Notes From An Accidental Musician – Part 1

I am not sure if this will be a regular posting. I guess it depends on whether or not the things I write about will resonate with anyone. 

My wife Tricia, often says that we are accidental musicians, when we compare ourselves to some of the immensely talented songwriters and musicians that we know. The kind of people who eat, sleep and breathe music. Who are always buying instruments and gear. Who always have music playing in their homes and cars. This, we are not! 

We are a bit of an enigma as we have ended up making a living as songwriters, even though we are not prolific in this respect. I have even got a Gold disc, for singing a song which was put an album that sold over 500,000 units in the USA. I wish I had also written the song. 

Anyway, here goes........... 

I have been reading a number of posts on social media about the state of Christian music these days. It seems that the biggest culprits in this ocean of blandness are the money men (sorry, Christian publishers) in Nashville and of course Hillsongs. I must confess that apart from “Shout to the Lord” and a few great songs from Reuben Morgan, I am largely unaware of the musical output from Hillsongs. Tricia and I don't really listen to much music these days, Christian or otherwise. We tend to prefer silence. 

We did buy a new CD last week. We were in Port de Soller, Mallorca, taking a stroll after dinner when we heard this guy singing on the street. His voice was amazing and Tricia parted with 10 EUROS for a copy of his 5 track CD. If you want to listen to this very creative album, the guy's website is samuelgough.com

I do remember being involved in an event a few years back in Toronto, Canada, when 4,000 kids showed up for a Hillsong United gig. I was incredibly encouraged by the band when they told me that they had been inspired by watching the video of the Wembley Stadium event I helped organised in 1997. I guess my ceiling definitely became their floor and their music obviously resonates with a huge crowd of people. 

So, is there a problem and if so, what can we do about it? 

Back in the late 1970s in the UK, when there were very few contemporary Christian worship songs, a movement emerged that wanted to see change. We were tired of the ancient hymns and wanted songs that we could play on our guitars. We also wanted modern language that we could understand. Which I guess was a similar provocation to the likes of Wesley, Sankey and other hymn writers of the past. Today's good old hymns were once the radical songs of their day. 

So, we started to write new worship songs, out of passion, rather than seeing it as a career move. Indeed, there was no money or a lucrative career in writing worship songs; or in being a Christian musician, engaged in performing evangelistic concerts. 

In 1977, I remember being paid £30 for a week's work with a youth organisation in the NE of England. My travel expenses for the week came to £30, so I earned nothing. When my pastor pointed this out to the organisers, they simply replied that I should have more faith! Happy Days. 

What is incredible, is how these new worship songs began to travel around the world, without the benefit of the internet. In today's language they 'went viral'. There was a hunger for new songs and new ways of expressing 'sung worship'. Songs were passed on by word of mouth and a rough recording on a hand-held cassette recorder (remember those?) 

Worship conferences and events began to spring up, in order to equip churches and local musicians. Worship took to the streets with events such as 'March for Jesus', which gathered almost 80,000 in Hyde Park in 1994. It was a privilege to be swept along in all of this. We thought we were changing the world, but at that time did not realise that our world was irrelevant to the majority of people in the UK. 

Tricia and I entered a new phase of writing in the late 1980s and we were humbled and amazed at how our worship songs became popular. We were accidentally successful. 

For me this worship movement entered a new phase after the “Champion of the World” event at Wembley Stadium in 1997. Some executives from a large US Christian publishing company were there. They saw a stadium filled with almost 45,000 people, engaged in worship. Sometimes Tricia wonders if what they really saw was Dollar signs! However, there was a need for what we had in the UK, to impact North America. I remember going into a Christian bookstore in Seattle in the 1990s and being amazed at how far behind the curve, their worship music seemed to be. 

Anyway, in a very short space of time, suddenly all these CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artists in the USA were releasing worship albums. The US publishers took what we were doing in the UK and marketed it very successfully to the church of North America. But maybe it was not quite the same. 

In the UK, the worship movement was a community. Writers who influenced and encouraged one another. In the US, worship became an industry. 

Big money could now be made out of worship songs – for the company, the writers and the musicians. Making money is not a problem though. We all need money in order to survive. 

Tricia and I earn enough to live, as songwriters, because publishers do a good job promoting our songs and albums. In fact as self-publishers these days, we are doing everything we can to get our music played. This is our job and it is not always easy. 

So at one level we are grateful to the marketing skills of our US publishers who have opened up a huge market for us. However, we are also aware that this can easily lead to some people becoming writers of praise and worship songs; not because of a passion, but because as Christians, they see it as an easy way to fame and fortune. Rather than working at the coalface of mainstream music, where maybe their music would not quite cut it? 

If worship music has become the goose that is currently laying the golden egg, who is really to blame? I am not sure we can lay that solely at the feet of publishers. 

Perhaps they are simply responding to the needs of a generation of churchgoers, who have become consumers of worship – rather than true worshippers. In wanting to keep bums on seats and pay for the machinery that keeps modern church music running, has a monster been created, with an insatiable appettite for new songs, worship leading celebrities and light shows, so that congregations can say they have felt the presence of God? Which might be little more than cultural ecstasy!! 

Do we prefer the blandness of easily listening, soft rock, platitudes, that make us feel good when we are caught up in the emotion of a Sunday morning experience? 

The result of this, is that we are now losing sight of the fact that we have so much more to write about, than a God who like some kind of genie, mysteriously appears in our presence and gives us a nice warm glow on the inside. A God who constantly provides the faithful in the Western world with new cars, promotions, new jobs and bigger homes. Bad luck if you live in a developing nation! 

Are we prepared to pioneer once again? To make room for worship songwriting, that acknowledges that life can be hard, painful and full of disappointment for most of us. If we are honest we cannot say that “God is good all the time”. Especially when we experience tragedy and unanswered prayer. Life is complicated and full of questions. 

We need the songs that will strengthen our faith, without resorting to trite cliched phrases. We need songs that help us to find God as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Earthy, gritty songs that resonate with our journey, our doubts and fears. Songs that deal with the issues of terrorism, the refugee, globalisation, consumerism and so much more. 

Or will we remain the same and continue to settle for more of what we now have?

18 comments

  • Rob Newey

    Rob Newey

    Certainly resonates with me Noel!

    Certainly resonates with me Noel!

  • Mark

    Mark Rusty Town West Sussex, UK

    Noel. I loved reading your blog and much of it resonated with me. Writing words for worship (in the western world) is something that I haven't been doing for quite a while but your piece has inspired me to pick up my aging guitar and make a simple declaration to the God who I still believe came to seek and to save. Your writing is insightful and full of words of wisdom and I know comes from a heart to honor others and to serve. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write. You have always been so generous with your time and your (considerable) talent. Best wishes to you both.

    Noel.

    I loved reading your blog and much of it resonated with me. Writing words for worship (in the western world) is something that I haven't been doing for quite a while but your piece has inspired me to pick up my aging guitar and make a simple declaration to the God who I still believe came to seek and to save.

    Your writing is insightful and full of words of wisdom and I know comes from a heart to honor others and to serve.

    Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write. You have always been so generous with your time and your (considerable) talent. Best wishes to you both.

  • TONY CLAY

    TONY CLAY FRANCE

    Hi Noel, We are old brothers in arms. I enjoyed the few things you and I did together back in our YFC days and I have recently been reading your posts with great interest. I want to put something in the pot of discussion that you are brewing. I never made the transition from writing evangelistic (in quotes) music to writing worship music because I wasn't interested in it, I was living in London and working among people for whom worship music was alien and alienating too. My walk with God has led me in a completely different direction than I anticipated instead of continuing in the Christian mainstream music world I have spent the last 20 odd years living in the least populated area of Europe in the Corbiere mountains of France, I don't go to church as there are no churches anywhere near to us and so I don't sing or play worship songs anywhere ever. I have always been a musician though I've done other jobs alongside to survive. Worship music has no meaning to me as I don't worship with music I have learned that worship in an attitude of commitment to a relationship with God not a thing I do once a week in church with others. I am as close to being a hermit as you could find in our time. I too write songs but they are the kind of songs you seem to be advocating I've written about all the things you have suggested and I believe they are inspired by my relationship with God and although they don't earn me much money, I don't want for anything. Of course I would like a wider audience but that's not why I write the songs I write what I sense God feels about this world and the struggles that people, his people, his creations go through. Songwriters are the new poets, the new troubadours, to write a good song you have to be able to grasp the essence of a thing and pin it to a tune so that it is memorable to others. In this sense it is or can be a prophetic gift. Understanding the things on God's heart is the key and that takes time, sometimes years. We are conditioned to think of everything we do as having to have a financial reward in order for it to be valuable but it isn't true and more so in the Kingdom of God. The fact that worship music is big business doesn't reflect on what the songwriters have written and whether or not it has value in God's eyes (if it has no value in his eyes what good is it in worship?) a song is either inspired by the Holy Spirit or it is not. I would stick my neck out and say that a great many songs written by non Christians are inspired by God too, I have certainly been spoken to by many of them. I think you are expressing a certain amount of artistic frustration with the way that 'Christian' music is being controlled by the businessmen. If I were you I think I'd put that aside and just carry on writing the songs that God inspires you to write and maybe by your example you may change things. I would also suggest that there is no such thing as an accidental songwriter in the kingdom of God though there may be accidentally successful ones. As for silence I also like silence because if you are constantly playing and singing and making a joyful or otherwise noise how can you hear what God is saying to you.

    Hi Noel, We are old brothers in arms. I enjoyed the few things you and I did together back in our YFC days and I have recently been reading your posts with great interest. I want to put something in the pot of discussion that you are brewing. I never made the transition from writing evangelistic (in quotes) music to writing worship music because I wasn't interested in it, I was living in London and working among people for whom worship music was alien and alienating too.
    My walk with God has led me in a completely different direction than I anticipated instead of continuing in the Christian mainstream music world I have spent the last 20 odd years living in the least populated area of Europe in the Corbiere mountains of France, I don't go to church as there are no churches anywhere near to us and so I don't sing or play worship songs anywhere ever. I have always been a musician though I've done other jobs alongside to survive. Worship music has no meaning to me as I don't worship with music I have learned that worship in an attitude of commitment to a relationship with God not a thing I do once a week in church with others. I am as close to being a hermit as you could find in our time. I too write songs but they are the kind of songs you seem to be advocating I've written about all the things you have suggested and I believe they are inspired by my relationship with God and although they don't earn me much money, I don't want for anything. Of course I would like a wider audience but that's not why I write the songs I write what I sense God feels about this world and the struggles that people, his people, his creations go through. Songwriters are the new poets, the new troubadours, to write a good song you have to be able to grasp the essence of a thing and pin it to a tune so that it is memorable to others. In this sense it is or can be a prophetic gift. Understanding the things on God's heart is the key and that takes time, sometimes years. We are conditioned to think of everything we do as having to have a financial reward in order for it to be valuable but it isn't true and more so in the Kingdom of God. The fact that worship music is big business doesn't reflect on what the songwriters have written and whether or not it has value in God's eyes (if it has no value in his eyes what good is it in worship?) a song is either inspired by the Holy Spirit or it is not. I would stick my neck out and say that a great many songs written by non Christians are inspired by God too, I have certainly been spoken to by many of them. I think you are expressing a certain amount of artistic frustration with the way that 'Christian' music is being controlled by the businessmen. If I were you I think I'd put that aside and just carry on writing the songs that God inspires you to write and maybe by your example you may change things. I would also suggest that there is no such thing as an accidental songwriter in the kingdom of God though there may be accidentally successful ones. As for silence I also like silence because if you are constantly playing and singing and making a joyful or otherwise noise how can you hear what God is saying to you.

  • Toney Pozek

    Toney Pozek Clayton, Georgia. USA

    Ditto but where do I "we" find that kind of worship here in good old USA.? I just moved to the mountains of ne Georgia from Vermont. You can't swing a cat without hitting a church...all denominations ... but where's the life instead of a club that says I'm ok, you're ok with no accountability? I loved Majesty in the Mountains....remember? Real open heavens that seemed to close back up with things worse than ever.

    Ditto but where do I "we" find that kind of worship here in good old USA.? I just moved to the mountains of ne Georgia from Vermont. You can't swing a cat without hitting a church...all denominations ... but where's the life instead of a club that says I'm ok, you're ok with no accountability? I loved Majesty in the Mountains....remember? Real open heavens that seemed to close back up with things worse than ever.

  • Douglas MacRae

    Douglas MacRae Toronto

    I clearly recall Mike Pilavachi making a similar plea at a worship conference here. That was more than fifteen years ago. Was anyone listening?

    I clearly recall Mike Pilavachi making a similar plea at a worship conference here. That was more than fifteen years ago. Was anyone listening?

  • Dylan

    Dylan Malaysia

    If there is one songwriter/worship-leader CD that I would keep throughout life's journey, it would be your CDs. And I think what you wrote, one phease to describe it.... Spot one mate!

    If there is one songwriter/worship-leader CD that I would keep throughout life's journey, it would be your CDs. And I think what you wrote, one phease to describe it.... Spot one mate!

  • Glen Solomon

    Glen Solomon South Africa

    Thanks Noel and Tricia for bringing good perspective

    Thanks Noel and Tricia for bringing good perspective

  • James Tattersall

    James Tattersall Bexhill

    I stand with you on this issue Noel. It is saddening in many ways that the quality of 'worship' songs being produced is so poor, but there are gems out there if you look hard enough. Keep writing, this stuff needs airing...God bless.

    I stand with you on this issue Noel. It is saddening in many ways that the quality of 'worship' songs being produced is so poor, but there are gems out there if you look hard enough. Keep writing, this stuff needs airing...God bless.

  • Andy Lawrence

    Andy Lawrence London

    I agree with this but I'd challenge the history a bit. The song book Youth Praise 1 was well established before 1968 and Youth Praise 2, with its vaguely psychedelic cover, would have emerged about the same time. By 1970 there were half a dozen Christian rock bands of varying quality operating in the South of England? Graham Kendrick's seminal album Footsteps on the Sea came out in either 1970 or 1971 and he was not the only 'modern' Christian musician around in the UK, remember Malcolm and Alwyn (and the Autoharp) and Ishmael and Andy (Piercy). Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill were big names before the 1970s and Larry had all but disappeared from public view by the time of SPREE 1973 which culminated in a rather surprising performance by Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and Carl Perkins (yes really) alongside Billy Graham at Wembley.

    I agree with this but I'd challenge the history a bit. The song book Youth Praise 1 was well established before 1968 and Youth Praise 2, with its vaguely psychedelic cover, would have emerged about the same time. By 1970 there were half a dozen Christian rock bands of varying quality operating in the South of England? Graham Kendrick's seminal album Footsteps on the Sea came out in either 1970 or 1971 and he was not the only 'modern' Christian musician around in the UK, remember Malcolm and Alwyn (and the Autoharp) and Ishmael and Andy (Piercy). Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill were big names before the 1970s and Larry had all but disappeared from public view by the time of SPREE 1973 which culminated in a rather surprising performance by Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and Carl Perkins (yes really) alongside Billy Graham at Wembley.

  • David Pay

    David Pay

    Excellent article.

    Excellent article.

  • Rebecca Beese

    Rebecca Beese Basingstoke

    Very interesting. You're absolutely right about motivation, it's something that needs to be battled and overcome. I love worship music and have it on all the time. I'm also a about to release my first album having just released a single on aid of Motor Neurone Disease Association. I'm pretty critical of my songs, but the ones that work all come out of a time of personal worship or when I'm thinking about someone in particular and what they're walking through. I'm usually inspired by contemporary heroes if the faith that I encounter and talk with about how they're managing to push into God despite all they're walking through. I like your closing comments about writing about the grittiness of life, but as a prophetic person a lot of my songs are declarations of who God is and what we can stand on in times of trouble or prayers of how we want things to be. I think of some of my friends who have walked some of the darkest paths I've ever known who say 'God is good, all the time.', not as a trite defeated statement, but one where they're choosing to align themselves to God's will despite the circumstances they find themselves in. I don't know how I'd react if I were in their shoes, but it is truly inspiring. Maybe I need to think more about those who don't know how to do this? However, overall, I feel saturated by new music, there is simply far too much. As a worship leader I'm asking the question 'what is our sound? What is our story?' And looking to introduce or write songs that align with that. We wrote a song together as a church the other Sunday, phrases from people aged 3-83. It was great, people who struggle to connect through music felt totally engaged and for the first time in ages we weren't 'front led', participation was taking place from all over the room. Can't do it every Sunday, but we'd definitely do it again. Thanks for stirring this subject up again.

    Very interesting. You're absolutely right about motivation, it's something that needs to be battled and overcome. I love worship music and have it on all the time. I'm also a about to release my first album having just released a single on aid of Motor Neurone Disease Association. I'm pretty critical of my songs, but the ones that work all come out of a time of personal worship or when I'm thinking about someone in particular and what they're walking through. I'm usually inspired by contemporary heroes if the faith that I encounter and talk with about how they're managing to push into God despite all they're walking through. I like your closing comments about writing about the grittiness of life, but as a prophetic person a lot of my songs are declarations of who God is and what we can stand on in times of trouble or prayers of how we want things to be. I think of some of my friends who have walked some of the darkest paths I've ever known who say 'God is good, all the time.', not as a trite defeated statement, but one where they're choosing to align themselves to God's will despite the circumstances they find themselves in. I don't know how I'd react if I were in their shoes, but it is truly inspiring. Maybe I need to think more about those who don't know how to do this?

    However, overall, I feel saturated by new music, there is simply far too much. As a worship leader I'm asking the question 'what is our sound? What is our story?' And looking to introduce or write songs that align with that. We wrote a song together as a church the other Sunday, phrases from people aged 3-83. It was great, people who struggle to connect through music felt totally engaged and for the first time in ages we weren't 'front led', participation was taking place from all over the room. Can't do it every Sunday, but we'd definitely do it again.

    Thanks for stirring this subject up again.

  • Keith

    Keith New Forest

    We need songs that make us think!!

    We need songs that make us think!!

  • Derek Bond

    Derek Bond Penmaenmawr North Wales (God's country)

    Well written mate. Good musicianship can allure people into thinking that they are worshipping when they are merely being manipulated! Heartfelt, broken heartedness and gratitude expressed in a song, a poem, a preach or by any other means is by far more relevant! Thank you so much for your thoughts.

    Well written mate. Good musicianship can allure people into thinking that they are worshipping when they are merely being manipulated! Heartfelt, broken heartedness and gratitude expressed in a song, a poem, a preach or by any other means is by far more relevant! Thank you so much for your thoughts.

  • Uwe P

    Uwe P Berlin

    Wise words. I would subscribe that. Even if I was never. Deep involved in that business. I had the same impression of how it works today. That is why I am not interested to let a major label publish my CD. Thank you Noel.

    Wise words. I would subscribe that. Even if I was never. Deep involved in that business. I had the same impression of how it works today. That is why I am not interested to let a major label publish my CD. Thank you Noel.

  • Greg Valerio

    Greg Valerio Chichester, England.

    So much can be said in response, but I guess in your own way you are once again hitting the Zeitgeist we are now in. Christianity as a commercial commodity is an anathema to God. Born out of desire to transform culture, the embracing of popular culture, so much of the western Church (aka Charismatic Evangelical wing) has been transformed into a shallow cliche of emotional moments and changed nothing of significance in culture. Silence is the most natural music of all, a constant natural rhythm of creations voice. My guess Noel is follow your ear on this, there is no doubt in my mind there is a transition taking place that requires the ability to listen.

    So much can be said in response, but I guess in your own way you are once again hitting the Zeitgeist we are now in. Christianity as a commercial commodity is an anathema to God. Born out of desire to transform culture, the embracing of popular culture, so much of the western Church (aka Charismatic Evangelical wing) has been transformed into a shallow cliche of emotional moments and changed nothing of significance in culture. Silence is the most natural music of all, a constant natural rhythm of creations voice. My guess Noel is follow your ear on this, there is no doubt in my mind there is a transition taking place that requires the ability to listen.

  • Toney Pozek

    Toney Pozek Clayton, Ga., USA

    Thanks for your blog Noel. Only thing is....if all of those you write about are believers then they have the same Holy Spirit that you do. The Lord can bring us all around right meanwhile all He asked was for us to love one another as He loved and loves us. Just keep on doing what you do as He leads YOU! God bless!

    Thanks for your blog Noel. Only thing is....if all of those you write about are believers then they have the same Holy Spirit that you do. The Lord can bring us all around right meanwhile all He asked was for us to love one another as He loved and loves us. Just keep on doing what you do as He leads YOU! God bless!

  • David Preston

    David Preston Hertfordshire UK

    Dear Noel, Your comments are very timely. You are not the first to be making these observations - they have been surfacing for 15 years or more and on both sides of the water. Follow Jamie Brown on worthilymagnify.com to get a view from the USA. This isn't about the so called "worship wars" as our American cousins call them (i.e. the old battle of organ v. guitars). In most churches this battle was fought and won 20 or more years ago. Its really about the heart of worship and something that flourished and was amazing, but has been lost. We have to be very careful when discussing this to not appear as "Old Farts" hankering after the good old days. However, as one who was at Ichthus in the heady days when Make Way began there is an acute sense of loss. The excitement you mentioned in the feeling that we were really changing the world, replaced by the agonising realisation that the world has changed us instead. In everything from sexual morality to our behaviour on materiel goods/wealth we seem to have been going backwards again. As I move around the country one hears the same complaints. Churchgoers hate the new music. They hate the control the music industry has over what is published and sung at large meetings like New Wine and Spring Harvest. They hate the new breed of "Worship Pastors" who arrive aged about 23 and subject them (and their children) to a constant stream of Hillsong music. They smile through gritted teeth and say everything is fine, but in their hearts they are crying out for something more, something authentic. In the past every great Christian leader or preacher had a troubadour. The Holy Spirit seemed to find and inspire someone (not necessarily a great musician) to write new songs with a strong prophetic edge. In south London in those days Graeme Kendrick was the writer for Roger Forster and you were the one for Gerald Coates. In Lincoln Chris Bowater was the writer for Stuart Bell and so on. I was astonished to find Graham could not read music - but realised that God uses people who may lack what seems an essential musical skill to shame the rest. People who have no musical education or who play instruments only at an elementary level can write beautiful songs to God. What is going wrong now is that the music industry has taken control. Small publishing houses or music labels have been bought up by Integrity (there's an Orwellian name for you!) who effectively control who gets heard. This may be a great help for leaders like Redman who have had their songs promoted in the USA and made a lot of money, but it may obstruct the prophetic voice. The answer is to go back. To accept that the role of worship pastor is a nonsense. There is no such job mentioned in the New Testament. Musicians are just that and at all times subservient to the pastor or service leader. To stop singing what Integrity say we must. To realise that worship songs are not "pop" music. To stop craving the latest tune like a drug addict deprived of their fix (how much more of this can we possibly absorb anyway?). To stop becoming a New Wine, Hillsong or Vineyard etc clone and then to look for the "troubadour" in our midst. In your own church will be an unregarded, ignored songwriter with a gift given by the Holy Spirit just for you. Their music blended with the best of what has gone before will be what you need and will love. Songwriters, don't look for fame, money or glory. You won't feature in the Big Church Day out. If you are as prolific as Wesley, possibly only 5 of your hymns or songs will survive you. That's not what its about. Its about service and offering your talents to be the prophetic voice to your local church. Who knows. One day we may have a new network of songwriters, loving and supporting one another in this task.

    Dear Noel,

    Your comments are very timely. You are not the first to be making these observations - they have been surfacing for 15 years or more and on both sides of the water. Follow Jamie Brown on worthilymagnify.com to get a view from the USA. This isn't about the so called "worship wars" as our American cousins call them (i.e. the old battle of organ v. guitars). In most churches this battle was fought and won 20 or more years ago. Its really about the heart of worship and something that flourished and was amazing, but has been lost. We have to be very careful when discussing this to not appear as "Old Farts" hankering after the good old days. However, as one who was at Ichthus in the heady days when Make Way began there is an acute sense of loss. The excitement you mentioned in the feeling that we were really changing the world, replaced by the agonising realisation that the world has changed us instead. In everything from sexual morality to our behaviour on materiel goods/wealth we seem to have been going backwards again.

    As I move around the country one hears the same complaints. Churchgoers hate the new music. They hate the control the music industry has over what is published and sung at large meetings like New Wine and Spring Harvest. They hate the new breed of "Worship Pastors" who arrive aged about 23 and subject them (and their children) to a constant stream of Hillsong music. They smile through gritted teeth and say everything is fine, but in their hearts they are crying out for something more, something authentic.

    In the past every great Christian leader or preacher had a troubadour. The Holy Spirit seemed to find and inspire someone (not necessarily a great musician) to write new songs with a strong prophetic edge. In south London in those days Graeme Kendrick was the writer for Roger Forster and you were the one for Gerald Coates. In Lincoln Chris Bowater was the writer for Stuart Bell and so on. I was astonished to find Graham could not read music - but realised that God uses people who may lack what seems an essential musical skill to shame the rest. People who have no musical education or who play instruments only at an elementary level can write beautiful songs to God.

    What is going wrong now is that the music industry has taken control. Small publishing houses or music labels have been bought up by Integrity (there's an Orwellian name for you!) who effectively control who gets heard. This may be a great help for leaders like Redman who have had their songs promoted in the USA and made a lot of money, but it may obstruct the prophetic voice.

    The answer is to go back. To accept that the role of worship pastor is a nonsense. There is no such job mentioned in the New Testament. Musicians are just that and at all times subservient to the pastor or service leader. To stop singing what Integrity say we must. To realise that worship songs are not "pop" music. To stop craving the latest tune like a drug addict deprived of their fix (how much more of this can we possibly absorb anyway?). To stop becoming a New Wine, Hillsong or Vineyard etc clone and then to look for the "troubadour" in our midst. In your own church will be an unregarded, ignored songwriter with a gift given by the Holy Spirit just for you. Their music blended with the best of what has gone before will be what you need and will love.

    Songwriters, don't look for fame, money or glory. You won't feature in the Big Church Day out. If you are as prolific as Wesley, possibly only 5 of your hymns or songs will survive you. That's not what its about. Its about service and offering your talents to be the prophetic voice to your local church. Who knows. One day we may have a new network of songwriters, loving and supporting one another in this task.

  • Chris Miniati

    Chris Miniati Thame Oxon

    Worship songs are all right in their correct environment and do what it says on the tin, worship God, and yes I do lead worship in our small church twice a month. But now for the last three years my mission has not been in in church worship but outside witness and for the last two years I have been singing and playing in a small totally secular folk club and am accepted for exactly what I am a gospel folk singer. Even the other people who sing and play are singing more gospel type songs than when I first started. For the last twelve months I have performed a solo concert each month at the large senior citizens home here in Thame again only doing Christian outreach songs ; songs with a message. It is possible that soon other opportunities will be opening up of a similar type to allow me to sing about the risen saviour in non-church venues. As a result of the environments that I play in, worship songs are really out of place and songs with a real message for the unbeliever are certainly not so common. Should Christian music be looking to going into all the world and making disciples in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and think about broadening their appeal? Noel, we have met briefly a couple of times and I really enjoy the work you both do for I think that we have some aims in common - God bless you both.

    Worship songs are all right in their correct environment and do what it says on the tin, worship God, and yes I do lead worship in our small church twice a month. But now for the last three years my mission has not been in in church worship but outside witness and for the last two years I have been singing and playing in a small totally secular folk club and am accepted for exactly what I am a gospel folk singer. Even the other people who sing and play are singing more gospel type songs than when I first started. For the last twelve months I have performed a solo concert each month at the large senior citizens home here in Thame again only doing Christian outreach songs ; songs with a message.
    It is possible that soon other opportunities will be opening up of a similar type to allow me to sing about the risen saviour in non-church venues.
    As a result of the environments that I play in, worship songs are really out of place and songs with a real message for the unbeliever are certainly not so common.
    Should Christian music be looking to going into all the world and making disciples in the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and think about broadening their appeal?
    Noel, we have met briefly a couple of times and I really enjoy the work you both do for I think that we have some aims in common - God bless you both.

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