Sacred Songwriting: The Two Halves Of The Gospel Sentence

Worship writing that is for our community or communities is a pastoral act (mind and heart); not just an intellectual act (mind) or just a creative act (heart).

Thinking hearts and feeling minds are our goal.


There are two 1/2’s of the Gospel sentence.

Half #1 – A Gospel That Begins In Genesis

In the beginning, humankind was created in God’s image. We are glorious, magnificent beings, born in the love of God and the flower and crown of all creation. We can do magnificent creative work, and flourish because Love is our center. To become fully human is to become the image bearers of God, with joy and impact, in all spheres of human society (The Origin and Purpose of Humankind).

Half #2 – A Gospel That Centers On Salvation

Human beings sinned, and therefore have become distortions of God’s image. For this reason, we are sinners, and are in need of mercy. God’s wrath, that could have been directed to us for our rebellion, is turned away because of Christ. Christ’s death on the cross worked salvation for us (The Fall and Salvation of Humankind).

Gluing Half #1 and Half #2 Together:
Kingdom Theology Powered By The Resurrection & New Creation

Jesus rose from the dead. The Genesis mandate is restored to human beings to be the “lead worshippers” of creation, carrying salvation’s story, justice, hope, and healing into the hearts of every person – as well as into the worlds of the arts, politics, education, family, and media. Kingdom people are used by God to bring healing to people’s hearts (ministry time), and to national systems (South Africa).

All things are being made new, and when Christ fills a life, we are called to our original purpose, passionately co-creating with God and fanning into flame the multitude of gifts among us. We are glorious creatures (Half #1), and we are fallen (Half #2).

The Half We Choose

The following is a great generalization, but run with me if you will and suspend your unbelief for a few moments.

The following are extremes – I actually see myself leaning deeply into both of them, but I will now amplify the caricature of each.

Liberal Streams: Half #1 Emphasis. We are awesome. There is nothing wrong, really, with us. No need to emphasize God’s wrath. It’s all about Love.

Problem: If we only emphasize Half #1 we don’t need Jesus. It’s all about Love and Acceptance and human capacity. We lose a passionate, penetrating faith that actually addresses the foundational, toxic issue of sin – a human-centric way of life that pushes God from the center – that lies at the heart of human evil. We simply begin to address that we are all “on our way to a better way.” It disempowers faith, and empowers human capacity to a fault.

Evangelical Streams: Half #2 Emphasis. We are all sinners, fallen and in need of God’s grace. No need to emphasize our glory as human beings. It’s all about redemption. We are worms of the dust, except for God’s kindness.

Problem: If we only emphasize Half #2 everyone stops listening to us; our best story of humankind’s purpose and meaning is that we’re sinners, saved by grace. We lose our place at the roundtable of cultural influence, because we have nothing that affirms human beings to say. Biblically, our Gospel begins with us being made in the image of God; not with us being sinners.

Songwriting A More Compelling Story: All Things Are Being Made New

We sing about the heart, and healing, and Love, but we must also sing about God’s mission and His power to heal degrading systems and place humanity-affirming Christians in every sphere of influence.

Songwriters can paint a grand picture of what it means to be created in the image of God. Here’s a lyric that does: “We were born in a surge of flame / born to know and name / gathering the light into foreign groves / to bear and lift the flame to worlds unknown….”

Worship songs must carry both halves of the Gospel. Evangelical movements have tended to stay away from the first half, and more Liberal streams from the second.

If we sing a more compelling Story – then the whole world will hear.


Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms

Sheltering Mercy, along with its companion volume, Endless Grace, helps us rediscover the rich treasures of the Psalms—through free-verse prayer renderings of their poems and hymns—as a guide to personal devotion and meditation.

The church has always used the Psalms as part of its prayer life, and they have inspired countless other prayers. This book contains 75 prayers drawn from Psalms 1-75, providing lyrical sketches of what authors Ryan Smith and Dan Wilt have seen, heard, and felt while sojourning in the Psalms. Each prayer is a response to the Psalms written in harmony with Scripture. These prayers help us quiet our hearts before God and welcome us into a safe place amid the storms of life.

This artful, poetic, and classic devotional book features compelling custom illustrations and foil-stamped hardcover binding, offering a fresh way to reflect on and pray the Psalms.