Thinking Out Loud

July 1, 2019

Earlier Modern Worship Songs Which are Still Viable

Long ago, in a time before Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Elevation; in a world uninhabited by Chris Tomlin, there existed another universe of praise and worship…

This list is comprised of songs which are not the most popular from the ’90s, but chosen by a criteria consisting of, “Would these songs work well with today’s congregations?” or, “Are these songs which could be re-introduced?”

Why this matters: There were some substantive songs which people who have been around church remember, but are not currently sung. The songs represent music for a demographic that is not longing for the nostalgia of the Gaither Music years — they aren’t that old yet — but longing for some connection to past songs where there is greater singability. 

This could include things from Maranatha Music, Vineyard Music, etc.

Statistically, the median age of established churches rises over time. The key is to keep this demographic engaged, but present music that doesn’t sound dated to the younger demographic churches are hungry to reach.

This is the list I assembled:

  • You Are the Mighty King
  • The Servant King
  • You Are Worthy of My Praise (I Will Worship With All of My Heart)
  • Blessed Be the Lord God Almighty
  • Above All
  • Glorify Thy Name (Father, I Love You…)
  • You Are My King (with 2nd verse)1
  • Once Again
  • Shout to the North
  • Majesty2
  • All Heaven Declares
  • You Are My All in All
  • Lord I Lift Your Name on High (with 2nd verse)
  • Trading my Sorrows
  • Open the Eyes of My Heart

Related: A History of Modern Worship Music

1 You are My King 2nd Verse
2 Majesty Extra Verses

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September 1, 2018

Throwback: Teaching Tapes

The plastic binders were a classier way to store them, but some of us simply threw our teaching tapes in boxes.

I had boxes of them. Perhaps you did as well.

We would go to those huge Christian music festivals on Pennsylvania dairy farms — back when the headlining speakers had equal billing with headlining musicians — and come back with bags and bags of the things. Heck, people would set up booths vending tapes for speakers who weren’t even appearing at the event; such was the hunger to collect and listen.

In the land before live streaming of church services, sermons on demand, and podcasts, this was how you immersed yourselves in the tapes of your favorite Bible teacher and introduced his (or her) core message to your friends.

I got to thinking of this today because the Saturday Brunch column at Internet Monk mentioned a series that Michael Newnham is running on the history of Calvary Chapel. (I’ve stolen that and reproduced it at the end of this article.) I had a friend who owned the complete — don’t know how many hundred — set of Chuck Smith preaching his way through the entire Bible. The things came in large wooden cases and covered an area larger than a pool table.

He was moving and I had hoped that I would be the beneficiary of that move, but instead another mutual acquaintance was gifted them.

For years, that really bothered me.

Today, I would have nothing to play them on. There’s one cassette player left in the house and it’s not going to last much longer. Besides, I have moved on to other teachers and doctrinal perspectives.

However, it makes me wish that Chuck Smith had committed himself to books, instead of to the fad of the day, audio cassettes. While I’m sure that these messages have been transferred to mp3 files, there’s something permanent about a book. (In the same way I wish my dad had developed his film into prints, instead of slides; just like you’ll wish something similar when all your children’s pictures are only fit for devices which disappear off the consumer electronics shelves.)

It’s hard to believe right now, but it’s possible that before long the term “internet” will come to mean something quaint or ancient. A lot of teaching content has been uploaded in forms that the future may render obsolete.

Sometimes people would trade teaching tapes the way one might trade expensive, collector’s baseball cards. I like that because it placed a value on the teaching. Or we would simply share them with friends back home unable to make it to the event.

And don’t miss the aside comment in the second paragraph, above. The teachers really did receive equal billing to the musicians. We drove those miles in the camper or station wagon because we were looking forward to the sermons we would hear along with the concerts we would here. Equally.

I can honestly say I was truly changed by some of those teachings.


Calvary Chapel story referenced above, as listed at today’s Internet Monk:

October 1, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Gospel Van

Photo: Drew Dyck

A fresh crop of October links! Mind you, they’re all dated September. But they’re new to you.

Yes! The links are still also at Parse, the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. Click here to read there!

For our closing graphic we return to TwentyOneHundred Productions’ Facebook page, the gift that keeps on giving. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  (We poached another one from them for tomorrow…I feel like I should make a donation to my local IVCF chapter…) Click the image to link, or follow them at this page.

Books of the Bible

October 5, 2013

Remembering Chuck Smith

Time Magazine June 21 1971

“Little country church on the edge of town
People comin’ every day from miles around
For meetings and for Sunday School
And it’s very plain to see
It’s not the way it used to be”

The first time I saw the sprawling campus of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa was November, 1979. We didn’t have the term ‘megachurch’ then, nor was I prepared for a style of church architecture which, owing to the California climate, didn’t require indoor hallways to connect the various classrooms, departments, and offices.

The first service I attended there featured Chuck Smith doing what he did every single Sunday without exception: Preaching consecutively through the Bible, verse-by-verse, with that deep voice that transmitted much Biblical authority, but also much peace and calm. Thus, it was your choice to become engaged in the exposition or to fall asleep; either was possible, the latter was not encouraged.

Chuck Smith died this week at age 86. Many of the tributes have mentioned Calvary’s most renowned spinoff, Maranatha! Music and its related Maranatha Studios and the Ministry Resource Center (MRC); the Saturday night concerts; or the baptisms at Pirate’s Cove which made the cover of Time Magazine.

Baptism at Pirate's Cove

Baptism at Pirate’s Cove

The story has it that when the church occupied a smaller building — that later became a bookstore — studded jeans were popular and the older members were concerned that the studs were scratching the church pews. So Chuck ordered the pews removed. By the time I arrived in the late ’70s, there was still floor seating available at the front — a tribute to those days, perhaps — and one week I spent a Sunday morning service sitting on the floor, partly to have that experience and partly to release a scarce seat to someone who might need it more. The place was packed. 

If you attend a church that uses contemporary music or modern worship, you are, as I wrote here, a direct product of those early Jesus Movement days on the American west coast. Even if your church is more conservative and uses a hymnbook on a Sunday morning, odds are it contains a few Maranatha! Music copyrights.

But Chuck’s greatest legacy was Calvary Chapel, the denomination.

It is said that back then you didn’t need theological degrees to plant a Calvary, rather they were looking for individuals who already had a “proven ministry.” I don’t know how it works today, but I love that concept. A few of the pastors came out of the bands that played at the original Calvary at those Saturday night concerts. Today, Calvary Chapel churches in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Albuquerque, NM, Philadelphia, PA, Phoenix, AZ, Diamond Bar, CA, Chino, CA, Downey, CA, West Melbourne, FL, Jacksonville FL, and a handful of others are among the top megachurches in the US.

One generation megachurch pastor to another: Chuck Smith and Rick Warren

One generation megachurch pastor to another: Chuck Smith and Rick Warren

Some of the other musicians from those early days, such as Chuck Girard from Love Song, continue to bless us with worship leadership; while the spirit of Calvary Chapel lives on in other churches that sprang from that era, such as Harvest Church in Riverside, CA. Harvest pastor Greg Laurie paid tribute to Chuck Smith this week.

Chuck Smith’s ministry in California was an example of the right man, in the right place, at the right time, with the right vision.

He will be missed.

…The song lyrics which began this article are from “Little Country Church” by LoveSong, written about those early days at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. The file is audio-only.

January 4, 2012

Wednesday Link List

By request, a fresh take on the recurring List Lynx pun here

(B)link and you’ll miss it! 

  • Hard to imagine anyone opposing a translation of the Bible into another language, but the Jamaican patois version isn’t pleasing everyone.  Text sample: “De angel go to Mary and say to ‘er, me have news we going to make you well ‘appy. God really, really, bless you and him a walk with you all de time.”
  • Daniel Jepsen admits it’s not like him to walk out of a church service, but he did just that when the service went too far, or perhaps didn’t go far enough. Teaching the Bible would have been a refreshing addition.
  • Fuller Theological Seminary’s Kara Powell thinks that while adults and children are all sharing the same church, they’re all having a different experience of it.  In a 4-page article at CT, she suggests keeping kids in church beyond high school means giving them a faith that sticks.
  • He uses his involvement in TV and film production to evangelize well known actors, and he’s been fired by one prominent casting agency for doing so.  Steve Cha talks to Christian Post about evangelizing Hollywood.
  • This is the link to part one of the original video that Ben Breedlove posted at YouTube just days before he died on Christmas Day; though you need to watch part two to get the full story.  Gateway Church in Austin, Texas also posted the 42-minute memorial service  video in which lead pastor John Burke refers to Ben’s faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Cerebral palsy and epilepsy didn’t stop Toronto’s Robert Gagnon from completing a BA at Redeemer and an MTS at Tyndale Seminary, or from launching a new ministry for people with visible disadvantages, Abilities in Christ.
  • Here’s an interesting standup routine by Phil Long that gets some deep analysis on Tyler Braun’s blog.
  • Still haven’t made those New Year’s Resolutions?  Ann Voskamp offers five steps to help you begin.
  • Is heaven and The New Jerusalem the same thing? Think about it.  Here’s a C201 blog post that took on a life of its own in the comments.
  • Mike Breen looks at the Rainer Research Group’s ten trends for the next decade in church life.
  • The man at the center of the Jesus movement in the early 1970s, Costa Mesa California’s Calvary Church pastor Chuck Smith is now battling lung cancer though he never smoked.
  • TV Producer Mark Burnett is joining with Zondervan and the digital team that developed Glo Bible to introduce a new app, Bible 360 which will integrate with devices and social media. Sales will be through iTunes.
  • Seems a policy statement issued at Rossville Christian Academy in Tennessee is really just a mass memo directed at a single student. (The video is useless, but there’s a full text of the story when you scroll down.)
  • Time for one last Christmas image; J. R. Briggs got this from David Fitch; it’s titled Advent Distraction:

October 26, 2011

Wednesday Link List

So what’s your take-away from today’s cartoon?  It’s from the book God is Dog Spelled Backwards by Julia Cmaeron and Elizabeth Cameron; not for sale at your local Christian bookstore.

  • The Seattle Mars Hill church (Mark Driscoll) decided to go after other Mars Hills churches to try to protect its brand.  But then the church realized its reaction was a little over the top.
  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter becomes the latest Christian author, signing a two-book deal with Zondervan.
  • The Occupy London protesters forced the closing of St. Paul’s Cathedral mostly due to fire concerns.
  • Speaking of the UK, a man there writes on his Facebook page that he believes marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and next thing you know he’s demoted at work with a 40% pay cut.
  • If you have an iTunes account, you can click this link for an interview with Steve Carr, the founder of the non-profit Flannel film company that produced Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos and Francis Chan’s BASIC series.
  • Paul Crouch, Jr. has left the family business, aka The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to “pursue other work.”  The departure was rather sudden.
  • Americans can donate to missions at the left click of a mouse; but as the U.S. dollar slides against foreign currencies, overseas mission projects are hurting for funding.
  • In one of his best pieces to date, Trevin Wax imagines a somewhat ideal media interview with a pastor on the homosexual debate.
  • Lots of rumblings from the Calvary Chapel churches over the visits of the ever-controversial Jerry Boykin to various CCs, mostly because of Boykin’s Jesuit connections.  While this website looks somewhat sensationalist, it does contain a lot of documentation,  perhaps this one boils it down more concisely.
  • Josh Wiley collects 22 Awesome C. S. Lewis Quotations.
  • Comedian Tim Hawkins has Three Requests for Worship Pastors.
  • October 31st: JesusWeen.  Seriously. Someone came up with this.  To non-Christians it’s a bit of joke.  To Christians it’s somewhat unnecessary.
  • October 31st: Hell Houses.  Russell D. Moore has seven reasons why Judgment Houses or Hell Houses miss the mark.
  • It took presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman only a few days to note that presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s “999” economic program is simply “666” upside down.  She remarked, “The devil is in the details.” Jeremy Myers examines 666.
  • Just in time for Reformation Sunday: Zac Hicks’ worship song including the five “solas” Sola fide (pronounced “FEE-deh”) – faith alone; Sola gratia (pronounced “GRAT-see-ah”) – grace alone; Solus Christus (pronounced “KREE-stoos”) – Christ alone; Sola scriptura (pronounced “skrip-TOO-rah”) – Scripture alone; Soli Deo gloria (pronounced “DEH-o GLOH-ree-ah”) – to God alone be the glory. (Don’t forget to roll the r’s.)  Click the audio player in this link.
  • Insert your link here.  Seen something online this week that I missed?  Add your suggestion to the comments.  Note that not all links will posted; anything commercial or inappropriate won’t be accepted.
  • With apologies to Margaret Fishback Powers, I thought we’d end with an “almost” version of Footprints.

June 19, 2011

Music Review: Crystal Lewis – Plain and Simple

It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since Christian rockabilly band Wild Blue Yonder hit the scene fronted by a young teenage Crystal Lewis on vocals.  It’s even harder to believe that Crystal’s dad, a Nazarene pastor, allowed his 15-year old daughter to tour with a rock band.  But Crystal survived and went on to a solo career for which, I’m fairly certain my wife owns every album on one format or another.   So because we have some history here,  it seemed fitting to give you the 411 on Crystal’s first album in a long time, Plain and Simple.  (Okay, first not counting the recent Christmas themed Home for the Holidays.)

Crystal’s distinctive vocal style and perfect pitch is still there; but this is also a bit of a family project.  While husband/manager Brian Ray has been part of her music for a long time, daughter Izzy and son Solomon who play and get pick up a few writing credits, with Solomon also getting the producer credit for Plain and Simple.

The album’s title song is taken from I Cor. 2:1-2 in The Message:

1-2You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

Many of the songs — such as Revelation and Even the Rocks Cry Out and I Am — represent direct borrowing from scripture, or allusions to powerful Biblical texts. The lyrics also connect to everyday Christian living; most of us can relate to a line like, “I don’t wanna fall again,” or the lines in “All Day Long” which contrast the tendency and temptation to sin with the overarching abiding hope in the Lord.

Musically the sound is fresh, though you could also give this album to someone who has a “Whatever happened to…?” CD collection of the “Jesus Music” artists from the 1970s.  This will work with either audience. Solomon’s keyboard programming is better appreciated when you play it loud, which has the added blessing of enhancing the impact of Crystal’s vocals, which have been mixed upfront and, for lack of a better description, have a black gospel quality.  (All that’s missing is the mass choir; which, if anyone who counts is reading this, is definitely the album Crystal should do next!) 

With honest songwriting and passionate performance, consider this one for yourself or someone who could use a spiritual lift.


November 7, 2008

A Complete History of Modern Worship Music

The History of Modern Worship Choruses

Rummage through old piano benches in church basements and you’re almost certain to locate a classic chorus sheet consisting of short stanzas written in the first half of the last century. By today’s standards, the material does not hold up well, but it serves as a reminder that what we call ‘choruses’ are nothing new.

Not that this should come as any surprise. Twice in the new testament, Paul uses the terms “Psalms, Hymns and Spritual Songs.” While one commentator has suggested that these are just different words for the same things, most others agree that the variance in meaning suggests a graduated difference in both style and substance.

To be sure, some of the choruses from times past endure in Children’s ministry, while others are preserved as camp songs or ‘retro’ youth ministry favorites. But whether it’s “Constantly Abiding,” “I Love Him Better Every Day,” or “I’ve Got Peace Like a River;” there is a fairly distinct line at which some of these traditional songs end, and our modern worship begins.

For this writer, a turning point was when Paul B. Smith, pastor of Toronto’s People’s Church returned from a missions trip in the 1970s and taught a simple chorus with just one word, “Allelujah” repeated eight times. (One publisher actually produced an overhead projector master for the lyrics.) Out of the preceding 100 years of church music at least, non-Charismatic people were for the first time “losing themselves” in worship.

music_for_worship1Allelujah or Hallelujah is a somewhat trans-lingual word, and another universal symbol of surrender to God is upraised hands. So it’s not surprising that at the same time as people sang this song with lifted hands, the charismatic movement was taking place, and with it, songs that had been heretofore reserved for Pentecostal or Assemblies of God churches suddenly found their way into Evangelical churches.

At the same time, the so-called “Jesus Movement” was beginning in Southern California. It’s at this point, we see one of the main forces of modern worship, Maranatha! Music beginning as a music ministry of Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. However, when I visited in 1979, a full seven years after the Time magazine cover of “Jesus People” being baptized in Pirate’s Cove; the morning services at Calvary consisted exclusively of selections from the Inspiring Hymns book my own church had purchased in the late 1950’s.

But on concert nights, Calvary began each Christian rock concert with a time of worship. In fact, some argue that the Maranatha! Praise series taught the rest of the U.S. to worship.

That assumption is only partially correct however, for while the Jesus People were swaying to the guitars on the west coast, a New Zealand couple, David and Dale Garratt were compiling and recording many of the new “scripture choruses” as part of their ministry, Scripture in Song.

By the late 1970’s a small group had broken away from Calvary Chapel to form a network of churches called The Vineyard. The first two churches were led by Kenn Gulliksen and John Wimber. Vineyard’s music was simple, reflective and sometimes chant-like in its repetitions of key lines, while Maranatha! Music’s owed a greater debt to the country rock sound of bands like The Eagles.

Vineyard’s simple approach to songwriting would later stand in sharp contrast to Hosanna/Integrity Music’s live worship albums which incorporated a slicker, tighter sound including a full brass section, jazz chords and frequent key changes which suggested a more sophisticated level of musicianship was necessary.

Integrity Music albums were said to be based largely on some worship tapes that had circulated from Christ For the Nations. These recordings of live, seamless worship somewhat resembled live concert recordings.

In subsequent years, Integrity Music also introduced listeners to a greater focus on who the worship leader was. First the pictures appeared on the back covers, then the front, and eventually it was hard to tell the difference between their worship albums, and the contemporary Christian music (CCM) performance “artist” albums. Although this was toned down in some later releases, to this day, Integrity customers want to know who is leading, and Integrity introduced us to the ministry of Marty Nystrom, Paul Baloche, Ron Kenoly, and Don Moen, just to name a few.

Across the pond in the U.K. churches were embracing the music of one worship leader, Graham Kendrick. Although many Canadians know Kendrick (author of “Shine, Jesus Shine,” “Meekness and Majesty”, “The Servant King”) the one American. release on Integrity was not immediately followed up in the states., which was their loss, since Kendrick’s British. catalogue consisted of literally dozens of recordings.

No discussion of modern worship music is complete without mention of Kendrick’s influence, because he paved the way for other U.K. worship ministries. The entire Worship Together family of albums and artists; the music of Delirious, Passion, Matt Redman and many others all originates in the wake of Kendrick’s influence.

Integrity Music also introduced us to the music of the worship team from Hill’s Christian Assembly in Australia. Today, Hillsongs is a category in itself, with its trademark use of rhythm section, backup singers and huge choir (and often more than one choir.)  It restores a connection between modern worship and the black gospel choir or mass choir; which owes its roots to the ‘spirituals’ sung in the deep south of the U.S.

Just as Hillsongs is roooted in a local church, often a congregation will popularize a single chorus. Jack Hayford’s “Majesty” came during his pastorate at the Church On The Way in California.

This brings us to today’s megatrend of “double albums” on CD. The vinyl and cassette customer never fully embraced the concept of “samplers” but the Compact Disc medium seemed perfect for it. Today, if it’s a double worship CD, it sells, no matter who originates it. The best example is the series of recordings released through The WoW! Partnership, which includes Maranatha, Vineyard, Integrity, and Worship Together as the primary participating record companies.

But no discussion of our modern worship is complete without mention of the great influence of youth ministry. From local junior high, senior high and college & career groups; to camp minstries and major summer festivals; many of our current choruses began as youth ministry material. Many churches today “use” their youth groups to both test out and introduce new worship compositions to the larger congregation.

In recent years, this trend has gone full circle, as our popular choruses become the substance of children’s music ministry. In some churches, the content of the children’s worship includes exactly the same titles the adults are singing in a nearby auditorium.

What will be the next major wave in worship? We will know soon enough because of a service called Christian Copyright Licensing Inc. CCLI monitors the material being used in tens of thousands of churches, and its website chronicles the most-used choruses in a “Top 100” styled chart format, with specific charts for Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

The idea of a chart for music intended to be lifted up as worship often grates on the spiritual conscience, but it does help worship leaders’ awareness of what material is being used in other places. While each church has their local favorites, and some churches produce original music, it’s not unwise to focus on the CCLI list, especially in today’s climate where people migrate more freely from church to church.

worshipRecently, we’ve also noticed a shift in how we sing. Hymnbooks gave way to overhead projectors which in turn gave way to video text projection. Today, those texts often have picture backgrounds consisting of still photos, animations, or even full film treatment. In one service we visited (dubbed “Ancient/Future” because of elements from many generations) we counted seven different video projectors in use.

The upside is that the video projector is often used by the pastor to emphasize the sequential points of the sermon, or to include a video clip. The inclusion of these began with short scenes from popular movies, but more recently an entire industry has grown up around manufacturing video clips for use around different themes and preaching subjects.

The downside is that we’ve lost an important element of worship which was prevalent when we had hymnbooks: Four-part harmony. However, in its place, we have more songs emerging which use different parts sung at once, having their roots in the antiphonal music and canons of the past. The growth of the Taizé movement is another example of the growing desire for worship which is more musically complex. Rhythmically, “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” allows a congregation to effortlessly sing in 5/4 time.

What of the hymns? Many still endure, but of course some argue that many of the so-called choruses of the last twenty years are hymns. Certainly everything from “Meekness and Majesty” to the more recent “In Christ Alone” follow the hymn style, while “Wonderful Cross” simply attaches a new chorus to an existing hymn, “When I Survey.” In other churches, rediscovery of some of the “lost” stanzas to popular hymns is unfolding as is a resurgence of more liturgical elements (prayers, readings, etc.) in evangelical churches.   Others have suggested that the hymns, as a form, aren’t really disappearing at all, only the mid-twentieth century ones (circa 1920 – 1960) are fading from use.

The late Robert Webber probably wrote more about worship than anyone and popularized the term “Blended Worship.” Mixing “something old, something new” not only provides musical and theological balance, but is a wise move for worship leaders trying to achieve peace in a congregation with a broad demographic.

Music is always changing, though; and while many of our children and youth are learning theology through music as we did when we were younger; there is no doubt that the songs will sound antiquated over time. The Bible encourages the writing of new songs of praise (see Is. 42:10) and hopefully our generation will be able to allow the next generation to create, hear and sing their own compositions which express of the ways of God, the truths of God, and the Word of God.

(c) 2008 Paul Wilkinson; Originally blogged here on April 2nd, 2008; a reprint and update of an earlier article published in 2004; this also appeared on a previous blog.  This article is always subject to minor revisions; last update 01/25/10.

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