can I add ‘easy to learn/sing for non musicians’? I get bothered when I am in a service and the musicians are having a great time jamming with each other and with complicated harmonies that the congregation can’t keep up with…thanks
Also, it would be good to have some that can be sung without musical accompaniment.
Great idea…

Eric Herron on January 7th, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

Yes! I DO love it. What a great goal. I love your rules, too, Rob. Looking forward to what comes of it all. 😉