Dear Modern Worship Music Haters (An Open Letter)


As always, our intent is to present more than one perspective of issues that are relevant to our readers. Our hope is that you are prompted to prayerfully consider articles like this as avenues for challenge and growth.


Dear Modern Worship Music Hater,

The 7-11 modern worship song moniker that might have been humorous two decades ago is no longer funny or accurate. Using all-encompassing labels to denigrate newer songs indicates you haven’t recently read the text of many of those songs.

CCLI now contains over 300,000 worship songs and hymns. If some of those songs are theologically superficial, then don’t use them. After eliminating the shallow ones you’ll still have a couple of hundred thousand songs with profound theological depth that can be used. If you still feel the need to use derogatory labels for songs with repeated phrases, then at least be consistent by including How Great Thou Art since those 4 words are repeated 17 times in that 4-stanza hymn.

Criticism of one in order to elevate another often has the opposite effect. So trying to defend hymns by vilifying modern worship songs is not fair to those beloved hymns that have helped and continue to help us sing our faith. If hymns can’t stand on their own, then we shouldn’t be singing them. If, however, they can stand on their own as many of us believe they can, then they don’t really need our feeble attempts to prop them up. They will endure in spite of our criticisms or defenses.

Is it possible that defending hymns by criticizing modern worship songs is really just an act of self-defense? Labeling modern worship songs as shallow or too easy are the same epithets used to denigrate that new girl in the middle-school classroom. Both disparagements are desperate attempts to guard territory or protect status.

So it’s time to honestly admit that your disdain is primarily musical or emotional, not theological. It’s time to admit that you just don’t really like modern worship songs and are lamenting the loss of a life-long musical and textual encourager. And it’s time to admit you are missing worship service opportunities to sing familiar texts and tunes that allow you to express your joy and grief.

Honestly voicing those emotions as the root of your disdain instead of labels and ad hominem criticisms is really where the conversation should begin. When the discourse begins here, it’s time for those of us from all genres to acknowledge that your emotions are understandable and even defendable. Maybe those honest and heart-felt conversations could be the starting point to help us all find worship common ground.

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Dr. David Manner is the Associate Executive Director for the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists with responsibilities in the areas of worship consultation and leadership development. David can be followed on Twitter @dwmanner or on his Worship Evaluation Blog:

Republished with permission. Originally published at: