What story does a song tell if it is never heard? How does a lyric speak to someone’s situation if the message is never spoken? When does a melody have a chance to embed God’s truth on a heart if the notes are never sung?
These are questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few years as I have continued to collect songs on a “shelf”. I call the unheard songs my “dust collectors”. And in many conversations with others like me, I’m coming to find out, I’m not the only one writing and burying songs. There are others who have “God songs” ornamenting a secret music shrine that no one is allowed access.
So much worship, so much revelation, so much GOD, sitting on a “bookshelf” atop our demo studios.
It has begun to haunt me… and I can’t shake it.
Many of the songs of this generation are locked up. They sit in the faint whistles of melodies on voice memos, and in the often lost lyrics on scraps of napkins. They scream silently in the hearts and minds of worship leaders and musicians that stand in front of the very people thirsty for a taste of something fresh. Oh! The irony of it all.
These “buried” songs are locked up in excuses. Excuses that feel very real to the often introverted nature of the creative. Excuses like “I’m afraid to fail, it’s not my calling, I’m afraid of criticism, I’m afraid of rejection, I’m not good enough to do it, my platform is too small, this isn’t worthy of a worthy God, etc.” All very real feelings in the moment. But also, all deep rooted lies that I believe the devil himself has convinced us of believing.
Recently I have felt God challenging me to a place of faith and courage. It stands in direct opposition to the lies that I myself have believed for quite some time that have led me to bury the vast majority of my music. I think many of you who bury your songs like me, will be challenged by this as well.
3 principles that confront the lies that make us bury our songs:
- Stewardship: Are you being a good steward of God’s gifting to never provide opportunity for your music to be more than a “dust collector”?
- Urgency: Is it possible that God has a “here and now” plan for that song that you have buried? Is their some person in desperate need of your message?
- Excuses: Is it possible that your list of excuses are actually taking you out of the will of God? (insert one of 500,000 possible excuses here: i.e. lack of talent, lack of recording gear, lack of following, lack of industry contacts, lack of platform, etc)
This challenge for me springs right from Esther 4:14.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
I don’t have the time to unpack the entire context of this story. I encourage you to read Esther in its entirety. Quickly, Mordecai is challenging Esther with this question when he sees God has positioned her in such a way that she has influence with the king to save her people.
But I feel Mordecai’s words have immediacy for us as worship leaders, as worship writers, and as creative types still today. And it uniquely speaks to all 3 challenges of stewardship, urgency, and excuses from above.
1. Stewardship: I think it’s key in the verse above to see that if Esther remained silent “relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place.” I truly believe (Sean’s theology here) that if we aren’t willing to listen to God’s voice, write the songs He inspires to the best of our ability, and strategize about how to share them with excellence, God will find another person more willing to do it. God’s plan will be accomplished with or without us... we just get the honor of participating in it. We aren't accomplishing His will when we write songs and file them away. Stewardship calls for more. I believe, that if you prove yourself faithful in stewarding well, there wouldn't be a bucket deep enough to contain all that God wants to pour out in your life and ministry.
2. Urgency: God has positioned you in such a way to do something for His kingdom, as he positioned Esther as the queen to help deliver her people. His timing in the situation was perfect, as it is in yours. Maybe you stand up in front of 20 people, 200 people, 2,000 people, or 20,000 people every week. As it was for Esther, it is for us now, “for such a time as this”. We are encountering people inside and outside of the church walls that are desperate to hear about God's character, and that are desperate to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Our time is now.
3. Excuses: Esther needed two things for success in her story: faith and courage. Not gobs of talent and recording gear. Faith and courage. So I feel it’s time we take our excuses and burn them in the fire of faith and courage. Stop distracting yourself with all the label, publishing, copyrighting, CCLI, and industry non-sense. Stand up in faith and courage and deliver the message you feel God impressing on your heart. Don't fall into the trap of letting your excuses drown out what God is calling you to do.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to heaven and God ask me why I hid this generation’s songs on my shelf. I don’t want to have to see the impact I could have made for His Kingdom in regretful hindsight as He shows me how he positioned me exactly where He needed me to be effective.
Too often we are looking right past the very people God wants us to serve because it’s not BIG enough… It’s not STADIUM enough. We like to live in some future overly dramatic dream, when our “for such a time is this” is a congregation standing in front of us ready to worship God… right now.
Help them worship. Help them sing their song. Don’t miss a chance to give someone the song that will carry them through a dark hour. Don’t miss a chance to give someone the lyrics that will sustain them when their hope runs out. Don’t forget the power in an opportunity to point someone to Jesus. Songs have great purpose for advancing the Kingdom of God, but that purpose isn't fully realized when the song is just a shadow on your wall at home.
Free your song. Release it with excellence. Stand in faith and courage in what God is stirring in your heart.
The person I hope to light a fire under is me. The person who has become okay with allowing dust to collect on what God has inspired.
Dust off… for such a time as this.