Tuesday, February 05, 2013

How to Write a Worship Song (In 5 Minutes or Less)

Clever. We don't have this problem at my church. In fact, I've never seen a guitar in my church.


Ken said...

What's wrong with using an accoustic guitar in worship or even a tastefully done electric guitar?

I don't understand the anti-pathy to ALL contemporary forms.

I wish doctrinal churches would use more accoustic guitar and update from only organ or only piano and hymns. mix it up and have both and be discerning and tasteful and skillful.

But it takes some one with maturity and knowledge and discernment in choosing good ones with Biblical words and Biblical theology.

The Video seems to have a mocking tone; I get the point; but I did not like the tone or spirit of the thing.

Andrew said...

I don't think anybody here is suggesting that a guitar is a sin. What you should understand is that this kid is making fun of his own Christian sub-culture. His videos are usually very clever and more insightful than you might expect. And his point about vapid, silly lyrics and musical blah-ness is pretty much spot on.

James Swan said...

Yeah, I don't have any problem with guitars in church (and also, I play guitar).

What I found relevant from the video is it captured how poorly put together (or formulaic) some worship music is. I don't mind contemporary worship (my church does), but I do mind bad contemporary music passing itself off as worship.

I'm always reminded of this comment from Larry Norman. Larry used to describe being an audience member at a Christian music concert, and the performer said,

"God gave me this song, and I'd like to share it with you..."

After the song, Larry's comment was, "God gave you that? He was probably glad to get rid of it."

James Swan said...

btw Ken...

Pending the weather, I'm going to see Phil Keaggy on Saturday.

Ken said...

Andrew and James -
Very good; all of that was helpful clarification and agreed.

There are some acoustic guitar worship songs that are shallow, yes; but then there are also lots of new Reformed minded that have deep theology and good words and more skillfully done playing than what is mocked in that video.

But, I would personally love to learn acoustic guitar well enough to sing worship songs in my private worship. ( I am a drummer, and tried to learn to play guitar for a quarter in seminary, but it was hard.

seeing Phil Keaggy - cool; I wish I could see him live too. He and the late Keith Green are my favorite Christian musicians. I think Michael Card is an excellent musician also, and has good theology (as far as I know and can tell) in his CDs - I really like his "Unveiled Hope" - the whole book of Revelation is put to music. (not every verse, but the main chapters from beg. to end.)

Brigitte said...

I was in a service like that and one of the leaders referred to the people as the "audience" instead of the "congregation". If ever I get tired of the liturgy I need to go one of these kinds of things.

Andrew said...

I play guitar, sort of. If I had any talent to share with you, I would.

James Swan said...


I've seen Keaggy a number of times since 1981 or so. The funny thing is, I've never been a big Keaggy fan, but I've probably seen him live close to a dozen times. I certainly do though appreciate his talent.

I've seen a number of the classic Christian bands. I saw the Resurrection Band in either '79 or 1980, and then a number of times after that. I still love the Colours album. Servant, Fireworks, Randy Stonehill, Mylon, you name it- I probably saw them back in the day.

I really though gravitated towards Larry Norman's music as a kid, probably because I grew up in a conservative church that looked down on rock music. While Larry certainly wasn't a great musician, his entire persona and outlook on the Christian life struck a chord with me.

Anonymous said...

I went to a Roman Catholic church and the singer and organ were in the balcony at the back of the church. This is how music used to be in many churches that were acoustically accommodating. Churches should have an orchestra pit for the musicians. The way church is done today is to mimic the worlds way of entertainment.
Anything that smacks of MTV or a rock concert should be rejected. All clapping after a song should be stopped. This isn't a Broadway show it's church. A guitar is a great instrument for church. The song Silent Night was written on a guitar because the organ was done. The playing of worldly songs needs to be stopped also. The idea of a Christian Star needs to be preached against. Christians should have their music available to everyone one for free download. It's fine to sell records or even charge for a concert but as Christian we must offer the Gospel through song for free like Jesus, Paul and the Apostles did. The whole idea of how we do church is wrong. A church without a prayer alter or place to kneel is a waste of money. My house shall be called a house of prayer was the words of Jesus.

Michael Kearney said...

This video really shows the hollowness of much of what falls into the category of "contemporary Christian music," and by negation it points to the beautiful simplicity of Reformed worship.

What came to mind as I watched this and read the comments (both there and here) was the striking difference between our music in the Reformed tradition and the music exemplified in the video. Our lyrics are either drawn from or inspired by the Scriptural Psalms themselves, and whatever musical instruments we use are secondary to the congregation (which is really the primary "instrument" in Reformed worship). Interestingly, this perspective completely circumvents most current debates on lyric content or instrumentation.

What also amazed me as I watched the video was how few comments were posted on the YouTube page challenging it. It seems that the overwhelming majority of commenters were more than willing to acknowledge the shallowness and insincerity of this kind of "Christian" music--many of them even admitted that they sang it in their own churches!

So, as we note the growing interest in Reformed theology among American churches today and emphasize the unique comfort our tradition has to offer, maybe we should keep in mind that the simplicity of Reformed worship will come as a breath of fresh air to many of these dissatisfied churchgoers as well. I'd say we ought to make sure we are doing music well in our churches, but I don't think we need to change anything about its content or form. Let the Psalms speak and the congregation sing, and that is enough!


On a more personal level, Mr. Swan, I'm wondering if we've met. I'm a member and musician at your sister church, West Sayville Reformed Bible Church on Long Island. I was the organist at Synod 2012 and have visited PPRBC multiple times. I was so happy to stumble upon your blog through the recommendation of a URCNA minister in Anaheim, CA, and I would be delighted to talk more. I blog on church music over at URC Psalmody, so if you'd like, you can email me via the contact page there:


Blessings in Christ!

Michael Kearney
West Sayville URC
Long Island, New York