The Village Church in Dallas, Texas is helping shape the singing of many churches around the country. Releasing six albums over the last three years, they are providing a consistent stream of songs for the church. Their latest recording, Beneath the Canopy, comes from their campus in Denton, Texas, an area with a presence of artistic community. I had the chance to ask worship pastor John Warren some questions about songwriting, and the importance of new songs being birthed out of the local church.
1. There are many churches deciding to write and record their own songs. Do you think it is important. Why has it been important for the village to be writing and recording music originating from your church?
I think writings songs within your particular church context is important because it is part of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry.” God has uniquely gifted the members of our church, and as a pastor, I want to recognize and encourage those gifts. There is something powerful and encouraging that happens when the local church is singing songs that have been birthed out of the experience of their own community.
2. As your people are writing music for your church what value system do you use in regard to content, style, and emphasis?
The most important value I filter our songs through is the theological content. Music teaches and disciples our people in a very profound way, and I want to make sure what we are singing in service or hearing in the car is true. After that has been decided, I typically listen for originality and creativity in the way the truth is being shared. As image bearers, we have been given the ability to create art to reflect our Creator. I want to encourage members of The Village Church to create great art because I believe it glorifies their Creator.
3. There are various styles of music from full two more contemporary styles represented on this album. How do you think through the style of music at Village Denton?
At the Denton campus of The Village Church, we have a very broad range of musical preferences and styles represented in our membership and in the volunteers that make up the worship ministry that I lead each week. I haven’t tried to dictate a stylistic approach as much as steward the diversity God has brought to our campus. I think that is reflected in the different styles present on “Beneath the Canopy.” We have made an intentional decision to pursue diversity musically through a yearly practice we call “musical diversity month.” We take four consecutive weeks and express our worship to God through music in a different way. We have done gospel, country, liturgical, choral and orchestral over the last several years. It has been a beautiful opportunity to lay our preferences aside and share cultures with those who are different from us.
4. What has been the most rewarding part of making this record?
The most rewarding part of making “Beneath the Canopy” was how we were able to utilize our covenant members in its creation. We had members create artwork inspired by songs from the album that were displayed in the studio where we were recording, and we had videographers come and record a live concert from the studio. All the songs were written by covenant members except “Grace Greater,” which was written by Adam Crawford, who is on staff at one of the church plants we support. The studio we used is owned and operated by a member of our church, and he engineered and mixed the record. Seeing God’s faithfulness in gifting our church family to create this album has been very overwhelming and rewarding.
5. What advice would you offer to other churches regarding writing their own music, and making records? What principles should drive these conversations?
My advice would be to take seriously the pastoral call of Ephesians 4. As a pastor, I’m not asked to do everything on my own but to equip those God has entrusted to my care. Involve as many people as possible and use the process of making records to encourage and disciple your people and not just the final product. I think you also have to seriously consider the value of recording other people’s songs. I’ve seen innumerable records from churches that include nothing but reproductions of what is popular and already on other albums. I think you need to consider how to most effectively use the resources your church has entrusted to you.