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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March 4, 2018

Resource for Worship Leaders Who Aren’t Pros

Over the years I’ve shared some of the music of David Wesley with readers here or mentioned new videos in the weekly link lists. David does multi-track recording of Christian songs and posts videos of him singing each part, complete with a costume change for each track. I’m privileged to know him personally and to get to share conversations about worship in the local church. (If you’ve haven’t heard his music, I’ve embedded two videos at the bottom of this article.)

Today, I want to share a couple of the recent videos he’s produced in a new series called NoPro Worship: New principles, strategies, tips and tricks every Friday! It’s for people who aren’t on staff at a local church, or feel they’re no professionals, or no pro for short.

After a couple of getting-to-know-you videos where he introduced the series, he then looked conceptually at the Six Purposes of Worship in the Church. (Click to watch; that one’s not below.)

But then he moved into a really challenging topic: Does it matter where our songs come from? What about the life of the composer? What about the writer’s doctrinal perspective when it’s quite different from your own on key issues? He uses a really challenging example of a song that many worship wrestled with a few years back. Can you comfortably lead a tainted song? Check it out:

Then last Friday, he looked at the size of a worship leader’s (or church’s) repertoire. Is your congregation seeking freshness or familiarity? There’s also some practical advice on choosing songs generally. And how can worship be considered Spirit-led if you have to plan it all out ahead of time? After watching this one, if you give worship leadership at your church, consider subscribing to the series. And if you’d like to support what David is doing with this series, you can learn how to do that at the end.


For the first sample of his music, although he has more complex videos, I thought given the subject matter it was a fitting tie-in here to include this one, O Church Arise.

Finally, I had to include this one because my wife sings on it! This is David’s virtual choir and band — representing many different countries — performing an original arrangement of Nothing But The Blood.


Videos watched on WordPress blogs register on YouTube as views, but send David some “stats love” by clicking through (the YT logo in the bottom right when the video is playing) and watching a few more. And be sure to forward the NoPro Worship videos (or link to this blog post) to the worship leader at your church.

April 4, 2016

Not Your Parents’ CCM

I realize we ended last week with both a Thursday and Friday post about worship music, and this isn’t a worship or music blog, but today’s topic just kinda landed on the doorstep over the weekend…


 

And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.
 Revelation 14:2 NIV

There has been much talk about what the next wave of Christian music will consist of, and in particular, what the next generation will do with the enormous catalog of modern worship songs it is being handed.

Many idealists would prefer that the next generation simply accept the status quo, and that nothing drastic changes; even though that generation greatly shook up and shattered the paradigm handed it from their parents. However, a simple study of musicology reveals that for the past thousand years (and beyond) every period in music history is a reaction to the period which preceded it.

What follows is my opinion only, but there has to come a point when millennials reject the current styles in either large measure or in some small measure. People who agree with this notion usually say something like:

  • There will be an entirely new form
  • There will be a return to the hymns
  • There will be more of a blended worship approach
  • There will be new songs, but a return of four-part harmony
  • There will be fewer vertical worships songs and more songs of testimony
  • There will be less instrumentation; a minimalist or even acapella aproach
  • There will be more interest in Episcopal or Anglican forms; or chants and Taizé
  • There will be an emphasis on preaching, and less music, so it won’t really matter
  • There will be a decline of congregational participation, and a return to performed solos, choirs, etc.
  • There will be a situation where the congregation becomes passive, and music videos are simply watched

But I think a change is already in the works; it’s been happening for a few years now and it consists of

  • A rejection of Nashville as the music agenda-setting capital of the Christian world, with the next generation church embracing a more European sound
  • A rejection of the guitar as the primary contemporary worship instrument, with worship leaders playing keyboards, especially synthesizers.

(Apologies to Third Day and Big Daddy Weave; et al.)

Hillsong Y&F - Youth RevivalI believe that nothing expresses this better than the new Hillsong Young and Free album, Youth Revival. I’ve been listening to cuts from this over and over again. It puts a smile on my face. (I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s also the band I hear at North Point Online before and after the Sunday live service feeds.)

I realize that this opinion may not sit well with Chris Tomlin fans. I’m just sayin’ that if you have a choice between guitar lessons and piano lessons for the kids and you’re a forward-looking parent, I would go with the piano. As a keyboard player who never once got to play at a campfire, I realize the instrument has some limitations, but I think the next generation is looking for something completely different than G, C, Em, D7 or its many variations.

Hillsong Young and Free stand somewhere between Hillsong Kids and Hillsong United. I get the whole Radio Disney thing. Nonetheless, I believe they best represent the change already taking place.


 

Sadly, the three videos originally posted here have been removed from YouTube and there are no substitutes available as of May 14, 2016.

November 10, 2013

These are a few of my favorite songs

This is a re-post of a series of links to articles at Christianity 201 that contain worship song videos. it’s been available at that website for years, but never posted here before. Enjoy. (If there’s a song you want to recommend, feel free to add a comment.)

April 17, 2011

Classic Worship: Matt Redman – I Will Offer Up My Life

Good Sunday morning to you.  Here’s one of my favorite worship songs.  Sit back, enjoy, then watch it again only this time singing along.

October 31, 2010

Majesty: Extra Verses

Recently, the topic of writing extra verses to worship songs and hymns has come up here and in other forums.    There are times that a particular worship service almost demands some additional lyrics, and as long as you’re not making a recording, and the verses are consistent with the spirit of the original, I would encourage worship leaders to do this.

We spent the weekend looking for some that I did many, many years ago when the chorus Majesty by Jack Hayford was popular.     We decided to post them here for safekeeping!    (Musicians:  There’s a few ties and triplets used here to make the rhythm work.)

Liberty. Glorious liberty.
He has loosed the chains and weights
that imprisoned my soul
Liberty. Setting my Spirit free.
Taking away guilt and disgrace
Making me whole

So arise, sound forth His praise
Your sins are forgiven
Jesus Christ, with His own life
Has brought our release

Liberty. Glorious liberty.
Once we were slaves, now we are saved
Forevermore.


Victory.  Living in victory
For Christ Jesus has conquered the forces of sin
Victory.  Permanent victory
Casting out fear; casting out death
Assuring we win

So stand up, go forth to fight
knowing we triumph.
Not by human power and might
By His Spirit alone.

Victory.  Eternal victory.
Leading the way, through all life’s days
Taking me home.

additional lyrics © 1991 Paul Wilkinson

June 17, 2010

Why Johnny Chooses Not To Sing Hymns

While some blogs are content to work their way through books on a chapter-by-chapter basis, I may have erred last Friday in presenting a partial review of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns by David Gordon.   I think the early review I presented was valid as far as it went, and if you missed it, pause now to click back to it; my final conclusions are somewhat different.

In the end, I believe that as powerful an argument as Gordon makes, this is mostly an emotional argument placed in an academic frame.   Where I think he betrays this is with the assertion that our present culture is “paedocentric.”

Literally, we are not a “child-centered” culture, and neither is the church.   The places where I served in worship leadership covered a wide swath of music, including items borrowed from the youth group and from camp ministry; but we never did “Jesus Loves Me;” or “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

Rather, our culture is definitely music-saturated, as Gordon admits, and that music (as well as the larger culture) is very definitely “youth centered.”  But neither condition should be considered “infantile;” the law of entropy is not at work here.

For example, Gordon rightfully acknowledges that the loss of print music to overhead and computer projections has meant a loss of actual staff notation and four-part singing.   That is true, and I miss that also.

However, is it any less complex for people to learn tunes by memory as opposed to reading them?   Wasn’t playing the four-part game often a distraction for those of us who knew how to read music?   Is not the addition of bridges and codas to the familiar routine of verses and choruses not more complex than the simple verse-chorus rules that governed the hymns?

I’m not saying that I don’t sometimes find the bridges particularly irritating, but I don’t think we should lament the loss of something (i.e. four part SATB) when we have also gained other things (i.e. tune memorization, more symphonic forms, etc.)

Plus what are we to say of modern choruses like “I Will Give You All My Worship,” and the incredible intricacies of “You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)”?   The only hymn I know of that comes close is the chorus of  the Diadem tune to “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” (or possibly “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”) and I don’t for a minute believe that if Johnny can learn the former he can’t learn the latter.

There are also inconsistencies in Gordon’s argument.   He acknowledges having a liking for modern works such as “In Christ Alone;” but then he seems to have less admiration for “How Great Thou Art” because it was translated into English only in the early 1950s, and therefore can hardly earn the “traditional” handle.

Gordon would have us sing “A Mighty Fortress” much more often, and many other lost songs of that era.   I agree that there is great theology contained in the verses of true classic hymns.   But nowhere does he address the difficulty we find today with people understanding lyrics such as “a bulwark never failing.”   Growing up, I always thought “this terrestrial ball” was a party; one that I looked forward to attending. Music has changed, but so has spoken English. No wonder I think Johnny can, Johnny simply chooses not to.

Rightly or wrongly, the present generation is choosing churches which have a presentation that is contemporary in nature.   Gordon despises “contemporaneity,” using the term as though it were a vice.

To “reach” the young by propagating youth culture would be analogous to Jesus’ “reaching” the rich young man by giving him money.   Money was part of that particular sinner’s problem, part of the reason he needed to be reached.  Extended adolescence is part of what our youth need to be delivered from. (p.162)

The first two sentences work, the third one undermines the force of what he’s saying.  Forgive me for thinking at that point that this is your kindly great uncle decrying the culture from his chair in the corner of the family room.

I agree with his suggestion that the music of the church ought to speak with a distinctive voice to the larger culture, but he offers no quick fix for how to attract 20-somethings and 30-somethings to a service of classical worship and preaching.

But I’m also not sure that the voice of today’s church music is not distinctive.  I remember decades ago hearing someone say, “There are secular parallels to a lot of contemporary Christian bands, but then you find a group like The Second Chapter of Acts for which there is simply no parallel.”

I also wondered, while reading, what the late Robert Webber would think of David Gordon.   Webber was a strong advocate of blended worship (something old, something new…) but might find this book a little off the balance he was trying to suggest.

On the positive side, this was a good read.   It’s one of the few books I’ve done in the last five years where the footnotes were perhaps more engaging than the main text.

Charles Wesley was surely one of the most prolific, and arguably one of the more accomplished hymn-writers in the English speaking world.   …[He] wrote at least 6,500 hymns.   Yet not all his hymns succeeded in making their way into the hymnal.   The United Methodist Hymnal has 862 hymns, only 41 were written by Charles Wesley.   So out of 6,500 hymns that Wesley wrote, only 41 are found in the hymnal of the denomination most influenced by him… That’s barely over half of one percent.  Are our contemporary hymn-writers superior?  Probably not.  Is their success rate higher than one out of every 158 they write?   Of course it is, because unlike Wesley, they get a “free pass.”  As long as their music sounds contemporary, virtually every other criterion for measuring hymns is discarded. (p. 44)

Some of our worship songs are incorporated into Sunday morning too easily — I agree with Gordon on that — but many offer something that is unique.   Furthermore, while I know it may not be everyone’s favorite, I can’t find any significant lyrical or musical difference between “How Great Is Our God,” and “How Great Thou Art.”

But other observations are not so kind such as referring to the Awakening of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield as an “alleged awakening.” (p. 151) Gordon is decidedly distanced from Evangelicalism and prefers to refer to those of that movement as revivalists.

Some of his tangential observations are helpful, such as the fact that among his students, while they all prefer contemporary worship, they almost always choose classical pieces for their weddings; though he may place too much weight on this observation.

I’m now curious about his earlier Why Johnny Can’t Preach (also P & R Publishing, also paperback)  and I have placed a copy on order.   However, I shudder to think he might complete the trilogy with a book on Bible translation.

I still think if you lead worship or have an interest in this topic that this constitutes one of those “must read” titles.   I just think that in the end, particularly in the long chapter ‘Strategic Issues,’  the emotional argument overshadowed the possibility of a completely academic treatment.   I feel he too often betrays his attempt at objectivity, while still having something worthy to say.

***

A video of You Are Holy (Prince of Peace) is available here.   Or just click the comments section of this post.   It’s a fitting song with which to conclude this.

P&R Publsihing did not supply a copy of this title for review.

June 11, 2010

Currently Reading: A Refreshing Look at the Hymns/Choruses Debate

Maybe this will be the last book written on the subject.   It almost seems like old news.   The writer of Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote The Hymnal, David Gordon admits in the introduction that the market has been flooded with books on this topic.

That said — and keep in mind this isn’t a full review — I do feel that Gordon brings something new to the table, and in fact, I think if worship leaders were to read this with an open mind — they would include at least one hymn in each worship set.

But they might not do it with the band, and it wouldn’t be an update as is the case when “When I Survey” becomes “Wonderful Cross.”   It might even involve taking the Midi keyboard and finding the most authentic pipe organ sample you can find.   In fact, it might even involve having some older geezer walk onstage to play the song.

Gordon calls himself a “media ecologist.”   I’m told he defines this in his previous work, Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped The Messengers (both are paperbacks from P & R Publishing.)  He’s concerned about the deluge of popular music already bombarding us from a variety of sources.  He then catches or collects observations on things you may have missed:

As Ken Myers has observed, ‘People often play air guitar while listening to rock, but almost no one plays air violin while listening to a violin concerto.’  (from a footnote on page 12)

Touché!

Gordon feels that the problem in worship leading is not so much the actual songs we choose as the fact that choice necessitates that there are a host of songs we omit. He frames his purpose on page 36:

“…An extremely abbreviated list of the considerations that have caused me to be wary of using contemporary Christian music in worship services at all, to object to its common use, and to zealously oppose its exclusive use…”

It seems rather hard-line, but I think his arguments are quite forceful.   As an advocate of “blended worship,” and therefore already partially converted, I still find myself challenged.

Finding time for reading has been difficult lately.   Plus,  I don’t want to rush through this one.   So more to come…

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