One of the most difficult challenges worship songwriters face is to make their songs actually worship. I see it every day as I review and critique worship songs for our clients. Seems it’s much easier to keep talking about worshiping in the chorus than to lead people to actually worship in and with the song.

It may seem like a subtle distinction, but the effect of talking about worship versus actually worshiping with the song is quite dramatic. It’s kind of like talking about someone you love but not speaking directly to them, even though they’re standing right there with you.

Here are a few suggestions for making your worship songs the kind that people will actually use in worship.

Keep a vertical focus.

It may seem obvious, but a worship song that worships has a vertical focus that addresses God directly, i.e. “I worship You,” rather than “We worship God.” There is a time for making broad theological statements like in the great In Christ Alone (Townend/Getty), with which we stand and proclaim the mighty truths of our identity in Christ. Yes, we’re “worshiping” by declaring these truths, but we’re not addressing God directly. We’re encouraging our own hearts and others as we sing these amazing words.

Interestingly, Jennie Lee Riddle’s classic Revelation Song is somewhat horizontal in the verses, but explodes into “throne room vertical worship” in the chorus. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain/Holy, holy is He” is more of a statement when coupled with the exhortation of the second couplet, “Sing a new song to Him who sits on/Heaven’s mercy seat” and is therefore more horizontally focused than vertical. Of course, we don’t care much about that once we hit the vertically focused chorus when heartfelt worship goes exponential with “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty/Who was and is and is to come” (Revelation Song © Copyright 2004 by Gateway Create Publishing. All Rights Reserved).

Make worship present tense.

Another common mistake is making worship futuristic instead of present tense.

Consider this potential worship chorus:

We want to worship You, O Lord
In grace and truth, O Lord
We want to give You the highest praise
We want to worship You, O Lord

Versus this slightly altered version:

We worship You, O Lord
In grace and truth, O Lord
We give You the highest praise
We worship You, O Lord

This may seem like only a slight change, but it makes a huge difference in what the worshiper feels when she’s singing it. When you sing, “We want to worship You” it actually postpones the very act of worshiping and only states a desire, leaving you only anticipating worship, at best. When you sing, “We worship You” you actually enter the act of worship and it all becomes real, personal, intimate, and authentic, not only for you, but for all who are there to worship with you.

Maintain the song’s perspective.

Again, stating the obvious, it’s very important that you maintain the same perspective throughout your song. If you start out in the first person “I” stay with it throughout the lyric. Don’t shift over to the inclusive plural “we” halfway through the song or you’ll confuse the listener or potential worshiper.

Even if your listeners don’t catch the difference consciously as they try to sing it with you, they’ll still be stumbling over your inconsistency unconsciously. It’d be like suddenly shifting your focus in the middle of a conversation with a friend from him or her to someone else. It’s kind of rude, even if it is unintentional. So why not keep the perspective where you start it?

CONCLUSION

As you write your next worship songs, make sure they actually worship and not just talk about worshiping. The first line of a song sets the overall tone and perspective for the rest of it. If you begin by addressing God (vertical), keep the focus there. If you begin addressing the listener (horizontal), don’t stray from that perspective. Maintaining consistent perspective keeps your listeners and potential worshipers focused where you want them without unconsciously confusing them.

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