Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2010

Worship in the United States vs. Worship in the United Kingdom

Two countries.   Much shared history.   A common language.   Similar politics.

But when it comes to church or when it comes to our expression of Christianity, are we in North America more alike our British cousins or are we more unalike?

Living in Canada gives a few of us a unique window on both our neighbours to the south and our friends several thousand miles to the east.   To many of us here, Adrian Plass, Selwyn Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend, etc. are names we have at least heard, if we haven’t also read their books or sung their songs.

What amazes me though is how little my contacts in the U.S. know of Christianity in England.    Where this turns up most is in a cursory examination of worship music in both countries.

Because we’re still a few weeks away from getting the biannual numbers from CCLI — the next six month report comes out in August — we’ll have to settle for a look at the February 2010 stats.

Here’s a look at the Top 25 worship songs in use in the U.K.

Without getting too deep into statistics — we’ll leave that to the sportscasters — you see on this list a couple of Graham Kendrick classics along with the beautiful “I Will Offer Up My Life” by Matt Redman and a number of pieces that follow the ‘hymn style’ of verse/chorus, such as “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Be the Centre,” and the classic “All Heaven Declares.”   The American #1 most-used chorus, “Mighty to Save” by Hillsong doesn’t even appear on the list.

Here’s the U.S.A. list for the same period:

For some of my American readers, this list seems rather dated, or perhaps even rather tame.  Your church has already moved on to newer songs.   I personally think that the U.S. church has adopted a rather “disposable” attitude toward its worship music in the last five years or so.   Anything before 2006 is considered a “golden oldie.”

That’s rather sad in a way.    The British churches contributing to their list seem to hang on to a good song a little longer.

I also feel bad for American churches who aren’t using “Once Again” by Matt Redman, but also wish that the British list contained at least one song by Paul Baloche.

I think every church service should contain at least a couple of songs from these lists.   This is the worship music that connects us; these songs are being sung across denominational lines.   Too much new and unfamiliar music weakens the worship time.   I also hope your church does at least five or six different worship songs each week.   There’s a trend right now to only doing a couple, but I think it leaves both seasoned worshipers and seekers a little shortchanged.

If you missed it, last week I had another couple of posts on worship music in light of a recent book, and you can read those here (June 11th) and here (June 17th).  (If you think I’ve gone conservative, rest assured that the author of that book wouldn’t have even posted these lists!)

I think it is incumbent on worship leaders to stay aware of what’s happening in worship on a worldwide scale, and know about other material that is available to them.   If you click on the links, you’ll end up at the site which also allows you too look at lists in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

Brooke Fraser has a total of four songs on the N.Z. list, including #2 and #3, but the Africa list has more familiar songs that you might expect.

If I could only sing 25 songs in the next year, I’d be content to make the Africa list my songbook.

Today’s forum:  What do you think of the song selection at your place of worship?

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4 Comments »

  1. I wonder what the song list will be once we leave this earth. At least we won’t need to track copyright info or royalties at that point — thank goodness!

    Comment by verticalresonator — June 24, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

    • Interesting comment.

      The reason I say that is that I recently heard a sermon where a person listed all the things that presently consume the church; things like evangelism, missions, intercession, Biblical education, encouragement, Children’s ministry, counseling, etc.; and of all the things that were in that list, only one thing will continue after we leave this earth: Worship!

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 24, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  2. [...] Complicated, I know.   The link for the review tomorrow morning should be this.   Hmmm.  Maybe this can tie you [...]

    Pingback by Stuart Townend — There is a Hope « Christianity 201 — August 22, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

  3. [...] Churches in the U.K. don’t bow the knee to Nashville so much.   So we find a number of writers there producing something just a little mellower that thereby satisfies the needs of more seasoned church members who want something new and fresh (see Isaiah 42:10) but still like a good melodic tune with a form that doesn’t contain too many melodic exceptions.   (That’s my term for various bridges, codas, irregular rhythms, or other variations on the musical form.  My belief is that the people can deal with only one exception per song.) (More on the contrast between UK and US worship in this post.) [...]

    Pingback by Stuart Townend – British Worship Leader & Songwriter « Thinking Out Loud — August 23, 2010 @ 5:20 am


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