Wednesday, 21 May 2014

So you think you're Matt Redman?

My notepad bearing the scars of re-writing
People don't tend to bother you if you just create stuff.

An example: I really don't mind if you write poetry worthy of a Vogon. I don't care if it doesn't scan, doesn't rhyme or is packed full of clich├ęs. As long as I don't have to read it.

I write and re-arrange worship songs. I also lead the music at my church. That means I have a natural 'audience'. It's like being a poet and the poetry editor at the local newspaper. I can inflict my songs on your ears. I can even pressure you to sing them.

If I choose my own songs, am I making out that I'm better than Matt Redman? Am I forcing McGonagall on Wordsworth fans?

I don't think so. Here's why:

1) I write for need. My latest song (co-written with Adele) is on imputation. Try to find a good worship song that focuses on imputation. I can't.

We're working our way through Romans in our current preaching series. Writing a song on some of the truths we're heading is like writing a 4 minute sermon. And if people like it, it could last a lot longer in people's minds than a typical sermon.

2) I plead for feedback. On words and music. The song has to be bigger than my ego.

I run the words by trusted friends (including my pastor). The song here better.

I run the music by others - including my fellow worship leader at church. I beg for improvements. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn't. But I'm committed to making the song as good as it can be - not proving myself right or seeking my own glory.

3) I am reluctant. Really I am.

Keeping my songs to myself means no one sees my weaknesses. No one criticises them. I can pretend that I am an undiscovered genius.

Even better, I can leave my songs unfinished. Then I can even pretend to myself that I am a great. And I don't have to struggle away finding rhymes or melodies. I've written the first chapter of my own dystopian novel. If only I had the time to finish it, I would surely be recognised as George Orwell's equal.
Then, when it comes to actually choosing the songs, I grimace. It's like firing clay. Once it's out there, I can't change it. It's stuck with that tune forever. The line that I settled for, unable to think of something better, is equal to every other line in the song.

I'm learning to live with it. But my agony in choosing it is probably equivalent to your agony in hearing or singing it.

It all boils down to this:

If my song has a better chance of building up my brothers and sisters in Christ than anything else I can think of, I will fight through my fears and reluctance, praying for God to use it to help people.

Am I right or deluded?

Please let me know in the comments.


  1. I think you know you're right! And if, after hearing it, I can think of any improvements, I'll force myself to face the embarrassment of being wrong and I'll tell you! Deal?

  2. I think I know you think I think I'm right. And I think you're right about that.

    The tricky thing is that lots of motives get mixed up in these things. I've listed some on the creator's side. Another is craving feedback. Yes, I want my work to be the best it can be. But I also want people to care enough to listen (which people have, thanks!). And that involves ego, even if I might get negative feedback.

    But, frankly, the people who've listened are too nice to say anything negative anyway!