Thinking Out Loud

August 13, 2010

AMTO: Modern Worship Hits Mainstream Culture

It was the crossword puzzle clue seen around the world.

The New York Times Sunday Crossword…
Sunday May 2nd, 2010…
22 across…
Here I ____ Worship (contemporary hymn)

It’s hard to believe in such a short time modern worship has become so entrenched in U.S. culture that a song by Tim Hughes should become a crossword puzzle clue in the nation’s largest newspaper.

Modern worship grew out of the contemporary Christian music movement of the 1970s and early 1980s.   (You can read a short history of it, here.)  But while many of the songs are simply the next generation of hymns, there are some who feel that the current worship trends will eventually fade and be replaced by something else.

Here’s a comment from a discussion my son had with other staff members at the Christian camp where he’s serving:

Yesterday I had a very long discussion about what’s appropriate to sing as worship, and what isn’t.  We all have little-known artists we like and can connect with, and everyone I talked to is fed up with contemporary worship music and other mainstream Christian music.  One guy thinks otherwise-good bands are being ruined by recording labels who force them to write more music than they actually want to.  I think that after the music leaves the composer, it’s up to God to decide who to use it towards.  Earlier in the summer we had a staff time where several people shared songs God has spoken to them thru, even though they aren’t explicitly Christian songs or even written by Christians.

I’m not surprised to see a rejection of the worship industry.   (I was about to call it corporate worship, which would be a suitable term if it didn’t already mean something else.)

Kim Gentes writes on worship and technology and on May 9th wrote:

…No sooner had the “old” vs “new” fight subsided, than we began to hear rumblings about the “corruption” of modern worship. After 30 years of infancy, its growth into adolescence was met by some amount of disdain by a good group of its progenitors. The original “guard” that was around when praise and worship burst on the church was now becoming vocal about the ongoing change that continued to propel the stylistic growth of the music. But more than just that, there was a “we told you so” attitude developing that began to expound the idea that the community of practitioners was now becoming enamored with the commercialization of the musical genre that had grown up around the music. In other words you could hear this said in a thousand different ways from some people- “this modern worship isn’t as pure and humble as the original stuff”. Also there is the idea that “worship leaders are just trying to become artists with record deals”.

Back in 2006, John Ellis of the group Tree63 said:

The commercialization of modern worship has led to a glut of participants… Modern worship has become a unit-shifting genre of contemporary Christian music, and now everyone’s in on it. As a result, that worship music becomes diluted….The songs become insipid and lame, and hey, is Jesus really honored by that song after all?

In a discussion on Wednesday with a pastor and worship leader, I lamented the loss of songs of proclamation and testimony.   I like vertical worship, but at the same time that evening services and “testimony times” disappeared from our churches, so also did the hymns that told a personal salvation story.

History tells us that things will change again.   I just wish I had a crystal ball to see what the next major force in worship will look like.   Of course, I’d be happy to be able to come close to finishing this crossword puzzle.

If you don’t know Here I Am To Worship, you can link here; and I’ll also put it in the comments section on Friday morning.


  1. Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 13, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  2. I hope the next big thing in worship songs is worship, again. I’m totally turned off by some of the insipid music now. Yes, we all have struggles, yes, people can relate to those struggles, but where’s the victory in these songs? Me, me, me. Sounds more like ministering complaining than worship.

    Comment by Laura — August 13, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

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