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History of Modern Christian Praise and Worship

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  • History of Modern Christian Praise and Worship

    Hi all...

    I just posted a thorough and memory-saturated podcast about the history of modern Christian music, especially between both entertainment-oriented CCM and the Praise & Worship scene.

    http://prayermeetingpodcast.com/ep-0...ristian-music/

    It starts with about twenty minutes of worship singing, including some indie worship songs and public domain mashups, a few spontaneous and written prayers. The actual history starts at about the 25-minute mark, where I talk of Ray Repp, Larry Norman, 2nd Chapter, Amy, Smitty, and Jars, along with worship standards from the 60s to present day.

    I invite you to check it out.

    Nick
    Nick Alexander
    Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
    Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
    Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

  • #2
    Many thanks, Nick.

    I am very glad you are taking a historical approach! This is a very "un-contemporary" thing to do, we suffer these days so much from chronological snobbery (C.S. Lewis's term). I'm listening and enjoying.

    Nick ... if you know of any webpages ... "canonical" (i.e., most authoritative) defenses of the use of contemporary worship for congregations ... I would be very much interested in reading these. Don't yet have access to books, but will sometime soon, so book sources also welcome. But web sources especially. Currently it seems that John Frame's book is most authoritative / most referred to.

    Many blessings,

    James

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you , James!

      In regards to the contemporary v traditional debates; as you can probably tell from my podcast, I am most ambivalent of the debates. Give me traditional. Give me contemporary. Does it praise God? Good enough for me.

      Are there issues within contemporary worship that the traditionals have brought up that have merit? Yep.
      Are there issues within traditional worship that the contemporaries have brought up that have merit? Yep.

      News flash: not a single song will have musical/lyrical/topical completeness within itself. So there's that.

      Do I have websites to recommend? I've not read Frame's book. I do think Marva Dawn's "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down" and Sally Morgenthaler's "Worship Evangelism" should be top, complementary reads, touching upon very specific problems with specific songs in both camps.

      But most of what I attained was from personal experience (having lived through much of what I shared), and also from CCM magazine (from many years' subscriptions, and their corresponding books), and the HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC. It's also from my careful study of the CCLI Top 2000 lists, which I've been doing for over five years now (it's a great exercise!).

      Does this help? Would you like me to address this question in an upcoming episode (probably after Christmas)?
      Nick
      Nick Alexander
      Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
      Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
      Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hey Nick,

        Thank you for the response.

        I also am *tired* by these CCM / "Traditionalist" type debates and tend to find both parties rather lazy when it comes to musicological and aesthetic insight.

        But whatever the case, it is good to understand a thing ... and understanding CCM's history is very, very important, no matter what one thinks of it.

        I have only looked a bit at Marva Dawn's book - hope to read it all soon - it looks very, very good - she actually has two books. And thank you for the tip of Sally Morgenthaler.

        Somewhere ... it would be good to have a kind of heirarchical index where info on the state of knowledge of various things ... and the state of debate on various things ... is kept so people don't keep arguing over the same things.

        Many blessings to you,

        James

        Comment


        • #5
          Not to hijack this thread, but Marva Dawn's book was actually pretty one-sided.
          Like a lot of critics of contemporary music she criticizes in generalities (with few if any specific examples) and seems unaware of the fact that while many (if not most) early attempts at writing contemporary worship music (in the '70's and '80's) were both lyrically and musically simplistic, over time there have been those such as Sovereign Grace, Townend & Getty, and Kingsway (Redman, Hughes, Beeching, et al) who have worked hard at improving the quality of their craft.

          Alex
          ...a man of few words, all carefully chosen (hopefully)

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Alex...

            No doubt. But there still may be doctrinal issues afoot in popular contemporary worship songs (note the theological wranglings we have had on any number of songs on this forum: Better than A Hallelujah, How He Loves, and MWS' Agnus Dei).

            It is outside the scope of Dawn's book to go into every single song that has a theological conundrum. Those examples are not meant to taint the entire industry as a whole, but to highlight specifics so that when a thorny theological construct finds its way into a worship song, we can be aware of it. Just because it's #1 on CCLI's Top Heatseekers chart doesn't automatically grant it orthodoxy.

            Nick
            Nick Alexander
            Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
            Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
            Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

            Comment


            • #7
              I don't believe Dawn was primarily concerned with thelogical "conundrums" or other such issues.
              The title was "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down", and her implicit conclusion was that it's not possible to "reach out without dumbing down" using contemporary music because contemporary music is so inherently "dumbed down" that churches should therefore use nothing but hymnody (or contemporary classical music).
              In arriving at that conclusion she failed to take into account that many of us have and will continue to work hard at creating worship music in a more contemporary style that has significant Biblical and theological substance, and it's quite unfair to essentially dismiss all of contemporary music based on a few examples that represent the lower end of the spectrum.

              Alex
              ...a man of few words, all carefully chosen (hopefully)

              Comment


              • #8
                If you're going to make a strong critique against Dawn's work, you're going to do a whole lot better than "implicit conclusion"s. I took the work to not be an indictment on the entirity of Christian contemporary worship, but rather a critique on specific aspects of a lot of contemporary Christian worship at that particular time. As of this writing, there are over 500 songs from that period and before that still reside in the most recent CCLI Top 2000 list, although it is a testament that "Mighty Mighty Saviour" (one of the clumsiest theological songs ever written) by Danny Daniels was not (although, to be fair, did appear in the majority of Top 2000 lists in the last decade).

                The fact that a lot of contemporary worship since then has moved beyond doctrinal klutsiness is a testament that the contemporary worship songwriting community has taken her advice to heart, whether familiar with her work or not. That said, I find value in her writing, because I am not taking her comments as a blanket-critique of an entire industry.

                If ancient hymnody had the same theological clumsiness as "Mighty Mighty Saviour" and MWS' "Agnus Dei", she would have written about it. The one thing about ancient hymnody is this: if the song was bad in any fashion, at some point along the road it would have been left forgotten. Newer songs do not have this luxury. That is why the critiques were valid, without being an all-out indictment on every song ever written post-1970.
                Nick Alexander
                Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
                Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
                Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Breaking: Dr. Marva Dawn is a speaker for the 2013 National Worship Leader Conference, sponsorred by Worship Leader magazine.

                  Something tells me that if she really had a chip on her shoulder towards contemporary music, then Worship Leader magazine made a big mistake, inviting her for the third time.
                  Nick Alexander
                  Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
                  Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
                  Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    NickAlexander - thank you especially for the Sally Morgenthaler hint. She, like me, was once more enthusiastic about CCM.

                    And Alex - I agree that CCM needs to be well-represented. We do need to know the truth, and the whole truth.

                    Blessings to the both of you.

                    EDIT:

                    An article about Morgenthaler's shift of position:
                    http://nancybeach.typepad.com/nancy_...er_article.pdf
                    Last edited by James Coder; 12-07-2012, 09:02 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This article sums up my complaint on complaints about songs...

                      http://www.ourrisingsound.com/2008/1...worship-songs/

                      I believe that too many songs are put under a microscope unfairly (how he loves us) for every word taking into account not the authors meaning, but rather a generic argument and generalizations.
                      Lov'n Jesus

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        From where I am, the server seems to be having problems ... if this is the case for you as well, you can get the article here as well: http://web.archive.org/web/201009252...worship-songs/

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I happen to agree 100% with the article.

                          But I also think that it is not the author's intent to imply that if a criticism of a song exists, it is because it is taken out of context of the entirity of the worship service as a whole.

                          There is a type of criticism that worship leaders need to take to heart--ahem, I mean... take to _mind_. We got the loving the Lord God with all our heart stuff pretty good. We now need more songs, or return to those great hymns of yore, that engage the mind.

                          Books like Almost Christian are making the point, better than I ever could, that we have a real serious doctrinal deficit in our church. That the worship times are fantastic, but when the hard times come, when the temptations come strongly, when the college professor's critiques against the faith hit hard, we are losing a lot of believers, unable to withstand the seemingly impenatrable arrows against the refutations of non-believers and agnostics.

                          So when a song fails in doctrine (and not merely is incomplete in doctrine, but actually muddles up what we as Christians actually believe), or if a song has to be continually explained in context, again and again, over and over, week after week, so that there is no confusion as to what the author's intent really was, then perhaps it is a mistake to do such a song after all. If the song is a slave to a melody where a lyrical compromise has to be made in order for it to "fit", then perhaps it is a mistake to do such a song after all. If a song--no matter how popular, no matter how many YouTube hits it gets--if it divides a congregation, and the complementary song which would have made the song's context complete, if such a second song has yet to be introduced to your congregation, then perhaps it's a mistake to pursue that first song after all.

                          There was a time where new worship was limited by the songbooks you owned, the blue-stained copies passed along, the limitations of worship cassettes and 8-tracks being sold thru mail-order. Now CCLI has hundreds of thousands of worship songs, easily discovered by way of SongSelect, and many more hundreds of thousands of songs outside of CCLI in the public domain, easily learned by free music notation software and forty-five minutes in memorizing those keyboard shortcuts. Don't limit yourself. Get to work.
                          Nick Alexander
                          Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
                          Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
                          Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't believe that the songwriters are making compromises in lyrics that make the doctrine vague. IMO, if one sees the word "love" in a song and chooses to think of it as a "Jesus is my boyfriend" love, that is NOT the songwriter being unclear. That is the person not taking the time to understand English well. Songs like "How He Loves Us" get railed on for being "lovey dovey" yet the author was clear it is not. There is nothing questionable about the way love is used, unless you WANT to choose to nitpick it and use one of the different definitions of love.

                            Too many times we nitpick and inject our own meaning to questions something instead of giving it the benefit of the doubt and attributing it to the correct usage. I can go into SongSelect and find a new song by mainstream artist that fit whatever doctrinal topic you want to hit and well.

                            I don't like it when we blame the song writers for the worship leaders stringing 5 "I love you, you love me" songs and the sermon not having any explanation of what kind of love and no context for theological love of God. You simply cannot get that much theology in a song... and NO hymns did not do a better job at it. I simply do not by that because a song isn't explicit on what type or love that it is doctrinally questionable. One should automatically assume that it is the right kind of love without question. If one feel more explanation is needed, then take a moment to prayerfully explain with verses from the Bible. It is not the song writers' job to ensure that the congregation using the message understands what kind of love God has for us or what kind of love we have for him (each a 40 minute, 5 sermons series a piece). It is the pastor's/leader's job to ensure the congregation is being fed not only songs in context but verses as well. One can take a verse on love, read it, and get the same results as singing a song on love without context. Even the Bible not in context has the same effect and it is God's word.

                            I fail to see the complaints on current music an doctrine as being a just complaint. Almost all complaints, besides a few, are arguing the authors intent. If one can read it in a way that is doctrinally sound, then read it that way and don't cause discourse. There is no reason to question the authors intent unless they say otherwise. If you question your congregation/audience's perception of that song, then one has to wonder if they are being taught well enough in the sermon or in their daily time in the word.

                            I do not question the content of something no more than 10-20 distinct phrases without providing it in context of the Biblical definitions. Just as I wouldn't take a chapter of the Bible and read it to the congregation without contextual direction from the rest of the Bible. Even a full chapter or Psalm can be as confusing as the most complained about new worship songs being called shallow and flaky.

                            I don't say this to be confrontational, I say this to be fair to the authors.
                            Lov'n Jesus

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              This is what I wrote:"If the song is a slave to a melody where a lyrical compromise has to be made in order for it to "fit", then perhaps it is a mistake to do such a song after all."

                              I was referring.... not to an imaginary debate as to whether artists want to make doctrine vague... but the nagging tendency of songwriters calling God "Holy Holy" and not the Biblically correct "Holy Holy Holy". The former is used in ancient Jewish grammar to connote one is "very" something. The latter, that one is "completely" something.

                              Why do songwriters insist on this phrase, which does not describe God with the fullness of holiness? Partially because most songwriters are ignorant of this Biblical fact (not dependent upon a denominational quibble). And because melodies they chose allow for four syllables, not six. They could habe avoided the controversy altogether by choosing a proper qualifier before "holy". "Fully holy", "only holy". But being outside of this knowledge, they write a song and millions sing to God a song that, simply could be better.

                              With hundreds of thousands of songs at our disposal, we no longer need to compromise on this.

                              ETA: Let's talk about "How He Loves", since it's on your mind.

                              If a pastor does not want you to do a song, for whatever reason, right or wrong, it is a matter of obedience and humility to obey that pastor. It is not your problem if he/she/they don't GET it. It is not your problem if they find a line in that song inappropriate for corporate worship. Selections from Song of Solomon, under the right context, can be a powerful testimony as to how God's creation of the nuptial union is a powerful metaphor of God's love for the Church (the Bride of Christ)--but that hardly means it's appropriate for a mixed congregation, of marrieds, singles, teens, geriatrics, and children.

                              I know you want to be fair to the authors. I do too. And to be fair for J.M.McMillan, he, too, never wrote that song with the intention of it being a praise and worship song. And I think that in the context where he first wrote it--as a troubadour singing in coffeehouses and performance-oriented venues, where he surely knows firsthand the audience that he is presenting before, and the story behind the song, it absolutely kills.

                              That it became a popular song, some will say this is an act of God. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Does everything that's popular mean that God's hand is behind it? What a poor test ! Scripture says it's oftentimes the least popular option--the narrow road--that has His hand behind it. By that measure, the runaway popularity of Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Twilight series and 50 Shades of Grey must also have God's hand behind it! Sacrilige!

                              So while it's unfortunate that you and your pastor (or if not, someone else and that person's pastor) disagree on whether to use, (what appears to be) a powerful song that many other people have been blessed by. I will state outright that even more powerful than that song, is the model of humility and Christ-like workmanship you have between you, your team and the pastor that will leave a much greater impact.
                              Last edited by NickAlexander; 12-09-2012, 06:06 AM.
                              Nick Alexander
                              Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
                              Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
                              Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

                              Comment

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