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Thread: History of Modern Christian Praise and Worship

  1. #1
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    Default 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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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)

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    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

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    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)

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 at 09:02 PM.

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