Reuben Morgan and Aodhan King are two of the people who put songs on the lips of hundreds of thousands of people every weekend in churches, big and small, around the world.
Reuben, a worship pastor and singer/songwriter, has written some of Hillsong’s best-known songs, including Mighty to Save, Cornerstone and Christ is Enough; he has also co-written songs including I will Follow with Chris Tomlin. Aodhan, a singer/songwriter from Hillsong’s Young & Free music brand, has co-written songs such as Sinking Deep and Close.
At Hillsong’s newest conference for creatives, Reuben, Aodhan and other writers spend time over a piano in a lounge above the main stage at Hillsong’s home campus in Sydney’s northwest. They’re still polishing lyrics and melodies right up to the moment it is time to go out on the stage and sing.
“If it’s not Bible, we’re missing the point.” – Aodhan King
“We’re recording an album at this conference. We’re still trying to get our lyrics finished and approved, and the teaching pastors Robert and Amanda [Fergusson] are constantly pushing us back towards, ‘how are you going to land this in the Bible?’ This is your experience of God, but is this biblical?” Aodhan tells Eternity.
“If it’s not Bible, we’re missing the point,” he says.
“Also, we’re just perfectionists. Things are never finished. We’re constantly polishing until the last minute.”
Reuben believes writing worship songs with others in the team helps to bring the feeling of a song to a place that others can sing it.
“What you bring [when starting to write a song] might be pretty raw as it comes out,” he says.
“We’re constantly polishing until the last minute. – Aodhan King
It’s one of the hardest things Reuben continues to deal with in his 20-plus years of writing worship music: how to take drafts he has written that are often raw and intensely personal and turn them into something a congregation can sing with conviction. He says looking back even just a few years at the songs he was writing, it still shocks him how honest he was.
“A lot of my songs really speak to a season I’m going through and my response to what’s happening.”
He gives the example of a song the church has just started singing, called Be Still. The chorus begins: “I won’t be afraid, you are here, you silence all my fear.”
“For me, that song is super-personal. It’s a pretty honest, open confession,” he says.
“But fear is a deeply personal thing that everyone goes through: fear of what people think of me, fear of the future, fear of failure.”
The bridge of the song follows Psalm 23: “Surely love and goodness, peace and kindness will follow me.”
“Ultimately, Christians want to sing the Bible. As a Christian, I want to sing the Bible.” – Reuben Morgan
“I think what we’re doing – it’s so much about creating the song for the church as well as it being devotional,” says Reuben. “I try to make [my songs] Bible. And I feel like that’s really critical for what we’re doing. Ultimately, Christians want to sing the Bible. As a Christian, I want to sing the Bible.”
The next Hillsong Worship album is being recorded this week at the church’s first conference specifically for creatives. The three-day event held at the church’s main Sydney campus aims to equip people working in creative disciplines, including music, acting, dance, production and design, with encouragement to tell the story of Jesus in their field of passion and skill.