By Justin Gray (Every Nation Music Director)
Roughly every quarter, Every Nation Music hosts a Worship Writers Workshop (W3) that focuses on identifying, training, and building relationships among our global songwriting community.
During the first training session, we cover a topic that we call “songwriting context.”
The basic principles for this topic can be placed in the following three categories: songs for you and God, songs for God and the local church, and songs for God and the universal church.
You and God.
“But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
Throughout the book of Psalms, King David writes about his experiences in the presence of God. These moments of worship often take the shape of prayer and songs. His heart overflows with passion and longing for God and the fulfillment of His purposes. Some of these songs have been included in Scripture for us, while others may forever remain a mystery.
Some songs we write or spontaneously create in a personal moment of devotion move God’s heart and open us up to receive healing, encouragement, and strength. These songs are special and have a specific place within the devotional life of every believer.
However, these songs are typically not for everyone. Without an understanding of the private context of the devotional moment, most people would find these songs inaccessible and maybe even weird. So it’s important to recognize that some songs should remain between you and God.
God and the local church.
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!”
Many of the songs written by David and the other psalmists were for a specific purpose. Not only to engage in personal devotion and worship of God, but to call others together corporately for that same purpose.
Songs in Jewish culture were of special significance—serving as a means to rehearse God’s divine truth and His covenant faithfulness throughout Israel’s history. In a similar way, modern songs written for our local congregations are very important. They act as catalysts toward God’s missional purpose for each corporate gathering, and they also preserve the experiences of that community for future generations. In light of this, we should embrace the fact that some songs were meant specifically to strengthen our local churches.
God and the universal church.
“‘All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.’ Selah.”
Non-Jewish nations worshipping YHWH was a novel idea in the ancient near-eastern world. Gentiles were seen as outsiders as it related to God’s covenant promises. However, God gives David divine insight whereby he is able to speak prophetically concerning the nations coming to worship.
Let’s be clear, the song of God’s redemptive work through the cross of Christ is for all people to sing. It is only through Christ’s finished work that the “whole earth” can worship and sing praises to God the Father! However, on a practical level there are certain songs that point to this universal truth and resonate deep within the body of Christ at-large. These songs inspire the nations to unify in praise and adoration of the one true God. We might call these songs “rare” in that they transcend personal preference and congregational specificity to penetrate into all of the world.
Some songs we write will stir every tribe, tongue, and nation to passionately worship God.
As worshippers we must challenge ourselves to think about the context of the songs we write. Developing this skill is invaluable as we grow as both songwriters and worshippers.
About the Author:
Justin is the director of Every Nation Music and has a wealth of experience in the music industry as well as in the local church. His experience includes writing and producing with artists such as Citipointe Live, 3WB (The Winans), Out of Eden, and Mary Mary.