I was speaking with a friend who has spent some time in the Contemporary Christian Music industry (they wouldn’t want me to use their name here, but if you’ve spent any time listening to CCM, you’d be familiar with it) who let me in on a little secret: A lot of Christian songs aren’t written by people who would claim to be Christian. There’s a whole cadre of songwriters who realize there’s some money to be made in the industry, study the lingo and churn out some bonafide worship songs.
My friend didn’t spill the beans on any specifics, but perhaps that explains why so many Christian songs sound like they maybe started out as a run-of-the-mill love song before the writer realized that by adding a few references to Heaven, this could work as a pretty decent worship song.
The most recent addition to this canon is “Holy,” the latest Justin Bieber single which features an assist from Chance the Rapper. Both Bieber and Chance are open and sincere about their faith and, on its own, the song sure sounds like a Christian situation. But the music video is more a love story, leaving the interpretation in the eye of the beholder, which is just how the masters of this craft like it.
Since love is foremost on our minds the week of Valentine’s Day, it feels like a good time for suspicious speculation about other songs that might be in the worship and/or romance canon.
Song: “Mighty to Save”
The Giveaway Lyric: So take me as you find me / All my fears and failures / Fill my life again / I give my life to follow, Everything I believe in / Now I surrender / Yes, I surrender
The Breakdown: Admittedly, this one has more of a “pledge of allegiance to your cult leader” vibe than a mutual romantic context, but love songs have never been big on advocating for emotionally healthy partnerships. It’s pretty easy to imagine Hozier incorporating “I surrender, yes, I surrender” into his catalog.
The Giveaway Lyric: And I… I… I-I-I, I’m desperate for You / And I… I… I-I-I, I’m lost without You / And I… I… I-I-I, I’m desperate for You / And I… I… I-I-I, I’m lost without You
The Breakdown: This sounds like something mortifying you’d find in one of your old teenage diaries. Marcus wasn’t that special. I mean, he posts Q memes now, for crying out loud.
Song: “King of My Heart”
The Giveaway Lyric: Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails / The anchor in the waves, Oh-oh, He is my song / Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins / The echo of my days oh he is my song
The Breakdown: “King of my heart” sounds like something an unusually progressive warship crew would sing in the brig over tankers of mead back in the 1800s. Swap a few lines and this is an excellent tune about the lassies we knew back ashore. Raise your flagons. All together now, men!
Song: “Your Love Is Extravagant”
The Giveaway Lyric: Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place / Your love is extravagant
The Breakdown: Come on.
Song: “The More I Seek You”
The Giveaway Lyric: Lay back against you and breathe, feel your heart beat / This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand
The Breakdown: This sounds like a line from A Walk to Remember and, for all we know, that’s how it started. We have to admit that there is something winningly psalmic about the idea of feeling God’s heartbeat, but there’s no doubt this began as a backtrack to a Mandy Moore drama.
Song: “Pour Out My Heart”
The Giveaway Lyric: As I feel your touch you bring a freedom to all that’s within
The Breakdown: Yeesh. Matt Redman is one of the best worship song writers in the business, but … huh. Probably a good thing this ended up as a praise and worship song.