Ever wondered what makes a Christian song great? Why do some songs break out of the pack and rush to the front of the line to win the race? Are there secrets the great songwriters use to make their songs stand out? Absolutely! The best songwriters know what it takes to write hit after hit and craft songs that last for years to come. Now you can discover the three essential elements to great Christian songwriting!
Obviously, thousands of songs are written each year by all kinds of writers, from the beginner to the highly successful pro writer. Very few of these songs ever make it, even for the pros. I’ve personally written dozens of okay to really good songs to get to the one or two truly great songs – it’s like this for everyone I know, even the super star writers and artists. It’s a numbers thing. The more you write, the greater the chances you’ll write a great one. But you have to write a LOT of good songs to get to the great ones. It’s the same for authors, poets, painters, sculptors and all kinds of creators. You have to be dedicated to writing lots of songs to become a great songwriter. It’s practice, practice, practice.
If we define a great Christian song as the one that embodies our Christian faith in the most accessible, singable, and replicable way, it’s easy to narrow it down to a small handful of modern songs like In Christ Alone, 10,000 Reasons, and a few others. But is our definition so narrow to only include congregational songs? Well, yes and no. The songs that will last the longest are the ones the most people want to sing. End of story. God’s people sing and they need great songs to sing.
So here are three essential elements to writing great Christian songs – heart, art, and great doctrine.
HEART – Heart refers to that irreplaceable spiritual factor we could call authenticity, or even testimony. People pick up on insincerity. If the writer or the singer doesn’t have a genuine heart relationship with Jesus, the song comes off in a disingenuous way and nothing spectacular happens. If they do, the spiritual impact is carried somehow through the words and music to listener’s hearts. It’s no joke. Our hearts communicate with one another on myriad levels and songs are no different. You can recognize when a song lacks heart. It may be well-crafted, have cool music and riffs, but it fails to touch your heart somehow. The greatest Christian songs have so much heart they touch millions of other hearts.
ART – There is an art to writing great Christian songs. Great art requires learning the principles and elements of your discipline, whether it’s songwriting or book writing or sculpting or painting. That’s why they call it “discipline.” Songwriting is just as much a discipline as any other art form. We often confuse momentary inspiration with the discipline great art requires, but the fact that few people succeed in b
ecoming great songwriters shows us that great discipline—lots of practice—is required. The best and longest lasting songs have a certain level of artistry to them. They’re not thrown together, amateurish, or casual. The writer(s) knew what they were doing and were deliberate in their craft.
DOCTRINE – All great Christian songs have heart, art, and great doctrine. Doctrine just means accurate biblical truth that doesn’t misrepresent the character, nature, and attributes of God. No easy task, really, but you don’t have to have an advanced theological degree to be a great Christian songwriter. You just have to be aware and check your doctrine as you go. You can easily check your doctrine by comparing yours with historically accepted songs, starting a songwriting group to run your thoughts by, or simply asking a pastor or theologian what they think is good, bad, or indifferent about your theology.
If you’ll utilize these three essential elements to great Christian songwriting, your songs will stand out from many others and you’ll be a much happier writer. Learn your craft. Live your call.