Article: Why We Write: New Songs
Why We Write: New Songs
The second of our regular NWW atricles is from the brilliant Tom Eccleshall who serves at KXC. Tom is a great songwriter and continues to serve the Church through this gift. Thank you Tom for the challenge to keep moving forward as well as celebrating our past!
Why We Write.
For some of us, the incessant flow of new songs that we sing at church can be tiring. For others, it may seem like we sing the same songs every Sunday until we end up disconnected and frankly, pretty bored. I’ve definitely found myself at both sides of the spectrum at one point or another!
Wherever you may find yourself in this debate, I’m reminded of Psalm 98 which tells us that it’s important to pursue the new things that God is doing - whether the songs we sing at church are brand new, or creative versions of the older songs:
“Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.”
One of my greatest passions is seeing God meet with His people through a song. Sometimes a song impacts just the writer, but sometimes it can impact a family, a community or even further. As a songwriter, I passionately believe, that each song I write is worth it. Even if I’m the only one who actually likes the song I’ve written, it’s still honest worship to God and if I’m the only one who connects with God through it, then it was still a worthwhile process. Without doubt, I do love it when a song I’ve written is able to impact my wider community, but I’m learning that there’s an incredible freedom in just enjoying the creative process of song writing regardless of where the song ends up.
A number of songs that have been written out of our church, KXC in London, have been able to express in music what God is doing in our community. The song ‘The Father’s Love’ encompasses a particular chapter in the life of our church when we were learning what it meant to come home to the Father. The song emerged out of an incredible teaching series by Pete Hughes about the reckless, radical and extravagant love of the Prodigal Father. The song ‘Kingdom Come’ was brought to our church at a time when we were longing and praying for change in Kings Cross, London. Rich di Castiglione, one of the worship leaders at our church, had started writing the song a number of years before. When he introduced the finished version to our church, it absolutely took off. The song articulated what our community was longing for and it has been such a blessing to our times of worship.
God is working now in each of our communities in powerful and unique ways, and our music should be able to reflect and celebrate that.
I spent some time in South Africa a few years ago, where I heard a beautiful moving worship song in Xhosa called ‘Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika’ - the lyrics translate to ‘God Bless Africa, hear our prayers and bless us. Holy Spirit descend to us’. I discovered that the song was written in 1897 by a teacher called Enoch Sontonga who taught at a Methodist school outside of Johannesburg. It was eventually taken up by a touring school choir, and then the African National Congress. Later, it would become a powerful song of resistance against the brutality of apartheid in South Africa. The song was so powerful in uniting people against the oppression of apartheid that the rulers outlawed the singing of it. Nelson Mandela wrote that on his way to prison, "the prison vans swayed to the rich voices of the defiers singing 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika'". After the miraculous fall of apartheid, the song became part of the national anthem of the new South Africa. Just imagine how different things could have been if Enoch Sontonga had not decided to put pen to paper back in 1897? God can use music to shape movements.
This is why I always encourage anyone who enjoys writing, to write! Whether it’s for your personal worship, for your small group, or even your church - you should write, enjoy the process and do it as well as you can. God can use your songs. They reflect and celebrate how God is moving now through your community.
I love what Brian Houston the Senior Pastor at Hillsong Church says "You may be shocked to hear we don't sing 'Shout to the Lord' anymore at Hillsong Church. It's not 1993. If you come all the way to Australia and you hope to hear 'Shout to the Lord,' your chances are slight. We don't even sing 'Oceans' much anymore. Thank God for spontaneity. Thank God for innovation. Thank God for creativity. Spontaneity is our friend in the church."
Sing to the Lord a new song.
That’s why we write.
Tom Eccleshall is the Worship Pastor at KXC in London. He is married to Sarah. Some of Tom’s songs include ‘Now Glorious’, ‘Singing Over Us’, ‘Sing It Out’ and ‘Love Song’.