October 21, 2014

Three Worship Songs Now in the Top 25

Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) is the primary service churches and ministries use to deal with copyright issues related to worship materials. Churches buy a license that allows them, among other things, to print and project songs in their services. They keep records of the songs they use, then send periodic reports in to CCLI so that songwriters and artists get their proper royalties. CCLI keeps a current list of the “Top 25″ songs that churches are using.

Last year, we published their list and had a discussion about it. This year, the list has not changed much, with only three new songs appearing. Note: the songs themselves are not necessarily “new” — they may have been around for awhile — but they are now appearing as some of the most regularly used songs in churches that report to CCLI.

Today, I’d simply request your feedback on these songs and what they might say to you about what is happening in contemporary worship today. I want this to be a free discussion, so I won’t add any commentary. Watch and listen to the videos of these three songs that have newly emerged on the “Top 25″ list, and then your thoughts, comments, analysis, and perspectives are welcome.

* * *

Forever Reign (#14)
by Jason Ingram/Reuben Morgan
2009 Reuben Morgan/SHOUT! Publishing & Sony ATV/Timber / West Main Music /Windsor Hill Music (SESAC). All rights on behalf of Sony ATV/Timber, West Main Music and Windsor Hill Music admin. by Sony ATV.

The Stand (#22)
by Joel Houston
2005 Joel Houston/Hillsong Publishing (adm. in the U.S. & Canada by Integrity?s Hosanna! Music) c/o Integrity Media, Inc., 1000 Cody Road, Mobile, AL 36695

Glory to God Forever (#25)
by Steve Fee/Vicky Beeching
2009 Worship Together Music/sixsteps Music (BMI) (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing)/Thankyou Music (PRS) (adm. worldwide by EMI CMG Publishing, excluding Europe)

Comments

  1. All I have to say is, “meh”!

  2. Yep. My church has added these to their set list, and they are way less objectionable than the “sparkle” song and “hurricane song” — those might be the same song, but that’s how I identify them in my head.

    I’ve been praying the offices on the Northumbria Community website and I don’t find these songs to be any more repetitive than the offices.

  3. 1st and 2nd song we have sung in the last couple of weeks at my church.

    I do like the song “The Stand”, but I had a weird flashback when singing it two weeks ago. In 1977 I was in church with my Grandmother in Africa(a godly woman if there never was one.) The song was “Take my life and let it be”, and we were invited to stand when we wanted to make a verse our own prayer. I kept waiting for my Grandmother to stand, and she never did until I stood at one of the last verses. Looking back it seemed kind of manipulative, and I felt the same way when we sang “The Stand” in church two weeks ago.

    My question concerning this is: Where is the line between giving an invitation to commitment and manipulating the congregation to get a response? And yes I do believe that you can draw a line between the two. Just not sure how to judge when that line is being crossed.

    The third song, reminded me of two songs: The first is “This is the day” that we used to sing in the 60s/70s, primarily because of its simpleness in words and melody. Don’t want to go back there. Strangely enough, it also reminded me of the “Halleluiah Chorus” because of the repetition. “And he shall reign forever and ever, forever and ever, halleluiah, halleluiah. King of kings. Forever and ever, halleluiah, halleluiah. etc.”

    The first song. I can take it or leave it. I find it not that interesting musically.

    • What is an “invitation to commitment?”

      • Speaking generically. Could be a sermon that is calling for repentance, or a call to commit your life to Christ either for the first time, or a re-dedication. Generally anything that is asking for a response from the listener. Quite common in evangelical circles.

        • Ah, yes! Decision theology. Always manipulative, imo. It seems to assume that if we make our plea convincing enough, people will be moved in a way that enables them to make the right decision. It’s all about methods and delivery, it always has been.

          • :D When I wrote the comment, I was wondering which Lutheran was going to respond like that first!

            So, was Paul being manipulative when he wrote, “I exhort you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”?

            Or was Jesus being manipulative when he said to the church of Ephesus, “Repent and do the things you did at first.”?

            Or was John the Baptist being manipulative when he called people to repentance?

            If you answer, “No”, then you must agree that there is a line that can be crossed.

          • I know, I know, it smelled too much like bait. :P Dangle it right out there, why don’t you? I guess we can be somewhat predictable, but at this point in my life I just don’t see that as a bad thing.

            No, they was not being manipulative. But you know what else they also did not do? Ask people to walk down an aisle, bow their head close their eyes raise their hand, make a personal commitment, sign a pledge, or stand during the song. Those are manipulative. They ask for a silly little sign of your intention to be good. I think Jesus and Paul would prefer you just go out and do it rather than concoct silly ceremonial substitutes. God’s more interested in whether or not you actually be a good father to your children, not whether you sign the “Courageous” pledge. Signing the pledge will not make you any better a father.

            There’s room for moral exhortation, even “gospel imperative,” in the Christian life. Despite the fact that moralistic therapeutic deism is a lousy substitute for Christianity, it is still a highly moral religion. The problem with the revivalist decision camp is that the right action of our wills becomes a form of works righteousness. I have absolutely NO trust in the strength of my own resolve to help me do the right thing more and the wrong thing less. In order for that to happen, it will pretty much take a complete miracle of God, so I’d rather place my trust there.

            An example I heard somewhat recently: A well meaning youth leader exhorting her group towards committing to chastity (pre “true love waits” rally) said in a moment of honesty: “We’ve got to live our lives with purity so that God can use us!” Or see Chandler’s “the rose” illustration. Jesus came and died for the impure and the useless. It is good to preach good works for the benefit of our neighbor as a response to the gifts God has given us. But they do not ever and can not improve our standing with God (not even a re-dedication). Repentance is not a momentary decision, it is a way of life.

    • My wife says…. “Don’t diss the halleluiah chorus.”

  4. This is not at all a fair comparison, Chaplain Mike, but purely by chance as I was listening to the classical music station streaming over the internet and I came here for the updated feed, they were playing Allegri’s “Misere”. Then I see you want us to assess some examples of modern praise and worship songs.

    Yeah – my reaction was torn between laughing and wanting to crawl under a rock.

    I’m sure all these bands are great guys and sincere musicians, and the songs don’t sound bad at all, but…will these songs be played on whatever replaces radio stations, two hundred plus years from now?

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      In fairness, Allegri’s Miserere is one of the great achievements of the western musical tradition. Not much stands up to this level.

      It does, however, provide an excuse to repeat the story (which might even be true) of its transcription. It was written for Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week services in the Sistine Chapel. The Pope, in a flash of marketing genius, forbade its being transcribed or performed elsewhere, under pain of excommunication. Supposed the teenaged Mozart while on a visit to Rome heard it on Wednesday, went back to his lodgings and wrote it out, and returned on Friday to make final corrections. His transcription ended up being published the next year in London, where they didn’t care about being excommunicated. The Pope threw in the towel, and praised Mozart for the feat. Or so they say.

  5. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

    We regularly do the 2nd one at our church. I don’t really dig it. It just kinda fades into the background noise until you get to the peppy bit about 2/3 of the way through when everyone suddenly wakes up and stands up and lifts their hands ‘cuz the song told them too. Even after just listening to it I can’t tell you what it’s about. It’s just … bland.

    I like the instrumentation on the 1st and 3rd a whole lot, though I find the 1st much more compelling musically. I think the 3rd would be more fun to play as a bass or guitar guy than to sing as part of the congregation, though. Lyrically, there’s some stuff that just seems too cutesy or nursery-rhyme-y on both of these, though moreso on the 3rd song.

    For both the 1st and 2nd, I was struck at how much they looked like a concert rather than like congregational worship. The light show, the carefully-crafted-to-look-carelessly-donned clothing of the band, the fact that EVERYONE both on stage and in the audience were young, beautiful and white… it’s a little weird.

    I’m not familiar with the artist that does the third song, but the first two are Hillsong stuff, and I think I’m just not a big fan. It’s just so darn slick that it doesn’t seem authentic. But, hey, that’s been my complaint about most CCM ever since D.C. Talk went semi-mainstream with the Jesus Freak album. I find I prefer Hillsong music when done by an actual congregational band, with all the flubbs, mistakes, and bad setup that come with such things. That said, I’d rather have choir and organ singing “A Mighty Fortress” any day.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “For both the 1st and 2nd, I was struck at how much they looked like a concert rather than like congregational worship. The light show, the carefully-crafted-to-look-carelessly-donned clothing of the band, the fact that EVERYONE both on stage and in the audience were young, beautiful and white… it’s a little weird.”

      That struck me, too. It is an interesting and fair question how this is different from a church service which includes a performance of Allegri’s Miserere, that Martha cited. The first is that the Allegri would be part of an ancient liturgy. It might also be performed in a pure concert setting, but that would be a very different experience, and would attract a different (albeit overlapping) crowd. But, one might respond, these worship songs are similarly part of a larger worship service. That’s a fair point. There is a fine line between a liturgy which includes music and a concert which includes some prayers and an inspirational lecture, but where this line lies is subjective.

      The difference, I think, is how the music is staged. A liturgy including the Allegri might, depending on the layout of the church, have the performers out of sight, in a choir loft in the rear. This would be unremarkable, as this is not primarily an artistic performance. If the context were a concert, the performers would be placed in front in the chancel, even (and this is key) if it were in the same church. Even if the layout of the church is such that the choir and organist are in the front, they would still be in a secondary position to the side. The alter would be the visual focus.

      In these videos, on the other hand, the entire experience is carefully crafted to mimic a secular concert. The band is placed in the center, the lighting focuses attention on them, the mere fact that we automatically speak of the band being “on stage,” and so forth. (I don’t think there is an actual mosh pit up there, but I’m not certain.)

      • ^ Yeah, what he said too

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In these videos, on the other hand, the entire experience is carefully crafted to mimic a secular concert. The band is placed in the center, the lighting focuses attention on them, the mere fact that we automatically speak of the band being “on stage,” and so forth. (I don’t think there is an actual mosh pit up there, but I’m not certain.)

        Would it be out-of-place to suggest that the Band and their Performance has become the Altar, i.e. the Object of Worship?

        (And what Eucharist would be distributed in that case? Glowsticks and Ecstasy tabs?)

        • And what Eucharist would be distributed in that case? Glowsticks and Ecstasy tabs?

          that’s a bit unfair and uncalled for

          • Yeah I don’t see a lot of E being passed around in megachurches. But I do think it’s fair to say that for a lot of churches, the music is far more sacramental than the actual sacraments.

  6. As a church music director who leads our choir and plays 3-4 times a year with our contemporary band, they’re not bad songs. I always say though that our band can do 1 style and the choir can do about 100. Last year at Christmas, we sung a French carol, a Polish carol, a spiritual, a English piece with words from the 14th century, etc. I’m glad to have contemporary worship at our church and glad to be able to play with the folks that do it as much as I do. But I’m also glad that I don’t have to go to the contemporary service every week and get to experience so many different styles of worship through the one medium of our choir!

    • Nothing wrong in playing these songs every now and then. The issue is that at too many churches these songs are the ONLY ONES BEING PLAYED for EVERY SERVICE.

  7. Ii prefer a more conservative approach to worship music than the clips shown here-but if CCM gets people motivated to at least think about God and all His glory-then, I’m okay with it. And, I keep coming back to-wherever two or more are gathered…

    • Ugh…the “two or more gathered” thing is so cliche and based on a reading of the verse out of context. If you read it as part of the whole chapter, it means in the presence of two witnesses who are testifying against another person.

      Also, let’s say that reading of the verse was true…then does that mean when I pray by myself that God isn’t there?

      I don’t mean to be nit-picky, it’s just that I get annoyed when people use verses out of context…and when people have used that verse out of context, they somehow think it means that God will automatically fulfill their requests when made in large groups…

      • Actually. I think He was talking about reconciliation and Jesus is in the midst of that. I’ve never ascribed to the say the magic words and ‘puff’ you get what you want theology. Instead of assuming and getting all annoyed, you could have just asked for clarification.

  8. All 3 felt the same: repetitious, bland melodies, reliant on the instrumentation to “make it what it is”. Even simple children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” have pretty melodies that you WANT to sing & stay with you. All 3 of these are so forgettable. I’ve been in worship services where songs like these are played & leave feeling assaulted. And the problem with them becoming songs in worship services is that they’re meant to be heard or listened to but not sung communally. They naturally dominate because of the way they’re played & sung &, therefore, do not serve. So can it actually be worship? I know that I’m out of the age group this music is targetting but even my children, all teens & adolescents, get bored listening to it. One final thought, the repetition of certain phrases sung over & over & over again, has always made me uncomfortable, because it’s not done in a meditative way but in a way that suggests if you say it enough maybe you’ll believe it. God deserves better than that.

    • Highwayman says:

      I agree completely. (Well, I think I do – a curt note came up when I clicked on the first video, saying it’s not available in this country, so to be fair, I can’t judge that one, but if it’s of the same standard as the other two, they can keep it!)

      OK, so the third one woke me up after the second one had sent me to sleep, but I prefer songs or hymns which have a good tune and good words, together with some sort of acknowledgement that the two should fit together. So do most congregations, in my experience, but those ‘leading’ at the front often seem too caught up in their own trances to notice that all the noise is coming from the PA and not from the assembled gathering.

  9. flatrocker says:

    A startling similarity of all three songs – none of them have lyrics that speak from God’s voice in the first person.

    It’s probably a pet peeve of mine, but this is usually a non-starter when praise and worship lyrics sing out from the voice of God. If we are going to be so bold to praise Him in song, maybe we should be praising a lot less in His voice and praising a lot more in our own.

    It just feels more rightly ordered this way (and maybe a little less presumptuous on our part as well).

  10. I think this exercise goes to show that there are weak songs that make it into the CCLI top 25.

    How would the discussion be different if the songs being discussed were the top 5?

    1 How Great Is Our God -Tomlin, Chris\Reeves, Jesse\Cash, Ed
    3 Our God – Redman, Matt\Tomlin, Chris\Myrin, Jonas\Reeves, Jesse
    4 Blessed Be Your Name – Redman, Beth\Redman, Matt
    5 Here I Am To Worship – Hughes, Tim

    • One way I think it would be different is that we would observe how “conservative” evangelical churches are (like most institutions) when it comes to change. The top five are relatively “old” songs and already represent a “tradition” for many worshippers. These songs have been on the list for years and may be considered out of date for others who are caught up in trying to be continually “fresh” and “relevant.”

      But I think your point would be that they are better songs and I think that shows that the cream rises to the top eventually.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “These songs have been on the list for years and may be considered out of date for others who are caught up in trying to be continually “fresh” and “relevant.””

        This is the problem with contemporary worship. “Contemporary” is a moving target. If being contemporary is a priority, you have to keep moving with it, and can never stick to something merely because it is good. It also means that you have to always pretend to be a kid. This is a common pretense in our culture, and the results are rarely pretty. The hip twenty-something youth pastor grows into the not-quite-so-hip thirty-something pastor who is trying just a little too hard, who in turn grows into the faintly creepy forty-something pastor hanging out with teenagers. One of the unheralded benefits of abandoning contemporary is that it allows for dignity over the long haul.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Nothing gets Old Fashioned faster than Over-Relevance.

          • Or more pretentious. The term “relevant,” by implication, dubs any non-conformity to be “irrelevant.”
            I’m with Matt Chandler on this one: Trying to make the Gospel relevant is like trying to make water wet.

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

          A good example of this: I really like the 2008 Lifeway Hymnal that is variously published as “Baptist Hymnal” and “Worship Hymnal” (albeit with the exact same content). It was meant to be a good blended hymnal, and it is. However, just four years out, a large chunk of it is already pretty dang dated. I still like it, but at this point, the Lifeway Worship Project is just an alternate for CCLI’s SongSelect. The hymnal itself is largely irrelevant, which is pretty sad to me, ‘cuz (as I said), I really liked it and would’ve considered using it as the main hymn book in a theoretical church plant or something.

          • I think they set a historical record for most recent song printed in a hymnal. There was a Lincoln Brewster tune in there that wasn’t 3 years old yet. Crazy!

        • Still, “meh”.

        • @Richard – Am I ever glad I am leaving the creepy 40s and entering the suave and sophisticated 50s!

    • One of those songs just doesn’t belong. IMO, #3 is grossly inferior to the rest, and not going to last as long. I find the melody to be particularly annoying. I seriously do not see what is so great about that other one. The other three are modern classics, even though I am more than sick of them (and dear God! Using two of them this Sunday!).

  11. I’ve sung the 1st and 3rd songs many times in worship, and by myself worshipping God. I like them both, love the lyrics and how they connect me to my Lord and savior.

    Not sure I’ve heard the second song before, and it doesn’t really do anything for me.

    This discussion shows how subjective music (and any “art” form) can be.

    • I have to ask. Is the purpose of singing to “connect me to my Lord and Savior”?

      • Okay, I’ll bite. Yes.

        • This is not the place to go into it, but I’m sure it will come up this month. Rick, what you said (and why I asked the question) is that it is my opinion that the phrase you used represents the thinking behind why this kind of music and many other practices in evangelicalism are used in corporate “worship” — because people are seeking an emotional connection to God.

          The historic traditions look at it differently — we are already connected to God through Christ in the Gospel. Worship is primarily objective not subjective: it involves reenacting and announcing and celebrating what God has already done to reconcile us rather than trying to have an “experience” of becoming or feeling connected. He is already present, we don’t need to “make” him present. We are already in the closest possible union with him because of Christ, we don’t need anything else to “connect” us.

          We come together to meet with a Savior who is already present and who blesses through Word and Table, regardless of my emotional condition at any given moment. And, I might add, even if I felt nothing or failed to “experience God’s presence” after a worship service, I can still truthfully say, “I worshipped this morning.”

          • True, we don’t need anything to connect us closer to Jesus than we already have through faith and belief. I also don’t think He minds if people feel more connection and assurance through the singing of songs such as these. My wife would know of my love of her more fully if I sang to her every night instead of sitting in the room, eating popcorn. Sitting in the room, eating popcorn, has its place too, by the way.

          • I am not denying that feelings play a part in our faith and worship. However, to this observer it seems that we have come to define worship by them. The common phrase “worship experience” tips us off.

          • The “Come Together” bit is what I think ultimately makes these songs fall short for corporate worship. Most of the 40 CCM worship songs are exceptionally individualistic in structure, if not words. They’re meant to be sung by a single singer, fronted by a rock band with a ton of production.

            There’s not a lot of community in these songs. It’s personal odes, which may have their place and may even be well written (Rich Mullins wrote tons of them), but it does feel weird standing with hundreds of others singing “I” over and over.

          • The historic traditions look at it differently — we are already connected to God through Christ in the Gospel. Worship is primarily objective not subjective: it involves reenacting and announcing and celebrating what God has already done to reconcile us rather than trying to have an “experience” of becoming or feeling connected. He is already present, we don’t need to “make” him present. We are already in the closest possible union with him because of Christ, we don’t need anything else to “connect” us.

            Wow….lightbulb moment for this very non-feelings oriented person.

  12. If I want to listen to bad pop music I’ll borrow a friend’s U2 cd.

  13. The first two songs I’m not even sure what they’re saying. At least “Glory To God” makes a point. It’s repetitiveness doesn’t bug me because I think that’s straight out of Revelation. Something about the creatures “continually cry out…day and night…Holy, Holy, Holy”

    I am a modern rock fan (grew up in the Nirvana era) and so I do like the music when compared to songs from Watts or Wesley. I just wish the lyrics were a bit more substantial.

    But there is a modern rock/liturgy fusion that I actually thinks has substance. You can find it at http://www.anewliturgy.com/ The theology is a bit liberal for me, but I think its a start in the right direction.

  14. One Hit Wonder says:

    Everyone’s taste in worship music is different…not bad, not less holy, just different. Just like churches and denominations…different, not bad or less holy…just different. I hate to say it but the tone of imonk has become a little too critical about almost everything…the way people worship, worship music, denominations, pastors, church life, the state of Christianty in general… I think Jesus might say “stop worrying about what others are doing and how they are doing it, what concern is it of yours, you follow me” ….just sayin

    • +1

    • “I hate to say it but the tone of imonk has become a little too critical about almost everything…”

      I know. Michael Spencer would never have had anything critical to say about church music or anything else in Christianity.

      How long have you been reading?

    • 1 Corinthians 10:23. It’s not about taste. Not everything “different” is equal in quality.

    • You think Imonk is critical? Have you read church history? Man, now those guys were really critical! Like you’re a heretic and destroyer of Christianity critical. Things like liturgy and worship were hotly debated amongst them, and for good reason too.

      We have this weird post modern idea nowadays that content is all that matters. So it’s okay what the songs are as long as they express some exultations and affection towards God. Sorry to say this, but form is just as important as content. As the old adage goes, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

    • Seriously, go back and read what Michael said about K-LOVE, Mercy Me, Vineyard Praise, or Worship DVDs. He didn’t slam it all, but it was clear he wasn’t a big fan.

    • Agree whole-heartedly.

    • Ryan Nathaniel says:

      Totally agree, One Hit Wonder.

      I’m surprised everyone here seems so unimpressed by The Stand. That one has always been quite moving to me. It takes it’s time getting to the climax, but that makes it all the more worth it when it gets there.

      But I am tired of all three because I’ve played ‘em a zillion times, ha.

  15. May I ask a stupid question? Assuming yes…

    In what churches / denominations / etc. are songs like this customarily played? Baptist? Independent mega-churches? What? (I have never heard any of them.)

    • Typically they are churches who believe, teach, and confess that Jesus is not actually, truly, physically present in their worship services (and yes, I’m referring to the the Lord’s Supper).

      • I have to disagree with this statement. I’ve seen and heard songs #1 and #3 used in churches that believe wholeheartedly in Jesus’ presence in their worship services.

        • It’s just a generality and stereotype. I’ve seen Roman Catholic churches use this type of music. But generally speaking, it is most found in low-church evangelicalism, where as high-churches tend to sing more out of books.

      • Hah, the Presbyterian church I go to, which follows Zwingli’s views, doesn’t sing these songs. I got you there!

  16. Reasons these songs are popular:
    1. They’re simple. Their chords usually only change on downbeats, and you can teach it to your church band quickly.
    2. They’re written by celebrities. I’ve heard far better songs written by the unheard of.
    3. They’re recorded with top notch production. Trust me, if it was up to the way YOUR church sounded doing these songs on Sunday to make them sell, they’d be going nowhere fast.
    4. They get exorbitant amounts of radio play on the three big Christian radio stations. People have been brainwashed into expecting to sing their radio pop favorites on Sunday morning.
    5. The musicians are usually the other extreme from ugly. (My wife has a crush on Joel, not sure if it’s the accent or the hair, but she got irate when I suggested one of his songs for Sunday).
    6. They are marketed like nobodies business. The machine behind these releases could rig nearly ANY song up to the CCLI top 25, and IMO, these songs prove this.
    7. They are demographically targeted at youth. See “the Merchants of Cool” documentary: Cut and paste from the MTV playbook.
    8. But most importantly, they don’t require deep thinking or doctrinal commitment/understanding to sing.

  17. Michael Chance says:

    I’ve regularly heard #1 and #3 in contemporary services here in the St. Louis area. Neither #1 or #2 are really geared for congregational singing, although they’d make good “anthems”. I actually like “Glory to God”, especially if there’s a point in a worship service that needs a bit of energy before winding down into a more prayerful time.

    One thing about these (and most CCM top hits) is the emphasis on “me and God”, rather than “we and God”, especially the first two. That’s fine for a time of personal devotion/worship, but not so good for corporate worship, IMO. (I think it was John Wesley that wrote, “The bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”)

    • I dealt with a pastor once who wanted to sing on Sunday what he listened to in the car during the week. I think it is a pretty common opinion. Consumerism.

  18. Clay Crouch says:

    Contemporary “worship” lyrics are way too long on “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine” and way to short on “we”, “us”, and “ours”. But then, maybe that’s just the Episcopalian in me.

    • Like those recent contemporary songs, “Amazing Grace”, “I surrender all”, “Take my life and let it be”, “When I survey”. :D

      I think my point is, it is not so much a contemporary/traditional divide, as much as it is a theological Wesley/Calvin divide.

  19. Marcus Johnson says:

    Compare these songs to Matt Redman. He is a popular CCM worship artist and songwriter but, reading through the lyrics of his songs, it seems as if he is more concerned with connecting the listener to the Word through his music.

    Consider “Bless the Lord (O My Soul).” The chorus is a throwback to traditional hymns, but the verses string together a complete statement about the worship experience (e.g., commit to worship God constantly; His nature deserves praise; heaven will be a place of continuous worship). The theology is simple, but not superficial by any means. Some of the songs I appreciate the most are like this one: “How Great Thou Art,” “And Can It Be,” “In Christ Alone.”

    I don’t really hate these songs, but if it wasn’t for the words “God,” “Jesus,” or “Spirit,” and if these songs were not introduced to me in a church environment, I would never know that these songs were intended to call people to worship.

    • I agree, “Bless the Lord” (which also goes by “10,000 Reasons”) seems to have a reverence to it that many songs don’t have. It’s not trying to be terribly hip, which is a plus.

  20. Song #3 Glory to God Forever: first time we sang the chorus in a band practice, within 15 seconds someone was singing Steve winwood’s “(Bring Me A Higher Love)” on top of it, and I was playing Marc Cohn’s “Walk Through This World”.
    First time it was played for the congregation, more than a few people winced and snickered at seeing the filler lyric “yeah you were, yeah you were” on the screen. It reads like YEAH YOU DID!!!!
    That was the last time we played it.
    Colloquialisms do not seem to withstand the test of time and start to sound like forced excitement, whether it’s Graham Kendrick exclaiming “You’re my all, You’re the Best!” or Darlene Z. singing about “the darling of Heaven”.

    • Isaac / Obed says:

      Oh, I CRINGE every time I hear the “Darling of Heaven” lyric! It’s definitely one of the worst IMO

      • It’s apparently it’s a phrase from the eighteenth century. Evangelicals are stumbling with this whole ancient-future concept. The difference between ancient and sentimental is not obvious to all.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Well, I guess for evangelicals, the 18th century is about as ancient as it gets.

          • The 1980’s is ancient for most evangelicals. Most pastors have never read a book more than ten years old – except for the bible.

    • It never ceases to amaze me how one poorly constructed phrase can ruin an entire song. Why do they do this?

  21. If you click the link on the CCLI Top 25 page, you can also see the reports for the same period from Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. In England, for example, the more hymn-like songs of Stuart Townend and Graham Kendrick are more dominant, The U.S. equivalent to the modern hymn movement, Sovereign Grace Music, doesn’t seem to register in this list, which is unfortunate because both Townend’s and Sovereign Grace’s lyrics are always rich in theology.

    For what it’s worth, if your church has a CCLI license, you can see the Top 100 list which is more diverse.

  22. I’m familiar with all three. They’ve all been around for a while. I hesitate to express any likes or dislikes, because that type of response would in itself would be self-centered and consumeristic. What is the criteria for evaluating worship music? As Jesus said, we played a happy tune, and you didn’t dance; we played a durge, and you didn’t mourn.

    I can say that these are an Improvement over much of what came before it, in terms of God-centeredness. Room for improvement? Sure. But music in general is on the upswing across the board. Bands like Mumford and Sons are bringing back artistic, thoughtful music, and that is spilling over to Xtian (TM) music. I would say to any young, aspiring worship song writer is to strive for better. Write music that is worthy of the in-Jesus-name that Bach inscribed at the bottom of his scores.

  23. The problem is that “worship” is now a category of music. There are even infomercials for the greatest hits of worship songs. The most worshipful music was not the product of setting out to write a worship song. Listen to Bruce Cockburn’s “Sunwheel Dance” for an example.

  24. All three are reasons why I’ve stopped singing in “worship” services. For me I make melody in my heart and glorify God for who He is and for His mercy and grace. All of those syrupy, sentimental, obliquely meaningful lyrics leave me cold, if not actually bored. At least the third song actually glorifies God rather than our emotions.

  25. Catherine says:

    I’ve definitely heard all three of them in the generic megachurch I used to go to. The only one that has ever really stuck out to me is the first, “Forever Reign.” I had a friend on the worship team who had just suffered her third miscarriage in a row, and it’s hard to explain, but she stood up there and sang that song like it was *true.* I’d been having my own struggles with a recent death in the family and listening to her sing that God was good, and that death has lost it’s sting, with her three lost babies, it was certainly a reality check. To this day, when I hear it I make a point to stop and pray for her and her husband.

  26. All three of these are decent songs. I’d take any of them over How Great Is Our God, Blessed Be The Name, or Here I Am To Worship. I am absolutely beyond sick of those three songs and – no exaggeration – never want to hear them again.

    The worst are the songs that repeat the same line over and over ad infinitum (like HGIOG.) I don’t understand why they feel the need to double the length of a four-minute song in live worship. At least when we sing hymns at my traditional Baptist church in Japanese, written in incomprehensible, archaic Japanese from a century ago, I know when the song is going to end.

  27. Martin Romero says:

    I could only hear a bit of songs 2 and 3, as the uploader of number 1 didn’t make it “available in my country” :)

    I’m too off the mark if I think that there’s a certain “sameness” between those songs and many others I’ve heard in church and Christian Unions of students?

    I do wonder now if CCM has been affected by similar issues that seem to affect pop music in general… Has any of you read about the study performed on pop music of the last 50 years, showing that melodies and the types of sounds used are becoming more and more similar than they used to be? And they also found that pop has also become louder through the years.

    Blander and louder?

    Just a couple of articles referencing this:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/9430338/Modern-music-really-does-sound-the-same.html
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jul/27/pop-music-sounds-same-survey-reveals

    • Catherine says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I

      It’s dead simple to write a pop hit.

    • I do agree with the “sameness” issue. Really, there are only a half dozen or so Hillsongs songs that stand out to me as being different, and those are mostly some of their earlier ones.

      Regarding the study, I guess it doesn’t really surprise me. When you’re sticking to simple major and minor chords, you’ll naturally fall into some sort Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant scheme, and everything has been done before in some way. It’s still possible to have some nice melodic hooks over such progressions, though. That’s kind of my main beef with modern worship songs. Most of them don’t really have a memorable melody. It’s not something you’ll find yourself humming during the day. You hear them once and immediately forget about it.

    • Also, regarding the loudness issue, I’d that article is a bit misleading in using the term “inherent loudness”. It’s generally not the fault of the recording engineer or produce that everything is so loud. It comes down to mastering. Within the last 15 years, pop and rock music have gone to using “brickwall” limiting and compression for mastering, so if you look at vu meter while the song is playing back, the needle barely moves away from 0db (that would be the maximum threshold before clipping occurs in a digital recording) during the whole song. Any bit of dynamic range has been squeezed out of the songs. That’s another reason why everything ends up sounding the same.

  28. My main thought was that they’re…okay. Not that bad, but just not that interesting. The problem isn’t that you might sing one of these songs on a Sunday, but that songs like this are all that is sung.

    It’s when all of the songs sound mostly the name, and are covering the same narrowly-understood worship model, that there’s a problem. It could be much more robust, incorporating the best of recent music while uniting with older music that could bring out a fuller understanding of music in worship.

    (or we could just acknowledge that the modern church’s reduction of worship in the service to only music is itself limiting..but that’s a whole other month!)

  29. The third song is one of my favorites and exhibits far more lyrical and theological content in it than the first two songs combined. Vicky Beeching, the author of the track, is one of the few in modern CCM/contemporary P&W who can distill theology into songs quite well. I think she’s continuing with Theological Studies at Durham University at the moment after studying theology at Oxford University as an undergraduate. But comparing her to say Luther, Watts or the Wesley’s is unfair IMHO. She’s probably one of the few bright lights (along with Matt Maher & Derek Webb IMHO) in a CCM world that is quite frankly becoming much of the same shade of abject darkness (i.e. everything sounding like Hillsong). On a related issue, this also remains true for a lot of modern Chinese CCM that I’ve heard which makes me want to puke because it sounds just like Hillsong (musically & lyrically).

  30. If you compare the lyrics of Glory to God Forever to stuff back in the 80’s (think Friends are Friends Forever) I think you must agree we’ve come a long way. In the past few years contemporary Christian music has, for the most part, improved as far as content. Yes, there’s still “I Love the Way You Hold Me” but there’s also “Manifesto” by City Harmonic. Glorious Day is both an old hymn and a new hit.

    There’s no scriptural basis for the notion that we will all play the harp in heaven. I hope to get my hands on a Fender Stratocaster personally.