Creative Bible Centered Worship Songs?

The process of creating a bible centered song might seem to be something that would go against our artistic nature.  I would go so far as to say I have read several opinions that basing a song too much in scripture results in dull or boring music.   There can be several reasons for this thought:

  • We are many times using the words of other writers (ie, the bible translators) as a part of our lyrics, to ground the song in the bible.
  • We feel constrained by the need to create congregational, singable melodies in harmony arrangements that will connect, which many times means limiting vocal range, limiting unusual melodies, etc.

While these may feel like constraints on the creative process, they really aren’t.  Rather they should be considered stylistic elements of the intended audience or use of the art that is expressed in a worship songs.

My own creative process relative to worship songs is to first look for inspiration through my bible reading and application.  Many times in reading, in a bible study, or in a sermon, a thought is expressed that really strikes home, or really has an application.  For instance, in one song on our EP, the goal was to write about the passage 1st Chronicles 16.  From this came the song ‘All Glory’.  In this song, we employed the technique of trying to get as many thoughts from the passage into the song as possible, without necessarily doing a verbatim quote, a creative process we call ‘re-telling’. In this process, the steps are roughly as follows:

  • Decide the key thought of the scripture.  Boil it down to something the worshiper can respond to.  In the case of this song, the chorus really came from the scripture, with a simple thought I added in the last two lines based on the real need to assign glory where it belongs:

We will give, we will give
All glory to Your Name
For a thousand generations
Your Word is still the same
We rely, we rely
On Your wisdom and Your grace
We will humble all our prideful hearts
So there is nothing left but You

Notice also there is plenty of room for creativity here.  Rhyme structure, near rhyme, getting the syllables right, etc.

  • Next was to build the structure of the song.  Since the passage is very declarative, we added verses that packed key thoughts from the scripture.  In each case, however, the verses were also made to have a strong rhyme structure.  Also in these verses, the translators aid us a lot with their memorable prose that we can borrow and structure into the song.  We cannot use them verbatim without having a song that doesn’t flow poetically, so we have to some wordsmithing.  Notice the use of a repeated rhyme across 4 of the 5 lines, adding a lot of singability to the song.  Notice also that we changed the melody the secong time through.  Musically, this naturally works given the melody and rhythmic structure of the music, and the result feels natural even though it is a technical ‘no-no’:

You have written Your fame across the heavens
The mighty seas resound and sing Your praise
The fields and the trees – they join the chorus
To fill the earth with jubilant refrain
Where forever, forever You will reign

Your deeds are known among the nations
Deliverance has come for You have saved
Splendor and majesty surround You
Strength and joy within Your dwelling place
Where forever, forever You will reign

  • Musically, the song was structured on a very strong melody for the chorus.  To stress that, we began with the chorus, and ended the song with a bridge that reinforced the chorus melody with a jump into a repeated element, which required a slight rewording to allow the repeat to work:

We will humble all our prideful hearts
So there is nothing left of me
But more of You

We will humble all our prideful hearts
So there is nothing left of me
But more of You
We will humble all our prideful hearts
So there is nothing left but You

To sum up, the goal of this creative process was to ‘tell’ the story of this scripture passage, bring it home to a response that is personal, powerful, and relevant, and fill the song with biblical imagery that give the song the lyrical quality that will appeal to many people who might otherwise expect a ‘shallow’ modern worship song. Plenty of room for creativity, plenty of creative process to apply, and we still met the ‘constraints’ imposed by the values we adopted when setting out.

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One Response to Creative Bible Centered Worship Songs?

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