by Thomas Clay
“I refuse to call myself a songwriter. There are way too many folks out there that are using far greater command of language and music for me to include myself in their category. However, as a Music Minister and a striving Theologian, I am faced with choosing some songs over others constantly. That’s part of my job description…. I listen to hundreds of songs a month trying to find that one gem in the pile of “non-gems”.
I’ve learned a few things in pouring over thousands of songs and trying to write a few myself. It is with that knowledge that I want to help folks (tongue firmly planted in cheek) to see what their doing. So if you have ever wanted to write a “bad” Christian song, here’s how….
1. Be sure and focus on how you feel about God. Remind us over and over again about how much you love God and are going to praise Him. Don’t dare mention what God has done for us. Tell us more about how much you love worshipping. This will contribute to the notion that an emotional experience is the chief aim.
2. Be sure to mention how God completes you. Don’t say anything about how you had no life before you were saved. Don’t even think about saying that before you were saved you were God’s enemy. And you’ll be sure to ruin your chances of making it a bad song if you try to hint that you were dead before God saved you! Be very careful to lower regeneration down to God as an add-on. One of the easiest ways to do this is to refer to your “God-shaped hole”….
3. Be sure to mention scripture out of context. That is a guarantee to make it a bad one. But don’t worry… we’ll still call it a “Christian” song…. Orthodoxy doesn’t matter at all these days. Good for us in our efforts to make it ‘bad”, huh?
4. Be sure to refer to your relationship with Christ in base terms. Don’t suggest to us that our union with Christ is in a category all its own. Make it sound as if our fellowship with Christ is not much different than any other relationship we have. Jesus as my “main Man” or my “homeboy” or as “my Co-pilot” and other lower expressions will make your chances of it being a bad song much better.
5. Be sure to fill your song with trite phrases and cheesy rhymes. That will help your listeners to not see as fully the magnificence of the Person of God. Ignore the fact that there have been many great religious songs in the past that expressed simple bible truths with great lyrics and art. Writing your song as quickly as possible and with the “market” in mind will assist in this area. My favorite in this category is “Jesus On The Grand Ol’ Opry”. This one has to be the winner in this category. (Here’s a link to this song–track 9….You won’t believe it!)
6. Be sure to tell us more about what you’re doing to praise God than Who God is. Phrases like “I’m gonna lift You up” and “I’m reaching out to You” are sure-fire ways to accomplish this. Make sure that after listening to several of your songs that I know a lot about you as the worshipper without ever telling me anything about the God you might be worshipping.
7. Be sure to focus on common grace rather than particular grace. Mentioning clouds, seas, mountains, and other geographic features certainly helps in this area. Absolutely avoid subjects like the cross, Christ’s death, His atoning blood, His suffering in our place, His taking our penalty for our crimes against a holy God and other incredibly edifying and enriching subjects. If you don’t, you might make it a good song!
8. Be sure to use repetition at a staggering rate. If you have a line that would fit any of the previous categories, you can up the “bad” quotient by saying it dozen times over and over again.
Please bear with me as I wax sarcastic! Please don’t be offended as I attempt to suggest some things negatively. Please see important principles behind the satire. Please also notice that I didn’t say that many songs that fit this category aren’t Christian songs…. I’m just suggesting that they may not be the best ones. Please work very diligently in giving the church songs that truly are great by doing the opposite of what I suggested in this entry!”
-Thomas Clay, http://brotom.com/2009/05/13/how-to-write-a-bad-christian-song/