October 24, 2017

Worship Music: A Further Discussion

By Chaplain Mike

For three Saturdays now, we have posted Michael Spencer’s series on “Worship, CCM, and the Worship Music Revolution.” A foundation has been laid for further discussion.

The American evangelical church has come a long way since 2002, when Michael’s articles first appeared. It is my opinion that the “revolution” is mostly over. We can look back over the past ten years with even more perspective. Doing so, I feel comfortable making the following general statements:

  • In terms of style, “contemporary” music has clearly triumphed and is the music of choice among a majority of evangelicals and their congregations.
  • In terms of content, contemporary music has been maturing, and some of it is characterized by more biblical and theological depth. This includes more adaptation and use of hymns and traditional songs in contemporary styles.
  • In terms of presentation, there are still many problems. Some of these grow out of a deficient understanding of corporate “worship.” Others grow out of the “concert” setup and style of presentation.
  • Commercialization is not driving worship music as much as it used to, but it is still an issue.
  • I remain saddened by the lack of imagination in contemporary church music. At no time in history has the church had more access to historical information, other Christian traditions, the world Christian community, facilities in which music and the arts could be studied and practiced, and technologies which make all kinds of creativity possible. And yet music is used for two primary purposes: (1) to make our churches accessible to people we want to reach who we think won’t like anything “traditional,” and (2) to “touch the hearts” (i.e. guide the emotions) of Christians. Music in many churches is primarily a pragmatic tool for church growth and revivalism, and thus the range of music we use and the ways we present it are incredibly limited. Music in the Christian community ought to be the most diverse, creative, and excellent music in the world.

One way of examining where contemporary worship music is today is to consider what songs are being sung most. CCLI is the leading organization that allows churches to use copyrighted songs without having to pay royalties for each use, and they keep track of the most used music by asking churches to submit periodic reports. Let’s take a look at CCLI’s list of Top 25 Songs, as reported by churches in February. The data captured here is actually about a year old, so this list may not be entirely up to date, but I think it gives a good idea of what many congregations who practice a CCM style of worship are singing.

1 Mighty To Save Fielding, Ben\Morgan, Reuben
2 How Great Is Our God Tomlin, Chris\Reeves, Jesse\Cash, Ed
3 Blessed Be Your Name Redman, Beth\Redman, Matt
4 Everlasting God Brown, Brenton\Riley, Ken
5 Revelation Song Riddle, Jennie Lee
6 Here I Am To Worship Hughes, Tim
7 Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) Tomlin, Chris\Giglio, Louie\Newton, John
8 Open The Eyes Of My Heart Baloche, Paul
9 Your Grace Is Enough Maher, Matt
10 Jesus Messiah Tomlin, Chris\Carson, Daniel\Reeves, Jesse\Cash, Ed
11 In Christ Alone Townend, Stuart\Getty, Keith
12 Holy Is The Lord Tomlin, Chris\Giglio, Louie
13 Forever Tomlin, Chris
14 Shout To The Lord Zschech, Darlene
15 Come Now Is The Time To Worship Doerksen, Brian
16 Our God Redman, Matt\Tomlin, Chris\Myrin, Jonas\Reeves, Jesse
17 You Are My King (Amazing Love) Foote, Billy
18 Lord I Lift Your Name On High Founds, Rick
19 From The Inside Out Houston, Joel
20 Hosanna (Praise Is Rising) Baloche, Paul\Brown, Brenton
21 How He Loves McMillan, John Mark
22 God Of Wonders Byrd, Marc\Hindalong, Steve
23 Hosanna Fraser, Brooke
24 The Heart Of Worship Redman, Matt
25 Beautiful One Hughes, Tim

 

What do you think of this list?

 

I know most of these songs and have either led them or sung them in worship. A few of the newest ones are unknown to me because we have been worshiping primarily in a Lutheran congregation that sings the elements of the liturgy, hymns from the Lutheran hymnal, and occasionally a few, mostly older, choruses. We also have Taizé services, using contemplative Scripture choruses from the ecumenical community in France. If I were in charge of choosing music for our congregation, I could use and fit many of the songs in the chart above into our liturgy at various points and they would help us in worshiping our Lord. Unlike many evangelical churches, however, they would function within the liturgy; they would not become a liturgy of their own. We would not group several pieces into a “song set” with an intentional flow designed to “lead people into worship,” which is the common pattern in evangelical services.

I’m not sure everyone understands that this is basic to the philosophy of “worship leading.” The goal of the leader, the musicians, and singers is to take people on a spiritual/emotional journey, to “lead them to the throne,” to move them from the “outer courts into the holy of holies.” There are many well worked-out philosophies and strategies for doing this. I’ve been to the workshops. I have practiced various iterations of this as a songleader. The pace and rhythm of each song, what key each piece is written in, the transitions between the songs that create “flow,” the instrumentation and volume and all the other elements are carefully calculated to achieve the greatest effect upon the congregation.

Some might argue that all service music is designed to do that to some extent. Right. Music does provide one of the best means for touching and drawing out our emotions. But the use of these strategies and methods has developed exponentially and become incredibly sophisticated since the church has moved to more contemporary models. At a seminar at Willow Creek I attended many years ago, they were frank about what they were trying to do through the elements in their public services (music, drama, media, message). They said they were trying to create unforgettable “moments” for people, moments that would grab their hearts and lead them into transformation. This is pure revivalism, straight out of Finney, through Moody, to Billy Graham, and copied by revivalists of all different theological stripes—Find the means that capture the heart and secure the decision.

I hope you see that what we have here is not an issue of style so much as an issue about what worship is and what the place of music should be in the corporate worship of the church.

Now I know that some of you will say you know lots of evangelical congregations that have a much simpler and more pure approach when it comes to music and worship. You are right. I’ve been part of those churches too. The musicians and worship leaders are unpretentious. It’s not a show but a gathering. The music is not manipulative but heartfelt and the sentiments genuine as people sing to the Lord. I’m preaching in a couple of services like that this summer, in fact, and I look forward to being with those people. One uses a praise band to lead, the other is a very old traditional church that sings hymns with an organ. Neither is from a liturgical tradition. Both services are simple and centered around the Word and the music complements that.

Good for them. Many of these kinds of congregations love music, and even though they may not have a lot of musical talent, they do their best to “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Others have a few remarkably talented people, and they are grounded in humility and wisdom. Whether traditional or contemporary in style, folks in these churches have a maturity about what really matters, which is coming to meet with God through Jesus in the loving community of the Spirit. They haven’t come because they need an emotional high or fix. They don’t care about impressing visitors with showy spectacle. But it’s likely you’ll sense that people have found real meaning in being there. You will be made to feel welcome, and maybe someone will even invite you out for dinner after the service.

However, despite these examples, the trends are still being set by the megachurches and their imitators. I would say, bottom line, my concern is that an area like music has taken on a life of its own in many evangelical churches. For some, I would say it has become too important—as though we couldn’t conceive of worshiping without it, or without it being performed in a certain style, or without approaching the service with the same kind of heightened expectations one might have when going to a spectacular concert. For others, I think it may be not important enough. Music is more than a tool for church growth. It is more than a way to “create moments” for people. Our theology of worship and music can be woefully inadequate at times.

According to Ephesians 5:15-21 and its parallel in Colossians 3:12-17, music plays an important role in enabling the community to be filled with the Spirit and to let Christ’s Word dwell richly within her. These texts put music squarely in the midst of a “one another” lifestyle in which we love and serve one another in Christ, teaching, admonishing, forbearing, forgiving, and submitting to one another. The apostolic picture of worship is not a room full of people with their eyes closed, arms upraised, each “experiencing God’s presence.” Rather, it is a community of singers who look up to Christ and also around to their fellow worshipers, seeing their brothers and sisters in the light of Jesus, extending their arms to one another, and together reaching out toward the world with his love.

That has little to do with style; that’s about life.

Comments

  1. Thanks for these insights. I join you in the sadness about a lack of imagination in contemporary church music. Perhaps, this lack is even more widespread, and flows into areas of Christian spirituality more generally, leading to a broader based impoverishment.

    You state: “Music in the Christian community ought to be the most diverse, creative, and excellent music in the world.” What a wonderful picture. And your last sentence in the post concerning worship is excellent: This is very well put and exemplary for all who follow in the footsteps of the Crucified and Risen One. Merci.

    • This was a great post by CM, but I’ve got to say I don’t think Christian music will ever be the most diverse, creative and excellent music in the world. Perhaps there is room somewhere in Christianity for the broken artists, social outcasts, iconoclasts who feel deeply and put their pain into the music, but from what I’ve seen, only the happy, well-socialized and firm in their faith need apply to be Christian musicians.

      When the suicide rate of Christian musicians matches the suicide rate as musicians as a whole, then we will know that Christian musicians are finally delving down into the reality of this broken and fallen world, the pain that produces art. I can’t believe I typed that, but I think there may be something to it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Perhaps there is room somewhere in Christianity for the broken artists, social outcasts, iconoclasts who feel deeply and put their pain into the music, but from what I’ve seen, only the happy, well-socialized and firm in their faith need apply to be Christian musicians.

        It’s called Shiny Happy Clappy Christians. Anyone who is not Shiny Happy Clappy With Everything 110% Perfect 110% of the time need not apply.

        When the suicide rate of Christian musicians matches the suicide rate as musicians as a whole, then we will know that Christian musicians are finally delving down into the reality of this broken and fallen world, the pain that produces art. I can’t believe I typed that, but I think there may be something to it.

        One of my contacts (the Louisville one) used to tell a story of a travelling guest preacher who asked him “Have you ever considered Depression might be your Spiritual Gift?” and went on to describe how it was often the dark and strong emotions that empower creativity. My informant speculated that the demand for All Shiny Happy Clappy All The Time was driving away the next C.S.Lewises from the churches — why go where you’re not wanted? — and leaving only Happy Clappy Cotton Candy.

        As someone trying to start a second career as an SF writer, I can confirm that the dark and strong emotions are often what empower writing. In my entire life, I have only had four stories burst into my mind fully-formed; all are said to be my most powerful, and all three are DARK. (Dark as in “The last time this happened, a unicorn got beheaded.”)

        • Radagast says:

          I know I’ve read that last line somewhere…

          Contemporary Christian music is not on my radar. If I want entertained I’ll be listening to my anything early seventies collection….

          I remember as a kid in the early seventees we had a folk group in our Catholic Church (one of the first Duquesne Charismatic churches so I’m told), Anyway they used to sing this song and one day recently I heard a comedian do it and realized it must have been more than a regional song at the time. It was called “Table of the Lord” and everytime I play the words in my head I think of Cannibalism –

          It went somethin like

          Come on down
          Hear His Holy Word
          Gather round
          The table of the Lord

          Eat His Body,
          Drink his Blood
          And we’ll sing
          Our song of love
          Alleluh, Alleluh, Alleluh, Alleluh, ..luya…..

          picture with the girls in pressed blond hair banging on accoustics and tambourines…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy, you made my day.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “I try to make everyone’s day a bit more surreal.”
            — Calvin & Hobbes

        • The Age of Happy Clappy has no need of unicorns.

          (loose translation from the French)

      • Nate Barrow says:

        “When the suicide rate of Christian musicians matches the suicide rate as musicians as a whole, then we will know that Christian musicians are finally delving down into the reality of this broken and fallen world, the pain that produces art.”

        No offense, but that’s a disturbing/idiotic statement

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The lack is more widespread, Greg. Being from an SF litfan background, I’m most familiar with written genre fiction, and the lack of imagination among Christian (TM) fiction is unbelievable. Amish Bonnet Romances, Facing the Giants Wish-Fulfillments, Amish Bonnet Romances, Near-Future Persecution Dystopias, Amish Bonnet Romances, Left Behind knockoffs (AKA Ultimate Escape Fantasy followed by Ultimate Revenge Fantasy), Amish Bonnet Romances, Christianese imitations of what was Trendy last year, Christian (TM) Celebrity Best-Sellers (John & Kate Plus Eight, anyone?) Altar-call Endings, Bible-verse money shots, all preaching to the choir, all reassuring “You Are Right, They Are Wrong”, all incredibly LAME. (There’s a website called “Heathen Critique” that does to Christian (TM) best-sellers what Slacktivist did to Left Behind.)

      • And people wonder why I don’t include Christian fiction novels in my English classes. We haven’t had a decent Christian fiction author since Tolkien died.

      • In fact, it was Lewis who said that we need is fewer Christian authors and more authors who are Christians.

      • beakerj says:

        You forgot Amish Bonnet Romances.
        I’ve read some *hangs head*, but I was having a breakdown at the time.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Hey watch it, I live up here in Indiana Amish country. Amish is a brand around here, and Amish romances are in all the stores. In fact about 2 years ago I went way out into a protected forest to take photographs. When I was back in the deepest part of the woods, I heard a lot of laughing and talk and coming toward me was two Amish teens. The girl was about 15, the boy 16 or 17. They were holding hands, and when they passed me the boy had the biggest smile on his face. Maybe a budding romance? When I got back to the parking area, there were two bicycles locked to the fence. Now I don’t really want to know the rest of the story, but it was fun to see them.

  2. “It’s not a show but a gathering.” – you nailed it right there!

  3. “I remain saddened by the lack of imagination in contemporary church music. At no time in history has the church had more access to historical information, other Christian traditions, the world Christian community, facilities in which music and the arts could be studied and practiced, and technologies which make all kinds of creativity possible.”

    The post seems almost ignorant of the massive supplier of contemporary church music: GIA.

    • I am most definitely not ignorant of GIA, but my post is directed primarily toward lack of imagination in the American evangelical church, which by and large ignores sources like this.

      • I would have been suprised if you were not aware of GIA. My push back was oriented toward the assumption (not really directed at you) that contemporary Christian music equals contemporary Evangelical music which clearly is not the case.

        There is lots of contemporary music used by Protestants and others that does not engage in the stereotypical Evangelical pathos. I, for one, would be interested in what “Post-Evangelicals” think about the wide variety of music that a place like GIA produces (or some other contemporary music producer). From a “Post-Evangelical” perspective is GIA simply unknown, more of the same, different but just as bad, a viable alternative etc.

        I do wonder sometimes, however, if those using the label Post-Evangelical simply mean “Disgruntled Evangelical.” Where is the “Post.” To this reader there does appear at times to be a critical fixation on “main-line” Evangelicalism and then acting like it is THE Church.

        No offense intended, I really do enjoy the posts and I visit regularly. It’s just a bit of a rant without nuance. Thanks for your fobearance.

      • The Guy from Knoxville says:

        I did a quick search and visit to the GIA website……. I must pursue this further! Being an organist, nearly forbidden in SBC churches these days, I found that GIA, while providing good contemporary christian music, includes traditional instrumentation for their hymnals and other contemporary christian (contemporary sacred?) and the organ is specifically mentioned in descriptive information on the hymnals and other music they provide. Very nice group GIA is and something that needs more checking out by evangelicals.

        CM, if it were not for the furor that would come from it, I would send this entire post to a former music director that could benefit from it if he but had an open mind to it. Unfortunately, I learned a lesson the hard way a few years back when I sent one of Michael’s posts to a former pastor – to say the least…… it didn’t go well and the thought of loosing the organist position in that church crossed my mind after reading his less than nice response.

        Thanks for the post – this really needs to be addressed more in evangelical circles and being from an SBC background they most definitely need to re-examine music and the arts…… much of it has been lost in this denomination.

    • GIA puts out a lot of wonderful things, and I agree that they are a great source for high quality contemporary worship music. How many of the churches interested in providing the type of “experience” being supplied, however, purchase music from GIA? I am sure that we could find some that do, but I am guessing that most have licenses with CCLI. Beyond this, while GIA does put out hymnals with contemporary music, this would on its face be a roadblock for a “worship experience”: a hymnal, which is a pretty “old fashioned” concept that would “distract” worshipers from the show and maybe even expect people to be able to read music. Beyond this, GIA puts out a great deal of choral music. How many churches have abandoned the choir as a part of their corporate worship? (As an aside, I find it ironic that some churches which don’t have choirs for theological reasons, ie lack of congregational participation, don’t see the same problems in their worship bands). GIA, I would think, appeals to a different church demographic than what what is being discussed.

      For those not familiar with GIA, here’s their website (well worth checking out):

      http://www.giamusic.com

    • GIA really does make great, underused products which the evangelical church could really benefit from using. However, they seem to serve some specific groups, publishing hymnals for the Catholic church, the NACCC, and African American Baptist churches, among others. Oh, and they’re one of the few to publish Taize sheet music in America. But most of that is, though culturally rich, outside the generic evangelical mainstream, which of course, is anything but culturally rich.

  4. The apostolic picture of worship is not a room full of people with eyes closed, arms upraised, each “experiencing God’s presence.”

    CM, can you comment more on why you continue to frame the worship discussions as either/or? Do I understand you correctly that if you see the above in a church you (immediately) conclude that it is emotionalism and manipulation by church leadership? Is there a way you can imagine for people who include more charismatic-leaning expressions of worship (including that described above) among their worship vocabulary to read this statement and not find it condescending?

    • I should add that I like much of what you say in this post. I often think of Yancey’s description of the Psalms (spirituality in every key) when I think about a philosophy of worship: that is, I find thoughtful variety from across the worship style spectrum as helpful to pushing (growing) my comprehension of God’s greatness and vastness.

    • LD, I speak out of 35 years of observation and experience. Though I think the charismatic movement, especially at the beginning, brought some fresh new winds to evangelical worship, it also brought a lot of narcissism and a way of relating to God that borders on gnosticism. I’m not shy to say I see a lot of Corinthian-style worship in the church today, the kind of worship that Paul himself roundly criticized and tried to regulate by apostolic authority. I most certainly do not have that authority, but I share his viewpoint.

      As for church leadership, “emotionalism and manipulation” is exactly what is happening in many instances. I was one of those guys once. I’ve got the t-shirt and the notebooks from conferences encouraging it.

      If you think that’s condescending, so be it. I am trying to be discerning and honest in my evaluation and critique.

      • I really thought CM’s article was a fair critique that lacked a lot of the condescension that occurs in these types of discussion. Also, as a pastor of ~12 yrs (10 in youth ministry) I agree with the state on narcissism and gnosticism of the modern worship movement, particularly amongst those with a “charismatic/pentecostal” background. Call it unfair or condescending, but I never hear more “I feel…”, “I think…”, and the perennial “the Lord’s leading me…” than from those fostered in this type of worship culture. Some how everyone’s got the pulse on the Holy Spirits “leadings” but for some reason they’re all headed in opposite directions.

  5. One of my biggest laments is that our churches are singing lyrical garbate. It’s not enough to avoid contradicting good theology. It used to be that churches came together and sang poetry. Poetry is a foreign concept to our culture. But for those who can discover it, there is a world of depth in artfully crafted expressions of language. They serve for a much more artistically developed platform for song lyrics, and put to melodies, they become known as “hymns.”

    • Damaris says:

      I agree, Miguel. Among contemporary songwriters, though, Stuart Townend stands out as someone who is writing real hymns, with simple but effective poetry. I’m glad he had at least one song on that list.

      • I agree with you and I don’t really classify In Christ Alone as a contemporary song. I know it was written recently but its poetry, style and depth make it more like a hymn.

        • “In Christ Alone” is good but what about “How Great the Father’s Love for Us”

          • Scott Miller says:

            Townend definitely follows a hymnal writing style, which I appreciate. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” reflects that, with no verse/chorus.

          • i agree. There is something ancient about “how great the Father’s love for us”. i cry almost everytime i here it.

        • FWIW, both Townend and Getty consider themselves modern hymn writers.

    • Occasionally, a gifted authentic writer gets their music out. But, essentially worship has become a capitalistic industry, making huge profits. Before late 20th century, worship music was a co-operation between music writers and theologians. Now, it is all about profit.

      • Yup. The music industry in general has experienced a ginormous shift in the last 50 or so years. I suppose it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the church to remain completely unaffected by it.

    • Look at the list above. There are a lot of good, theologically rich songs on that list. And that is the list that churches have been singing.

      • That list is remarkably similar to my job description over the last 5 years. Yes, low on theological error. But the vast majority of even the top 100 songs, though they contain notable exceptions, do not remotely qualify as poetry.

      • I affirmed that in one of my points and I think the list does show progress with regard to content.

  6. “Rather, it is a community of singers who look up to Christ and also around to their fellow worshipers, seeing their brothers and sisters in the light of Jesus, extending their arms to one another, and together reaching out toward the world with his love.”

    That’s why Ephesians says to sing to each other, and Colossians places singing in the context of admonishing one another. There is a horizontal aspect to worship as well as a vertical one. The charismatic worship movement wants everyone in spiritual isolation with a direct connection to God that tunes everyone else out. Is it no wonder this approach creates disciples that live that way?

  7. This weekend I was traveling by myself for an hour or so. When by myself on a country road, I like to roll down the windows and crank up the local hip hop/rap station as loud as my stereo goes. At least one teenager has called me a wigger. I am probably odd for a 42 year old grey hair white middle class guy.

    Although the lyrics are far from Christian, they produce the same kinds of emotions in me that many of the cutting edge worship services do.

    At least I admit that what I am doing on the country road is not worship.

    • I sing to Kelly Clarkson or Snow Patrol when I am stuck in traffic. Love some of that stuff, “Chasing Cars” is a really cool song. 🙂

  8. i appreciate your use of the word “manipulative.” i attended my first CCM-driven service a couple weeks ago and that’s precisely how i felt–manipulated. There were dramatic background images shown behind every line of each song. And the singer (it was recorded music) still did improvisational melody lines on the last choruses and such. It felt like at every given moment i was being told precisely what i should feel–like i was being programmed. Manipulative is precisely the word i would use. (Also, i’m a gen-Xer. This stuff doesn’t attract all of us young-uns.)

    –guy

    • I would have L-u-v-e-d all that singing and “emotion” at church…at fifteen or sixteen. When I had just discovered “luv” and every other emotion in the range of an adolescent girl, heart on sleeve et. al.

      But, about the same time that I realized that real marital love can be expressed by getting up with the baby (when it itsn’t really your turn) and that having someone to hold you when fit hits the shan can be better than skimpy nighties and roses…I also looked for more real than emotional outbursts at church as well.

      “Happy-Clappy-Christians” is my new favorite phrase. Sometimes slogging through this “vale of tears” sucks badly, and it is lying to pretend otherwise ALL the TIME….

      • Radagast says:

        but Pattie I like skimpy nighties… on my wife of course ; ) …also like the whole fit hits the shan thing… yeah… when you can sit back with your spouse and enjoy a funny moment with the little white tornado… just after he has taken both of us to the edge of the cliff… gotta love it and yeah… that’s love.

        But then happy-clappy-christian doesn’t apply to my faith tradition – c’mon HUG – ya need to come up with a moniker for those of us who incorporate suffering as a way of life…
        (joking)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I don’t need to. Blue Oyster Cult has already done it for me, in “Veterans of the Psychic Wars”.

  9. Songs 2,3, and 6 are ones I would be happy to never hear again.

    Even though Hillsong as a megachurch organization triggers my gag reflex, I actually like a lot of their music (like the United albums) and think they’re surprisingly diverse and well-written.

  10. Michael,

    A well written piece. Thank you!

  11. Regarding commercialization, I’m not sure if it’s any better or worse than it was when Michael first wrote this. Back then, the big scandal was that Third Day had a corporate sponsor, and Hillsong was beginning to charge for their “worship” concerts. This has only gotten more pronounced, as it seems common place to expect something to be advertised as a “worship experience” with an increasing price tag. I just saw a large worship group claim their upcoming tour as a “group of revivalists” wanting to ignite young people. Their starting price for a show is $76, and that’s without Ticketmasters’ fee.

    On the other hand, there seems to be less cynicism on the part of the labels to tack the word “Worship” on everything and see if it sells. I remember piece on the DVD Anti-Christ: a video that promised a “Complete Worship Experience.” I don’t know if the CCM industry is being quite that crass these days.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There’s a video parody on YouTube called “Worship Star” by “Shekelback”. Check it out sometime.

    • I just saw something that said something like: “have a life changing encounter with God at our next conference. $60.00 fee”

    • The Guy from Knoxville says:

      Speaking of commercialism – look at the evolution that has happened in the SBC publishing from the old Broadman Press and Baptist Sunday School Board to the monstrosity (in some ways) that is Lifeway Christian Resources and from the music standpoint it’s a wreck in many ways though there are some halfway decent things that seem to be slipping out these days however, for the most part, this entitiy called Lifeway has decimated a music and worship tradition that was the envy of many in evangelicalism……. yes, I know envy might not be the best way to put it but it was the only word that came to mind and the SBC did have a reputation of bringing up/training some of the most gifted musicians (vocal, choral, instrumental) in evangelicalism in years gone by and now……… well, most know what it is now.

  12. “The apostolic picture of worship is not a room full of people with their eyes closed, arms upraised, each ‘experiencing God’s presence.’ Rather, it is a community of singers who look up to Christ and also around to their fellow worshipers, seeing their brothers and sisters in the light of Jesus, extending their arms to one another, and together reaching out toward the world with his love.”

    I agree with you, insofar as worship does not end with a room full of people experiencing God in that way. However, we must be careful when we draw conclusions about a congregation simply based on the visible method of their adoration. As head of worship development at my local church, I have seen a slew of different responses to a number of different “styles” and can tell you that although it may not be the complete apostolic picture, it certainly can be a component of it.

    God has given guidelines in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, as to how he should be worshiped. He is to be praised (Ps. 33:3, 34:1) with music and instruments (150:3-5), with hands raised high (63:4, 134:2), on our knees (95:6), clapping hands (47:1). Again, Romans 12:1-2 teaches that in presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, our entire lives are to be lived in continuous acts of worship.

    The presence of the living God, more specifically the recognition of his presence by believers to whom he has given the gift of his Spirit, can have a number of different effects on people, and often, the popular fashion of expressing the joy of that gift is to raise one’s hands and stand there speechless in his glory, because it’s hard to think about anything else at the moment. We are human and we are limited. We are emotional creatures, designed to be so by God, and as such we are subject to emotional responses when faced with God’s magnificence. In a moment of revelation, or conviction, or epiphany, sometimes all we can do is fall on our knees or raise our hands or weep. However I totally agree with you that when we resort to emotional manipulation we tread on thin ice indeed. For it is not up to us as worship leaders to invoke the emotion. That’s God’s job.

  13. David Cornwell says:

    When I go to an evangelical contemporary church of this kind, this first words that come to mind when entering the building are “stage” and “performance.” And next is how much the pastor has surrendered the service to the “leader.” His only role seems to be giving the “how to” sermon of the day.

    Thanks for the picture of the group of black people in a worship setting. It reflects some of the real joy of their worship tradition. What can we learn from them? This is a question I ask myself quite often.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      When I go to an evangelical contemporary church of this kind, this first words that come to mind when entering the building are “stage” and “performance.”

      And what happens when they find something else that gives them a bigger performance experience?

      • [Insert crude blue pill joke here]

      • David Cornwell says:

        A church I attend on occasion has steadily improved the quality of it’s worship in the contemporary service I go to. The new pastor has gradually added new liturgical elements, and now sometimes does not have the mid-service coffee & refreshment break. But most of the service is turned over to the worship leader who turns up the volume so loudly that even if anyone tried to sing, you’d never know it. Choruses last forever, and Marge refuses to stand up for them anymore due to her physical problems.

        Recently I attended and the worship leader was out of town with the youth on a mission trip. In his place they had a very talented young pianist and singer who writes her own music. She led in some of the same type of choruses and then basically gave a performance for the remainder of the service (which was too long). She was very talented, if and if she were my daughter I’d be proud of her. The pastor for the most part seemed content to do very little. He didn’t have to preach. The “service” was basically entertainment.

        Now I like the pastor a lot. I don’t want to offend him. We are planning a meeting over coffee in the near future and if the conversation leads to it I will have a discussion about worship with him. I have a feeling that he found himself presented with a fait accompli.

  14. dumb ox says:

    I know most of the songs on even the CCLI top 100. Most of them are decent songs. I can’t spot a “Jesus my girlfriend” song even in the list above. But when I am in a worship service where these songs are performed (yes, performed), I find it very difficult to the sing along. The meter, pitch, tempo, etc. make it very difficult to follow along, or the rockin’ instrumentalization becomes distracting. I can’t do much but watch the show. Congregational singing and the worship show don’t mix.

    To prove the point, watch video footage of a rock concert. Typically the lead vocalist will tell the audience that they can sing along on the chorus of a song, but not the verses. Why? Because the audience participation throws off the band’s tempo. This is what happens in band-lead congregational worship – especially in large auditoriums. How many congregations can clap on-beat, let alone stay on tempo with their singing? The answer? drown out the congregation with louder music. The show must go on. But perhaps I over-estimate the importance of congregational singing in the worship show. Perhaps it’s not about everyone raising a common voice in praise to God, but rather each individual quietly singing along to themselves as they participate in the experience. An auditorium filled with a thousand individuals is not congregational worship.

    • dumb ox says:

      Not to mention when the song leaders ham it up, I mean are “in the spirit” and jump around in the song or unexpectedly jump between songs or change the tempo or even the words on-the-fly, or throw in a lead guitar solo in the middle of a song. All you can do is stop and wait to see where the leader is going next. There is no way to truly have congregational worship. The worship leader is having a moment, and the congregation are the back-up vocalists. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for variation, but order is an important part of leading a congregation in worship.

      • The number one problem with “CCM” music in church is that the tempo of the songs is not conducive to a large group of people all trying to sing it together.

      • “The worship leader is having a moment”…sometimes that “moment” is most of the time… that idea of contemporary music musicians being able to be in a “worship zone” longer and with more enthusiasm than an audience could ever maintain (because they the musicians are doing something they love) gave me a blog post worth of writing a while back.(my avatar/name will lead you there I think).. I have no problem with musicians using their gifts but it mystifies me why that gift in particular gets center stage (pop culture relevance I guess) but I’m a visual artist and I know that it would be impossible to get a crowd of people to watch me work for 1/2 hr and get something really meaningful out of it. That may be a poor comparison but rockin worship IMO is usually been about the performers and their expression of worship (despite what they may say) than the audience. It’s very structure (band up front on stage) promotes that imbalance and audience – performer disconnect that erodes full Biblical congregational participation…

      • The Guy from Knoxville says:

        I completely agree on the “band led” worship – it doesn’t work for large group singing. On thing I always enjoyed as an organist was playing for congregational singing and if you do your job right the congregation (large or small) will follow along wonderfully and, generally, enjoy the experience assuming that your not an organist given to flashy playing such that you become the show. No, keep registrations in check – you are leading to some degree but accompanying also and for goodness sake read the text of the hymn, song or whatever you are playing – that will give you tips as to how to register the organ verse to verse……. everything does not have to be played with the “full organ” or “tutti” on or the crescendo shoe wide open! I have known an organist or two that think that’s the only way to play in service and it’s not – there is a place for that on occasion if the hymn is a big hymn of praise but even then one must consider that people are singing and that’s what matters more so than the instrument. The COC that my wife and I attend sings quite well and there are no instruments though, I suspect, that could change in the future. There has been some discussion recently among the elders and the preacher about this…… no instruments right now but they are open minded enough to begin to consider it so who knows what might happen there.

        • CCsoprano says:

          As a choir member, I’ve seen and experienced the problem of congregational singing first hand from the choir loft in a number of attempts at “blended worship” in my church (conservative side of the PCUSA). It is painful to watch the part of the congregation that prefers the traditional service struggle with singing the CCM songs. It is painful to watch the members from the contemporary service, as they can only manage the choruses. Some manage the entire song, but only because these songs are used repeatedly in the contemporary service. Meanwhile, many of us in the choir end up feeling like musical doofuses because we can’t follow the band, even with notated version of the music in our hands. Its been better when the music director has had us rehearse with the band, but not by much. The worst times are when the choir becomes the back up singers for what is a glorified garage band.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:

            In a past church that I was assistant organist at they brought in a new pastor who subsequently brought in his “music guy” and the change began and the praise team and praise band became the norm and the choir, and to some degree the congregation, became (still is btw) back up to the trendy, pretty faces in the band and praise team. I think this was addressed in some responses to one of the other ccm posts however, part of this commericalism and showy trend in worship makes itself known via the praise band and praise team or singers – you know…… the ones that are auditioned, are bean pole skinny, tan, buff (if you’re a guy), wear the latest trending clothing and shoes, have the latest trendy haircut or hair style and generally appear to have their **** together. Tha was never so true than the church I mentioned above that I was assistant at – soon as the new pastor, his music guy and youth guy got there and started the change – you never saw such speed in the change…… the staff on the heavy side got skinny, tan, buff, latest clothing, shoes, hair style, houses in nice mid to upper class subdivisions etc. New building projects for the church (they’re still in debt for those and the pastor has since left – go figure!) including a 2,500 seat auditorium that is about 1/2 full on Sunday mornings – never been full on a Sunday that I’m aware of…… only during special occasions or concerts – not even full during the seasonal music presentations.

            I could go on but I think you get the idea and contemporary is the rule and everything else the exception or accident. Same thing, basically though to a lesser degree, happend at the church following that where I served as organist and since I left the organ has not been used in a Sunday service (it’s now disconnected) and that’s been a little over two years now.

    • My mom isn’t saved and has asked me questions about spiritual things while I was growing up. One of those questions was: ” why do churches use songs and sing them in ways that other people can’t follow?” I think back then I said, “ya, that irritates me, too.” There was absolutely nothing I could say to that because we should all be able to lift our voices together, and not raise them over each other.

  15. It saddens me that most of the songs on that list were songs that I used as a lead worshipper back in the early part off the LAST decade. It seems that the more things change the more they remain the same. (I know, I know, but I just HAD to say it…) Frankly, one of the main reasons I quit leading worship and left the “church” was due to the complete lack of imagination in worship music. Sadly, “the world” has had us beat in this regard for decades and decades. And while I realize that there are some talented musicians and songwriters in our midst, it seems that there is a real lack of good music here.
    I loved Allen’s comment about driving along a country road and singing along with some really loud hip-hop. Way to go.
    BTW-If I NEVER “sing of your love forever”- again, it will be too soon!

    • David Cornwell says:

      “If I NEVER “sing of your love forever”- again, it will be too soon!”

      Reminds me of how much I hate it when I have lyrics I don’t even like running around in my head, refusing to go away. Especially when I’m driving. It’s then that turning the radio on is a necessity. Or even better, reciting a Psalm.

    • Wait, wait, wait… one of the main reasons you left the church was b/c of a lack of imagination with Music?

      • sarahmorgan says:

        Church is all about communicating the Gospel…..operative word being “communicating”….if your communication is clunky, garbled, boring, and/or drowned out or distracted by bad music, then you’ve failed in your goal…and people leave church (though they don’t always leave their faith)….you don’t know that?

        • I’m sorry, that’s pretty petty. “Sorry Lord, I’d love to honor your desire that I be one with those who also have faith in you but…have you heard how crappy they sing.”

          Biblical definition of “perseverance”: long suffering.

          • We can be around other christians without going to church on sunday mornings. God is the author and finisher of our faith, not the hired shepard that runs when the wolf lurks near. I am glad you found a place in church where you are able to predict the when and how when it comes to serving the church and community in which you live. Some of us are not called to one of the several churches that argue doctrine and compete with loudness of the worship service that litter a one mile radius in our small area of town, but are called in a more spontanious way to edify other members of the body. I found a bible study I have happened to be able to regularly attend, and my husband happens to play guitar, and loves the Lord. I believe that I am active in church, and that I attend church regularly because I keep my eyes and ears open for the how and when God wants me in particular to be obedient to this or that specific command. Believe me, I wish my life were as predictable as yours, but it just isn’t, and that is ok with me today. I walk step by step in the Holy Spirits footsteps, and persevere in who He is, not in what I can do for Him in my own power.

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:

            Pastor…… for what it’s worth – I think you missed the point. Further comment not needed.

        • Start with the statement, “church is ALL ABOUT communicating the gospel”. If that is true, then you may be right. However, if church is about MORE (or about something else) than effectively propogating facts about God, then you need to rethink the strategy for a different goal altogether.

  16. I think that is the crux of the entire matter. It is not that the music is contemporary, it is that it is presented in the style of a rock concert. What happens when the participants go home and the buzz wears off? Is that “decision for Jesus” which was evoked going to wear off, too?

    Our own guy said this in his message to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music on its 100th anniversary this month:

    “Sometimes, in fact, these elements that are found in Sacrosanctum Concilium, such as, precisely, the value of the great ecclesial patrimony of sacred music or the universality that is characteristic of Gregorian chant, have been held to express a concept which corresponds with a past that needs to be superseded and set aside because it is supposed to limit the freedom and creativity of the individual and of communities. Yet we must always ask ourselves anew: who or what is the authentic subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. It is not the individual person or group which is celebrating the liturgy, but is first and foremost God’s action through the Church which has her own history, her rich tradition and her creativity.

    The liturgy, and consequently sacred music, “lives on a correct and constant relationship between healthy traditio and legitima progressio”, keeping constantly in mind the fact that these two concepts — which the Council Fathers clearly underlined — merge since “tradition is a living reality, which therefore includes in itself the principle of development, of progress” (Address to the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of the Athenaeum of Sant’Anselmo, 6 May 2011).”

    Unfortunately, most music in Catholic churches lags way behind the ideal, but I have to say, I don’t know of anywhere that has a kickin’ band and a concert atmosphere – I ask my co-religionists in America to tell me otherwise?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Not at St Boniface. I haven’t even heard “Gather Us In” (a notorious lightweight entrance hymn) used in over six months.

      • Hey, Headless, do people at your church actually sing or do they do the ‘resolutely looking down at their shoes when the priest tries to get them to sing’ bit?

        🙂

        • Radagast says:

          Sometimes its a struggle to get them to even answer in the Mass (arms folded, teeth clenched), as if, like some middle school thing, its just not cool to respond…

          Actually, if you really want to get ra eaction, SING LOUD… that gets them turning around…..

        • Anonymous says:

          The first few times I went to mass the nuns were singing and I could hear the people singing even from the back row. Then I went to a mass in neighborhood parish. All I could hear was the cantor and even he didn’t seem too thrilled….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          …do people at your church actually sing or do they do the ‘resolutely looking down at their shoes when the priest tries to get them to sing’ bit?

          Little bit of both. Some do, some don’t. I don’t sing all that well, so I usually don’t.

    • Radagast says:

      Being I love music and it relly gets the endorphins going when I am listening I ask the same question myself….

  17. This is a list of the cream of CCM, keep in mind that most evangelical churches will sing four other songs right after these that might not even mention God. Songs like 6 and 20 always make me feeling like I’m praise myself and not the Lord. How He Loves start off “He is jealous of me” which is the exact opposite of what God says in Exodus 20:5 and 34:14 and other places in scripture. I also still don’t know who is actually being sung about in song 25. And songs like number 7 bug me to no end. They, CCM musicians, take old hymns that are perfectly good songs and feel like that can improve them by adding their own words and choruses, then sell CDs with these songs on them and sell out concerts and worship shows and make money off of it. Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby and the rest aren’t rolling in their graves, their happy that they are no longer associated with those songs.

  18. I thought I knew two of those songs on the list (Amazing Grace and How Great is Our God), but on Googling, I don’t know the Chris Tomlin one, but rather a song with the same title:

    How great is our God
    How great is His name
    How great is our God
    Forever the same
    He rolled back the waters
    Of the mighty Red Sea
    And He said, “I’ll never leave you,
    Put your trust in Me”

    No idea who wrote it, learned it back in school in the late 70s/early 80s. If “Amazing Grace” isn’t the traditional one, I don’t know that either 🙂

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      It’s an adaptation of the traditional one.

      • So I know a whole (half of) one on the list! Whee!

        😉

        • JSturty says:

          Don’t worry, Martha. I have been an evangelical pastor for 35 years, the last 15 as a hosptial chaplain also serving as interim pastor, and I do not know any of these songs! Most of my pastoring has been in rural areas among older congregations who wanted the old American 19th and early 20th century gospel hymns used in their worship services. “Power in the Blood’, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “At Calvary”. And don’t you dare bring any of that “new fangled” stuff like “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” or ” Be Thou My Vision” in here. My. My. And yet what great saints of God I have known in these churches. What a fine diversity God has called together to be the Church.

        • This it the American top 25, but the Canadian and the U.K. ones look similar. You will probably recognize some from the U.K. list. “Shine, Jesus, Shine” is still on there. I know pretty much all of them, cause that is what we sing in our church (along with some hymns too)

    • The new “How Great is our God” shares only the title / one line of lyric with the song you quoted, Martha. I remember yours from the 70s, too; it’s a folky tune that I mostly encountered at Catholic prayer meetings. The new one is more of a power ballad with verse-chorus-bridge. I’d link to a YouTube rendition, but I think we’re links-disabled here.

  19. dumb ox says:

    If the focus was on word and sacrament, I think the music would be less of a distraction. If the music was more like short antiphones distributed throughout the service, I think it would lend texture and depth to worship. But there is very little contemporary Christian music out there that even comes close to this. One exception would be “Kyrie Eleison” by Leigh Nash & Friends on the “City on a Hill” CD series. Worship should have flow and direction toward one point where we all arrive at the Master’s Table to receive grace, forgiveness, and strength. Music should be like the candles along the path lighting the way. Spoken congregational, common prayers and creeds would also help light the way and draw the congregation together – without the use of music. But few churches have such a focus. Even important stops along the way, such as the call to confession and assurance of forgiveness would be offensive to most congregations. The music show becomes a convenient substitute for substance.

    • That’s exactly what I meant when I said in our church the music fits within the liturgy rather than becoming the liturgy.

    • +1

    • ” If the music was more like short antiphones distributed throughout the service, I think it would lend texture and depth to worship. But there is very little contemporary Christian music out there that even comes close to this.”

      My rant above touches on this. There is massive amounts of contemporary music which does exactly what you are lamenting.

  20. i like music. and i was dramatically impressed by the Vineyard Music selections being produced in the mid-late 90’s & later.

    David Ruis anybody???

    i think it was John Wimber that said something to the effect the Vineyard ‘sings’ its prayers…

    since music in a church setting should be participatory, except for the acapella singing in Latin during high liturgy services, i for one like having songs i recognize included.

    now it must be said that just because Matt Redman & Chris Tomlin & Tim Hughes or even David Crowder (no one mentioned him yet) can put together worshipful music, repeating that as more like a ‘tribute’ instead of a heart cry can be perceived as a stage performance rather than worship…

    singing hymns is a good inclusion when done well. but then the concept of what worship is & how it is to be experienced a bit more elusive given the individual’s condition & what is moving or inspirational or, well, worshipful…

    i can be moved by amazing music & the setting that helps magnify that sensation. but i can be very much worshipful when singing a contemporary song/chorus that does touch me & has me focusing on God…

    i am not as convinced the music selection in the worship wars as critical a battle as some believe it is. i think it is the heart of a congregation that is committed to the gospel & communal fellowship & loving God & others that must be the core. everything else that identifies such a faith community during its weekly ‘service’ or gathering together i would permit greater leeway.

    worship concerts? charging for such things? i believe a misrepresentation of what worship should be. and i also think that simply because at any convention or teaching time if someone says, “now let’s just worship the Lord before we begin…” & then starts in with a song does not automatically make it so. i don’t think you can turn on/off worship with a convenient switch…

    just thinking out loud here…

  21. Scott Miller says:

    I am surprised to see so many “older” CCM songs in the list. “Here I Am to Worship” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” are both 90’s songs, albeit the popular artists today have mined them to use with new, rocked out arrangements.

    I also like the comment where the person was feeling manipulated. That is exactly true.

  22. Scott Miller says:

    One of the things that disappoints me about CCM is that it is “happy clappy”, to borrow the White Horse Inn’s term. I am unemployed and unhappy about it. There is no room in a manipulative evangelical worship service for mourning, blues, or even reflection. My church is studying Ecclesiastes this summer (when the pastor is not on vacation), but the music doesn’t reflect it. The message I get is that my sorrow is “not welcome”.

    • unemployed? ouch…

      me too…

      and recently relocated to a new town. i haven’t found a local fellowship yet to begin attending…

      at the faith community i left, there was time for reflection during the music/worship time as the lights were dimmed & everyone permited to sit, stand, kneel, sing, not sing, pray, meditate, etc. there was no real pressure or expectation during this time that made one feel manipulated or having to ‘perform’ along with the performance…

      i usuall sat down & simply prayed/worshipped/meditated. then i would get up & take communion & come back to my seat & sit down until the service ended. services began with one song, & ended with a longer set of songs after the preaching/teaching time or message. i did like that arrangement…

      i remember when i was going thru the early throes of divorce when i was an emotional wreck i would stay in the back of the church & actually lay down in the pew with eyes closed during the entire time. nobody bothered me. and it was what i needed to do at that time…

      collectively, during any ‘gathering’, there can be times where it seems the group is being insensitive. i know what you are talking about. i hope it is not so distasteful you take it out on the people that are clueless.

    • Scott I’m sorry for your difficulty. My sister was unemployed for almost 2 years and I watched that play out. I’m sorry about your pain.

    • The ancient Israelites had room from mourning and blues and reflection, so it must be biblical. After Jerusalem was destroyed and they were hauled off into slavery somebody wrote Psalm 137 (Reggae version available on youtube, the Melodians singing Rivers of Babylon):

      1By the waters of Babylon,
      there we sat down and wept,
      when we remembered Zion.
      2On the willows[a] there
      we hung up our lyres.
      3For there our captors
      required of us songs,
      and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
      “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
      4(A) How shall we sing the LORD’s song
      in a foreign land?
      5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
      (B) let my right hand forget its skill!
      6Let my(C) tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
      if I do not remember you,
      if I do not set Jerusalem
      above my highest joy!

    • although nothing beats the Psalms, during times of troube and distress “find rest” and “whom have i but you” by david ruis have always been of great help. so is “kiss the Son” by kevin prosch. i utterly despise CCM for the most part (my whole being rejects it as if it was poison), but there are few good ones out there.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Over the last eight years I have been doing ASL interpreting in church settings. This list is a list of some of my more unpleasant moments ‘at work’ in a Baptist church, Lutheran church and a non-denominational church. In order to interpret anything, you have to be able to get to core meaning and many contempory songs have ‘interesting phrases to sing’ but fall short when you try to put it into another language. A great example of this is ‘Let God Arise’ – what does that mean? Let God stand up? Let Him control our lives? Let Him be honored and recognized among the nations? What? The other is the often used phrase “our God reigns’ or ‘our God is an awesome God’ – what, as opposed to the ‘other gods’? I won’t bore you about the repeative phrases that truely make signing or watching a signer annoying rather than blessed.

    This list may be a year old, but I have heard or signed all but four of these in the last four months.

    AND there are great artist with depth that I find truely worshipful and inspiring – Michael Card being one of them – but they don’t play well in concert mode, so they rarely are used in the contempory worship performance….I mean service.

    • Former interpreter myself, Elizabeth — I feel your frustration. Hint: “Jesus Loves Me” will fit just about any tune you need it to! 😉

      • Elizabeth says:

        Good idea. I have had fantasies about just signing ‘Little bunny fu-fu’ when nothing about the song made sense, so ‘Jesus Loves Me’ would definitely be a step up. 🙂

    • John Michael Talbot is also quite good.

      • I second that 🙂

      • Elizabeth says:

        The ‘Brother to Brother’ CD is one of my favorites, so it’s kind of a ‘two for one’ things 🙂 Since I would describe my spiritual ‘flavor’ as being more on the Celtic side, they speak to me more than any ‘contemporary’ fluff could possibly.

  24. When I went to evangelical services and considered myself to be a Christian I loved the worship. I remember the praise and worship at Campus Crusade’s Christmas Conferences, and worship nights at church. The place I was a member of in Wisconsin actually did a special night of worship once every quarter. Three hours of singing your lungs out to the latest by Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, etc…

    When I moved ot DC I began to notice problems with Christianity and the churches I attended. As I was new to the Washington, D.C. area I was overwhelmed. I was struggling with my job, struggling at finding community, and dealing with the fast pace life of the area. From cost of living issues to traffic this was very different from what I knew in Wisconsin. Plus as I began to learn DC as a city is transitory. Many people move here for work for a couple of years and leave. I’ve known way to many people who came here and then left, and that created more challenges.

    With the above mentioned issues one of the biggest I discovered was how hard it was to plug into a small grouop/Bible study. Trying to get into a small group at McLean Bible took an act of God and I discovered this issue at some other churches as well. One that I went to on Capital Hill was good with small groups, but I discovered other issues. But given the situation and challenges I now faced with work, life, etc… I could care less about the corporate worship and and would have cared more for the personal worship of a small group. I would have found the church to be more helpful if instead of singing the newest Hillsong song I could have been in a guys group were people were honest about work difficulties, marriage problems, etc… That I would have found much more encouraging and helpful. When things started falling apart for me I noticed it in “the worship of singing”. In the summer of 2009 when I last went to church I couldn’t sing the music, I felt like I would be decitful if I did. If I was struggling to believe that God is good how could I sing “How Great Is Out God?” Then it got to a point where I couldn’t stand during worship and it was shortly after that that work schedule made me sick for a month and I decided not to return. I couldn’t at the time.

    Many evangelicals I leanred do not know what worship is and that’s one of the reasons why Christinaity is so flawed.

    Now the funny thing is that the music above I sitll listen to form time to time. I don’t know why…habit maybe? After almost 10 years of being a fundagelical I cringe when I think of how much money I spent on Christian CD’s and music. In my apartment I have 100’s of them and when I tossed some of my material I thought of how much money I invested and couldn’t bear to throw them out. The real question is what do I do with them? Well sometimes I listen to them when I go to the gym and work out; or when I talk a long walk. As I said, most of the time I guess its habit. Some songs are catchy, for example I like “Point of a Difference” and “Hosanna” from Hillsong United. And I also liked “Better is One Day” by Matt Redman. But I don’t buy this material anymore.

    I do think there is some talent in the Christian music industry. However, the commericialization bothered me when I was a Christian. But I do have to acknowledge that a number of artists have some good talent…Toby Mac, Third Day and Casting Crowns to name a couple. Just last night i was listening to Toby Mac’s “City on Our Knees” on Youtube. Catchy song…I won’t deny that.

    BUT…as I pushed away from faith I also am amazed as to what I’ve discovered in the world. I’m in my mid 30’s and I feel like I am also discovering music, art, and some movies for the first time. I listen to classical music more which previously I did not. I’ve been encouraged by my parents to listen to more Broadway and theater shows. And I’ve gotton back into that and will be seeing my first musical in almost 8 years (Wicked) at the Kennedy Center. And I’ve also discovered pop music. While Lady Gaga and Pink turns me off, I do like Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson.

    In some ways I can’t believe how much life passed me by when I was an evangelical and I feel like I need to make up for that fact.

    • Radagast says:

      I visit DC from time to time because my clients are there- probably exciting when your young but it feels like a rat race to me (get up every morning and get in line for work on the beltway)…

      But there is probably a lot to experience there…

      As for music… ya gotta get exposed to the early seventees stuff… the lyrics were soooo much better…

    • Oh come on dude. I’m a believer and I can not for my life stand Toby Mac. Extreme days? Can somebody say cliche cheeze? I don’t think they’ve produced anything of comparable quality since “Jesus Freak,” and even that had an appeal limited to strictly fundagelicals, anthem that it was. City on our knees is ok I suppose, but really heavy on production. Jars of Clay is just more my cup o’ tea, I suppose.

    • I have the same experiences as you. I simply cannot open my mouth and sing in church. And when they ask us to stand, I cringe inside. My wife doesn’t understand why I get so depressed during worship time, and to be honest, I don’t fully understand it myself, but I find myself during worship times wishing I was far far away.

      It makes me sad inside, because I want to be a Christian, and I love the words of Christ and the scriptures. But worship time during church makes me nauseus.

      • I feel ya…

      • Milton-

        I think we’re looking att he same issue from two different perspectives. I was losing my faith and was filled with doubt. Does God exist? Is he good? Is he in control? Why does he allow suffering (i.e why does he allow a kid to be molested/murdered/etc…) This was why I couldn’t sing. Whne they are singing songs such as “How Great Is Out God” or “Holy is the Lord” and I’m unsure if I believe in God then am I being dishonest by singing something that I don’t believe in? Why sing praises to a God whihc I don’t know if he exists? I just wanted to clarify.

        • I see what you mean. For me it was mostly a question of, if God is truly the master of the universe, all powerful and mighty, should we really be praising him with what I considered to be commercialistic “crap” (for lack of a better word)?

          • Amen to that. You’re the first person I’ve heard who has said you get depressed during worship. I’m sooo glad to know that I’m not the only one. I really love a liturgical worship service but unfortuately I go to a typical evangelical church that has a happy clappy service with a how-to sermon. I dread the weekend knowing I will get depressed at church and then feel guilty for being depressed and or angered over the goings on in “worship”. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better for me to stay home.

          • I’ve wondered the same thing myself. For me though, it would be going against everything I grew up believing to stop going to church. Maybe I need to switch to a less evangelical church…

    • Sorry Eagle, but giving up CCM to end up listening to Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson is IMO aiming pretty low. It’s the secular version of the same thing.

      Enjoy your musical freedom, and be adventurous!

      • If you’re looking for female vocalists, Adele can belt out a decent tune (and that’s about as up-to-date with pop culture as I get; it was half-funny, half-depressing on iTunes store to realise I had no idea who half the artists were).

    • Eagle, stick with U2…trust me on this! lol

    • Elizabeth says:

      I grew up outside DC from third grade until I move for grad school. It is a unique place for sure.

      I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that if your faith was grounded on the organization of the church or the music or the city and challenges you faced, then perhaps you are placing the blame for walking way in the wrong directions. The challenge is to live authenically and sometimes the tools that we look to to do that are not as sharp as we expected. The real work is to get beyond those barriers (shallow congragations, fluff music, empty programs, etc) and live in relationship with God. That is one of the reason’s I love this site – constant challenge.

  25. Steve Newell says:

    How many of the Churches how use CCM as their main form of music follow the Church Year? If they do, how do they adopt the music to the season of Lent or to Holy Week?

    Does CCM music come in minor keys?

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Yep, it’s the Messianic stuff from the 90’s published by Integrity and Hosanna! music. 😉

      • Dude, those Jews for Jesus know how to rock the dorian mode. While doing liturgy and congregational dance, too!

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Yeah, from my days in the Messianic scene, I probably have a good two hours of that stuff memorized. Mostly Lamb and Israel’s Hope.

        • i was evangelized by Jews for Jesus on July 4th in front of one of the Smithsonians. The guy thrust a gospel tract in my face and it really pissed me off. Can’t Christians be normal? Why are they so strange? I let it go…but I really wanted to ask him..”Are you genuinly concerned for me and do you love me or is this an effort to go back to your church/ministry and brag about how many people you converted; where I would be another trophey for bragging rights. Why are evangeliclas so cheesy in their evangelisim?

          • David Cornwell says:

            A far better way would to be give you a new toaster with a tract stuffed down in it.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I was at the Smithsonian Air & Space and Natural History museums the previous Tuesday. No tract-pushers at that time.

            And I’ve always wondered about the Jews-for-Jesus types. They show little of what I’ve come to associate with Judaism — the earthiness, the humor, the respect for learning. More often they come across as standard Fundagelicals with a Hebrew coat of paint — “HaveYouAcceptedYeshuaHamoshiahAsYourPersonalADONAIandSavior?!?!?!?!?”

          • I am good friends with a Messianic Jew who does this. We call him our local Southern Baptist rabbi. In all honesty, for many (but not all) of the guys, they do have good intentions. For pete’s sake, if they really believe unbelievers are going to hell, what kind of a jerk would they be not to be intentional about spreading their message? However, reaction it produced in you is entirely legitimate: It’s almost a demand for idealogical submission. Most of these guys have no concept the reaction they produce in others. And getting them to see it is often extremely difficult. But I have experienced, when I am able to contain my frustration, I can have an honest conversation with them about their tactics. From as best as I can tell, they simply do not know any better way to proselytize. But keep in mind, not all evangelicals hold to similar tactics. Of course, the only thing worse from getting some of these tracts stuffed in your face is actually reading them. They can often be of the “turn or burn” variety, which is also offensive because it’s pretty much like threatening people to join your religion.

          • “HaveYouAcceptedYeshuaHamoshiahAsYourPersonalADONAIandSavior?!?!?!?!?”

            my first experience with the Jews for Jesus came at Easter Time during my college days. the church i attended had invited them to present the Hebrew Passover rite for us & show how it proclaimed the gospel with its rich symbology…

            i actually enjoyed such a fantastic educational experience. however, i was quickly turned off by the over-the-top spiel for money & how the Jews were truly God’s elect & had precedence in the salvation story. so we Gentile believers obligated to pay for their special ‘ministry’ to God’s people…

            well, that was the one opportunity they had to leave me with a good impression. none was left of course & no monies have ever been given to any Messianic organization regardless of their approach…

          • cermak_rd says:

            I get tracts offered me by these folks everytime I hit downtown Chicago. I usually just ignore them, but every now and then I’ll stop and chat. Some of them are former Jews (many are not, JFJ seems like they attract as many Judaism-curious evangelicals as they do Jews), and so we have things in common–they are Jews who have converted to Christianity and I’m a former Christian who converted to Judaism.

          • I am a christian because someone told me (not my parents, or teachers, or friends even, just some guy I would never see again) and now I tell people because knowing Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and to the people I have been around. There is something about a person that lives radically different from others that either irritates others, or pleasantly surprises others.

          • “Can’t Christians be normal?”

            In a word – no.

            Sorry, Eagle, but no. If we were normal, we’d all be slim, beautiful, happily married with two adorable genius tykes, in well-paying and fulfilling jobs, and a second home somewhere recherché (the Riveria is so common, sigh!)

            What kind of weirdoes live in the First World and still believe in deities, for Dawkins’ sake!

    • Paul Wilbur, formerly of Israel’s Hope, does Messianic music which is primarily written in minor keys.

  26. After almost 10 years of being a fundagelical I cringe when I think of how much money I spent on Christian CD’s and music. In my apartment I have 100′s of them and when I tossed some of my material I thought of how much money I invested and couldn’t bear to throw them out. The real question is what do I do with them?

    yeah. all those $ spent on CDs as well as books of various kinds. i think just the plastic recycle fees i could earn from the big box of Christian/Worship CDs sitting back at the old family residence enough to get me a new stereo unit…

    i haven’t bought a Christian/Worship CD in 7-8 years, & anytime i am channel surfing the radio in my truck i cringe when it stops temporarily on a Christian station…

    funny thing though, i can never tire of all the great music of the late 60’s – early 70’s, or other CDs of my favorite artists. was it oversaturation that made me a bit sensitive to what passes off as CCM/Worship? i think i was…

    • …or possibly the emergence of the “worship star?”

    • The internet was the best thing that ever happened to Christian music

      It used to drive me crazy, the way Christian artists would have one good song on their album/cd.

      Now, the internet and itunes gives me the freedom to pick out that one good song and sentence the rest to oblivion.

      Just one way the free market actually works in our favor

  27. One thing that strikes me as ironic about most of these songs is that they aren’t “new” by the standards of any other music genre. I know about eight of them, and I learned nearly all of those in the mid-nineties. Most contemporary-style songs I see have copyright dates in the 90s, 80s, even 70s.

    Do these people who are so concerned about freshness and “singing a new song” still listen to the music that was popular in the 80s? Or rather, do they listen to the same 25 “greatest hits of the 80s” every single week while still calling it new and exciting?

    Why settle for something that is neither timeless nor new and exciting, but merely dated?

    • I have wondered this for a long time myself, Kate. There’s nothing new or fresh about the sound of contemporary worship music. It’s 80’s easy listening hits. It’s very dated. I commented on this below.

    • Kate – Seeing as the first 13 songs in the list were all released in 2001 and later. I don’t think your comment holds much water.

  28. I recently visited a Bible Church. They sang “He’s God” by Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ.
    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/fredhammondradicalforchrist/hesgod.html

    A new low. This may be the worst of the worst ever written – and “That’s just the way it is.”

    • Fred Hammond is NOT mainstream CCM. Most classify him as Urban/Gospel, and his songs have massive appeal and use in the worship of African American churches. These types of lyrics are strictly normal for that niche, and have been for a long time. Short phrases repeated back and forth several times building in energy and intensity. This tradition may have developed out of a worship culture that learned all of it’s singing strictly by ear/memory. I’ve sang in black gospel choirs like this. We never had sheet music, not even printed lyrics in front of us. We learned songs by memory one lyric phrase at a time, and often there were only two.

      However, when a terminally caucasian church attempts to replicate this phenomenon, integrating it into its CCM rotation, the results are quite potentially hazardous.

      • Yeah, this was a predominantly white, middle-aged congregation. I still can’t get over the banality of both the music and lyrics.

        • Go visit a black church. Just when you think the song is going to end after the 28th repetition of the same phrase, get ready for it…. the 7th key change in the same song! Back to the top everyone! It doesn’t seem so banal when everyone is dancing in the aisles.

  29. I think I would be perfectly OK with music-less worship. Maybe some Gregorian chanting, but maybe not.

    I am really growing jaded on the entire Christian industry, full of people making their living selling Christian stuff to Christians in the Christian enclave. Did Christ die so that we might create jobs for music directors or entertainment directors at Christian summer camps?

    • I’ve often thought the same about music-less worship too. I’ve even been fortunate enough to experience it a couple times, when 5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

    • I love “said” services, maybe because as a musician I am doomed to be distracted by church music in whatever form it comes.

      • That is a great point, camillofan. We struggled with that for years. I was either pastor or worship leader and my wife pianist/choir director and, especially when we had younger children, were preoccupied with what the kids were up to in addition to making sure all the details for the service were in place. I would get to church at 6am and not get home until about 12:30pm. She would have to get our four children ready by herself and get to the service to do her part. In between were meetings and practices and prayer sessions and last minute adjustments, phone calls, and so on.

        Many days I felt like Sunday morning and the service itself was the least “worshipful” part of my week. It was plain hard work. I got more out of planning the service than I did out of participating in it. I couldn’t focus on God. I was the doggone program director.

        The Lutheran church we worship in now started out as a “Willow” type church plant. But the pastor soon saw how tired the worship leaders and musicians were and went back to a simple liturgy. It was wearing everyone out, and when you add up how much it was costing the church to put on the show, it just wasn’t worth it.

  30. Bottom line: we’ve mistaken the means of worship for worship itself. That danger holds true whether it’s CCM, Mass, meditation, or ____________________ (fill in the blank). The Enemy’s most effective attacks are his most subtle.

  31. In my experience, even the churches I have been to that are trying to distance themselves from it a bit can’t quite shake the entertainment model of worship music, in which the music and the performance is the central thing and even to some extent an end in itself.

    There are a lot of elements that contribute tot his, but one has commented yet is the physical placement of the band/musicians. In the churches where I grew up the organ or instrument players were never front and center. The organ was usually int he back of the church, or in some cases off to the side. Musicians were near the front but off to one side. The cross and the alter remained front and center.

    This arrangment says something: it says that the worship music is not the central thing but is there to serve as an aid to worship and to the body of believers, to help them draw closer to God.

    • At our church the Cross and pulpit are central while the musicians are off to the side considerably. And yet, we still argue about music. Awesome!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At my writing partner’s chuch, the pulpit is central, with a cross on a table before it. It’s a small rural church with a small budget; the time I was there missing my return flight it had a Sunday congregation of only 30-50.

        Music is primarily one piano to the left, with older hymnals and an overhead projector seconded from the Sunday School for the lyrics.

  32. I thought your post was very insightful and said some really important things, Chaplain Mike. As have Michael’s posts.

    What do I think of that list?

    A bunch of maudlin, syrupy, over-produced torch ballads that are designed to satisfy people who have never passed Music Appreciation 101. Musically, they’re about as interesting as a bag of dirt. But technology is such that you need no inspiration to create something that will generate an aesthetic response.

    In other words, AMEN to your comment about the movement’s lack of creativity and diversity. I can’t believe people are still getting away with writing and recording songs that have soaring synth-driven choruses drenched in reverb and sparkly guitars that major on the IV chord and never leave the safety of the diatonic scale. To lose the music-speak for a moment, it’s all F-O-R-M-U-L-A.

    There are exceptions, and I do agree that there have been signs of maturing. Jars of Clay’s “Redemption Songs” was a step in the right direction, for instance. I too have known several gatherings where the music is stripped down, unpretentious, not saturated in over-the-top sound manipulation. Worship singers and songwriters need to start taking creativity notes from the variety that historic and current music has to offer(as Michael’s essays have alluded to), not just the stuff that has sold millions of albums in the 1980’s-to-present American pop music market. I find it amusing that much of what gets billed(often proudly) as “contemporary” Christian/worship music is really, artistically, about 25 years too late. It’s like living in 2011 and being told about this great new artist, Bon Jovi, and how cutting edge he is. Am I not supposed to snicker at this?

    Yeah, in case you hadn’t guessed, this is THAT subject for me 🙂

    • I totally agree. I think the music is often times not creative, and sounds more like “the formula to put together songs fast that will sell.” Why don’t christians get to use their own songs for worship? Why do churches always have to buy what is selling, and reject the local talent? The only way for us as christians to be growing in christ and living a joyful life is by using our gifts, but we are often times discouraged and rejected. We find ourselves becoming enemies to the larger church population, and only having family ties with a few that seem way too scattered.

      • Well, I’ve been at a church for awhile whose worship leader(a dubious title, imo) writes most of the songs, and he’s really good. Also, he presents us with more diversity than usual, incorporating things like calypso and reggae occasionally.

        The kicker for me is, for a long time at least(and I heard this in a middle-of-the-road congregation, not some freak-o fundamentalist place), the sentiment was “you should be listening to mostly, if not all, Christian/worship music because…well…becuase it’s “godly” or something…and that other stuff isn’t.” All while the industry could peddle nothing but senses-dulling, shmaltzy trash. Seriously, I saw a christian radio DJ give a sermon once about how we should only listen to Christian music.

        I’m waiting for the day when I hear a testimony that goes “…and then I got saved, and I threw away all my CCM music….”

        • Radagast says:

          ugh… throw more money at a particular carve out of the industry so that it too can become secularized…

        • I am so glad to hear that you are apart of a church in which there is freedom to express yourself creatively to God! I have only seen that one time in my county, but I was still sad because there was so much more talent in the church, but only one guy was able to get the chance to play one of his songs on sunday morning. I think charasmatic churches could learn something from Baptists, and allow some more input from the congregation.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I’ve mainly seen that as ‘the worship leader’ presents his work – not a welcoming of the entire body to expresss themselves creatively. At the church where this was done it truely had the feel of ‘attending x’s concert’. But this does help me put into perspective why I’m so resistant to my daughter getting a base guitar – I don’t want her to get sucked into the band mode and forget that her music is personal worship that might be shared.

  33. Here’s a quote from C.S. Lewis I like to remember when I get annoyed by some aspect of church music:

    I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.
    ~C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, “Answers to Questions on Christianity”, (1944)

    Recognizing he was talking about why he worshiped in a church instead in private, I am reminded to try to determine how much annoyance is legitimate and how much is my own conceit.

  34. DF Wilcox says:

    For Nate Barrow:

    “No offense” man … ya ever read (better yet, sung) the Psalms ? ? ? probably not …….

    think about it

    • Nate Barrow says:

      DF Wilcox:

      Does comparing suicide rates seem like a good litmus test for judging the authenticity/honesty of artists? Really?
      Again, a disturbing/idiotic statement.

      • DF Wilcox says:

        Nate:
        Despair & suffering beyond belief (which could lead to suicide/suicidal thoughts) are certainly part & parcel of Psalms, which we are under mandate to sing — maybe David doesn’t meet your litmus test either.

        Just wondering which part of your “sign off” to Unicorn Guy is authentic ? The “No offense”, or “a disturbing/idiotic statement”?

        • It was I, not HUG, who made the disturbingly idiotic statement. It didn’t bother me for it to be called that, but I stand by the notion that real artists/musicians/writers/whomever will not shy away from the pain and suffering and reality of the bad things that can happen in this life, but instead go toward it in order to capture it, whereas it is always ‘happy clappy’ for some of the Christian variety.

          You can sense that some of the Psalms were powered by depression and despair, just like much of our great music. Yet show me a Praise hymn that comes from that place. They seem to be written in a land of rainbows and unicorns and personal saviors who died so that we could have man crushes on them.

  35. The worst experience of my life was at a Good Friday service at a C&MA church in PA. Here I am, thinking that on Good Friday, we should be contemplating the suffering and death of our Lord. I was wrong.

    We sang “Your love is extravagant.” It was the first time I ever heard this song. I was shocked by the sexual lyrics. I looked around. It was clear to me that the other men in the sanctuary were extremely uncomfortable, but some were singing along out of some sense of doing the right thing. I started shaking with anger and embarassment, and I was just gritting my teeth. My wife was glaring angrily at me, but I couldn’t help it. I was sick to my stomach.

    I will never attend a Good Friday service again. Unless it is at a country church in the middle of nowhere with old people who sing out of the old hymnbook.

    Worst. Experience. Ever

    • The song that I have a similar reaction to is “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”

      I told my wife that if we ever sung it in church I would walk out. She said “No you wouldn’t”. Guess what we sang in church the next week? She was right.

      Some C&MA churches do Good Friday well. Others don’t. It is the one time of year that I like to visit a more traditional church.

      • cermak_rd says:

        Sing that in Chicago and someone’s gonna check to make sure his Honor, the mayor, is all right.

    • My church did that song (Your Love Is Extravagant) – once.
      I told my wife afterward that I needed to smoke while she cuddled me.

      • Nice one Steve!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I heard somewhere that CCM Praise & Worship is popular in the gay community because “where else can you hear a male singer gushing erotically over another man?”

        Bridal Mysticism gone Weird…

        • did this music type start with women songwriters/performers? is there a history that is recognizable?

          and is it done by one group/writer/publisher more than another?

          i was never ‘attracted’ to this type of Praise+Worship song style, but i do remember recognizing it immediately the first time i heard it…

          yet at that time i could not articulate what was causing me discomfort.

          does it appeal though to others posting on this thread? anybody?

          • I think it has to do with the book Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon. I don’t remember the lyrics to it, but if I am thinking of the right song an amazing female vocalist had sung it at a church I attended for just a short moment in time. I thought it sounded pretty. I guess I didn’t pay much attation to the lyrics. Ironically, I left the church because the church had a serious, serious issue with sexual immorality. My husband brought home the movie Troy for us to watch at the recommendation of the pastor because of a book called wild at heart. Well, I wasn’t thrilled with Captivating, and wouldn’t finish it after reading half of it. In the first few min. of the movie, Brad Pitt was glazed in this muscle enhancing shimmery copper color laying nude with nude women. I told my husband at that moment that I was leaving that church. I had a talk with the pastor, who defended himself, then I left the church. My husband resentfully followed. I told him that he didn’t need to follow me out of a feeling of obligation, and he followed me out anyway, and he ended up being shocked at himself and his past behaviors later on. It’s cool seeing how much we’ve grown in Christ over the past few years.

          • CM, you’d better moderate this if it goes to far, but here’s the lyrics they expected THIS GUY to sing:

            Your love is extravagant
            Your friendship, it is intimate
            I feel I’m moving to the rhythm of Your grace
            Your fragrance is intoxicating in the secret place
            ‘Cause Your love is extravagant
            [Here comes the big build up to the chorus:]

            Spread wide… [OK I’m gonna stop now]

        • Re: HUG-

          *Awkward turtle*

          • All that intimate, I-love-God, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs make me shudder. If one starts playing in church, I refuse to sing it. Usually I end up singing the Kyrie in my head…

            It is sad, too- there are many instances where a hymn or Psalm expressing God’s intimate love of His people. Unfortunately, such an overabundance of kissy-goo-goo songs pretty much have a tendency to folks off to those instances.

            “I think it has to do with the book Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon.”
            Oh, Song of Solomon…. possibly the most awkward book in the Bible. Nobody these days seems to know how to handle it. And giving our increasingly sexualized culture, it has become the odd cousin in the family that we all ignore, so to speak. Which is sad, because it is a beautiful poem describing not only marital love, but ultimately how that love is an expression, symbol, and icon of the Love of God for His people; of the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church.

          • To be fair to that song, I believe the “spread wide in the arms of Christ…” line refers to the Cross.

            The uncomfortable lines for me are actually these, simply because I can’t figure out what they mean:
            “I feel I’m moving to the rhythm of Your grace
            Your fragrance is intoxicating in the secret place”

      • Oh, boy, Steve, I’m blushing now!

    • One of the things that discouraged us from the most recent church we attended for a while was an Easter Sunday service that was set up as a mock funeral. Casket at the front and everything, including big guys in black suits at the door that sort of reminded me of dressed up bouncers. On Ressurection Sunday no less! And this was a small church. I was so shocked I don’t even remember what music was used, if any.

    • sarahmorgan says:

      wow….at least my old church’s praise band did an eerie, acoustic version of Jars of Clay’s “Liquid” for Good Friday.

    • Elizabeth says:

      This past Easter Sunday a person who didn’t have a solid grasp of ASL was allowed to sign ‘Arise My Love’. Skipping the cultural insult that would have been to a Deaf person, she got caught up in the ‘drama’ of her ‘performance’ and ended up firmly and soundly REJECTING God at the end of her song. It made me stomach churn not only at the rejection of God on Easter Sunday, but the ignorant emotional reaction of the ‘audience’. Not a good day.

  36. I totally agree with you. I believe that worshiping God at a time when the church gathers together is not time for us to ‘enter into our closet to be with God,’ but is a time that is good for singing together, not over each other and into mic’s. It is a time to share our testimonies and insights, as well as sharing our prayer requests and to pray together. And the alter seems wrongly placed at the foot of where the pastor’s and worship leaders stand instead of us being taught what it really is. for the first three days this week I ran into three different women of God that encouraged me. I remembered the command that we encourage one another daily, and I thought to myself: God is even working that much out in my life, because when I make the plans, they don’t happen, but when I look back I realize they did. God is leading us and no one else can.

  37. That Guy says:

    1 Corinth. 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

    Though the rest of the chapter goes on to discuss tongues and prophecy, this is one of the verses that really gets me thinking about whether there should even be a “worship leader.” If I am coming together with a group of fellow Christians and there are those who are seriously going through hard times, how are we to mourn with those who mourn and bear each others’ burden when a psalm or hymn that they may have had or I may have had to pour out our despondency has been usurped by what was on the top 40 or whatever for the week. How can we build each other up in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs when the lyrics do NOT apply. I also hate it when people say that the music is not about “you,” that’s fine and all, but it doesn’t say to build Christ Himself up it says to build each other up, it is the thankfulness that belongs to Christ…so, there must be a you lurking somewhere that it IS about.

  38. Martin Romero says:

    I’ve been for only a bit over 2 years in the Evangelical world and I already recognise a lot of the songs in that list. I checked the list for the UK, where I’m living, and it looks somewhat similar… At least the church where I attend includes 2-3 hymns in every service, played with a real organ. One of my friends is the church organist and it’s impressive to see him dealing with the little beast.

    Anyway, some time ago I started to notice a very common practice when singing the more contemporary songs, both in church and in the Christian Union meetings… Why, usually by the end of the song, do they need to stop playing the music while everybody is singing? I’m sure you know what I mean: the band is playing and then, suddenly, the music stops but we have to keep on singing, to finally start playing again near the end of the song.

    That, and the usual practice of non-stop repeating of some paragraphs by the end of the song making it much longer than necessary, really puts me off. It feels, to me, somewhat artificial… As if trying to “lead” the people into worship. It was much more prominent in the Christian Union than in the church, but I guess that is not surprising considering that all were students and coming from different church backgrounds.

  39. Dang it. I hate arriving late. One thing I don’t see mentioned and perhaps it goes without saying, is the role of secular music within a worship service.

    There seems to be a growing trend within some churches that incorporating a Guns ‘n Roses tune, or a Pink Floyd tune, or a Led Zeppelin tune, etc., is fine as long as it somehow connects to the sermon.

    I know how I feel about this but was curious to hear what others might think?

    • Don’t like it at all.

      Don’t get me wrong. I like “secular” music as much or more than anyone and listen to it regularly. However, the purpose of music in worship is to serve the liturgy and I fail to see how such songs do that.

  40. I used to lead worship, and I really struggled through the process because people would beg me to sing these types of songs. There was often a cycle to it all. I’ll never forget someone begging me to sing ‘How Great is Our God’ because he’d come back from a Promise Keepers event all hyped up about the feeling he got while singing it with thousands of other men. I tried to explain that we were not going to be able to re-create that experience for him in our church, that it wasn’t even a good idea to try. Ugh. He was not convinced. After months of asking, I gave in. And, so the cycle would start with another person trying to convince me to sing a song on the radio.

    I don’t know that I’m awake enough to articulate what I mean to say, but I just always felt a tug of war going on between what I felt was right as a worship leader and what was popular or what made people emotionally-charged. To be honest, I’m thankful I don’t lead worship anymore, and if I ever do again, it will have to be under different circumstances.

  41. Hi guys,

    Would you like to watch Captain America online? It is not released yet but you can watch it online already!

    Click here to watch Captain America