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  • Get off my lawn...

    I've been in worship leading circles since the 1980s.

    Through this time, I've seen worship music morph from acoustic-guitar driven "Jesus Music" to the Maranatha/Integrity/Vineyard conglomerates, to the takeover of CCM.

    Whereas before, worship music was a couple of folks with acoustic guitars, and a djembe to keep time, now it is a worship band with one goal only... to replicate the radio version of a worship cover precisely. And if you lack an instrument--you are more than welcome to purchase the accompany karaoke trax for that particular instrument.

    Whereas before, worship music came from lots of individual songwriters, passing songs around from prayer group to small church, each trying to put a spin on their own favorite Scripture verses, now it is a formulaic repetition of standard nonsequitors all jumbled together pushed by a music industry with a desire to squeeze every last bit of profit from the song in question.

    It's not as singable as it once was. The range of singing, the unique radio-friendly rhythm of each verse highlights that these are all performance songs, save for an endlessly repetitious chorus and outro that follow similar patterns. The song starts low, and then octave jumps.

    CCM artists, whom I had once enjoyed, are no longer writing their own songs, but are covering the works of a dozen-or-so songwriters from megachurches. So they all sound the same, with (thankfully) notable exceptions.

    Is the new generation no longer trying to participate in singing, having been jaded by _American Idol_ and _The Voice_ instead of the singalong culture that predated it? Is the new generation no longer content with combining old and new, discovering great hymns, Psalms, spirituals, and Scripture-based standards by following the newly revised Christian pop model? Is our new liturgy no longer followed by the Liturgical Calendar, but rather on K-Love's Top 40 Charts?

    Is song improvisation dead? Killed by the unnatural adherance to a click track that mimics the K-Love song of the week? The notion that one can jump from song to song to song, all singable, all relating to the same theme, and a moment of spontaneous lyrics jumping off the moment, only enhancing the Spirit's flow?

    And after all this, I keep seeing these despairing notes of how Millenials are not going to church anymore, even though they were fed a steady diet of these modern worship standards in the last decade or so. And that worship bloggers like Chris Sligh state emphatically that the worship is not for believers, but for the newcomers, who, for reasons only he understands, cannot understand what an organ is.

    Sorry, I have to give my "Get off my lawn" speech. But I feel that for all the exceptional worship songs that are churned out (and there are some), there is a larger movement that is hijacking the direction of where worship music is, and has lost the plot. I _want_ to support Contemporary Worship, but it appears that Contemporary Worship has no room for me.
    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
    I'm trying to wrap my mind around this when I see these sorts of posts, but I honestly don't get it or see it. I firmly believe that some of the strongest corporate songs EVER are being written/recorded/sung by & in churches RIGHT NOW. Not only that, but many - not all - get covered by CCM artists & are getting radio play, which means our congregations have a leg up because they already know them. Repetition? The endlessly repetitious choruses have been slowly fading/dying off since their heyday in the 80s/early 90s, with rare exception - if anything, I understand when people complain that worship lyrics have become too wordy (but I like that, so... not my complaint).

    For the most part, my congregation (& the congregations I guest lead in) sing their hearts out!

    When they don't, I've really dug into the excuses, & written this: The Real Reason we don't Sing (see below).

    I'm looking for the reference (busy day), but there are quite a number of articles out there rebutting the very idea that congregational singing is waning... I'll share those next week when I can find where I saved them. I'm sorry that your church isn't singing, & that you either aren't connecting with the songs your local radio station is playing, or that the worship leaders you used to consider resources are releasing, but I'd dare say that's not everyone's experience. I believe that a great many songs we're singing today will be in the hymnals of the future (whatever those look like).

    Comment


    • NickAlexander
      NickAlexander commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. I will read your article, and I am looking forward to your followups.

      However, I take issue with this line: "I believe that a great many songs we're singing today will be in the hymnals of the future (whatever those look like)."

      I believe that the framework with how worship music is done today is done in such a way to do away with the hymnal, period (whatever it will look like). The constant barrage of P&W Top Lists makes singing even Delirious songs "quaint." It discourages creating worship standards, in favor of the new.

  • #3
    I'm fine with that. Though I enjoyed listening to Delirious as a "Christian Rock Band", I didn't think most of the lyrics or melodies were worth singing at church - there are songs from that era that have lasting power, but not many.

    Comment


    • #4
      Originally posted by ShannonTWC View Post
      I'm fine with that. Though I enjoyed listening to Delirious as a "Christian Rock Band", I didn't think most of the lyrics or melodies were worth singing at church - there are songs from that era that have lasting power, but not many.
      I agree to disagree. I think the output of the 90s worship is far more congregation-friendly/singable than the majority of what passes for today. The only thing that is dated is the style of production at that time, so the recordings from that era could use a tune-up. But play them with a live band, and they still resonate, and congregations can pick them up far more easily than the songs of today, as there are less moving parts (verse / chorus, vs verse / pre-chorus / chorus /bridge / outro), and the notes are far more accessible (low c to high d). This also allows for greater worship flexibility, allowing for more spontaneity.

      Months ago you did guide me to a church service online where you played at (in Atlanta, where Good Good Father was introduced), and I watched the young folks in that room visibly not singing, as the lead worship singer sang his heart out. I mean, different strokes, and I don't doubt they were all into the moment as it was presented, but I still didn't see any attempt to outwardly participate, nor any indication that they were obliged to do so. And again, different strokes for different folks--that's what they built, that's their modus operandi. But then, if students were no longer encouraged to sing along, but instead allow the moment to resonate in their hearts, why not return back to the days of the schola choir singing Latin Bible verses, with incense all around?
      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


      • #5
        BTW, my circles are singing just fine. It's that the radio station (and the risers of the CCLI Top 200) are not connecting, in a big enough way that I was compelled to write. You know I follow the charts studiously, and have my finger on the pulse of what is being used, by and large. And you know I will go to bat for any church that wishes to move to contemporary worship. But when my team consistently drops the current stuff for the songs from twenty years ago, and do this consistently, I have to wonder aloud why.
        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


        • #6
          Originally posted by NickAlexander View Post
          Months ago you did guide me to a church service online where you played at (in Atlanta, where Good Good Father was introduced), and I watched the young folks in that room visibly not singing, as the lead worship singer sang his heart out.
          How strange. This is what I am accustomed to there: https://www.instagram.com/p/BUNzn46gyKV/
          That's from this week - that's a room of ENGAGED folks, singing new songs that were just introduced. In fact, check this one out...
          https://vimeo.com/27295832
          That is me INTRODUCING a song... I sang the chorus once, then led the song, so this is the 2nd time they've heard this chorus, & look at the response!
          Sorry you apparently caught a dead service when you chimed in on the live stream - that is indeed peculiar.

          Also, my issue is 80s & early 90s worship isn't production - it's mediocre, unclear, & repetitive lyrics. I'm wracking my brain to find any songs from that era that I'd be quick to pull from when I have so many excellent options available which have been penned since '01.

          Honestly wondering, what songs from that era do you pull from? Maybe hearing your picks will help me understand.

          Comment


          • #7
            I think the acoustics in that room are great. The singing that is done is loud. But I look at the faces, and it is apparent that the majority of them are not singing. Some of the more boisterous are, for certain. And some are swaying, eyes closed, really into the expression. Nobody has the look of disengagement. But, their mouths are closed, saved for certain points of the song, which... I supposed is written that way? And even then, many aren't singing (though still engaged).

            Originally posted by ShannonTWC View Post
            Honestly wondering, what songs from that era do you pull from? Maybe hearing your picks will help me understand.
            This is a great question for its own standalone post. But suffice it to say, there are multiple streams of Praise and Worship I have drawn from, not just from the Big Three of that time: Maranatha, Integrity/Hosanna, and Vineyard. Even among these three, there are some that we still do today, without reservation; some are medleyed into some of the more slightly modern aught-songs that we still do, reviving an oft-repeated standard under a new conditions. For example, this past week I mashed up Vineyard's "Light the Fire Again" with Matt Maher's "Your Grace Is Enough."

            But there's a worship stream that I absolutely love, that isn't as well known, and that's the stream from the Charismatic Renewal, particularly from Church of the Redeemer (Houston) (aka Celebration), and the Word of God Covenant Community (Servant Publications) and Servants of Christ the King Covenant Communities (Steubenville). Through the 70s to the 90s, they crafted three resources filled with Scripture-based singable worship, the best being the "Songs of Praise" series and "Holy Is the Lord" series.

            The most familiar song from the Songs of Praise is "Alleluia No. 1" by Don Fishel ("Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks to the Risen Lord") but we don't sing that. Some of the songs I have sung recently, I'm afraid, are still not on YouTube, so that is a detriment of their side of things. These songs were multi-versed, connected even more explicitly to Scripture, and are extremely singable. (Although the Community there did just release a "Greatest Hits" songbook called "Come Let Us Magnify the Lord - Songs of the Sword of the Spirit" released by Tabor House (www.taborpub.com).

            The most familiar songwriter from the Steubenville scene is Jim Cowan, whose singular biggest P&W song you may know: "When All Is Said And Done" (and to be honest, we never sing that song, although I do think that song is very good in particular circumstances, like the end of a retreat). But he has many, many songs that really resonate, including "You Alone Are Holy" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JHXEzyEejA) , which, interestingly, was covered in one of those Hosanna recordings, but I suppose never took off.

            Again, this is not worth any of your time if the songs are not accessible (I mean not online, not on YouTube or Soundcloud). These songs hit their stride years before Internet Accessibility, and were spread by a movement that has since considerably died down. If you want to read a great study of that movement, it's "The Days of Fire And Glory" by Julia Duin, and one of the churches represented in that story was a church I had attended when I was younger).

            BUT... like I wrote at the top... we currently sing a combination of these, but also the major publishers. Of the songs you DO know, I will put in a separate post.
            Last edited by NickAlexander; 05-18-2017, 07:21 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


            • #8
              We've had a lot of this discussion before- it's one of the boomerangs we have here.

              Personally, I think there are fair points you both make. I do have to say, Shannon, I find it intriguing that your impression of '80s and '90s worship music is the "mediocre, unclear, & repetitive lyrics"- I think the same can be said of many of today's Christian Radio staples. I hear a 'rinse, wash, repeat' of many colloquialisms and church cliches. For example, being 'set free' but not really clear what being set free from. and 'you laid down your life' and 'what you've done for me' and 'you love me no matter what'. It isn't bad, it's just not really that clear either.

              I also think the pendulum as swung a little big from the droning and repetitive 'praise choruses' to (as Nick puts it) too many moving parts and a whole lot of busy stuff- especially from the drums. Even the slow songs where one would expect a little ambiance and space, the drums are pounding on the 8th notes (Passion- Even So, Come as an example- I like the song but the drums are wa-a-ay too busy). I filled in on drums a few weeks ago and it was a major struggle (as I only play about once or twice a year) to get the parts down somewhat close to the recordings. Likewise, as a guitar player, I am experiencing a lot more chord progression changes, cadence changes, etc. in one song. I see some people in the congregation struggling to keep up. Not all, but some. It makes it harder to settle into the flow of the song and focus on the message of the song. There's no groove.

              Anyway, good discussion.

              If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

              Comment


              • #9
                Good points, Mike. For the most part, I don't rely on CCM radio to find my worship songs - with exception of a few of the really mainstream songs, which get picked up by CCM artists, I dig in a little deeper to find the songs we sing.

                And I should clarify, when I say "unclear" I don't mean that the song isn't obviously about God/Jesus (though the "God is my Girlfriend" thing hit the worship world HARD in 90s - sometimes I wanted to take a hot shower after singing those), but they used deeply cultural phrases from particular sects of the church which didn't make sense unless you'd literally be raised in that wing, so as the songs spread (because they were catchy), people sang these fun songs incapable of understanding them. A few examples: "the River", most of the imagery in "Days of Elijah", etc.

                I totally get what you're saying about modern songs, though - the only thing is I don't try to replicate original recordings. A "radio version" of a song is for entertainment - I simplify my church's arrangements to serve us better.

                Comment


                • #10
                  I am for sure on the same page with the 'God is my girlfriend' songs. I still get the heebie jeebies when I hear "The More I Seek You".

                  It's good that you take some time to simplify the arrangements for a better fit. I personally feel many leaders feel pressured to replicate the radio/popular version as close as they can. Fortunately, many songs have 2-3 popular covers that are different enough that one usually works pretty good.

                  I get what you are saying about some of the denomination-specific references in a few songs- but I got saved in those denominations so I knew what they meant . I suppose the same thing could be said about a song like "Come Alive". But I also think there isn't really a good reason why the church en masse doesn't understand the 'dry bones' and prodigal reference. If that's losing people, that's on us. We aren't teaching the Bible like we should be.

                  The good thing, no matter where you fall in the spectrum of Christian music, there is a wide variety to choose from and something, somewhere is bound to fit your needs.
                  If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Get off my lawn? Well in my opinion I can praise my Jesus anywhere, anytime. Amazing Grace, K-Love top 40 or Acapella. Yes I sing in unknown tongues also.
                    Jesus likes it when I worship him on His Lawn.
                    Fell free to to respond.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      I only know what praise and worship songs are popular in the Top 2000. I'm thrilled the songs work for you.

                      ​Please, tell me the current songs you like most. And why.

                      ​I promise to not get snippy with you, even if your tastes are different than mine.
                      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


                      • #13
                        Everything Red Book Hymnal. Point of Grace. Rich Mullins. Carmen. DC Talk. Stryper. Issac Air Freight. The Marshall Family. The Easter Brothers. Doyle Lawson. Amy Grant.
                        Urban Gospel. Scriptural quoting songs. Bluegrass gospel. Gospel Rock Celtic gospel.
                        I like mostly everything. Expressing love to Jesus-its all about Him.
                        Jesus loves me this I know sang from the heart.
                        Thanks for asking.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          My favorite song is "The Unclouded day".

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Shack4Tom View Post
                            Everything Red Book Hymnal. Point of Grace. Rich Mullins. Carmen. DC Talk. Stryper. Issac Air Freight. The Marshall Family. The Easter Brothers. Doyle Lawson. Amy Grant.
                            Urban Gospel. Scriptural quoting songs. Bluegrass gospel. Gospel Rock Celtic gospel.
                            I like mostly everything. Expressing love to Jesus-its all about Him.
                            Jesus loves me this I know sang from the heart.
                            Thanks for asking.
                            Tom,

                            You and I may very well be on the exact same page. The very fact that every single one of your entries is decades old somehow skirts the very issue I was addressing in my initial post, that, (the vast majority of) today's songs aren't quite doing it for me. After being reprimanded by you, now it is evident that today's songs aren't quite doing it for you, either.

                            And my initial post was asking how to get around some of the roadblocks that I saw in today's music; not that I can't sing to God, but that the songs being put forth by the worship music industry are no longer as singable as they once were. Like when Rich Mullins and Amy Grant sang contemporary songs, that somehow got coddled into the Praise and Worship section of the Christian bookstore. Now, I see the reverse happening.

                            Peace,
                            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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