Although I’m now a confirmed fan of Brian Doerksen’s worship music, I didn’t immediately gravitate toward the song “Light The Fire Again” when it was first becoming popular. Only a few days ago, as I was reading the text it is based on in Revelation 3 (the letter to the church at Laodicea) did I really come to appreciate the song.
To craft a song like this you would need several things to be happening
- At the most basic level, an awareness of the text
- Second, a familiarity and comfort with the text. Many times we shy away from poetic images or prophetic images, or even the book of Revelation itself
- Finally, that familiarity with the text has to extend to an ability to restate the text in words that are immediate and relevant to our modern church experience.
Here’s the text itself:
(NIV) Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Let’s go a different direction with this today: We’re not all songwriters, but here are some questions to ask ourselves…
- Are there texts we are unfamiliar with? A recent study showed that in many churches, despite owning a vast collection of hymnbooks, there were really only 27 hymns that were common to all. These are the “popular” hymns, the ones that survive even in churches that do modern worship. It’s the same with Bible texts. We have our favorites, our “go-to” places in the Bible that we perhaps read at the expense of other places God would have us discover.
- Are there texts we are uncomfortable with? Parts of the Bible we avoid? I’m not talking about obscure genealogies or Levitical laws, but other places that don’t resonate with us, so we tend to skip over them instead of prayerfully reading them, asking God to show us more of His nature and His character in the words He inspired. They should become part of us.
- Could we re-state certain passages in ways that would connect with people living 21st Century lives? Have we captured the “gist” of a passage enough to describe it, paraphrase it, or even put it into a song? Or do we just skim the words and then close the book?
I’m not there yet. I just think when we see writers who are able to take these passages and literally make them sing, we need to look into the depth of our own reading and processing of scripture, and if it’s somewhat lacking, take steps to move from a Christianity 101 approach up to the level of Christianity 201.