Sunday, I introduced a new original worship song entitled “No Greater Love.” We are planning on leading it again this Sunday due to some very encouraging feedback. I told you why I tend to shrink back from leading with original songs a couple of weeks ago, but as God continues to stretch me, this is one of the songs I have been working on for this congregation.
Here’s the story behind the song:
I was trying to write a song that boldly declared how great a love we have been loved by Jesus. As I searched through Scripture and thought about the great declarations of God’s Word, one stood out to me one day at the piano. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” -John 15:13 (NLT).
The chorus came quickly from a piano riff and is very repetitive, so that didn’t take too long. I wrote the line in the chorus so that you have to open up to sing it. When you get to “greater love,” I want you to have to work a little more to get it out so we can really get our hearts and voices behind it. I wrote it in 6/8 time so it could have a mid-tempo driving feel. It feels like a slow song at times, but then it gets really big too.
The only problem was that the chorus came quickly, and I became very cautious about not ruining the song with verses that didn’t match it. The verses took many different routes. I had finished it months ago, picked it up again a couple of weeks ago and just felt like the verses didn’t match the song.
I decided to start from scratch and finally came up with the melody on the piano and started putting lyrics to it. One thing I have noticed in writing worship songs is you want to keep even the number of syllables consistent because it is easier for people to catch on to the melody quicker. For example, every first line of a verse has seven syllables so that the wording and melody is easy to catch on to: “O, what kind of love is this?”
As I began to write them, I felt like every line in the verses needed to be a question or a plea. I still get overwhelmed at the fact that Jesus would love me. What kind of love is this? Can this grace truly be? What joy could make you stay? Please tell me it is true. The verses and bridge came from other key texts that talk about Jesus’ love (1 John 3:1; Rom 5:8; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 3:18).
One of the lines in the song is, “O what joy could make You stay, enduring the cross despising the shame?” It’s a reference to Heb. 12:2. I used to think Jesus had to go to the cross or was forced to go to the cross or dreaded going to the cross. But somehow, Jesus looked at it with joy because of it’s significance! He died in joy so that we could have new life in Him!
I wanted a song that reminded us how much we have been loved and how much we did NOT deserve it.
I am very thankful for the band in helping tweak the arrangement and their constant encouragement. I was hesitant about using the song, and they motivated be to think otherwise. I pray as we sing it as a church this Sunday, we will really sing this great truth out. Jesus calls us His friend! And He would be willing to die for guilty people and make us pure in His eyes.
There is no greater love, than Your love, O Jesus.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.