“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the Earth!” Psalm 96:1
I tried to work with a young songwriter once who was amazingly gifted far beyond most of the successful songwriters I knew. His innate understanding of music and his ability to create fresh melodies, chords, and lyrics were nothing short of stunning. He had one problem, though, that held him back from becoming the highly successful writer I knew he could be… he actually thought there were plenty of songs in the world already and no one needed his. True story. A sad story. Breaks my heart to this day. Not only did he not fulfill God’s call on his life to write great songs, but we lost the blessing of hearing and singing the songs God would have birthed through this young man’s life.
So, why do we need new songs? Aren’t there enough in the world already, as this young man surmised? Who needs another song to pile up on the already eight-mile-high pile we already have? There’s an estimated 10 MILLION songs already posted on the internet and growing by thousands each minute. How far will this go and shouldn’t we do the world a favor by NOT writing any more songs? Well, my answer is a two-fold “Yes!” and “No!” simultaneously. Read on.
To say Yes is to say, “The world doesn’t need even one more bad to mediocre song.” We don’t. We have enough now and it’s time to curb that trend and slow down production of all the poorly written songs that would-be writers want us to applaud. This is all the result of technology, anyway, since anyone with a laptop can post a song on Youtube or Facebook they wrote a mere twenty minutes ago. There simply are no filters any more. Gone is the day people such as myself were the filters safeguarding the public in our roles as watchdogs of content, keepers of the preciously protected ten song slots on a recording. There was fierce competitiveness over whose song was best and what really made a hit record and delivered amazing and powerful songs to the world. We took our work as seriously as Spurgeon his preaching. But no more.
To say No is to say, “There’s always room for one more GREAT song!” And there is. Just as there’s always room for one more great church or the need to tell one more person about the Gospel of Jesus. We need many more great songs to proclaim the saving truth of the cross, the freeing power of the blood, and the mighty kingdom of God come to the earth. Where would we be without In Christ Alone or 10,000 Reasons? Where would we be if Fanny Crosby had stopped writing just shy of Blessed Assurance because she thought there were already enough songs in the world? No. We need more great songs of the faith and we need more great writers to write them. Is this you?
Scriptures tell us repeatedly to “Sing a new song to the Lord.” While we love the classics and should always value them, God is constantly “doing a new thing” and our best new songs reflect that work. It’s kind of like a child on a swing. To gain momentum, she leans back and kicks forward at the same time. To serve your church effectively with songs, don’t miss the value of the best songs written decades and even centuries before. They contain much gold. But don’t miss the best of what’s being written now in God’s current seasons, being careful to weed out the ones that bring but fleeting value. How do you do this? You examine the songs based on three criteria: Heart, Art, and Good Doctrine. Let’s spend a moment here on the Heart part, then the next two installments will deal with the Art and Good Doctrine portions of the equation.
Heart is that often unexplainable “X Factor” that songs have when constructed of genuine Spirit-born intention and the highest “Kingdom values.” Sometimes songs take on a life of their own apart from the behaviors and choices of the writer(s), but the best of what I’ve ever worked with were the songs that were authentic and heart-driven from the lives of the writer(s). I think of Paul Baloche, one of the most outstanding men and writers I’ve ever managed at Integrity Music. He will forever be the shining example of a true minister who developed his talents for writing and leading worship to the deepest capacities. He served his home church in Tyler, Texas, for over 25 years while touring and writing full-time. Then, there are the guys in Phillips, Craig, and Dean. I had the privilege of helping them get the ball rolling years ago when they were each looking for solo careers. Despite their enormous longevity, they each have stayed rooted in the local church and write songs that will live a long time in our hymnody. All of these men have a deep-hearted integrity and spiritual life that brings out song after song that serves the people and the purposes of God authentically.
Heart is also a quality of perspective, intent, and emotion that is universal. The best of our new songs (and our old ones) are universally applicable in the Body of Christ, at least lyrically. They capture things we all feel, such as the need to, “Bless the Lord, o, my soul,” or to declare that, “You are God alone from before time began.” They capture a timeless truth and give us the verbiage with which to express it like, “This is amazing grace/This is unfailing love!” One of the things I value the most about praise and worship music is that it gives believers words to express their own hearts when they would’ve struggled to ever capture it so succinctly, so effectively.
And that’s why I love coaching Christian songwriters. We need fewer mediocre songs and more great, lasting, powerful, anointed, life-changing songs of our faith that you can teach and lead in your church. When you stand in front of your church each week, you need to know that you have been gifted with a song that is going to touch the hearts of your people, wake them up from sin, reignite the love they feel from and for Jesus, and stir them to share this Good News in their worlds. If not, what do you have? That’s the power of great songs and great songwriting. This is how you serve your church, whether or not you write, to serve up the best of the best songs week after week. By doing this, you fulfill your call and help your people fulfill their own calling. You’re much more than a song leader. You deliver the very heart of God in song as the words carry His love (or not), His power (or not), and the truth of the Gospel (or not). Great songs matter.
John Chisum is a long-time Christian music business professional, ordained minister, songwriter, publisher, and worship leader. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Media, and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Communications. John has managed dozens of professional Christian songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler, and many others, and has had over 400 of his own songs recorded. Along with his business career, John is an internationally respected worship leader and has traveled over one-million miles in ministry worldwide, while constantly serving in local churches over the last 30 years. He holds a Masters of Arts in Worship Studies from Liberty University. John and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years and live in the Nashville area.
John is currently Managing Partner for Nashville Christian Songwriters. You can reach him at john@