This question was asked at a conference where I was a guest on a panel on worship music. Honestly, at the moment I had a bit of a loss for words. The flow of new worship songs is essentially endless. I chuckle when I hear people say, “There’s just not any great new worship songs!” Depending on your definition of great that may be true, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of contenders.

So when the guy asked, “Should I be writing songs for my church?”, my first impulse was to shout, “No! Please don’t! We have plenty already!” But after thinking about it for a few moments, I said, “Maybe.”

Non-committal, right? Well, the answer to this question does require some thought and a little self inspection. Here are some probing questions to consider that will help you answer this for yourself:

1. Is this about you or your church? I’m in music publishing so I work with a bunch of songwriters. There are two extreme types of creative people: those that can create if needed and those who are compelled to create. Most creative people have elements of both types, but lean toward one or the other. If you lean toward the second category, you probably have to be creating something to be happy – writing a song, writing a book, painting, woodworking, etc. Life isn’t right unless you have a creative outlet. The other extreme are those who have creative talent, but will only use it if necessary. I know some great songwriters who won’t write unless there’s a pressing need or a clear reward. So where are you? If you must create, is your church worship the best outlet for that? I’ve seen worship leaders who were aspiring artists use their churches as a testing ground for new music. The church is not a test audience. Our congregations deserve to sing the best-crafted and richest lyrical songs available to us, regardless of who wrote them.

2. Is there a lack of existing songs that work in your ministry? I remember David Crowder saying he began writing songs because he couldn’t find songs that would work in his predominately college aged church. This could especially be true in urban and multicultural churches. Much of our popular worship songs come from white suburban writers, so there’s room for a new sound in worship. This might also be true in modern liturgical churches where the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus song structure doesn’t work.

3. Do you need a song that says something really specific? With the abundance of worship songs available to us, it’s still hard to find songs that deal with really specific issues. I was leading at a marriage retreat weekend once and I began looking for a song on marital unity. I couldn’t find anything! I ended up using Scripture and writing a chorus that worked for the event. It was really special for those attending because they felt that it was something God was specifically saying to them. So if your church is starting a new series, this would be a great reason to write a song to sing throughout the series. Then if the song doesn’t connect with your church, you can let the song die with the series :).

4. Is God doing something unique right now in your church? The best worship songs, I believe, come out of authentic church experiences with the Lord. I love to hear music that arises from a move of the Holy Spirit. It’s always inspired and fresh. And we should celebrate what God is doing through music. Having the resources and talent is never a good reason to write worship songs and record an album. Unfortunately, many churches are making this mistake. We should write worship songs as a response to God’s greatness, not as a sign of our giftedness.

5. Are you a gifted songwriter? This seems obvious, but have you watched American Idol? I meet people every year at songwriting events who are convinced they are supposed to write songs, but have no real talent. I used the word “gifted” for a reason. I believe creative people must first have a gift and then they must work at developing that gift. If you have no songwriting gift, no amount of work will make you a great songwriter. Or, you may have a songwriting gift, but if you don’t work to develop it, you will never be better than average. Have an objective third party evaluate your songs and give you honest feedback. If songwriting isn’t your talent, don’t even think about making your church sing your songs.

Hopefully this will help you determine whether you should be writing new songs for your church or not. Remember, as a leader, your job is to serve the body. So, whether you sing your songs or those written by others, make sure you are shepherding your church well.

Every now and then, Worship Together has the opportunity to spend a day or so with a worship leader and capture some really incredible footage of them singing their songs in a more intimate setting. Recently we got to sit down with Chris Tomlin and take in this powerful version of Jesus Loves Me. Take 5 minutes out of your day to watch it! You won’t regret it.

With any live performance, there’s always the possibility of something unexpected happening. I was reminded of this once again last week during worship. The tracks/click we were using went wacky during the first song. I had no option but to kill the tracks and click. After the tracks went down, the whole band was on edge having to adjust. And of course that led to a mistake. Me, the keyboard player, started a song while still transposed a half step down. I didn’t realize it until the singer came in. That’s the worst feeling in the world – trying to decide between two equally awkward options.

So after the message I decided to restart my iPad and maybe get our tracks back online for the last song. Not today! As soon as the iPad powered off it sent a bone rattling buzz into the mains that wouldn’t stop until I yanked the cable out of the iPad. At this point, I was ready to curl up in the fetal position and go to my happy place or grab the prayer oil and begin casting the demons out of the room.

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I’m sure mine is not the only church with a running joke about staff only having to work one day a week. Worship pastors get to take this to the next level when we say, “And all I have to do is play guitar!”

If only this were true.

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Worship leaders, in general, are artists. Artists, in general, tend to be emotionally invested in their own situation. Emotional investment, in general, results in assumptions which have varying degrees of truthiness.

And we all know what happens when we assume.

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Almost all of the inspiration for the record “Before There Was” comes from the teachings and revelations unpacked in the book of Ephesians. In these scriptures, Paul paints the picture of God’s love and grace with such an eternal scope that it’s almost paralyzing. It leaves you stunned with the most breathtaking sense of Gods supremacy and His purpose for creation. Ephesians says that even before the foundations of the earth, God had us in mind and set out to make us a part of his family through Christ. It’s an overwhelming thought. God desires union with His creation and even before time itself, He set out the make it possible. He would go to such great lengths to set us free. It was his plan from the very start. What love. What grace.

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Jonah couldn’t do it. Nor could Moses nor David nor Paul. They couldn’t escape God’s call. Jonah literally jumped ship and still wound up in the will of God in Nineveh. Moses protested when God called him to deliver His people from slavery yet became one of the greatest leaders in Israel’s history. David was initially overlooked by everyone to be the next king, everyone but the Lord. And Paul killed and convicted the ones he eventually became like after an encounter with God on a road.

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“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire”

– Hebrews 12:29

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God has always been a fan of fire. All throughout the scriptures it has consistently been one of the main ways He chooses to reveal Himself. As Psalm 104:4 says it, ” He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” It’s a tool used by the King to make His presence known; to demonstrate His power. Whether it’s with Moses and the burning bush, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, or Elijah on Mt. Carmel….there is just something about fire.

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Yes! Okay, that would a pretty boring blog post, so allow me to digress. I’ve been in church pretty much my whole life. Admittedly, my church experience, as with most of us, is limited to a pretty narrow stream. But why is it that most of the time when I worship at church, the band looks like they are either mad, scared or bored?

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