I've been kinda fed-up with Christian songwriters lately. I feel like the songs we sing in church don't have enough substance in them, and they should. I mean why do we sings songs that are so basic when our God i so big and complex and unsearchable? I know I'mnot the only one to feel this way, I just have a unique perspective being a songwriter myself.
So as a songwriter I feel like it's my gig to do something about it. Write some songs that don't blow, share them with people, solve problem. Unfortunately it's just not that simple.
I started by just writing songs. Songs that were more modern and had a more 'worshipful' lyric. I really like strange guitar chords like F#m11 & B13, so those were kinda hard to follow. So I made the music simpler, but then the melody didn't make sense anymore. I simplified the melody, but then it didn't fit the lyric. So I simplified the lyric. All this just to arrive at a good number songs that were good, but were the same generic stuff I was fed up with. Go figure.
So I've been trying to step back and be more objective about the issue. I've stopped writing wroship songs and gone back to writing the folk-pop kinda stuff I started writing. Frankly it feels good just to write and analyze if it's 'congregational' or not. That was a real muse killer.
In my search for objectivitly I contemplated the differences, betwen songs that are weak and the songs that are strong. I found a few differences that I felt could be summed up in a single word. Timlessness. So many of the songs we teach new, get dropped a year later because It just wasn't that great. I thought this timelessness was the trick.
Something about 'How Great is our God' seems to make it as timeless as 'Be Thou my Vision'. It doesn't have the modern pop/rock stain, as most of modern worship music does. No U2 guitar parts and no repeat ad-nauseum. (this is quite possible however, but the chorus ends quite well, so you don't repeat it hoping it'll get better the next time)
But something about that doesn't fit right either. I was out on a cleaning job at someone's house. It was a nice house with lots of nice (heavy) furniture. That of course is my job to move it so the other guy can clean the carpet. Mixed in with their really nice, all cherry dressers ws this crappy little, falling apart litte table. This thing was small and weak, not ideal qualities to look for in a table. I ask myself "why does a family tht's this loaded keep this table along with this nice furniture?" a little later I was moving an obviously older chest of drawers in their living room. again I ask myself "why do they keep this old stuff when they can clearly afford to replace it?" Then it dawned on me.
I'm not timeless.
As a matter of fact I'm transient, it's the gospel that's timless.
True that my soul will out last my body, but I have a birthday. I was born, I was created. So in essense, I'm both transient and timeless. Temporal and eternal.
These songs aren't timeless, they've just managed to transcend the time in which the were created. Now that I think about it, Be Thou My Vision' has a ton of words I don't use very often. In fact there's a 5th verse that almost no-one sings, because it's a war metaphor.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
So it's not timless.
And to carry this one step further, perhaps I do need to sings songs that are transient, that Identify me with the time and place I live in? If I'm both timeless and transient, maybe there's a place for 'Famous One'?
I'm really not sure where that leaves me as a songwriter or as a worship leader, but It's a direction. A direction is sometimes better than a destination anyway.