Songwriting Tip: Pursue Doctrinal Accuracy

Every word in a worship song should be doctrinally accurate.

Worship songs can teach, declare and celebrate the truth of who God is and what he?s done for us in Christ.? They should help us dwell richly on the word of Christ:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Co 3:16).

Our worship songs should be full of truth about Jesus? character and deeds. ?Therefore we want to make every word as doctrinally accurate as possible.

This is challenging because songs are poetic – they use metaphors, pictures, and colorful language, like the Psalms. ?But our metaphors must be clear and biblically accurate. ?I really like Delirious and our church has been blessed by a number of their songs, but I don?t know what they mean by these lyrics from Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble:

Did you feel the mountains tremble?
Did you hear the oceans roar?
When the people rose to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one

Open up the doors and let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring your hope
Songs that bring your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice

Although these lyrics are great poetically, I don?t know what they mean (of course, I could just be dense). But is this song about this age? ?Or the millenium? ?Or heaven? ?What do they mean by ?Dancers who dance upon injustice?? ?When did the mountains tremble and oceans roar?

Once a man I didn?t know called me about one word in a song of mine that had been published.? One word!? The line of the song was, ?If you make righteous, who can then accuse us?? ?He said that technically, God doesn?t ?make? us righteous – he ?declares? us to be righteous. ?He ?imputes? Christ?s righteousness to us, but we never become righteous in and of ourselves.

My first thought was, ?Picky, picky, picky!? ?But I checked with another pastor who confirmed the man?s point.

?But if I change it to ?You’ve declared us righteous? that will be too many syllables – it won?t fit the rhyme scheme,” I said.? My friend responded, ?Truth affects peoples? lives. ?We don?t want people thinking that somehow they can ever be righteous apart from Christ?s righteousness. ??Better the song be a little less easy to sing than doctrinally inaccurate.?

He was right. ?I changed the words of the song to ?You’ve declared us righteous.? ?The line wasn?t quite as easy to sing, but it was more accurate.

Be diligent. ?Be ruthless. ?Make sure every word and metaphor is clear and accurate. ?Get your pastor to look at your lyrics. ?And read sound theological books like Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem. ?It matters what we sing.

Photo by Xoe Craft

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Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

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