Song Receiving vs Song Writing: It's not yours! / by Chip Connor

The very first time I heard someone refer to themselves as a Song Receiver was during one of the first conversations I have had with Dennis Jernigan. For those of you who are not familiar with DJ, he is truly one of the most prolific and accomplished Christian Psalmists and Song Receivers of the last three decades. He has received and published hundreds of songs such as "You Are my All in All," 'There is a Fountain," and "We Will Worship (The Lamb of Glory)" and these songs are being sung all over the world. Although I have never met DJ, I call him a friend and a true mentor. I consider both he and Rich Mullins to be my two greatest inspirations as a song receiver today and see glimpses of them in several of my favorite song receivers today being Chris McClarney, Eddie Kirkland, Michael Farren, and Anthony Skinner. 

Needless to say, like Rich Mullins, DJ embodies the heart of a Psalmist and worship receiver. He is selfless, he has an incredible heart for God and searches Him out, he listens and doesn't push the Spirit, and most importantly, he realizes that it is not his nor does it come from him. Like I said, it was DJ I first heard the term from and when he said it, it hit me like thunder and reverberated in my spirit. I spent several days thinking on exactly why that simple change of wording from the norm of song writer was so profound, especially as a "Christian Praise and Worship writer."

Song Writing

Song Writing: I truly believe anyone can call themselves a song writer. Some may be good at it, some not so much, but we can all draw within ourselves an pull out inspiration for lyric, melody, chording, and structure of songs. If we think on something long enough we can put something to paper with a decent concept. The need to write music calls and pulls some of us to the point we cannot hold it in. You know what I am talking about, sometimes it feels like you are going to explode if you don't write it down or grab your guitar. Many of the greatest songs ever penned from all genres were from song writers. So the question is, what makes the difference between song writing and song receiving? 

Song Receiving: The very first definition in google for the word receive is to "be given, presented with, or paid something." I don't find it coincidence that they all apply to what God showed me in this. I believe that the parable of the talents shows great insight into this very subject:

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.15To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.16The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.17So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.18But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.20The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.25So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.29For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25: 14-30 NIV

Notice that Matthew utilizes the words gave, received, and entrusted throughout this parable.  As I thought about what DJ said in calling himself a song receiver as opposed to that of a song writer, I thought of this verse and realized that as a "Christian Praise and Worship" composer, that it is just the same as the parable and the talents. I believe God gives and entrusts us with literal talents, lyrics, melodies, chord progressions, and arrangements and that we receive them from Him, the Giver. If it is given and entrusted to us, it does not come from us. Yes, God will absolutely use the circumstances from our lives for us to draw from, but it is the Holy Spirit that breathes into us that inspiration and speaks life into the songs. If a song is truly entrusted to us, it is not ours in the sense that we wrote it, it is ours in the sense that we are to care for it just as in the parable and put it to work for His kingdom. 

It's Not Yours: So if we are Song Receivers as opposed to Song Writers, and we truly believe that what God has entrusted to us has come from Him, then we must take the stance that it is not ours. And that just sent a shockwave throughout the halls of Pride in all of us, myself included. Case in point. As we have recently been in the studio recording our debut EP, when tweaking one of the songs "Beholding the King" I had iterated that this lyric was one that humbled me more so than probably any other God had entrusted to me and that I was especially fond of one particular line that said "He's Heavens own, Heaven's Renown" and I was cool with changing anything in the song, but that I really didn't want to change that line. Yup, you guessed it. Which line was changed? The song now is recorded with the line "He's Heaven's Own, Glories Renown" as the people God has placed around me that I trust the most and lead worship for a living were wise enough to tell me why that line would be better suited being changed as such. So in that moment, I had two options simply, one throw my pride aside and listen to wisdom from four people saying the exact same thing, or two walk in pride as if it is mine and came from me and put my foot down. Glory to God, it is His! This very well may be the hardest lesson for all of us to learn, it is not ours, its just entrusted to us to work for His Kingdom and that includes everything in it and a part of it. We get married to lyrics and melodies, progressions, and riffs like we own stock in them. If its Gods and truly His, we should be willing to let whatever go if it is for the Glory of His kingdom. 

This past year I was asked by our new worship pastor to head up a new songwriting ministry at our church in Louisville, as we want to begin to create our own musical identity as a church body. As I sat down to write the outline for the ministry one of the first things I wrote for all members to go through in the outline is Song Writing vs Song Receiving. I am proud to say we have an incredible Song Receiving ministry today. Thanks to my friend and mentor Dennis Jernigan for his heart and the insight as to what it is to be entrusted with these most awesome gifts as God's Song Receivers!

Soli Deo Gloria!