This article is part of our Made to Create article series. Read the other articles in the series here:
- “Made to Create” by Ashlee Gadd
Made to Create: Making Music for God's Glory
I called my college mentor Cheryl to ask her a burning question, the one that has haunted me throughout my music journey. “Does this really matter?”
Years before, I gave myself a crazy goal to write a song for every book of the Bible in a year. Completing that goal set a new trajectory for my life and work: to tell the big story of Scripture, primarily through music. And yet, as I struggled to faithfully walk out this creative calling, I often wondered if my time could (or should!) be better spent in a more conventional ministry setting or vocation.
So I asked Cheryl, “Shouldn’t I be spending all my time with the refugees in my neighborhood? Volunteering more at our public school? Discipling more young women at our church? I know those things matter. Isn’t that what Jesus would do?” Cheryl listened to my angst and said, “Caroline, a fish glorifies God by being a fish, and a bird by being a bird.” Her words gave me freedom, reminding me that I could (and should!) glorify God and serve others by being a fish—er, I mean, a songwriter.
In God’s kingdom economy, creative work matters. I may not understand how each of my songs matters specifically or know all the fruit they bear, or why God made me a songwriter. But I can rest in the fact that music matters to God and has a place in the outworking of his kingdom.
Why Should We Create Music?
1. Because God Created First
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created….” The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 is rich with cadence and poetry, leading some theologians like Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis to imagine that God may have actually sung the world into being.1 Whether this is true or not, we know as his image-bearers that we are called to reflect his creativity, even in song. Of course, only God can create out of nothing. But he has tasked us with cultivating the raw materials of creation to make something new.
In music, there are only a total of twelve musical notes. But those notes—especially when paired with a myriad of sounds, instrumentation, ideas, language, and story—contain endless possibilities for beauty, goodness, and truth. It is a profound joy and privilege to shape these raw materials into cohesive songs that form, nourish, and move us. That God would create music at all is a display of his abundant goodness. How much more wonderful and humbling that we are invited into his song?
2. Because God Commands It
The Psalms give a straightforward command to “sing to the LORD a new song” (Ps. 96:1; Ps. 98:1). Psalm 33 has been a great encouragement to me: “Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song…” (vv. 1b–3a). When we behold God, it is fitting, right, and even reflexive to respond with songs of praise. Even when we write songs not directly about God—say, about marriage, a friendship, or the bird singing outside our window—we write with a heart of worship, to point not to ourselves but to the goodness of God.
3. Because Scripture Models That Music Matters
Throughout Scripture, we see that God has woven music into his grand story of redemption. After crossing the Red Sea, Miriam led the Hebrew women in a song about God’s victory, dancing and shaking her tambourine (Ex. 15:20–21). David wrote songs alone among his sheep as well as songs for God’s people to sing together (see the Psalms). In 1 Chronicles, he set apart musicians for the “service of song” in temple worship (1 Chron. 6:31–32).
At the Last Supper, Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples, most likely the Hallel of Psalms 113–118 or the last great Hallel in Psalm 136 (Matt. 26:26–30).2 Paul instructed the Colossians to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). And one day in the new heaven and new earth, we will lift our voices in praise alongside saints from every tongue and tribe.
How Should We Approach Creating Through Songwriting and Music?
1. Be Rooted in a Biblical View of Success
The world defines success in measurable units like profit, platform, or performance. But the Bible defines success as faithfully abiding in Christ, walking by the Spirit, tending to the plot of land right in front of us, and allowing him to bear fruit in his time.
In a social media age, it’s easy to fall prey to comparison and all-or-nothing thinking. We may think, I’m not able to do this music thing like that artist, I can’t go on tour, I don’t have the time and money to record. So why pursue songwriting at all? But a biblical view of success reminds us that writing a song for a struggling friend, a worship song only sung by your local church, or a song that’s just a prayer between you and God still matters. Resist the world’s definition of success. Listen to the voice of the Lord. And be faithful to sow the seed God has given into your hands into the plot of land right in front of you.
2. Cultivate the Soil of Your Heart
If you desire to produce excellent, God-glorifying songs, start by evaluating your spiritual diet. Read your Bible. Read good books. Pray when no one is watching. Take Sabbath rest. Weed out sin. Sow into godly, enriching friendships. And then don’t settle to wade about in the shallows of hot takes on social media, or in spiritual cliches, or in writing songs that are just derivative of what you may hear on the radio. What is God teaching you? How can you sing about it? What kind of song does your church or your community need to sing? Keep your antenna up to the beauty of God, choose to abide in him, put in the work, and trust the Lord of the harvest to make good things grow.
3. Sow Into Your Craft
Knowing that creative work does matter to God, carve out time to take him at his word and actually do it. Put your phone away. Let the dirty dishes in the sink wait a while. Create an achievable songwriting goal. Then, share it with others for the sake of accountability. Seek out other songwriters in your community for feedback. Calendar your first co-write. Consider writing a mission statement.
During seasons of young motherhood, I got creative about carving out space. I traded kids with a friend once a week for three hours, used preschool hours for music (and only music), even left the house and wrote at a local park so I wouldn’t be distracted by domestic tasks left undone. Even now that my kids are all in school and music is my job, I still need to guard that deeper, creative work time. Or else it simply will not happen. Even when I carve out a mere thirty minutes for songwriting, this deeper work time catalyzes and enables more creating in the margins—while I’m cleaning or doing errands.
Perhaps today you find yourself haunted by the same question I asked Cheryl years ago. “Does this music thing even matter?” The biblical narrative and the creativity of God answer this question with a resounding Yes! May this knowledge grant you permission to step out in freedom and glorify him by being a fish—er, I mean, a songwriter.
A Songwriter’s Prayer
Creator God, I stand in wonder at your abundant goodness on display in all of creation. Today, I specifically praise you for the wonder of music. For twelve notes with endless possibilities. For symphonies soaring with instruments of all kinds. I praise you for harmonies and minor keys. For the innumerable textures and timbres of the human voice. For the way a song can move us to weep or to tap our feet. You are a good God, and it is good and right to praise you through song, to give thanks to you with my voice, my guitar, my piano.
God, help me faithfully steward my musical skills, limited though they may be, for your glory and the flourishing of others. Show me the plot of land right in front of me. Strengthen me to cultivate and tend it. As I abide in you, establish the work of my hands and bear good fruit in your way, in your time, all for your praise. Amen.
Meet the Author
Caroline Cobb has a passion to tell the big story of Scripture through music, helping you rehearse and respond to it as you go about your everyday life. Her latest album Psalms: The Poetry of Prayer is the fifth in an anthology of "Story-telling" projects, giving voice to joy, lament, thanksgiving, confession and more in eleven sung prayers. Caroline lives in Dallas with her husband Nick and three kids, and you can listen to her music here.
- Tim Keller, “The Song of Creation” (sermon), Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, NY, October 15, 2000, Gospel in Life, https://gospelinlife.com/downloads/the-song-of-creation-5205/; C.S. Lewis, “Chapter Nine, The Founding of Narnia,” in The Magician’s Nephew (New York, NY: HarperCollins 2000).
- Michael J. Wilkins, “Study Note on Matthew 26:30,” in ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1881.
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