Archive | —Songwriting


Review of God’s Lyrics by Douglas Sean O’Donnell

A few weeks ago I finished God’s Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs. O’Donnell “draws out the historical, exegetical, and theological significance of the songs of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David, and Habakkuk. He then shows, in the light of the person and work of Jesus Christ, how the lyrics of God’s Word apply to contemporary congregational singing.” (from the back cover) In other words, he’s seeking to answer the question, “What can Old Testament songs teach us about the songs we use for corporate worship today?” His answer? A lot. O’Donnell chose this method for two reasons. First, these songs provide “unique poetic …

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"Jesus, Thank You" by Pat Sczebel

“Jesus, Thank You” by Pat Sczebel

Back in 2005 we produced an album called Worship God Live, a live album that featured Pat Sczebel and me each leading six songs. Pat serves as one of the pastors at Crossway Community Church, in Surrey, British Columbia. He’s been a dear friend for years. Pat inspires me in many ways. He’s one of the most encouraging guys I know. He’s a caring husband, a faithful dad, a diligent pastor, and he has a heart for the lost. But most of all, I’m affected by his genuine love for Jesus Christ. Through a variety of circumstances, in want and fruitfulness, Pat’s love for the Savior has produced encouragement, hope, and faith that affects everyone around …

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Where Do Sovereign Grace Songs Come From?

I have a sweet job. One of my responsibilities is to oversee the production of Sovereign Grace albums. Some of you have asked where the songs for those albums come from, and what the process looks like. I’m right in the middle of a three day retreat with 18 songwriters from various Sovereign Grace churches, so I thought now would be a good time to answer that question. Last fall I worked with C.J. Mahaney and Jeff Purswell to determine what albums we wanted to produce in the coming year. That would set the course for a significant part of my job description. We determined that I’d focus on four main projects (I’ll share those details …

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Paul Baloche Talks About His New Album, Glorious

Yesterday I reviewed Paul Baloche’s new album, Glorious. I emailed Paul a few questions which he was kind enough to answer. As long as I’ve known Paul he has always been gracious and  humble. His songs are sung across the world, yet he consistently encourages those around him, laughs at himself, and directs people’s hearts to the glory of  Jesus Christ. He’s also been serving in his local church for the past 20 years. So grateful for his example of humility. Here’s the interview: 1.  How do you hope people who listen to this album will be affected? I hope that they will be inspired to wonder- to inquire- to lean in to the glory and mystery …

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Matt Redman Interview

I asked Matt Redman if he could fill us in on some of the background to his latest album, We Shall Not Be Shaken, which I reviewed yesterday. His responses give some insight into the songwriting process, as well as Matt’s humility. Themes of God’s sovereignty pervade the songs on this album. Why did you choose to make that focus for this album? I had a sense that many people right now need re-assurance that God is in control in their lives. So many recent events, particularly economic ones, have reminded us that much of this life and this world is fragile, temporary and changing. We’ve heard so many statistics about mortgage payments defaults …

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The Songs We Sing Make a Difference – J.C. Ryle on Augustus Toplady

In his book, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) spends a chapter on August Toplady, the gifted but often contentious hymn-writer/pastor who penned “Rock of Ages.” I appreciated Ryle’s comments on the effect of writing good songs for the church to sing. It makes me more aware of the importance of leading and writing songs for congregational worship. Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly …

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Story Behind “The Father’s Love” from Sons & Daughters

This past Sunday at my home church, we taught one of the songs from Sons & Daughters, The Father’s Love. It’s an uptempo song that elaborates on the theme of 1 John 3:1: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” It was written by Joel Sczebel, who’s dad, Pat, has been writing songs for Sovereign Grace for years. Pat has done a brilliant job passing on his love for the Savior, the church, and music to his kids. I asked Joel about how this song came together and here’s what he wrote: “The song was essentially born out of a quiet time where I was meditating on the doctrine …

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By This We Know Love – Video from Next Live 2009

This past May I had the joy of leading the singing at the Next conference in Baltimore, MD, along with three different bands. One of them was Zelos, led by Judah Groveman. We introduced one of Judah’s songs, By This We Know Love. It’s a simple ballad that communicates the profound truth of 1 John 3:16: “By this we know love, thathe laid down his life for us.” Here are the lyrics: God of all Creation, Lord of heaven’s light Descended into evil’s darkest night Infinitely Holy, Your perfections know no end Selflessly You died my rightful death By this we know love that He laid down His life God’s very own Son came from Heaven to die Suspended …

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Songwriting – Who Gets the Credit?

My friend John Ripley, drummer for the band Generation Letter, recently emailed me some questions about how to figure out song writing credits. This is an area that can be sticky business because of miscommunication, no communication, ignorance, and indwelling sin. After writing songs for 30+ years, I’ve seen songwriting from all sides. I’ve written by myself, written songs that others have edited, and edited songs written by others. I’ve also served as a songwriter and a publisher. To my shame, I used to be much more concerned about who got the credit on a song. I remember working on a project for GLAD years ago and writing up the song credits. …

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Announcing the Sovereign Grace Songwriting Contest Winner

What? You say you didn’t even know we had a songwriting contest? No surprise. It was pretty low key. At the start of 2009, I sent out an email to the Sovereign Grace worship leaders announcing a contest for 14-22 year old songwriters. The rules were pretty simple. Submit up to two original congregational songs by mid-February. The winner would receive an ESV Study Bible and a $50 iTunes certificate. Among the promising entries were At the Cross by J’Nelle Smith and You Will Sustain by Philip VanderWeide. But the winner was 22 year old Peter (PJ) Kemerer of Corning, NY who sent in Gift of Grace. It’s an uptempo 6/8 song that focuses on …

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Sovereign Grace Ministries Songwriter’s Retreat

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of gathering with 14 songwriters from Sovereign Grace churches to work on songs for some upcoming albums. Todd Twining hosted the event at Metro Life Church in Orlando. This was our 6th retreat, and probably worked the best. The retreat was by invitation, but everyone who came paid their own way, for the most part. We started out Wednesday night with dinner and a few comments from me. I shared some encouraging emails we’ve received about songs we’ve written, just to remind everyone that God really does use the songs we write to affect people’s hearts and lives.  I also showed a portion of the video that tells …

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Sibelius Upgrade Discount

In a previous post I extolled the virtues of the Sibelius notation software. Some of you wrote that you were thinking about upgrading. Just wanted you to know that through Dec. 12, you can upgrade to Sibelius 5 for $85 if you own a regular copy, or $65 if you own a student or educational copy. Check it out here. …

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Top Ten Ways to Write Bad Worship Songs

In my eleven years as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, I’ve reviewed hundreds of worship songs and written a few of my own. Not all of them have been stellar. Actually, very few of them have been. I’ve noticed recurring tendencies that keep weak songs from becoming good or great songs. I’m intimately acquainted with those tendencies in my own songs and I’ve listed my top ten below. While these thoughts are meant for songwriters, most of them apply to leading worship as well. So if you want to write bad worship songs, follow these simple tips: 1. Aim to write the next worldwide worship hit. It’s already been …

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What’s the Best Worship Song You’ve Learned Recently?

Just when I start thinking all the best worship songs have already been written (which I don’t really believe), I hear a new song that affects me profoundly. A friend recently sent me an email letting me know that he just taught his church My Soul Finds Rest (Ps 62) by Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend. I have four categories for congregational worship songs. Must Use, Could Use, Personally Use, and Don’t Use. This is one that I’d put in my Must Use file. There are a number of reasons. It’s based on the Word of God (always a plus) The melody is memorable. The melody is creative. The harmonic progression is fresh. The meter is unique. …

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Thoughts on the Desiring God National Conference

I had the privilege of speaking at the Desiring God National Conference last Saturday morning. It was a whirlwind trip that I made with my daughter (and assistant) Chelsea. We got there for dinner on Friday and caught a 7 PM flight out on Saturday. It came at the end of our two week beach vacation, and I decided not to try that again. Too distracting. Chuck Steddom, a good friend from John Piper’s church, led the singing along with a team from his church. It was encouraging to hear them introduce “Praise the Lord,” a song from our recent Psalms CD. Sinclair Ferguson gave a message the first night called “The Tongue, the Bridle, and the …

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