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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July 1, 2014

Lost CCM Greats

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:53 am

It’s a holiday here. July 1st. Our July 4th. Pretty big deal.  So instead of the usual, we’ve got music videos for you to enjoy. If you’re not on a high speed connection, most of these are just a single slide, so you’re only loading audio.

Kerry Livgren – How Can You Live — Yeah. The Kansas guy.

Richie Furay Band – You’re the One I Love — You’ll have to work for this one, it appears at 22:34

Angie Lewis – Heart Dance — This would actually play well on today’s Christian Hit Radio formats, but it’s from 1985.

Stephen Alexandersen – Let The Music Move Me — From 1977 the title song from an album which was pressed on white vinyl to match the suit he wore on the cover.

John Mehler – Bow and Arrow — From Maranatha! Music’s Asaph Records label. (I think.)

Tom Howard – Show Me The Shepherd — Hard to believe it’s the late Tom Howard.
 

Parable – More Than Words — From the days where the Maranatha! Music reps sold albums from the trunks of their cars.

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.

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.


May 1, 2010

He Will Not Let You Fall

I had the weirdest experience last night.

I was driving through some rather remote roads late at night to pick up my youngest son from a youth event at a Christian camp.   All the time I was thinking of a really old Psalms Alive song, “He Will Not Let You Fall.”

So I went on YouTube just for fun to see if someone had posted the audio, and there it was.   I started listening only to notice I was only the second person to ever view it.   Hmmm.  That’s odd.

I glanced down at the post date:  April 30, 2010.

Timing is everything.   Kinda fits the song, doesn’t it?   Click the comments section below to listen.

I look up to the mountains

To the hills I turn my eyes

Who will come to help me?

Can I find a place to hide?

The one who made the heavens

And the earth will hear my call

The Lord will come to help me

And He will not let me fall

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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