writer’s room By STeve SiLer soul notes With steve sileR— DiRectoR, music foR the soul Prepare to wade into Shallow waters While I was a staff songwriter at Word I had an experience that I think should give serious pause to all people who write, record and listen to worship music. I was getting together with one of my regular co-writers for a writing session. This was not a Christian songwriter, but rather a very successful country and pop songwriter who just happened to be a Christian and a regular church attendee. My publisher had asked me earlier in the week to write some new worship songs for our Word Music catalogue. When my friend and I sat down to consider what we would work on that day I told him about the request my publisher had made. My friend pretended to be afraid, shaking both hands out in front of his face as if trembling, and in a faux horror movie voice declared, “Prepare to wade into shallow waters.” Trouble is, the only reason his statement was funny is because there was a lot of truth in it. The fact is Christians claim to have the most profound, most compelling story of all time. And yet far too many contemporary worship songs don’t even scratch the surface of that story. Perhaps you’ve already heard worship songs being derogatorily referred to as 7-11 songs; seven words repeated eleven times. I’m personally aware of an occasion where the drummer of a well-known pop artist was in Nashville for a day and was asked to play on a worship song. After struggling to come up with a part to play this musician is reported to have said in exasperation, “I can’t play on this. There’s no song here.” Another Nashville songwriter penned his own ‘worship’ song acerbically mocking the genre. “Holy, holy, holy—holy, holy, holy—holy, holy, moley!” I know there are many CCM readers who will consider these attacks unfair and perhaps even irreverent. As to that last thought I would suggest to you that only God is holy, not the songs themselves. If a song is poorly written it is fair game for criticism, even if it is about God. Please understand; I’m not attacking all contemporary worship songs. I’m simply holding up a mirror. As someone who has worshipped in churches that sang only old hymns, written many songs for the CCM industry and has worshipped in many churches that sing exclusively contemporary worship songs, allow me to share a few thoughts on this matter. While many may find the older hymns less “hooky” and the language less culturally accessible, the truth is that they consistently deal with the deep truths of scripture. This does not mean that all of the old hymns are well written. Far from it, hymns range from great to dreadful just like worship songs do. But there is no doubt that the lyricists of the hymns always at least sought to convey http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/everything-good-single/id445919588 important Biblical truths. http://www.facebook.com/ashesremain I would encourage all those who write, perform and t listen to contemporary worship music to ask themselves if that is what they believe is happening in the songs being created for the church today. Songs with Christian lyrics can teach us, challenge us, inspire us and bring us into the presence of God. Not every Christian song is designed to do all of these things. But I think any reasonable assessment of our contemporary worship songs will show that they more frequently aim for the last two things, often at the expense of the first two. That said I believe the case can and should be made for doing one of two things. First, we either should include more of the old hymns in our worship music experience; or we should hold ourselves to a higher lyrical standard, prayerful for a discerning spirit that creates and celebrates excellence and substance in the new songs of the contemporary church. Or we could do both. 52 CCM musicians corner