Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church July 15, 2012

I love music. Truly I do.

I love to sing. But you wouldn’t know it on Sunday morning when I visit your church.

I’m not talking to all of you, of course. I’m sure many churches, maybe even yours, get it right. I just haven’t been there that often, I guess.

My experiences with modern worship music in evangelical Christianity often leaves me not just silent, but wondering if I should be joining George Bailey in making a quick exit from the agony. To be candid, I know how to behave in your church. I’ve been raised in it my entire life. So I know how to fake it when necessary. Lately, it’s been very necessary when the music is playing and we’re supposed to be singing, you know, to God.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. Maybe all the “seekers” are enjoying it, but I’m finding it hard to sincerely engage in anything resembling worship. [See my post Why I Left Your Seeker-Friendly Church.] Instead of feeling the joy of joining with other believers in offering praises to the Almighty, I often feel insulted, bored, and disconnected from 2,000 years of worship history.

And just when I think that maybe it’s just me having a selfish and sinful attitude — a very real possibility — a flamboyant electrical guitar solo breaks out. I’m left deciding whether to waive my iPhone and buy the t-shirt or just shut up and go home.

Three Things that Bother Me about Modern Church Music

As best I can sort through my own muddled and messy thoughts, I think there are three things that really bother me about the worship music in many Evangelical Christian churches today:

1. They’re really, really simplistic. There, I tried to keep the words small. You certainly put a lot of work into doing that for me each Sunday. It’s not just that most of the lyrics are simple — as in easy to understand. It’s that so many of the songs remind me of the ditties we sang at camp — when I was ten. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the theology in some of those camp songs was more advanced than the ones I’ve heard in some of your services. But, hey, everybody else seems to be really, really enjoying it so maybe it’s just me. Unless, of course, they’ve also learned to fake it.

2. They’re all pulled from the latest Top 40 Worship channel. Or so it seems. Most songs I hear in evangelical churches of late have been written in the last decade, if that. I know I’m painting with a broad brush here because there have been some really, really (is this helping?) awesome songs written in the last two decades that deserve a place on the all-time worship songs list. We just usually don’t sing those. Maybe because they’re so three years ago. What ever happened to the previous 2,000 years of church music history?

Oh, I know, every so often you toss a token “hymn” (meaning written within the last century or so) into the mix. But even then, it’s a remix that requires melodic jujitsu to keep up with the quicker pace and fancier chord progressions. One distinguishing mark of the worship music of centuries past is that it generally focused more on content than today’s  simplisitc style.  Songs like “Arise, My Soul, Arise”; “Immortal, Invisible”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; or even the simple “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” typified a depth of doctrine that taught us as it revealed the glory of our Lord.

3. They repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And rep — all right. See what I mean? Really, really annoying. Really. The first time we sang the simplistic ditty, I could tolerate it though I thought the infinite God of all creation deserved better. By the fifth time, I was hearing echoes of Jesus warning about vain repetitions. But once you went softer and slowed it down on the seventh time, it really began to resonate with my soul.


Please. Stop. Now. Yes, there’s a place for repetition in worship — if the words are really that good or pulled directly from Scripture, but even that can be overdone. Is endlessly repeating the same chorus a sign of deep meditation or shallow creativity?

Ironically, most of the same evangelical churches that practice this repetition in modern worship music would resist using more formal chants from church history designed for that very purpose. Or reciting historical creeds of the Church. So, enough complaining you say.

What am I proposing that would be better? I confess I don’t have a well-developed strategy for modern worship. Not yet anyways.  I’m just a guy in the pews, a husband, father, and former pastor, frustrated that I just don’t feel like singing by the time the worship music ends.

What I Would Like Church Music to Be

It seems that focusing on three things would at least be helpful, so here’s what I would like church music to be:

  1. Truthful. Rather than trying to get dumber than a fifth-grader in the worship service (no offense to fifth-graders), offer truth that grows my understanding of God as we glorify him. He is Truth, after all, so it shouldn’t be that difficult.
  2. Written for adults. We’re not camp attendees giddy about it being our first time away from home. Well, maybe some of us are — but the rest of us don’t always want to have to choose between clapping our hands in rhythm with the group or wrestling with the guilt trip you put on us.  Go ahead. Give us songs with deep doctrine that excite our souls. We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never really was.
  3. Timeless. Let’s sing songs that reach back into the archives of songs proven to have been used by God to edify His people. Mix them in with modern songs, by all means. That’s fine. But don’t feel as if you have to make them sound like they just hit the airwaves last week. Imagine Mayberry today on MTV. Modern? Yes. Watchable? No. Sometimes classic is really cool. Really.

I could mention the need to play the music well, of course, but, frankly, I can live with the best you can give on that one. Make it as excellent as you can, please — just don’t make us sing it ad nauseum or worship your musical talents instead of our musical God.

I don’t like what I’ve been feeling in your church. It’s like what the redeemed George Bailey prayed, “I want to sing again! I want to sing again!”

I really, really do.

Am I the only one to have this problem or have some of you been faking it too? Who do you think is leading the way in restoring a Biblical balance to evangelical church worship today? Leave a comment to help point us all in the right direction as we seek to worship God in Spirit and in truth.


Get your copy of Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church: Answers to Questions You’ve Been Afraid to Ask about Church Issues.

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  • I have been feeling the same way for a few years now…glad I’m not the only one. Maybe a day is coming when we will sing the rich, old hymns again – i.e. “Come Thou Fount” with all the stanzas!

    • HMH

      YES!!!!! (You might drop in on tiny Five Islands Baptist Church in Georgetown, Maine some Sunday, or for one of our Sunday evening Hymn sings. Come, Thou Fount/How Firm A Foundation/This Is My Father’s World/There Is a Fountain/Children of the Heavenly Father/Brethren, We Have Met to Worship/Be Still, My Soul/Crown Him With Many Crowns/My Shepherd Will Supply My Need/Abide With Me/At the Cross/At Calvary/Beulah Land (the old one: “I’ve reached the land of corn & wine…”)/Dwelling in Beulah Land/Softly & Tenderly/And Can It Be?/Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me………..that’s ALL we ever sing, and you should hear that small congregation rattle the rafters. Even our VBS music is “The Great Hymns of the Church”.

      • Wiscats

        Even better than Gospel songs, as far as doctrine and musicality, are hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” “Now Thank We All Our God,” “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” “The Church’s One Foundation,” and many more.

      • Gary Smith

        Can you tell me the average age group of your congregation? We are being told that the younger generation- 40 and under?- don’t want the older hymns. I don’t really buy that. I think they just haven’t been exposed to them.

        • Don’t buy it! I was raised on hymns & I love them I miss them. I am 32.
          I have been having a hard time with some of the happy clappy campy songs our new worship pastor is singing. I usually don’t like to complain about this stuff, but…
          The Church’s One Foundation – I want to sing this with church folk again!! My favorite ever. I sing hymns with my kids at home. We sing from the Psalter, too.

          • elle

            Erin, when my daughter was about a year old, I would rock her at naptime. She wouldn’t stop looking at me till I began that song…then she’d lay her head down and go right to sleep. 🙂
            It’s one of my faves, too.

        • Dave Forman

          Gary, I’m a 28 year old worship leader for a church in Texas. Our congregation spans from 20-76 with the largest cluster in the 25-45 range. Usually 3 of the 6 songs we do on a given Sunday are hymns. I try to keep an environment of creativity. Not all songs are played/sang the same way every time we play them; sometimes we sing Amazing Grace very traditionally and next time we may sing it laid over a chilled Adele piano melody. We don’t do this be cool, stay “relevant”, or be “seeker friendly”. We do this because it’s an honest over flow of our musical tendencies. I once had an electric guitarist start playing with us that started out by telling me he knew what type of sounds and style I was looking for (based on my age?). I was apparently looking for the typical driving single note reverb sound (think Hillsong United). After asking him what style he loved to play the most, he responded, jazz. Then a jazz style is where we will start for your piece of the puzzle.

          I’m not saying it is easy to blend a host of different styles into one coherent, non-weird sound while playing songs that span a few thousand years, but it is honest. It’s a reflection of who we are as musicians. It’s a reflection of who we are as a church. And it’s a reflection of who we are as a long line of believers worshiping a timeless God.

          The other tension I attempt to hold is knowing that at any given time, there are around 100 songs in the rotating pool. If you could only pick 100 songs from 2,000 years of music, which ones would you pick? Most songs are like fresh fruit…sweet and beautiful for a short time and can bring such life before they begin to rot. We need those songs. More rarely, some of those fresh fruit turn into fine wine that remind us of old wisdom, the smell of aged and dusty books, and the reality that we are a small piece of an enormous story God is writing. We desperately need those too.

    • Dan Skiles

      One point / error in your dialog is that most of the hymns in our hymnals are about 200 years old not 2000. We don’t have any that I know of much older than several hundred. So most of the hymns were during a brief period of time during this Christian era. We have to be careful about living in the past, (like the Amish) or our present generation will no longer relate to us. There is some truth in your point, but some pride as well I think.

      • Dan,
        I think you may be failing to recognize that hymns in the Psalter are over a thousand years old. It seems as though you read the author to be saying that he only wanted to sing from the a trinity hymnal. The author, in my opinion, is advocating worship song that is older and is connected more with the theology of the Bible. He is not advocated older songs for the sake of having older songs.

        I hope that helps you clear up the confusion.

        • Thanks, Ryan. I’m actually advocating a mix of styles from contemorary to ancienct. A good song, like a good book, should pass the test of time.

          Good comemnt

          • Rosemary

            Bill, This is the most important thing. Bringing the mix of music inspired by God through prayer. To mix Old hymns that have great theology and uplift the power and glory of the Lord to be combined with contemporary music that has the same ability to bring us into the presence of the Lord needs to happen on God’s time. This need to have massive performance every Sunday or see if the “Band” can match Hillsong United is crazy. Our worship team is firm in this belief. When we use hymns we are not speeding up or rearranging them. Those are sung as they appear in the hymn book. We have found that the hymnal called “The Baptist Hymnal” is a beautiful combination of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. I didn’t find another hymnal that had as good a combination of music. So much so that it made me a little sad that it had a specific denomination stamped into the title; thereby severely limiting the groups that would ever look at or use it.
            Anyway, when seeking the songs that should be brought on to services you should pray, pray, pray for the inspiration and guidance of the songs that need to be sung. One week may be a combo of hymns and choruses, some weeks might lean toward all the hymns or just choruses. The song grouping is not of our making but of God’s. Seeking God about the music should be the worship of those presenting the music and of bringing others into the presence of God with the music.

      • Jim

        Much of the present generation finds modern praise music embarrassing. Speaking as someone in his early 20’s myself, if I wanted to hear pop music I’d turn on the radio instead of going to church.

        • pastor art gillinger

          you say your 20 yrs old,i was there 56 yrs ago.may i say that today your generation is a challenge to most pastors ove 50 yrs of age.maybe you should
          try going with your heart rather than your ears.i hope you don’t take this as argumentive.ive been around a long time,and at my present church 23 yrs.
          what i’m trying to get across is that if you try to join in the music at the church,and ask if you could sing a praise song,i’m sure the music director would be thrilled to call on you.don’t expect the church to leave thier traditional music,but i feel with your love the new music it would be a welcome blend.try it,the’ll like it.but please dont just stay home.all churches every where need the old,like me,and the young like you.
          thank you for listening.bro art gillinger.pastor 1st babtist church camilla
          coldspring tx 77331

      • phyllis hartwig

        the young people in church do not need to relate to us, but they need to focus on the Lord, and His attributes..as we older people do…It’s all about Him, and not about us. So whatever we sing, pray that we really mean it as if our lives depend on it, because it does..

        • Thanks, Phyllis. Are you saying I’m old 🙂 .

        • Sarita Bridges

          I worship with a bunch of young people who are very much in tune with the Holy Spirit and the attributes of the Lord. I pray that everyone, regardless of age, would come to feel the absolute joy and beauty that is felt when worshiping God in spirit and truth. It is such an incredible exchange between the worshiper and the Worshiped One. It does not matter if it’s a hymn or a new song (as we’re told to sing in Psalms). It’s what’s happening in your soul when you sing it that matters to God. I have been in church for 20 years and have only learned how to truly worship in the last two. Now I live for it!

        • Jon

          Phyllis, I think you are missing one of the main purposes of church if you believe young people do not need to relate to you. Yes, our most important relationship is with God, and that is something that we can grow and nurture outside of the church. Church is about the fellowship of the body of Christ and iron sharpening iron, so if the young aren’t relating to the old then how are you strengthening the body of Christ?

          • Stephen

            Jon, is it the young people who should be relating to the old or the other way around? The last time I checked it was an older person who led me to the word of God, who spoke the truth of the living word into my life, who prayed for me for 22 years, who expressed actions of love through all my awkwardness of being lost and the damage it does, who still to this day goes out of their way to make sure I’m not getting theologically waked out on the next “move of the spirit”…..It makes me cry when I see the body of Christ getting stuff backwards. It breaks my heart to see how fallen we truly are. Why is that people ever get the idea that they know whats going on? As if they have the answers to the wickedness of our hearts.

            The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

            For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery Mark 7:21

            This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Ecclesiastes 9:3

            You see….the older person who related to me while I was young didn’t do it because they understood my stylistic appreciation for loud, rebellious, obnoxious fleshly music. They related to me because God had directly related to them. No one has to like anything that is going on in the body of Christ today….they shouldn’t….if God’s people for 1 second find contentment in what this world has to offer on Sunday morning…then why did Jesus die and rise again? What is my hope in eternal salvation saving me from?

        • richard brooks

          Matthew 18:3
          “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
          my point is, unless you see a doctrinal heresy in a song, stop complaining, and submit! jacob submitted to laban for 20 years, joseph to pharoah his whole life, and moses well you should all know his faithfulness. every one was respected by those they served, well moses maybe not so much, but i digress.
          we are a body composed of many different parts, young and old. personally i am 43, i think like a 63 year old, and i like worship like a 23 year old, Thank you Father! why does God send missionaries from slovakia to america and americans to slovakia? to break our mindsets! it was the religious wisdom of Jesus’s contemporaries that he rejected, and he instead chose to associate with the dregs of their society. “I came not to call the (self) righteous, but sinners to repentance.” and i argue he did it with 12 rejects.
          even the disciples complained at mary, for her sacrifice to him. martha complained that all she did was sit at his feet worshiping him! hmmm, i find that you children of the church, usually are the ones who think you know best how to run things, and far to often are the same ones who like to look at ministry as a family business.
          ministry is service, it is washing feet, and submitting, so that you can help rescue the lost. you were not given the gift of salvation to sit in church for an hour on sunday, and then complain about the musical arrangement over lunch an hour later. YOU WERE GIVEN THE GIFT OFF SALVATION FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF SAVING OTHERS! worship is your response to such an honor. worship is saying to the Father and to Jesus that i worship you for TRUSTING ME WITH THE MOST, LONELY, HURTING, ABUSED, VICTIMIZED, BLEEDING, DYING INDIVIDUALS ON YOUR HEART GOD! truly it is those you came to save, the victims of this life whom you love the most, and it is our job as servants, as stewards to focus on them, not ourselves! in submission to his will, and purpose God will bless and expand your influence.
          i like jesus culture, and misty edwards. it is easy to follow them into a a place of intimacy.
          personally i like the repetitive nature of some songs, because when i am looking at heaven and focused on worship, from the depth of my heart i cannot read the screen through my tears, nor do i remember all of those well thought out lyrics. you see, i was never raised in church. i was raised in hell. so to me simple is better. and sometimes i get lost in my love for the God that had to rescue me himself, because his church was to consumed with bickering and murmuring amongst themselves about which song is best to worship him. I LOVE GOD, i can worship him to anything, even a clap of the hands.
          so my point is that if you dont like the songs they play, then join the worship team and influence them! dont just sit in the pew and stew, like martha. with the exception of reading and masticating on the word, personally i feel it is impossible to worship God to much, whether it is with a single piano or with a stratocaster and drums, there is a time and a place for everything. remember even though it was the house of martha, and the town where lazarus was raised from the dead, bethany is named for mary, because she wasted herself on him, in worship!


          • Richard, You give a good reminder of how both the simplicity and complexity of God and the gospel are necessary elements in worship. Thank you for the heart-felt comment.

      • Gary Smith

        On the other hand, you have to ask yourself, why have these hymns been around even 100-200 years? I doubt that any of the more “modern” worship songs will be around 10 years from now.

      • John F. Kennedy
    • Carla Strott

      Easy. Just visit an Episcopal Church.

      • Wiscats

        Yes!! 🙂

      • Paul Nelson

        Anglicans got down right. Fads may come and go. They add gems of hymns every couple of years, or decades, but yeah. We use some music at least 1200 years old…some if it older. I left the baptist and evangelical world years ago. Never looked back. Glad everyone has their place. If you are not happy in Evangelicalism…perhaps…perhaps….GOD is telling that you don’t belong there anymore. Just a thought.

        • But don’t we all belong together as much as possible? I hate to see something such as musical style provoke other denominations.

          • Jack

            This is the first time I have every responded to any comment of this nature. Discourses like this one challenge my idols of spiritual pride. I know my own weaknesses and it is best that I keep my distance. Nonetheless, I feel burdened to break away from my general resolve to add a few comments about your commitment to refuse to sing certain spiritual songs. The fact is that all songs, whether they be rich hymns or more contemporary praise songs, fall woefully short of describing the glory of our God. He is greater than our greatest of thoughts and imaginations. His glory is like no other. Even as the words “holy, holy, holy” come forth from the angelic beings around His throne there is reason to sing once more. I trust that when you are in heaven you will not hold back from from uttering words which even then will fall short of adequately describing the nature and work of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, your zealous stance for the truth robs you of great delight and God of the glory that He deserves. I do not intend for my words to seem harsh. My prayer is that these thoughts will help you to experience some joys which might have passed you by. Because of Him, jack

          • Thanks, Jack. Don’t know if you saw the follow-up posts. My concern is primarily that our sings often do not reflect the truth of God in ur worship. We settle for singing about crumbs when He is a sumptuous feast to be enjoyed.

          • richard brooks

            amen, that sounds suspiciously like disunity.

        • Peter Milne

          This discussion is about worship music, not which denomination is best. I don’t believe GOD is going to tell someone they don’t belong to a certain denomination. Like the song we sang in the quartet I belonged to said…When the eyes of the Lord look this world ‘ore, there’s just one thing He’s looking for. And that’s what He finds within your heart, and not what’s over the door.

          • Angela

            Love that song, “It’s Not What’s Over the Door”. I use to sing that with my family at church.

        • Bill

          Your post sounds prideful and full of contempt for the Evangelical movement. I would have to agree with Peter’s post…..the discussion is centered on worship music. Quite honestly I believe denominational labels are from the enemy to cause division in the “Body Of Christ”. Let’s worship the sovereign God of the universe in “Spirit and in truth”…..style deemed irrelevant!

    • Roo

      Well written article and entertaining but what is this guy looking for? Why not ask for the temperature to be exactly 71 degrees during worship or songs only in the key of C for your optimal vocal range? What is the point of worship? I’m sure Paul, while in prison and praising God in the face of despair, could have said “You know, I could really get into this song if my fellow inmate would play less snare drum.” True worship transcends any distractions and accepts current situations. It is what you make it. Paul, who was facing certain death, was able to praise God. This guy is like “What?!, They’re replaying verse 4 again? Well I’m done worshipping, this is nonsense!” Are the songs there for you or are you there to, I dunno, contribute somehow?

      • The author is not asking for worship to be one kind of thing…he’s asking for worship not to be one kind of thing.

      • Brian

        ROO NAILED IT!!!!

    • Tamara

      We stopped going to church regularly about 5 years ago becuase of this very reason.

      • Tamara,

        Sorry to hear that. I refuse to accept that as the answer. One of my other recent posts was a tribute to Stephen Covey. His first habit — the kids version — reads “You’re in charge of you.” I encourage you to not let your frustration with other Christians stop you from assembling with other Christ-followers as He commanded us to do.
        And keep following along with the discussion to come from the guest posts. Let’s see if together we can’t reach a better place that’s more pleasing to Christ.

        Thanks for the comment.

      • Tamara

        The dumbing down of quality hymns in order to appeal to the masses also has brought with it a more liberal minded congregation in many ways…it’s all connected ….entertainment in church is the substitute for enlightenment.

        • Steve

          Ahhhh, so what you’re really saying is that you find hymns to be a more entertaining style of music for you. So be it, but there are millions of christians in the world who feel differently.

          • Well, no, Steve. If I had wanted to say that, I would have said that.

            Tune in this week for the Worship Week series starting Sunday and capped off with my revised thoughts.

            Maybe that will bring more clarity.


        • Clinton Schoonover

          Right on!!! Should the older Christians who worship God with the hymns of the faith be punished by the rock and roll music in which they can not relate to. Christ did not commit Himself to the masses who did not truly believe in Him or change His approach to appeal to the masses.

          • Sarita Bridges

            Yes, He did. He told parables to people in ways that they would understand. He is the role model for this. The message, the gospel and God DO NOT CHANGE. The way they are presented can change. Remember what Jesus said about traditions of man?

          • Sarah

            At the same time, should the younger members of a congregation be forced to sit through traditional hymns that do not reach them? A good mix of the different kinds of music is so important for helping people get into worship. And there are so many contemporary Christian songs that have such good theology. Our church loves Revelation Song by Kari Jobe and Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew. These songs are written by people who love God in order to express that love and worship. Just like the traditional hymns. Written by worshipers FOR GOD. No, not all of them have sound theology or more than just a catchy tune, but there are real gems that can reach out to different kinds of people. One goal of the church is to bring as many people to Christ as they possibly can. What’s the harm in using different styles of worship to do so. No, you don’t have to lose your “old congregation”, but I don’t see any problem with blending and trying to reach everyone.

      • Tiila

        You feel these thing because you actually don’t really have relationship with Jesus. You are far from God, that why you feel like that.

    • dude

      The reason you find it hard to sing along is because your heart has left the church but the rest of you didn’t get the memo.

    • I am a singing teacher and I hate singing in churches. The reason being that someone is obligating you to sing and inferring that if you don’t enjoying singing with everyone else, you are not a good person. It is forced singing that doesn’t come from the root of the soul. How could one possibly enjoy it? Some in church love to sing their hearts out, which is just swell, but I don’t think others should feel obligated todo so if their heart isn’t in it. It doesn’t mean you are not a good Christian. My advice…find a song you love and sing your heart out. That is the best form of prayer…

      • Certainly sincerity must be a part of any true worship. good point! Thanks.

      • Tragoudi Arpa

        Singing Teacher – You are right on with the issue of everyone today having to act like you’re at a ball game or rock concert or you’re not considered “entering into worship” adequately (whatever that is). Given the fact that most music is pitched to the voice of the song leader but not the voices of at least 50% or more of the congregation, many of us feel left out and even if we want to sing along, can’t because the song is too low or too high. Something most worship leaders decide to skip out on…

    • G. Macdonald

      The problem is not simply musical preference. The “praise” music played today has been engineered to be devoid of worship. The Rhythm is love-ballad emotional and chording is heavy on emotionally tugging minor chords. It cheats. It uses the tools of the word to force trained emotions to elicit engineered response. It prevents the heart form truly praising and truly feeling the Holy Spirit because the heart is forced into artificial feeling of television and media. It is prime-time television whisper voice over, a cross reflecting on a rainy urban street scene on the HD “worship” screen. It looks and sounds like CSI Sunday morning. When was the last time your praise leader smiled. I don’t know where to go to escape “media”. I sometimes think “media” is the Antichrist.

      • G. Macdonald

        *tools of the WORLD typo

      • Whoa! Deep breath brother — or sister. Not sure which. Certainly the media can and is used to advance the spirit of anti-Christ in this world. And you make a valid point about worship being forced into contemporary popular box. But we can and must pursue truth in worship — before the credit start rolling. 🙂

      • richard brooks

        dude, last i checked, all televisions and computers have an off button. and i smile every day when i rock out to Jesus culture, and also when i slow down to IHOP (international house of prayer) devotional sets, like misty edwards and david brymer. worship is what you make of it. maybe you should stop watching CSI and start watching the song of solomon, or the book of psalms?
        media, like all things especially the heart, is the reflection of the channel you choose.
        for we speak out of the abundance of the heart….

    • Deanna Evanzo

      While I know I usually only sing in my church.. Wherever I have chosen to place myself and enjoy it quite thoroughly. If you are in someone elses church you might want to find your own…

    • Alice Burton

      I recently attended a church with the same practice and I was lost spiritually. I enjoy the preparation the hymns inspire for worship.

    • Thomas

      A much more serious question in all this is what does the New Testament say about music in the meetings of believers in Christ? I can find a few things, but in studying this out, one thing really strikes me… what happened to real prayer in the worship services? Prayer is a command. Prayer is demonstrated in major ways by Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Prayer is demonstrated by the apostles and the New Testament churches. In the 2,000 year evolution of the Christian church, when did prayer take such a backseat, and when did music get elevated to the focal point of many churches? Truly, we have the freedom to worship God in music. But only so much as we can do it FROM THE HEART. It would be better to do one song from the heart, than an hour of ritualistic musical “worship”. And if we must limit our meetings to just an hour, and if we are to be an effective church like the New Testament church, then when do we make time for fervent prayer of intercession and thanksgiving, like scripture records they did? This was not relegated to a “prayer team” meeting on a weeknight. Where do we make room for the New Testament practice of worshipping God by declaring His wonders? Where do we keep the awareness alive that we best worship The Living God by living holy lives? A majority of our society is squarely in the “spectator” mode when it comes to music. For many of them, the singing part of a church service is for all intents and purposes a religious ritual. And when the unchurched show up and see a congregation wearily mumbling repetitious songs, do you think they see anything desirable there? Most of them quietly leave and never return.
      Bottom line: We need to go back to “square one”. Our worship services need to be meetings where the Word of God is clearly preached and where people really worship from the heart – in ALL the manners taught by the New Testament (including music). Tinkering with only one part of the problem still leaves us with a church that is being salted by the world, rather than being the salt of the earth. When you are in your daily hour of prayer, ask God if He is happy with what He sees in the church these days? There is no way He can be, if the Bible is true.

      • Thomas, good point. I agree that prayer is often missing — and there is much more in Scipture about it than singing/music.

  • Dan

    I could care less about genre. I don’t think that was a criticism of yours, but I wanted to throw that out there. If electric guitars are blaring, so be it. Thatts modern music; just as 18th century German hymns are hardly what “the early church ” were singing. I don’t care if its rap, rock, or even screamo, just do it to the best of your ability. For me its not a matter of “seeker” sensativity, modern Christians like modern musics, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    When it comes to content and repetitiveness, I absolutely agree.. I’ve noticed the repetitive quality is a trend in charismatic churches. I’m not sure why. And with the content I think true problem is that churches (particularly mine) only take songs from “worship artists. ” I have heard better worship songs from “regular ” Christian grroups. Worship artists tend to be shallow lyrically. How manhunt songs has Chris Tomlin alone written that could be aptly titled “holy?”

    Io agree about content and repetitive songs

    • Noma

      Dan, you actually mean you COULDN’T care less. Think about it. You could NOT care less. This is one of my pet peeves.

      • Timothy Petrakis

        I could care less about your pet peeves, especially when Bill was far more thoughtful regarding what bugs him about Church music than you about grammer on the web.

        • Jeremy

          She’s right. and its grammar.

          • That would be “It’s grammar.” 🙂

          • charles

            Jeremy, that should be “it’s” not “its”.

          • Joey

            And its “couldn’t” care less, as stated in another post above. LOL

          • Brownie

            “its grammar” is correct. “Its” is possessive -” it’s” is the contraction for it is.

            However – I think that this is an excellent article. Singing hymns isn’t getting stuck in the past. I don’t think singing doctrine – should be in the past. Very few worship songs teach doctrine. There are some contemporary hymns that do… such as Twila Paris’ “Lamb of God”.

          • Brownie, I’m pretty sure that was supposed to be a contraction, not a possessive…but whatever.

            These days I think “Lamb of God” would be considered old…I mean, not everyone was alive when it was written!

        • susan sumner

          You want to know what is sickening about this entire thread? It’s all about what WE want. Me me me. MY music. MY genre. MY worship style. What makes ME “feel” like worshiping. We spend the whole service picking and criticizing and sniping and griping. WORSHIP JESUS, for crying out loud! And do cry out loud if you will! THIS WHOLE SUBJECT STINKS and grieves my spirit to the core. IT AIN’T ABOUT YOU. IT’S ABOUT HIM! And shame on people for thinking they know how others should best “connect” and glorify the LORD who is far more modern than any of us and far more ancient. He’s the beginning, AND the end, and all that is in between. Learn what it means to love the Lord, and love thy neighbor (and his music style). I’m sure your style of music differs from the saints of old. Grow up, people. Get the logs out of your ears.

          • Susan,

            I appreciate your passionate response. But who exactly is “Him?” And would I know it from the content of the songs sung to worship Him?

            So basically your saying shut up and get with the program? We should check our eyes (and ears) for logs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also point out the splinters when we’re done.


          • Jim

            If that’s the case, why not go back to the traditional liturgy with a choir and an organ? The whole reason for the more this type of church is to specifically cater to certain people, or rather, in my view, a failed attempt by middle-aged people to discern “what the kids want” in church. This style of worship is all about trying to indulge modern tastes, certainly not because someone thought Jesus would be better served if we replaced the organ with a rock band.

          • Chris Falco

            I completely agree with Susan on this one. It is not a matter of getting with the program, but only a matter of getting with The One True God. Worship in church is a time of corporate worship together and should not be relied upon as your only time to worship God. Every thing you do in your daily life should scream to the world that He exists. I have to say though, if you do decide to keep silent, it is ok, there are plenty of rocks in the world that will cry out to the Glory and the Majesty of my Lord. He is worthy of our best that we have to offer, and this is a condition of the heart, not a particular style of music. While I agree that there is an increasing number of “Worship Leaders” who are writing music in a catchy, repetive style trying to make a few dollars, I do not agree with your position that simply because I do not like the style of music being played I can keep silent in protest to the person/group on stage that has attempted to lead an entire group of people to throne room of Almighty God. As far as music being uncomfortable, and lying a “guilt trip” on you, that sounds like a problem with your heart. I have yet to hear a song played in a modern worship service that has ever made me feel guilty of anything. However there are times when I miss an oppurtunity to live out worship in my life and it is always after these moments that I feel guilt. I know though that even in these moments I am forgiven by my Father in heaven who loves me so much that he sent His Son to die for me. With that thought in mind I will go to church this weekend and meet with my fellow believers and whatever kind of music the worship leader decides to play whether it be a hymn or a more contempory song, I will shout it to the world as an anthym that my Lord reigns on high and no one will ever dethrone Him. Now I leave with this thought, even the oldest hymn was at one point in time “contempory”. Were would the christian faith be today if “Come Thy Fount” had met this kind of resistance.

          • debbie

            Sure we should get with the one true God….I agree…However when you go to worship and you sing “camp fire songs” for some that may make them want to worship and wave and they may go away feeling closer to God and like they have thoroughly worshiped. But, I am not one of them. It isn’t that I don’t like or even sometimes enjoy the songs….they are catchy, and like he said we sing them over and over and over and over so we learn them pretty quickly but it’s like listening to a sermon where the preacher fails to make a point. The scripture is great and we can use that to “chew on and grow” but the preacher never makes his point and we go away thinking “Ok I must have missed something”. At some point be it songs or sermons there has to be some “meat” to chew on and prod us to grow spiritually. Singing “My God is an Awesome God” is praise , yes, but sometimes you want a little more meat than that,even after the 15th time of singing it. And we want the meat because we too know that it is all about HIM and the scripture mentions that at some point there has to be some meat not just milk to help us grow in HIM. And yes I have been made to feel guilty because I didn’t want to clap along with the latest chorus. If you do, praise be.

          • Nick Fortune

            We’re to sing praise unot the Lord. We do this as individuals, but corporately. As I understand it, while we sing praises, we bless the Lord and we’re also blessed. Sure there are some songs we’re fond of and others we’re not so fond of. When I was in the Catholic church the music was just making a transition from singing with an organ accompanyment and with a choir; to a guitar etc. When I attended a Pentecostal church the praise was not as somber, more spirited. I had a time getting used to all the different instruments especially the drums. I’ve listened to and participated with some of the most beutiful, harmonic music ministries and found them to be a blessing. The only time I did not enjoy and was not blessed by a music ministry was when it was obviously unpracticed and off key.

          • A more profitable discussion may have been on this sentence:
            “I don’t care if its rap, rock, or even screamo, just do it to the best of your ability.” The regulative principle of worship comes to mind. How would screamo benefit God’s people in singing praises to God. If Screamo meets the demands of biblical content in song, what about mode of communication? Is it appropriate to scream things at God or at people? Is that a proper understanding of the biblical disposition in worship, especially when singing praises?

            Maybe these questions could more profitably guide the discussion along rather than Dan’s grammar. Also, Nora, it seems like you understand him just fine. The logic of Matthew 7:1-2 comes to mind. Do you really wish that people highlight all of your mistakes publicly? How about when you put forth the effort in trying to contribute to an important ecclesiastical discussion on the Internet? Do you really want people ignoring your thoughts and using your words for a grammar lesson?

            I think most would agree that writing well takes time. Let’s be gracious and give people that time.

          • Carol

            AMEN! It’s ALL for HIM-Jesus Lord of all. I’m 68 and have been frustrated and angry because it is so LOUD..but when I remembered it isn’t about me or even for me, I have learned to be flexible and accept it for what it is: Make a joyful noise unto the Lord …

          • OK, there have been a lot of comments saying that traditionalists are selfish and want to have everything their way…but the same exact thing can be said for people who want only contemporary music. Churches that change their music to suit modern ears are also catering to human desires and gripes.

            I think we’re making a mistake here. We’re trying to say that people must manipulate their brains to worship regardless of whether they like to music or can’t endure it. We’re asking for an impossibility. If you don’t think it’s an impossibility, you have lived a sheltered church life that only plays the music you like. If I can’t endure the music or words, I stop singing. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s better than faking. We cannot “extort by maistry what God does not give.”

          • Sarita Bridges


          • Dsnider

            Time to sacrifice the sacred cow of Contemporary Christian Praise and Worship. Our God deserves only the best from us. Sorry to say, most contemporary songs are fine for leisurely listening but don’t expound on His greatness and our not worthy for corporate worship. Most are overly romantic and cater to our feelings. Older Hymns seem to go the extra mile in Glorifying God through excellent Theology. Not to say older hymns are the answer to our problem. But one would have to admit the theology is much richer. We are talking about Worship to the one and only God. This is not about our feelings of how much we like a song and misinterpretations of how the song makes us feel as being touched by the Holy Spirit. It’s not about making me feel good at all. The question we should ask should be directed to God and should contain “Did you like our praise to You?”.
            What happened to Pastors who would review all songs to be sung in corporate worship in an effort to make sure the theology was right? We don’t even know what the theology is of the contemporary music writers of our day. We just take their word for it or even worse, I suspect, don’t really care. For all we know, the current “it” worship band could be apostate or heretical in their views, but happens to have a song that is catchy and seems, at face value, to be ok. Whatever happened to congregations writing their own songs that Pastors would review? Sorry to say, praise and worship music is a business. Whatever happened to Churches that don’t put as much emphasis on the so called Praise and worship segment? Time your Church meeting. How much time is spent in Praise and worship(singing) as compared to Proclamation of the Word and Corporate Prayer. John Wesley was given a song by his brother Charles to review, as he did with all the proposed songs for inclusion in corporate worship. The proposed name for the song was “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” The song was turned down by John as being too sensual mostly because of the word “lover”. It wasn’t until John and Charles passed away did the Song get published. While I don’t see an issue with the song I am speaking of, notice the oversight and attention to a song that had the possibility to be used in worship to our God corporately.

            May God forgive us for being lazy and thinking of ourselves first.

          • Good warning. Thanks.

        • Joe Ellis

          I suppose the writer is a bit like those of Issac Watts’ days who criticized him for his putting his words to the tunes sung in pubs — that would be bars for some of you. Perhaps the writer has not been to the wonderful churches in our country where contemporary Christian music is sung in true worship. I know mine does. They also intersperse a few hymns from the past in a refreshed way. For those in agreement with the writer, try to see beyond what you do not like and let your attitude be one of worshiping the God who is worthy of our praise — regardless of the style of the music or performance.

      • wayne cook

        Oh lord…I’m 59 and there is so little content in those songs…not to mention the theological errors…

    • Dennis

      Just a quick response to your first point. It sounds like you are saying “musical patterns” are immaterial. The important issue is the words in harmony with the Scripture. I would contend that musical styles do matter and much of what goes on in contemporary worship is tragic. For example, when the President of the United States walks into a room the band does not play “Rubber Ducky You’re for Me.” Nor, do you generally see mourners singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” at a funeral. Why? Because there are some melodic patterns that are not appropriate for certain occasions. You never hear “Taps” belted out on a bugle at a birthday party. So, it is with Christian music. A worship service is a special occasion in which the child of God joins his/her heart with other believers to reflect the grace, mercy, and majesty of God. It is a time when the believer expects to hear from God through His Word. Thus, the music should fit the occasion. There is room for considerable flexibility. However, there is no room for what I call “the music of the street.” If the musical pattern sounds like a contemporary rock song being blasted over the sound system, it is out of place.

      • Jay

        “A worship service is a special occasion in which the child of God joins his/her heart with other believers to reflect the grace, mercy, and majesty of God. It is a time when the believer expects to hear from God through His Word. Thus, the music should fit the occasion. There is room for considerable flexibility. However, there is no room for what I call “the music of the street.” If the musical pattern sounds like a contemporary rock song being blasted over the sound system, it is out of place.”

        Dennis, can you support that clearly from NT scripture? Nope.

    • Paula

      absolutely normal for modern christians to like modern music. The hymn writers always used the genre of their day- what is sligjtly abnormal to me is singing songs that are 200 years old in style and music and expecting people to be able to relate to them? But that’s just personal preference…. :o) and as has been rightly pointed out, it’s not about my preference but about my heart attitude and who I’m worshipping. I found my worship took on a new meaning when I read this book 9 years ago- can heartily recommend it- it’s only thin so not a heafty read ;o) http://direct.crossrhythms.co.uk/product/True-Worship/Colin-Urquhart/32872

      • I’m young, and I don’t agree that people can’t relate to the past. I think we need to, and can benefit greatly from it. I also think that people would crave and enjoy such a connection if our culture didn’t discriminate so heavily against the past. Our culture has severed a great source of pleasure, comfort, and (most importantly) knowledge. Many young folks are overwhelmed by the beauty of old styles and the wisdom of old perspectives.

        What is abnormal for me is taking old songs and trying to modernize them. It would be better to just sing new songs than to novelize old ones. Those songs simply weren’t written for the new musical concepts.

  • Tiff

    I’m a convert to Catholicism so obviously my opinion is biased; but I think so many modern churches today do not want anything even remotely liturgical in their services that they don’t realize some of the beauties in a liturgical service they are missing.


    • Great thought, Tiff. I’ve noticed something. The more unliturgical churches try to become — the more liturgical they become. It just isn’t written down.


      • Jason

        “The more unliturgical churches try to become — the more liturgical they become.”

        So TRUE! I recently read a book targeting protestant evangelical churches that extolled the virtues of “simplifying” your church programs. At the end of the day, one of the HUGE goals was to have thematic weeks that are planned way in advance so that everyone in the church at every age level and in every group is studying/discussing/preaching/teaching on the same topic that week. I sat there dumbfounded and thought…. uh, you mean like a liturgical calender? WOW! How is it no one ever thought of that before???

    • wayne cook

      Liturgy used to be one of my favs ab0ut Catholic worship…I heard them in Ireland and Mexico, and sure enough, you could find your place…so saddened by the excesses of the church sexually

    • Debra

      I agree, with Tiff. I was raised in an Episcopal Church, but didn’t understand about my need for salvation until college. Since then, I’ve attended churches of all types as my late husband was in Drama Ministry and traveled quite a bit. I’ve seen Christ-honoring people in churches with varying styles of worship but do agree that our younger generation is missing out on great theology by never hearing the old hymns. I spent 2 years researching the back stories of the Great Hymns of our Faith. Most of the 200 hymns I researched that would be easily recognizeable to most of us over 20 were written out of hardship. There is so much MEAT in the hymns. I also work with Youth so don’t mind some of the more contemporary worship choruses but I do miss the depth of the hymns. On the other hand, I believe that many people today would never darken the door of church at all if the worship time included only hymns…a good thread. Good to remember also that true worship is defined in Romans 12, about how we live, not just how we sing on Sunday.

  • Lela Gilbert

    Thank you so much. I would only add that the distraction of my own guilt trip about having a critical spirit makes these long and drawn out exercises all the more counterproductive. Even if we can’t get ourselves back to the great old hymns, maybe we could revisit some of the Vineyard praise from John Wimber’s day when worship meant getting lost in a choir of a thousand exultant voices and wonderfully meeting Him there.

  • Laurel

    When I was music director and led the worship band we led a lot of Keith & Kristin Getty’s modern hymns. Keith also collaborated with Stuart Townend on some great songs. They are well written although not too complicated musically to play well and the words are definitely “meat”. Check out the website; gettymusic.com . There IS good music out there and also “okay” music done with excellence. Maybe you are visiting the types of churches who do what you are talking about (which I also dislike) too often instead of visiting other types. I’m afraid that those kind of evangelical churches are going for “feelings” primarily, which they think equals worship instead of going for worship primarily, and enjoying the feelings that sometimes go along with it.

    • Laurel, Absolutely agree about the Gettys and others like them. So why don’t more churches sing them instead?

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Renee McKey


        Maybe there are more churches singing their songs than you realize. As I was reading down through the posts, I was ready to mention the Gettys. What a blessing they are. My church sings the old and sings the new but chooses songs of quality and inspiration. Some are theological meat and some are simple enough my 3 year old grandchild “gets it.” I love the hymns but I have also been very blessed by spiritual songs of the last 25 years.

        I found the Celebration Hymnal to have a good mixture of hymns and spiritual songs. I like the screen when we want to sing something that isn’t in our hymnal. I consider singing at church like singing during worship at home. We sing the 5-yr old’s favorite – like Only a Boy name David or Joshua fought the battle of Jericho or even Father Abraham because we know that five year old is praising God in their choice; and we sing Grandma or Grandpa’s favorite like the Old Rugged Cross or I Come to the Garden Alone because we know it means so much to them. Instead of fighting over traditional vs contemporary, can’t we allow for different worship experiences? We are each one unique and valuable and our worship is valuable because it comes from the heart. Or, at least it should. I think that should be the bigger consideration — what’s in our heart and how do we best express it?

    • marla

      Amen to that. Love the Getty’s music!

      • John Wesley

        Yes, I agree. Getty and Stuart Townend have written some wonderful modern hymns. Check out the album, “New Irish Hymns #4”. Its so awesome that I kind of listen to it everyday. So theologically rich. And every time I listen to it, I am convicted on certain theological truth that is so striking.

        Add to this, also Graham Kendrick, who has written some nice Church choruses. And Robin Mark too. Or in general the UK artists (read Kingsway Music). In US, Scott Wesley Brown, Michael Card and Paul Baloche have written some great but not so widely sung songs. Check them out. I stay away from Hillsong in general.

        Not that I am critical of the modern song-writers, but that I find it difficult to connect. The songs are too emotional, and often, we end up singing lies week after week. Gone are the days when songs were written for the sole purpose of helping people to grow. Check out the Vineyard Music of the 80s. They are so powerful for the very reason that the singers and writers put themselves in God’s alter and wrote them as a service to God. Today its about contract and rights – the song-writers are forced to write a few songs in a year as per their contract. If you have the talent to compose a great music and if you can put some random spiritual sounding words together, you can pull of a great song that the Church will sing.

        • Melissa Craig

          It is up to the leader who selects the music for each Sunday worship service to exercise discretion, wisdom, worship message, and variety etc… to get this right. It may be that many churches allow young people who lack training and wisdom to be in charge. Churches where the music director has a degree in music, and some seminary or music ministry training do the best job in my experience. Of course there are exceptions. A music director should collaborate with the pastor in selecting songs and hymns. Some praise bands are loosely put together with volunteers who are enthusiastic about the kind of music they like to play, but may not be trained in the whole spectrum of worship music that is available, or church music history. This would explain the “Top 40” mentality. I personally have had wonderful worship experiences in contemporary services and bad experiences. I would describe the best experience to be one where beloved hymns are incorporated into the selections chosen. If there is nothing familiar to sing, the congregation will not sing along. So introduce new songs in a way as to allow the congregation to learn the song well. Our own church teaches traditional hymns, which are often neglected, by having a hymn of the month that would allow the congregation to sing the hymn 4 times over by month’s end. This can also be done when teaching new songs. We also use a songbook, not an overhead projector. Overheads are great as long as they work, but I have rarely been in a service where it did not show the wrong text, or go blank during a song time. Worship leaders, or praise band members need to be very sensitive to the congregation. The point is congregational singing. If the congregation is left in the dust, because the praise band knows the music but is not teaching it, or the overhead crashes during a song no one knows, don’t expect people to be enthusiastic about this experience. It is frustrating, not worshipful. Too often the praise band seems to be having all the fun, while being oblivious to the needs of the rest of the church members who want so much to engage in worship.

          • I agree, Melissa. The point is congregational singing. It is hard to do that when half of the people don’t know the songs — in either direction, old or new.

            Thanks for the comment.

          • Marie

            Why is it that churches shy away from offering printed music (i.e. notes on a page)? Is it because it is not available?

          • Marie,

            I’m going out on a limb here so perhaps someone can correct me. I supect it has more to do with convenience and copyright. It might cost less to put it on a screen than reprint on a sheet if they are paying for each “printing.”

            Anyone else know more?

          • LizB

            I’m (tentatively) in a “worship” (i.e. music) group where the leader is opposed to sheet music. He learns music by ear and seems to think that superior to reading music. (I’m used to defending non-readers as fine musicians. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone say readers are poor musicians! Why aren’t some of both fine musicians and some not?)

            He says if you give a congregation sheet music their heads are buried in the music. I don’t understand why eyes glued to the screen is any better.

            He said if he walks into a church and is handed a hymnal he leaves. Funny, that’s what I do if I’m expected to sing nothing but unfamiliar songs with no clue how the melody goes!

            Different strokes, I guess.

            Anyway, for churches with a CCLI license, lead sheets are readily available, so it’s not about copyright.

  • Josiah L

    My wife and I enjoyed a few too many laughs at this. I really wish it wasn’t so funny (meaning that the sentiments in this article didn’t ring so true for us). Coming through (surviving) an evangelical Christian College and less evangelical seminary, I still have to fight hard to keep coming through the door once I’ve stopped mouthing the same words (after the same words, after the same words [without content]).

    Some of the journey is positively humbling, but there really has to be some balance. Thanks and God bless.

    • Josiah,

      Glad I’m not alone. I know the trying of our faith produces patience — but I’d rather that wasn’t my rationale for surviving what should be a celebratory time.


  • Dave Vander Laan

    These are some of the writers/groups that I appreciate and keep me sane:

    Keith & Kristyn Getty
    Stuart Townend
    Sovereign Grace

    • Young Curmudgeon

      See this is where we differ completely. The Getty’s work seem completely contrived to me. It feels like a mashup of lyrics and ideas from countless old hymns in order to “cash in” on a felt need that many churches express for “modern hymnody.” I constantly hear people saying how the Getty’s music is fresh and meaningful, but if you go more than one song deep on any of their albums there are construction issues in the lyrics with clear thematic breaks throughout. It reminds me of the kind of thing you get when a major label “manufacturers” a new pop singer with pop culture keywords and phrases all mashed-up into a meaningless ditty designed only to get you humming along and buying the song.

  • Roy

    The situation you are describing did not happen over night. It happened a little bit at a time the supposed leaders of the congregations allow these elements to enter into the place of worship. Even in the Catholic church with the advent of Vatican 2. Because of the way it was written people began doing things the way they wanted to til now we stand divided with those who lean toward modernism and those who stand with tradition. People want in their hymns on Sunday for those few moments to be an offering to God. Where we lift our voices sour or sweet. I don’t mind sometimes the choir sounds like cats getting their tails twisted in an electric fan as long as the words I’m hearing and responding to can be an offering to God. Because the church is not a theatre or dance hall or entertainment purposes. We are not there to be critics or to be entertained. I think it would do us well to check and reflect at all times that I raise a joyful noise to the Lord and for no one else. In closing, no applause especially in church.

    • Ooh. The appluase thing. I forgot to mention that. Awkward.

      Thanks. Sing on.

    • Greg Hertfelder

      Applause is okay. So, is laughter. To oppress acknowledgement of talent and humor in speech or drama is to oppress the creative process and the creator. It’s also part of our culture. If you want to attend a stoic church, that’s okay, but one would be hard-pressed to make a theological policy disapproving of applause or laughter based on any biblical scripture I’ve read.

      • KDM

        I perform music in my local church, and some of our newer members have introduced the habit of applause into the music service. I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel like they’re applauding ME and not the One I’m making music for. I feel awkward. Now, in a secular situation such as a recital or concert, even if the music is sacred, applause is completely appropriate. In a concert setting the audience is there to be entertained, and showing appreciation for the talents of the entertainers is right and proper. But a church service is not a concert. You are not there to be entertained. You are there t0 be spiritually fed and instructed. Different rules of etiquette apply.

        And quit ‘clapping for Jesus’. He doesn’t need your applause, any more than He needs your approval. He requires your worship, reverence, and devotion; not a pep rally. Remember just Who it is with whom you have to do. I think if more people behaved as if they really believed they were standing in the presence of a thrice-holy God, we wouldn’t be having these problems.

        • Synth

          The “trees clap their hands” why can’t we.

          • emc_nyc

            That’s a metaphor. Trees don’t have hands; they can’t clap. It means praise. That line of the Bible is Biblical poetry. And the author is saying they clap to God….not a singer of a church during a service. Man.

        • Jessica VDM

          I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for posting this.

        • Amen! I love to worship, but nothing shuts me down quicker than a knee-jerk “clap for Jesus” when the atmosphere starts to get a little charged (read: heart-felt worship is actually starting to happen in the room). Come on, people. That’s just lazy. If you want to praise Him, use your words!

        • Leisa King

          I agree with a lot of this in the fact that it seems that we have developed an “entertainment” style in a lot of churches. We are not there to be entertained, but to worship and fellowship! Worship GOD, the HOLY ONE, and it seems like quite a few of the newer worship songs don’t even mention His name, His holiness. In fact, have you noticed that they are adapting some of the older 60’s pop music to the Christian radio stations. The other day, I heard “Spirit in the Sky” being played. So, our worship songs need to focus on HIM. True, I am more of a traditionalist, and prefer the hymns, but I enjoy the newer styles, if they are dedicated to Him, and not just repetition, repetition. “Sing unto the Lord, a new song”, so we know that styles/words/circumstances change. I do not like applause in church, and I don’t think that GOD needs our applause. “Give Jesus a hand”. He is the Almighty One, and we worship Him, not applaud Him as we do every one else. He is HOLY, and we need to reflect that. A lot of hymns were written out of hardship and circumstances, and some of the new songs are too. Different worship styles for different people, but should we continue to “be like the world”. The Bible says “Be not conformed to this world”, so we are supposed to be different. That is the difference, so let’s consider all styles, but focus on the MAKER, CREATOR, and MOST HIGH GOD, not the writers, singers, or people that we want to imitate or impress.

        • Tom

          I move around a lot in my job, so have seen LOTS of churches, most with the praise-team style. I have noticed that pride and showiness have been awfully common. That was quite rare when all that was up front was a song leader and an organist or pianist (usually not very visible in any case). Pride is just too easy a pitfall. In other things, one of the main reasons I usually don’t sing the songs is that the irregular syncopation and unexpected repeat patterns are just too difficult to follow. Is it just me? Looking around, I see that at least half of most of those congregations aren’t singing either, and they aren’t just the old folks. BTW, not singing isn’t necessarily a protest. By NOT singing, I am at least able to concentrate on the words (on the video) so I get at least something out of it (but often find there isn’t much there to get).

          • Good point, Tom! Thanks. Follow the converstion next week. I’m seeing some good thoughts coming in for guest posts.

          • Tom, I was wondering if you could give me next weeks winning lotto numbers. Since it appears you have the ability to know the most inner workings of the heart, I just figured, you should be able to see into the future too. Right? Seriously, the ridiculous and shallowness of your comments left me dumbfounded. You said regarding the praise-team style of worship, you’ve noticed that “pride” and “showiness” have been “awfully common”. Really? You alone were able to detect this, how exactly? Simply by looking at someone? That is a nifty gift indeed. Does this gift come just before speaking in tongues and after interpretation tongues in the book of Second Opinions? Sadly you didn’t stop there. You decided to also share that with regards to traditional worship you said, it (pride and showiness) was quite rare when all that was up front was a song leader and an organist or pianist”. You sure? Maybe your magic powers were just off that day? So just to clarify, praise-team style of worship is “commonly filled” with “pride and showiness”. But traditional worship (a song leader and an organist or pianist) not so much. Ok, got it. And Bill, by commenting that Tom makes a good point disqualifies you and your insight.

          • “And Bill, by commenting that Tom makes a good point disqualifies you and your insight.” Now who’s got the winning numbers…

      • I disagree with applause in church because it could be construed that they are clapping for me/the choir, when it is all for the glory of our Lord. If the music has moved you, plow that good energy into doing something positive for yourself or for someone else. If people want to show appreciation for the music they should agitate the church council for fair pay for the musicians who throw it down week after week and/or think about hiring them for their next private party/wedding. Most of us do secular music as well.

        And as for genres, I’m down with any of them as long as the quality is high both in terms of lyrics and music, and within the musical grasp of those in charge of getting it done. This includes THE CONGREGATION so that pretty much rules out very syncopated or odd meter stuff. That’s why the old hymns are such chestnuts. The faves (especially the Welsh ones) are rock solidly put together, musically strong, and easy to sing along on. I don’t think the original author was dissing on the modern genre per se, He just doesn’t want to do vapid bubblegum music at the level of an 8-year-old.

        • Colleen ,

          As the “original author” I thank you for noting that I was not “dissing” modern music. You’re bubble-gum description says it all. Too much of anything sweet leads to cavities in our soul


          • becky

            I believe Mark Driscoll & Co. refer to those as “prom songs for Jesus”

          • Jay

            This is all just culture wars and destructive. Go worship in another country and in another language that you can not understand. Can you still worship? Perhaps we should have people with all different styles, languages, and approaches lead worship?
            I find contemporary worship shallow sometimes and hymns theologically errant sometimes as well. One of these is not superior or inferior. Perhaps leaving both options and focusing on Jesus and being His disciples is more important. Romans 14 should rule the day, “who are you to judge another man’s servant?” We are all God’s servants and should not judge each other on disputable matters. This article and subsequent posts are not helping but dividing. self righteousness does not lead to humility and service. Worship however you like every other day, but worship with others putting yourself last of all. That is Christian worship leading.

          • Can you support that clearly from Scripture that putting yourself last is Christian worship leading? I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis warning that unselfishness is not the same as love though modern Christianity tends to confuse the two. The Biblical call is to worship God in Spirit and in truth. Worship lacking those is not only worthy of judgment but requires it.

  • Kevin

    Great article! I agree…I also have a problem with the following:
    The “Louder is better” prevalence with worship bands today…it’s not.
    Musicians dressing like they’re getting ready to paint the garage rather than worship God. Really? Ripped Levis and a wrinkled T-Shirt is the best you can do? No…you don’t have to wear a suit and tie…but seriously! Show just a modicum of respect for yourselves, and the audience, and mostly, for the father you’re worshiping. Church dress code today is “come as you are” which I’m totally on board with…But if you’re up there playing every week, you can probably plan a little better wardrobe wise. I promise I’ll think you’re just as cool if you dress up just a bit…REALLY!
    Finally, are guitars the only “holy” authorized lead instrument left on the planet? Once in a while we have a violinist, or piano accompaniment, but what happened to reed instruments and horns? Is “emo” guitar all that’s left of worship music?

    • Kevin,

      Hate to agree with you on all three but — there it is. 3 for 3.


      • E. Cole

        AMEN! I have often felt that sport coaches show more respect for their jobs than the men who lead worship services. Why do they wear suits and ties when all the attenders are in tees etc.
        I have a difficult time worshiping when the music is so loud it makes me want to leave the room.

      • Jay

        Wow Bill. I am disappointed. Is this really just a selfish venting site? To agree with someone who clearly is just attacking others based on external preferences is just embarrassing for us Christians. Clearly, you and many other posters here are bitter against movements in the church. Step back and look at this all with God’s perspective as best we can from scripture and humble yourselves. I am no apologist for contemporary worship but come on! This is not how believers love their brothers.

        • Hmm. Well, I love you, Jay. In another comment, you dismissed the concerns raised as “culture wars.” Culture is religion externalized. It is the acting out of what we believe as a family, church, society, etc. that makes a culture. I can think of nothing more vital as followers of Christ than what we believe. I’m concerned with the belief that would approve of shallow and anemic worship music in praise of our infinite and omnipotent God. I’m just not OK with that even if speaking the truth in love rocks the boat.

  • Terry Blackwood

    I have a novel idea. Why not revisit the old hymns, maybe add a little twist to them, or just sing them as written. That hasn’t been tried for a while now.

    • Bill

      Terry, in our church we sing the old hymns every Sunday. We love the old southern gospel songs as well. Our pastor says that our praise band sings southern gospel songs that are so old that people think they are new. We also mix in some of the newer songs and everyone is happy.

  • The praise and worship of God as a total way of life (Rom. 12:1ff; 15:8ff) is what church meetings should equip, mature and encourage believers to pursue. A ‘worship service,’ per se, stirred up by music and climaxing with a sermon, is not the focus of the NT. Rather, an edification meeting encouraging the participation of many through the constructive use of their spiritual gifts is what occurs in the NT. Once we realize we are to worship at all times but meet primarily to edify, this reorients our singing, too, both vertically toward God and horizontally toward one another (Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16). Certainly worship overflows as we practice Acts 2:42ff and Eph. 4:12ff, but more as the fruitful outcome of wholehearted fellowship in the Lord as we interact in personal and practical ways with one another. More thoughts here: http://www.ntrf.org/articles/article_detail.php?PRKey=4

    • Rick,

      I’m wondering if this approach reflects the consumer/entertainment approach where I come to be served or to have somethign done for me rather than my coming expected to be part of the experience in a way God has gifted me.

  • I was the Deacon of Worship for our church for about 10 years. What I observed is that people often feel the same way about Church music as they do about Mexican Food–Whatever they tasted the first time is the real deal-Everything else pales by comparison. We played a mix of current and traditional. I did have to point out to people that just because Michael W. repeated a chorus 10 times at a Michael W. concert didn’t mean that that was the “right” way to play it. There were often times when our Pastor would ask for a song that none of us had ever heard and as we hammered through it, sometimes it would come out as swing, country, or even Reggae. In general that took a “came and went” song and turned it into something people wanted to hear over and over. In general I found that the “complainers” usually had something else blocking their worship. That being said, it is the Music Director’s job to present a mix that speaks to the whole congregation. Every song may speak to people differently and people need to learn that there can be chasm of difference between their tastes and music that ministers to others. The one thing I have seen that bugs me is that most “current” music is highly commercialized and standardized as well as all about “me, me, me,” rather than us. As in everything the key is in moderation, tolerance and love. Without that, we are little more than tinkling brass.

    • Mike,

      i hear you. I wrestle with it often. I realize that the beam in my own eye may, in fact, be larger than the splinter on the electric guitar that’s playing yet another solo.

      I suspect it’s both.

      Will pray to that end.


    • Renee McKey


      You brought up a very good point regarding music about me, me, me rather than US. It is interesting that Jesus taught us to pray, OUR Father. I would like to see more music reflecting on the corporate entity of the body of Christ rather than the individual.

  • Carla G

    Nope this isn’t my concern with the worship service portion at our gathering of believers. It is this. I feel as if I’m being allowed to sing along with “the professionals.” What I mean by that is that I am allowed to sing with a “worship team” that gets together one night of the week to get it all right, so that they can make sure it’s perfect when we all screw it up. I yearn for the days when there was a whole choir of people up there enjoying the music and we all sang along with them, or were a part of them, and you could actually “feel” the music. I should have moved to Brooklyn a long time ago (O.K. that’s NEVER gonna happen in reality, I’d hate living in an enormous city.) I’d go to the Brooklyn Tabernacle and sing with the choir there. But I do wish we’d add the choir element back into the service.

    • Thanks, Carla. One of my favorite choir memories is the time I got to sit in on a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacele Choir in Salt Lake City. The songs still resonate within me.

  • I’m fifty-six and a preacher’s kid, so I’ve been through almost every imaginable permutation of church music fad there is out there, at least over the last fifty years. Can’t remember what worship was like in the cradle roll days. I remember a church where Stamps Baxter was considered next to God. Still can’t get “Bye and bye-eye when the mourning comes,” out of my head (I know- it is actually “morning” but not to me, not anymore). I don’t think repetition is a bad thing. I generally think critiquing church worship like you’d critique a film or a concert can’t be good for anybody’s spiritual life, no matter how inferior we think the experience to be. I just don’t think God interacts with it that way.

    • Mark,

      Good point. However, I’ve often shared what I call the veil theory when it comes to music. Each of us enagges music with differetn veils that seperate us from the core message. It may be style, volume, cultural norms, our thougths about the performer, or even memories triggered by the song itself. The more veils we have in place, the less likely we will authentically connect with it. I realize some of this is me, but there’s just way too much of it too be a coincidence.


      • david anderson


        Just in this conversation, to this point, it’s easy to understand why all the different denominations have developed. We can’t even agree to disagree not about worship but music! The test of time cannot be judged in one generation. Stand back and look at the whole picture of worship, no matter what continent you’re in, worship style reflects the culture. However worship is all directed to the glory of God. Do not deminish one type of worship to another if it is done straight arrowed to the glory of God even if you repeat yourself once or more. I love “The Stand” and will sing that song for Gods’ glory even if it repeats itself.

        • David,

          You may be surprised to hear that I almost always agree with you on that song. Believe it or not, I am incredibly tolerant of different approaches to music in church. It’s in spite of that tolerance that I’ve reached such a frustrated place. I really don’t expect much anymore and have given up seeking anything resembling what I might really want — as long as the Word of God is preached.

          Thanks for the comment.

        • Sheri Lee

          David – Words of wisdom…if this discussion is meant to be about worship, then we should be encouraging each other by pointing out different ways we each worship God in our daily lives. Worship is not about music – music is just ONE WAY that we worship Him. Everyone interprets musically, so differently and there is such a variety of music available in churches (as many have pointed out), that people should be able to find a place where they can connect to God. However…that being said…I was at a worship leader conference once where they challenged us (as worship leaders) by having all sorts of music through out the conference for our time of worship (from hymns, to liturgical psalms, to contemporary rock) and the thing that was stated that has stuck with me was that if we can set aside our musical preferences and find a way to worship God in the music that does not “feel” natural to us, we will experience some of the deepest worship possible – simply because we are setting our own preferences aside to focus on the words that will worship God.

          I do think the one responsibility the worship leader needs to constantly be reminded of is to be sure the lyrics are scripturally sound – there should be accountability to be sure we are singing truth…as for repeating…there is a place for it in the service, just like there is a place for hymns in the service. Some people find their worship deepened as they take a phrase like “you are worthy, you are worthy, you are worthy of all our praise” and sing it repeatedly…you can just sit and focus on his worthiness and be in awe of Him by singing such a simple phrase. I do think at other times it is a good thing to use hymns to teach theology as we sing – I do think many, many of our churches are theology ignorant, which goes to the teaching just as much as the singing.

          All in all – singing is not worship – it is simply one way we worship and there are many different styles that are completely appropriate to express our worship and awe of a holy God. There are wonderful hymns and beautiful newer songs that all express that worship and are scripturally sound. Rather than focusing on style, why don’t we focus on encouraging each other in our daily worship as stated in Rom 12:1-2… 🙂

          • Sheri Lee

            Re-reading what I posted – by “words of wisdom”, I meant your words, not mine… 🙂

  • Come to First Baptist!

  • Julie

    My sentiments exactly! I have felt this way for many years, to the point of not attending church regularly anymore as the music hinders my worship. My memories of singing in church with parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents is lost in the miasma of modern worship choruses. They remind me of chants since they are so repetitive. And you know what chanting does, it diminishes the meaning of the words, till they mean nothing!

    • Julie,

      Now don’t jump off the ecclesiastical bridge just yet. I refuse to accept that option. Like I said, “I want to sing again!”

      Thanks. I’ll pray for you next time I get stuck in a worship track loop.

    • Sj


      I’m the opposite. I came to liturgical Lutheranism through mainstream Presbyterian hymnody, and I find the chants in the liturgy to be extremely useful. They come straight from Scripture, and the music helps them nestle into the depths of my brain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be doing something and find myself humming a snippet of liturgy, from “Oh, Lord open Thou my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise!” to “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” The structure and familiarity of the liturgy is a solid framework for Word and Sacrament. Like trusted friends who take your hand when you’re blindfolded and lead you from street to street, the various chants lead you from section to section in the service. I actually see the same thing in so-called non-liturgical churches… they have a highly developed order of worship, and musical things they do to begin one section and lead you into the next section. They just don’t call it liturgy. *shrug*

    • Sheila

      Julie- I totally agree. Born and raised Presbyterian, love the hymns and creeds. For family reasons I started going to an Evangelical church, can’t get into the spirit and it takes away my experience. And why does everyone have to show up like they just rolled out of bed. When I grew up I was taught that you wear your best to honor God in His house. Ande I taught my kids the same…no you don’t have to dress like the old days, capris and a nice top and sandals or slacks and a golf shirt are fine for the summer but please don’t wear your jammie bottoms and an old t-shirt.
      So glad I could get this off my chest.

      • Eppie

        Sheila, Amen. As a matter of respect to God and to one another I liked the dressing up part. It was different when we were camping. I stayed in the back of whatever church we might be visiting and my untidiness prodded my heart to stand well dressed before the Father (that was back in the old days when others were dressing up!). But when we were home I just put on nice clothes. Now many people just roll in however. I can’t judge the hearts, but it does seem to be out of tune, and we could at least try to be singing tunefully. Glad to get that off my chest, too.

  • Tabitha

    The interesting fact is that you have to realize that the hymns you seem to demand, were written as a replacement too! I too grew up on those hymns, but while the songbook boasted 300 odd pages, we stuck to 25 or so that we repeated over and over. Seeing the amount of young (under 30) people that are worshipping during the services, who are you to say that God isn’t using that song to speak to them?? If you don’t feel enlightened during the worship, maybe you aren’t someone who is moved through worship. Or maybe the devil is keeping you from enjoying it…it sure would never be God’s way for you to choose a bitter attitude in place of worshipping…so blame the devil, not our worship leaders/songs please!!

    • Rita Long

      it’s not the devil keeping me from worshiping these songs, I pray and close my eyes (since I don’t know the words) and ask God to minister to me but after the 5th time singing it’s time to sit down and move to another song please!

    • Tabitha,

      Of course you are right to an extent. I do need to check my own eye for a beam. But would you say the same thing if the sermon rambled, didn’t reference Scripture, and tossed in a few ramdon plugs for the latest HBO reality show (if that’s where one watches such things)?

      Just a thought.


      • Sheri Lee

        Unfortunately, there are a lot of sermons that, when dissected, do the same thing – they do not teach straight from the Word and address every verse, but instead pull a few different scriptures to support a topic. I have found very few churches that will literally preach through the scripture & address every verse as it comes…we have found a church that does just that and after being raised in Baptist churches, God is so graciously using this church to deepen our understanding of His Word and show us just how rich & deep it is…it most definitely makes me look back at the preaching I have heard over the years and realize just how shallow preaching can be…

    • Shannon

      I appreciate your comment.

  • Rita Long

    I so agree with everything is this article, tried to like and sing these songs but not feeling it in my spirit, give me those old hymnals any day, and let me sing!

  • Pam


  • Find a church near a college campus that has a Reformed University Fellowship (campus outreach of the PCA) http://www.ruf.org/ Their leadership had exactly the same problems, so a number of the more musically gifted started a movement call Indelible Grace music. They take the great words of older hymns and set them to newer tunes that are well written, yet sound ‘new’ to younger people. It is a great genre of church music. Check it out at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_15?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-music&field-keywords=indelible+grace&sprefix=indelible+grace%2Caps%2C403

  • After leading music for many years, I have come to the conclusion the new “stuff” is all about $ marketing. Hearing some of the contempoary songs being sung today sounds like a mix of Bob Dillon and Joe Cocker singing together not understanding a word they a mumbling.

    • OK. No joke. I swear there’s one song that is pretty popular in church circles that rips off a Def Leppard tune from the late eighties. If only I could rememebr what it was…. That’s goign to bug me all night. Thanks.

      • Leisa King

        Heard “Spirit in the Sky” playing the other day on a Christian radio station. If you can’t put the name of Jesus or Lord in it, then who are you singing it to?

  • Jeff Benjamin

    I think I could have written this blog. Does anyone else feel that just because it is on radio doesn’t mean that it was meant for congregational singing? And ditto on the repeating – it drives me crazy!

    • Ditto on the repeating — it drives m — oh — sorry.

      Got it. We’re all in this together, Jeff.


      • Wendy

        Oops! I meant my comment to go here, and posted it down a couple of posts by mistake!

        I agree 100%


    • Scott

      Many hymns repeat, as well.

    • j2e

      When I feel (disconnected) this way its usually because I’ve stopped seeking the Lord and have put my focus on something else. I see this as a musician. We substitute our worship life with worship music. We clock in and out of “worshiping” like we do at work. Like its a job. We play and checkout mentally and spiritually until they call us to play the closing song. We feel as if we have done our duty of worship and now its our time. Its no wonder we’re not being effective in leading the church into worship. We neglect to do the basics, like study the word and pray and engage with the body. Instead we complain and murmur among our click (praise team). Its no wonder we don’t reach the promise land (peace and joy), we just know it exist. Don’t die without reaching it. Eat of the Mana (God Word ) and be filling with the living water (Grace). Don’t substitute repetative lyrics for God Word. Its not enough! Be Blessed.

    • Wendy

      I agree 100%!

    • Evan

      Thank you. When will some people realize that not all music was written for congregational singing? It may be doctrinally sound, but it was never intended to be for a bunch of novices to sing as a choir.

  • Personally I agree with many of the points. There is a lot of contemporary music that’s rather mindless and lacks depth. What I don’t agree with is the implication that the music is the reason for participating in worship. I think you may be confusing style with intent. Unfortunately posts like this pull the church away from it’s mission into a bickering match. When individuals can rise above arguments like this and work together to bring followers to Christ, we will truly start bringing the word of God to everyone as commanded regardless the style of music.

  • I’m a Youth Pastor and I’ve also served as a Worship Leader. Your comments and concerns could be directed towards what’s coming from the pulpit during the sermon as well. I was listening to somebody just the other day talk about how they get tired of hearing people say that, “They’re not being fed.”

    Singers, musicians, pastors – the style and the skill may very. But ultimately, it’s not the tempo, it’s not the groove, it’s not even the outline – it’s the content. However the lyrics are crafted, if the verbiage is acknowledging the greatness of God, there’s something of worth there. If the communicator is all over the map as far as their sermon, God still has you in that seat at that moment for a reason – to hear Him speak and breathe life into your existence.

    There is something very cool about worship that is well executed, no doubt. But I’ve got students that are coming to God’s House to be entertained rather then edified. And I’ve come to the conclusion that in many instances they’re merely mirroring the disposition of their parent(s). If the starting point for your time in church is characterized by an inclination to critique, rather than a desire to worship and serve, you’re going to have a hard time being satisfied, regardless of the venue or the medium.

    There’s repetition in Heaven (Rev 4:8). Biblical worship comes in all shapes and sizes (Eph 5:19). Not all prayer, including those prayers that are exclamations of worship, are discernible (Rom 8:26). Hymns are rich in theology, but doing a new thing is part of God’s methodology (Is 43:19).

    The point that I’m making is this: You can do Communion with crackers and Diet Pepsi. There are fellowships meeting in places where one’s faith can get you killed. They don’t have “programming,” all they have is passion and that’s where a lot of of this rhetoric is revealed as incriminating.

    Psalm 22:3 [KJV]: But thou art holy, thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. It’s the Holy Spirit Who inspires and fulfills. A quality worship service isn’t so much about the human beings who are there to facilitate it, as much as it’s the degree to which those human beings are seeking Him. And I’m not talking about just those on the platform. When I walk into God’s house, it’s all about Leviticus 19:30; Psalm 122:1 and Jude 1:24. That’s the stuff that fires you up! That’s the stuff that makes getting up for church in the morning worthwhile and that’s the stuff that makes every worship service a home run regardless of those things that would otherwise distract.

  • The song service is our time to worship God. Not a time to be entertained. What happened to those days when we attended church in our very best even if it was clean overalls. Now the majority come to church looking as if they just come from Walmart. It’s all about God. Not for our comfort nor entertainment. We can find that at to many places in the world. I like the old paths best.

  • Deb

    I am sure there is some crusty Reformed or Baptist church that will be to your liking. I grew up on the hymns and I can remember as a teenager wanting more out of worship than what seemed to me just a habit. People memorize the hymns and stare off into space not even connecting to the words or praising God through the words (not that it doesn’t happen in contemporary worship, but in my experience it is less so.) Worship isn’t about you and it seems to me that is what you are saying. In fact I stopped counting how many times you said I and me after the 45th time. Oh and you said something about repetition so I thought I would share this verse:

    Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” – Revelation 4:8 (NIV)

    I guess you may want to avoid them when you get to heaven, it might get on your nerves hearing those creatures saying that over and over again for all eternity. 🙂

    • Thanks, Deb. Touche on the sarcasm. I likely deserve some in return.

      Although I did mention repetition has it’s place. It’s the excess that detracts in my opinion.

      Thanks. We’ll all be singing together one day.

    • David

      Thanks Deb for pointing that out. Some truths never get old. But I can hear a nugget of truth in Bill’s thought that repetition can eventually get in the way of “doing a new thing” for God’s glory. Also, I agree that no matter what style or clothing or volume or whatever, the point of worship is never about us. I led worship for several years in high school and I confess that I was frustrated for a long time with how the congregation chose to sing versus how I like to sing (and thus how I thought they should also sing). Now I realize that I can never coerce anyone else into singing to God the way I want them to. It is great when a music leader asks everyone to do something together, but ultimately each person has a different relationship with God! And they cannot fit into our box.

  • To bring attention to what I believe was said only once in this thread, Sovereign Grace Music is an excellent source for exactly what was desired in this post.

  • Doyle Ferrell

    I am in total agreement. I can only imagine how God must long to hear some melodious strain from a heart that truly wants to worship Him in Spirit and Truth, and how nauseous He must get as He is bombarded weekly (and sometimes daily) with the caterwauling of wannabe vocalists and musiciaans who appear to be auditioning hoping to impress the Heavenly Choirmaster. These “contemporary” vocalists and musicians are going to have to do some major adjusting before they will ever blend in with the Hallelujah Chorous.

    • Rob

      Ever notice the amount of repetition there is in the Hallelujah Chorous?

      • I covered that point about the hAllelujahs, but thanks for the comments. If it is supposed to be about God — and I agree — shouldn’t we celebrate both the simplicity AND complexity of God? The prophet reminds us that God’s people perish for lack of knowledge, not for lack of a memorable melody. I think it is the intentional dumbing down of God that troubles me the most.

        God bless.

        • Melodee

          Amen. It’s not about the repetition. Some of the most beautiful hymns I know are Orthodox hymns and chants. It’s about the content. We don’t need to sink to the lowest common denominator.

  • Brent Snyder

    Well said….I’m not sure there’s anything that’s been said about worship that I agree with more.

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    Yes, yes, for the love of God YES!!! Which is why a buddy of mine and I traded jabs a while back on my own post Worship songs that make us puke, and more recently Towards more inclusive worship. I think you may resonate…and thanks!

  • Jenn

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Some members of our worship team express the same sentiment again and again (more repetition, eh?), but it tends to fall on deaf ears for now. Praying that will change soon.
    Also another aspect of creating a worship “set” that, I think, we need to visit more deeply is not only the age and topics of the songs, but the ethnic flavor of the songs presented. (Forgive me if that’s not a p.c. term — it’s the best I’ve got) With the growing diversity among many churches, we can’t continue to fill the Kingdom gatherings with the consistent stream of “white folk” anthems. No matter what the ethnic background of the worship leader and band, we have GOT to learn how to allow ALL of our members to find a comfortable place in our worship assemblies and incorporate a more diverse blend of spiritual music, old and new. Soap box over now. 🙂

  • Thanks so much for your article. This was exactly my experience in the evangelical church. I found it sad that so many of the great, old hymns were ignored. Some of the best “contemporary” songs are the ones that at least use the words of the old songs. A little over a year ago, I converted to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, where we use the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, dating back to the 4th century. Our Sunday morning liturgy is much the same every Sunday, yet I don’t get tired of it. There is power in the ancient words of the church. When we sing the Trisagian (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have Mercy on me) or the older, longer version of the doxology or the cherubic hymn, it is as if we are in heaven before the throne of God. In the evening I love our Vespers service, packed with Scripture. And there is a moment towards the end of Vespers, where we all join in singing the oldest known Christian hymn outside the Bible, a beautiful song called “O Gladsome Light.” Here’s a link to the music:


  • Mitch

    I couldn’t agree more. The writer of Amazing Grace once said (paraphrasing) that he wrote about a hymn per week. He spent the entire week in study, some times staying up hours and hours in prayer and the word to convey spiritual truths to worship to. I wonder if half that much effort is put into any of our modern worship?

  • Phil Christenot

    I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
    – Bill Cosby

    • Very true. Our Worship Leader at my home church does a great job of mixing an occasional hymn with modern praise & worship. Being in the drummer’s seat I see the entire congregation. Often I see the youth really moved by a song, that’s not doing a thing for some of our elders. Vice-versa when we do a hymn, unless it is an upbeat tempo style. We try to mix a song set that ties in with our Pastor’s message. If I’ve learned anything in the last 7 years I’ve been in my church’s worship ministry, you can not please everybody. Let me share something with you I have noticed. The people whom I know have a genuine relationship with Jesus, 7 days a week, seem to enjoy anything we do.
      It’s the “Sunday only” per say religous people that make comments about wanting music to be the way it used to be. I call them modern day Pharosiees. I come to church to serve the Lord, and to fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve learned another thing to. Most of the time, if you can’t think of something positive to say, walk away. People in general have strong opinions. If you do not agree with them, your wrong by their standards. My Pastor is very good at handling people like that. So….I made a decision. I’ll let him use the talents God blessed him with; and I’ll use the talents God blessed me with, for we are “ALL” a part of the body of Christ. Amen?

  • Connie

    Could not agree more!!!

  • Jim League

    Well said. I think of the worship/praise formula in the New Testament. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. That seems to pretty well cover the paean of music genres.

    I can “stand” the progressive/contemporary music if it is included with traditional. Please do not “blend” them together. My thought is that not everyone likes Mexican, or seafood, or fried beef. A restaurant that only served one item would not last very long. Even Chick Fila offers variation. Dictating that only one type of music be served is like a soon to be bankrupt cafe. So churches that only offer one type of music/worship type and demand that everyone “unite” in that worship are just as narrow minded as those who condemn all contemporary (modern) music. The comment above that the “old” hymns were once the new and revolutionary thing is correct. What is different is that I sincerely doubt that any of the new music will last for 100 years. The German “replacements” were of high quality and included theology. Reading hymns is an exercise in basic doctrine.

    Thanks for the comments. My sentiments exactly.

  • Gary

    On the other hand, traditional hymns, even those with great theology (BTW, I think I learned more theology through singing great hymns growing up than through years of Sunday School!), if they are sung with sameness, no involvement with the words, and as slowly as a snail crawls, doesn’t help lead to authentic worship either. Maybe a good point is that worship music doesn’t have to be one way or the other, but can be both modern and traditional. But if I had to choose between the music you are describing, and the traditional hymn singing I’ve often heard in church, I’d choose repetitive enthusiasm over repetitive boredom every time!

  • Dee

    This entry makes me sad – I know that I may not know what your worship music is like – so I cannot speak specifically to that, but I know that in my church Sunday after Sunday I am not faking anything, I am not a “seeker” – well a seeker of knowing HIM better- but I have to tell you that every Sunday I sense that God comes so very close – when I focus on HIM. I consider myself of at least normal intelligence – I love hymns – I grew up on hymns and I listen to them often (I also highly recommend you listening to Robbie Seay)he does a great job with a lot of hymns that I grew up with – maybe a little bit of a change of the wording to our century – but you still get the deep message of the hymns-I love the worship music that has come out of Gateway Church, and Hillsong – I love Chris Tomlin and Matt Redmond. I read something the other day that said (if you don’t like the worship music – that is okay – it isn’t for you) and I thought how very true. I still visit a very conservative church from my roots often (and they sing a lot of the same music that they sang when I was a child – and when I am there I worship just as fully – although it is not as meaningful to me as the worship that I experience every Sunday at my church – but it is still about uniting with a body and lifting praise to my Heavenly Father – if you don’t feel like singing at your church – I think it would be well worth searching for a place where you do feel like singing – it will be a blessing to the church that you are currently critical of, and it will be a blessing to the church where you can go and fully embrace the worship with the body of Christ and exalt Jesus Christ. I just think that the criticism within the church is why the church cannot move forward with the power that it was given – I also think with all of the churches that are out there -surely you can find one that would be a place that you could find what you are searching for, and I hope that does not come across in a unkind manner – because I seriously do think that really variety is okay – and I really do think that everyone should have a place where they can fully be a part of the entire worship experience including the music.

  • Wow! Thank you for sharing! This is much of what I have struggled with when visiting other churches that have the more “modern” form of music. I do not know the words to most of the modern choruses/worship songs, they seem pathetically shallow, in spite of praying and asking God to help me worship Him through it I end up feeling guilty for being discouraged and having a critical attitude and a complete failure to feel worshipful. Now, the other side to this is that worshiping is as much a choice as choosing to give God thanks and praise even in not-so-pleasant circumstances (Give thanks in all: 1 Thes. 5:18-&16 too; worship in spirit and truth: John 4:23-24). Learning to give thanks in situations that appear as tragedy from a human perspective has not been easy and I suspect that learning to worship God in an environment that is not conducive to worship will also be difficult and I am sure in this instance I simply need more practice. Yet, it is difficult to get “practice” when one is NOT exposed to it on a regular basis and when the opportunity arises, it is such a disappointment to discover this is the reality that it is hard to change focus. I am so very grateful to attend a church that uses a good “old-fashioned” hymnal and intentionally seeks out new hymns to learn. Yes, we also sing some of the choruses on Wednesday evenings at the midweek prayer meeting. However, these are usually acapella, or possibly either piano or acoustical guitar-no “praise and worship bands.” Honestly, I choose not to listen to the radio-it is too discouraging (probably another reason I do not know most of the modern songs). I opt to use CDs of favorite music instead. If interested, I have lots of excellent sources of music that have depth and beauty-some are arrangements of classic hymns, some are contemporary, but more in the style of hymns. (A few: Majesty Music, Soundforth Singers, The Wilds, The Majesty and Glory (hymns that have been beautifully arranged-glorious!), many more…)

  • rick tatum

    I believe what is missing more today is anointed worship leaders they are good musicians and that is a talant but haveing an anointing to lead worship is god appointed and that is what is missingo

  • Antoine

    There is something about soulfulness and groove of the black, southern, and Pentecostal gospel styles of Christian music that moves me. The modern worship music is remiscient of the typical superfluous repetitive lyrics and simple music of of the christian music of 1800-1900s. When revival fires spread accross the US! Influenced by the expressive negro spirituals, early jazz, and most of all, the Holy Ghost fire, songs became introspective, highly expressive, and joyful in many cases. I will cry my heart out to lyrics and chord progressions of songs like “Give Me a Clean Heart” or “He is Able”, and rejoice with songs like “Rejoice In the Lord”, “Let These Praises Fill the Temple”. My bias is pretty obvious…Of course, I worship despite my dislike for the modern worship styles, afterall, many of the lyrics do reference scriptures, but I miss the gospel groove and flowing melodic lyrics. Perhaps its necessaary for change.
    In the church of which I am a member, we are about a acquire a B-flat Hammond organ w/ leslie, I wonder how the modern worship styles will sound on it or be changed?

  • Heather G

    I think some of what you’re saying is right, but some of it I think just reveals your own personal acculturation and prejudices. For instance, you complain about being cut off from 2000 years of church history, but then, you are bugged by things that repeat. Then you seem to notice that there IS some historical basis for things that repeat, and then you complain that people aren’t repeating things that you think they ought to repeat, which strangely includes “if it actually comes from Scripture” or a “creed.” Now, why is it only ok to repeat scripture or a creed? Ostinato (repeating themes) has historically been used in the Baroque era, not always specifically in church but it is a very historical form of music.
    I get it – worship music can seem shallow and cheesy. But I have been absolutely glad to repeat things when it is really something I want to sing to God over and over, and at times been in worship settings where the same song took twists and turns for 20 minutes, and I found a real engagement with my own heart and mind and the Lord in that setting. It’s all about the heart – if the heart of worship in the churches you are visiting is to make themselves seem flashy, relevant, and like the new hot band on the scene, then yeah, anyone with a bit of discernment is going to be disgusted by that and totally distracted from actual worship. But I’ve also seen the electric guitars and repetitive phrases used in a way that is heartfelt, authentic, and real for both the worship leaders and the people in the congregation, and for me, the difference between writing such things off in my smug self-righteousness versus really having a true worship time, has simply been in my willingness to “try it.”

    • Heather, Thanksfor the thoughts. Worth thinking about.

      I guess way of putting it is that so mnay of these churches seem to simly be doign worship in this way becasue that’s what is done. Just like 20–30 years ago, it was done differently from now — but still mostly the same.

      Following the crowd has never seemd the best Biblical strategy for anything.

  • Great thoughts here- the article and the interaction. I found this through a Facebook share and many of the comments there (not here) seemed to miss the point- centering on old vs. new, etc. I appreciate your fair and balanced comments Bill. Worship should be for God- not for our entertainment. Yes, done with excellence, artistic integrity and relevance- but God centered. I somehow think that you might sing along with us in worship in our Anglican parish. We do a mix of traditional and contemporary (both carefully selected.) I have a real distaste for referring to the music as the “praise and worship” instead of the entire service and calling the lead musician the” worship leader” instead of the priest/ pastor. Thanks!

  • Ed Knox

    The problem here is really not just the music,… it’s the whole idea of a consumer driven church where we have to market Christianity in such a way to attract numbers,.. to get more money, to finance our pop – church model. Music is only the tip of the iceburg. It seems we’re all trying to copy some big successful mega-church so we do the mega-church paradigm in order to be successful,… with a CEO pastor no less. The answer, do some more digging and find a church that suites your fancy. Churches are like restaurants,.. just pick the menu & atmosphere you like and go for it and don’t complain. Remember, you have the power of your shoes & your checkbook.

  • Chuck Harris

    I can see the points, and I read through most of the posts and there is a lot of good discussion and food for thought. My own thinking is not so much about style of music, style of dress, theological depth (as long as its not heresy) and such things. Too me it always gets back to matters of the heart. Why are the worship leaders, singers, musicians, even pastors and preachers doing what they’re doing. Are they on a the platform because they love the platform. I think that what is grating is when you get the sense that our worship teams are imitating others and using a template that is not necessarily consistent with their own calling or identity. For example when Saul tried to dress David with his armor in order to fight Goliath. Our bands do the loud rockin’ thing because somebody else did it. And when that somebody else did it, it may have been just the right thing to do and it may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, but when we try to package a moment and make it a template, we are only imitating something else, not following the spirit. I’ve heard a few Guitar solos that moved me in worship. And I’ve heard way more that haven’t. About the repetitive thing, That doesn’t bother me. There is something powerful in saying the same thing over and over, especially when it’s true. In heaven the elders are gathered around the throne and they are singing the same lyric for eternity. Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy. If you find that boring and simplistic, you may want to take that up with the Lord. However. I love the deep, rich hymns too, I guess I love it all and I’m a little jaded by all the critique that pits Christians against Christians as if class warfare were a Kingdom activity. Sometimes the old hymns sound more sophisticated because frankly (and this isn’t just an Evangelical thing) we’ve lost much of the art of language in our society. Read books written 100 years ago and compare them with todays prose and you find a much more sophisticated approach to the communication. But that doesn’t make what’s being said today not true, or not valid, just not as eloquent maybe. In actuality the Gospel is simple, it is true, and this whole argument goes back to what is in peoples hearts, not their repertoire. Also, about the dressing for church thing. I think Jesus would be offended hearing Christians say that someone in jeans and a T-Shirt is displeasing to the Lord. Christ went out of his way to fellowship with the less sophisticated and unacceptable. And the Apostles were very intentional in making sure that the Gentiles weren’t required to “do church” the same way the Jews did. Sabbath’s, Feasts, Holy Days, Etc. were completely secondary to the reality of Christ’s presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. I tend to think this applies to dress codes. I personally like the casual, unpretentious approach to worship. We think that God is blessed by our dressing up? Isn’t he more concerned about the state of our hearts? Some people who dress up are very sincere (if not misguided) in their desire to please God, however many more, I think, are like white washed tombs as Jesus said of the Pharisees. I don’t mean this as a direct attack on any one in this thread, I just think its a good discussion to have.

  • Heather G

    Sing unto the Lord a NEW song. Of course, that means, only after you’d paid due homage to all the old songs out there first, right?
    Here’s what I think – I don’t believe the Lord has some checklist of everything we need to make sure we accomplish with our song selections every time we gather together. He’s not up there saying: “music really taught everyone some complex theological concept – check! Music paid homage to past musical movements in the church – check! Songs ended abruptly and without repeating any phrases – check! Creeds and scripture were recited – check! Choir sang four part harmony and instrumental counterpoint was exquisite -check! Guitar player used his guitar in a classical style and did not use any fancy modern riffs or solos – check!”
    No, I don’t think God cares about ANY of this. Instead, I bet He’s thinking more like this:
    “People sang songs that were a true reflection of the journey this congregation is taking together in knowing Me – check. Songs helped people focus on who I Am and my works among them – check. Songs breathed and had enough flexibility that people could honestly and spontaneously engage with my Spirit and express unique and distinct expressions of mutual edification and worship to Me – check. People listened to me and chose songs about what I’ve been speaking to them – check. People were able to offer their own homegrown songs so that the worship coming from that group is a true reflection (and not a prepackaged program) of who THIS congregation is becoming in Me – check. Worship team acted in cooperation and humility with one another and the congregation before Me in how they shared their authority with each other and my people during their gathering to Me – check. People were growing in learning how to experience my Spirit and notice my presence among them – check…”

    • Wendy

      But, the Bible does say that we shouldn’t do something that could cause another to stumble in their walk with the Lord. Younger church members are calling the shots, disregarding, and even stepping on their beloved hymns. I agree with you, and believe that it is true that many 14-20 year old band members will “rock out” at church because they saw someone do that same thing before they did. I agree that it really DID reach some teen to forty or fifty-something someone. But would you deny that if your church were to rely on the old hymns that God couldn’t work through those? (God doesn’t need our help to reach the lost or the young–He is able.) The hymns came down through the generations, and the older folks in any given church had them passed down to them from their parents and their grandparents, and they relied on those hymns throughout their sixty, seventy, eighty, or even ninety years of their lives in hardship and trouble. Who are we (the under 50 crowd) to tell them that another way (drastically different from theirs) is the way it should be now? We should be more concerned about others than ourselves, and not try to justify our own desires. We need to honor the aged. Changing the worship at church IS taking from them. It is trampling on their worship, their own history, and this is the one thing that they would desire to share and pass down to the young, as the hymns teach so many important Biblical truths. Why would someone want to deny them that?

    • Reba

      Heather, I think you’re making some really important points. Driving the discussion to musical styles and preferences won’t yield anything new. Sing it once? Sing it ten times? This isn’t the pivotal element. I think of the times of the tabernacle and then the temple when God’s presence rolled in like a great cloud of unfathomable mystery. I want to experience that. But we can’t manufacture it. We depend completely on God’s working through our dusty hands to take our offering and breathe real life into it. I’ve read in this blog many examples of constructive feedback that can be given on content and delivery. Maybe the worship leader is dry and tired (been there). Maybe the people in the congregation are stuck and bored (been there). Maybe the pastor is really struggling with even believing in God (been there). But regardless, we cannot land on the perfect combination to open the safe of the mystery that only God provides. We have to put our weight on the fact that God is bringing us to the place He intends – we just have to be willing to walk it out. And that can look like any number of the styles or content or combinations listed above. But the comments are right to go directly to God about it, praying that He will show us how to let him lead us. Start with yourself.

      • Jane

        Some of you, from your comments, have obviously never experienced what it is that he really means and what is going on in the majority of churches throughout the world now.

  • Amen times infinity….is all I can say. I’ve never understood the concept of worship “leaders”—in many cases they could be called anti-worship leaders. I can understand a single individual “leading” the song or music but how a stage full of people singing is supposed to lead one to worship is beyond me. Great article.

    • Tim Cole

      Randy, Thanks for the note. Indeed the Pastor should generally be the “worship” leader as he is the shepherd of the flock. “Song” leading is often delegated to one adept at getting the “congregation” to sing. Singing is only a part of worship. True worship is done “in spirit and in truth.” Worship should include private meditation and prayer, corporate prayer, corporate singing, personal and corporate giving of thanks, storehouse tithing and giving of offerings, the sacraments, and the preaching of the Word of the Lord. A praise band can never lead that kind of worship.

  • Joy

    Worship is an expression of our love, admiration, thoughts, praises to Father God, who SO deserves it.It is a positioning of our heart and mind to focus on nothing but HIM. I happen to love modern worship, including the guitar solo’s, as well as the hymns. There is a big difference between a worship team that is anointed and one that is performing. I look for anointed. I look for songs that give me an anthem to sing during the week when a struggle pops up or when I’m just wanting to feel close to Him. Maybe you are not where God wants you? We should all be asking God where He wants us to attend, worship & serve. If you are where HE wants you, then HE will help you love where you are…so you can sing, serve and learn what He feels you need! You can listen to whatever worship music style you want 7 days week. Meeting with other believers in a building is only for a short time in a week. We are the church who should be leaving the building when the service is over, filled up with His presence and going out to tell our neighbors, co-workers, etc. about Jesus! Focus on being in the right building with believers that you can walk this journey out with. Hopefully worship is not just for the one and a half hours you spend during a service, but 7 days a week wherever we are. I hope you find your place! Blessings.

  • Vicky Beauchamp

    Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs. I have been a wortshipper for years. I sometimes have the same issues as you. But that’s just it. Issues. What pleases God? Hmmmm. Maybe we should do what He says. I know that music is powerful and created for multiple purposes. Let’s not put worship music in a box. If the anointing is on it, it is right. This could be any genre. It could be completely spontaneous. Come and here what the Lord is singing over His bride. It will set us free. I am thankful for a worhip leader who spends much of her time in God’s presence. She writes all of our songs. There are new ones every week. Occasionally we have an old hymn or worship chorus. But mostly, our songs relate to what the Lord is saying through our preachers for the fresh word of today. It is awesome and without collaboration except what the Holy Spirit is saying.

  • Shannon

    So, how many churches to do you attend? The article is not a reflection of our church so it’s not really a concern of mine. I was just wondering how you know so much about what other churches are doing. And if this is happening in your church then perhaps you should consider attending a church that uses the style you prefer. The main thing is that we bring our worship to God so that we are not like those Jesus spoke of when quoting Isaiah “They praise me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.” Be careful not to think too highly of yourself as you hurl insults. God has created us to worship Him, we are all created differently.

    • Wendy

      In our city, there are dozens upon dozens of churches. When we first moved here, we went to different churches every week, and sometimes more than one in a day for over a year trying to find a church home. One where the Bible was preached. That is what we were looking for. But, even that is a struggle to find, unfortunately. Many churches are places where folks just want to be entertained. But, one thing we did notice. None of these chuches were singing the hymns. Maybe one token verse of one hymn, or none at all. Lots of churches with rock bands, but finding one that relied on the good old hymns was very rare out there. So, don’t knock this guy for not “going to a chuch that uses a style he prefers.” It’s not very easy. The trend has pretty much taken over.

      • Tom

        Agree. When we moved to California (job) it took us over 6 months to find a church with reasonably Biblical teaching, and yes, the shallow ones usually had the deafening bands. We ended up in a semi-liturgical Lutheran one (very different from what we grew up with)–liturgy 3 weeks out of 4, praise team 1 of 4. Seems to be doing well, though I notice attendance is a bit down on the praise team days. Liturgy is new to me (we chose here because of the preaching and teaching, not songs), but there does seem to be a lot of value in having the services be “familiar” too everyone.

  • SingandPlay

    I can’t help but notice how much we seem to want worship music to minister to us, to please our ears, to leave us uplifted. That’s not what it is for. Come on, we all know that. I have to admit that I am distracted by things during worship – out of tune guitars, sub-par playing or singing, wonky tempos or keys, etc. – but I have to remind myself that it’s not for my ears. Neither were the “great old hymns”, and neither were the most ancient of chants. I have watched people weep during some of those apparently annoying repeats, as they worship our Lord and Savior, and connect with Him through the experience. I am not here to say that one type of music is better than another. I just want to encourage you (et al) to find a place that does the kind of music that enables you to feel like YOU are pleasing God through your act of worship.

  • Jose

    i can no longer stand the old hymns. As a youth Director i have to immerse myself in today’s culture, and i find that today’s music is great! I can get to a place where i can sense the Holy Spirit by singing songs by Chris Tomlin and David Crowder, and Hillsong. There are some old hymns that are OK (O Victory and a handful of others) but you wanna talk about repetition they bore me to death. So stop hating on today’s music and find a church that still uses traditional songs and be happy and praise God that way!

    • Wendy

      First of all, as a youth director (no upper case), you do not have to immerse yourself in today’s culture. (How sad is that! Did the church pastor mislead you?) If you instead immersed yourself in the Bible and then purged yourself of today’s culture, you might see things a little bit differently. The phrase that “There are some old hymns that are OK,” sounds like you haven’t been exposed much to them. How sad. This is where the churches today are going wrong.

  • L. Wolf

    Try being the one who puts the lyrics on the screen for people to sing along when your worship leader decides to drag out the guitar solo longer than normal. “Here’s the last verse – WOOPS! Nevermind. Pretend you didn’t see that and start singing it for a couple more minutes; thanks.”

  • Linda Stoehr

    I have noticed that our service doesn’t start to fill up until 15-20 minutes late into the 30 minute ‘worship’ portion of our service. I assume most of the late-comers do so just to avoid standing 30 minutes straight singing songs with little substance and repeating the same line over and over. I have found my own resolution to the repetition issue – I sing a given phrase 3 times, once for each Person of the Trinity – then I stop and just listen to the congregation. This brings a peace to me rather than irritaion. The rest of our service is just fantastic!

  • I agree with you on your points in respect to music. I am a minister in the church of Christ. We sing acapella. Most people believe that the word acapella means “without mechanical instrument accompaniment.” Acapella actually literally means as it sounds, “as in the chapel” or “as in the church.” In the first century there were no mechanical instruments in worship assemblies. Everyone has a line to draw on music, ours is just in different places. There is no example in the Christian age (from Christ’s resurrection to His return) of Christians using mechanical instruments in worship. Therefore, we do not use them. Some folks have a tendency to disagree, which is fine. But where is your line and where is the example of that as an authority? Can we have a piano but no bass drum or guitar? Once instrumental music is introduced in worship, the lines get blurry.

  • Alyssa Graves

    A Facebook friend of mine reposted this blog article on her profile, and I felt the need to respond. I will start by agreeing with you that much modern worship music is lacking in substance, or sustantially wrong in it’s focus. One of the biggest issues I see in many church worship services is the lack of “corporate worship” songs – songs that proclaim the mighty power and character of God. Instead, they focus on what God can do for me (ie, “I am a Friend of God,” “O How He Loves Us, “Above All,” “You are For Me”). While these songs may have a place in a struggling, weak Christian’s devotional life, the do not belong in the corporate setting, where worshippers gather each week to proclaim His goodness, His matchless character, and His rightful place at the center of all we do.

    That being said, I am fully emersed in a movement that is calling the people of God back to Him, through the vehicle of modern worship. No, not all modern worship songs are created equal; but there are many lyrically beautiful and theologically rich worship songs, designed to focus the worshippers attention on God and God alone. Here’s an example: “The Mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee at the mention of your name, King of Majesty! There is no power in hell, or any who can stand before the power and the presence of the great I am!” (The Great I Am, Jared Anderson). And how about this: “Holy, Holy Holy, is the Lord God, Almighty – who was and is, and is to come! With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings. You are my everything, and I will adore You!” (The Revelation Song, Jennie Riddle). And the list goes on – “Holy” by Matt Gilman, “At your Name” by Phi Wickham, “Give us Clean Hands” by Chris Tomlin, and a host of others. A church that promotes God and His agenda will not care which century the song was written in. There may be a modern twist stylistically, but the message remains the same.

    In short: be very careful not to lump all modern worship music into the same category based on your personal preferences. I say, if God is clearly being exalted, then I don’t really care if the song is my personal favorite, or if a phrase is being repeated too many times for my liking. After all, it’s about HIM.

  • Steve Wilson

    An old joke to illustrate your point: An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
    Well,” said the farmer, ”It was good. They did something different however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.
    “Praise choruses,” said his wife, ”What are those?”
    “Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns only different,” said the farmer.
    “Well, what’s the difference?” asked the wife.
    The farmer said, ”Well, its like this. If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well, that would be a hymn.
    If, on the other hand, I was to say to you, ‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn,’ well, that would be a praise chorus.”

    • Wendy

      Love it!

  • Well mate, I’m an Aussie and I find worship here in most places to be very lacking. There are only 2% of Aussies who are Christian, so, when you find your fellow worshipers it really breaks out, and I mean hymns, old choruses, new choruses, anything that edifies, uplifts, and is vertical worship. I have been here for some 21 years now, and the best worship I experience is in my own home with my husband, or myself, on guitar, and the family able to worship freely for as long as we like, which maybe a couple of hours. And I do agree, there are too many songs, not worship music, that makes it to the platform, and is definitely performance orientated.

  • Aaron

    Why is this an issue? Does arguing about music genres among the Body of Christ bring glory to Christ Himself? Seriously, why such the issue with music and why turn it into a rant?

  • Benita

    I’m not sure what you mean. There are some very beautiful simplistic and repetitious songs. There are more elaborately composed songs that can be played in the most uninspiring ways. Choirs singing beautiful traditional music can make it sound bland. Contemporary artists can offer depth of revelation in simple lyrics- it all depends on the skill, and I guess the heart of the musician. Are you saying that those music ministries lack anointing?

  • Don

    A M E N !

  • Tim Toler

    I used to have some of the same feelings you all are sharing until I got involved with the youth at our church. I see these kids truly worshipping to “new” songs like we worshipped to the old ones. I don’t mean to sound like I’ve got it all together, but I learned to get over these feelings when I truly realized that IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I LIKE THE MUSIC….IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I LIKE THE PREACHER…..IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I LIKE THE COLOR OF THE CARPET…..IT CAN EVEN BE TO HOT OR TOO COLD IN THE SANCTUARY…….IT’S NOT ABOUT ME……IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM!!!!!

  • Tim Cole

    Why would anyone attend a church that they find so disagreeable? There are many great churches that still sing “the song of saints on higher ground!” “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The girations of pop cultural music generally come from singers whose lives are marked by the same “thirsting for the things of the world” that are supposed to have “taken wings!” The Holy Spirit puts His seal on appropriate “congregational” and “ministry” songs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell when that is lacking. The Bible told us these times would come when we would not “endure sound doctrine” but lust for entertainment with “itching ears.” “Stand ye in the way and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk (sing) therein!”

    • Wendy

      Nope. There aren’t very many churches that still sing the old hymns. That’s why there are folks talking about this problem here. We can’t just “go to another church.” There are virtually none left.

      • Tim Cole

        Wendy, seek and ye shall find. I don’t know where you live, but I travel widely and know they are out there. God still has a remnant that is contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.

  • Greyson Johnston

    I am 23 years old. I play guitar. I lead worship from my guitar. My worship team has more guitars, drums, bass, and occasionally some synths. And sometimes I lead songs that are on the radio. I must not be a very effective worship leader. 😉 In all seriousness, if God’s name is glorified WHO CARES!? If the music we play leads the people of my congregation into worship who are you to judge? I can tell you right now, the broken people of my generation that I have the opportunity to reach would never come back if all I played were hymns in the original arrangements. If you can’t connect to it, then I’m sure there is another church in which you can. The times they are a changin’. And, like someone also stated, the hymns were new music at one point, many of which were based off of bar tunes. I’m sure there were plenty of naysayers just like yourself back then too. It’s kind of like saying only the King James Version of the Bible is the only valid version because, “If it was good enough for Jesus then it’s good enough for me.” (Not joking on that one… a guy really said that to me.) God made us all different so who are you to say that we don’t connect differently to different styles of worship? Sounds pharisaical to me.
    With all that being said, this is what I believe is what worship should look like (in traditional and modern services alike) and what I try to remember as I plan the worship service and lead.

    1. God-centeredness: The highest priority and the ultimate aim of congregational worship is to glorify God with our affection towards Him. Not a specific style of song.
    2. Expecting His presence: James 4:8 If we earnestly seek Him rather than throwing ourselves in His general direction He will draw near to us which will make Himself known through our response of worship and in turn affect the unbelievers in the congregation.
    3. Head and Heart: We don’t want worship to just be an emotional response just because the songs sound good. God responding to us drawing near to Him will stir our hearts and bring deeper, stronger emotions towards Him.
    3. Earnestness and Intensity: We want to avoid a flippant and superficial atmosphere, but set an example of reverence and passion. (We can get into dress code here but for sake of shortening this already long response I will say we should be edifying to our congregation)
    4. Authentic Communication: The atmosphere should not be of artistic performance but the atmosphere of radical personal encounters with God. (That’s not to say that we shouldn’t use our talents in worship ie: guitar solos)
    5. Undistracting Excellence: Psalm 33:3 We will try to sing and play in such a way that peopleʼs attention will not be diverted from shoddy musicianship or excessive flair. Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through. (guitar solos that sound like the guitar player wishes he was in Metallica are a no no but a guitar part that is tasteful and elevates the music is great!) (and not elevates the music above the reason we are worshipping but you know what I mean)

    So again, I say who cares what one church does in a modern worship service and what another church does in a traditional worship service. It all comes down to a heart issue. If we are worshipping in Spirit and Truth (spirit being that we are save and truth being that 1. we know who are worshipping and 2. that our intentions are true) then God is going to show up because He promised that He would. All this judgment and criticism only serves to divide us further from each other, and just for song selection.

    “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to UNITE ALL THINGS IN HIM, things in heaven and things on earth.”
    Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV

    • David Maughan

      You have some great points Greyson. It’s so cool to hear a worship leader’s perspective who has thought through this a lot. Maybe I can add some thoughts to it?
      2. “Expecting his presence.” Great point about his presence, but I would just offer a slightly different nuance. Rather than say “expect his presence,” how about simply recognize and become aware of his presence? According to Matthew 18:20 says that if even two people have gathered in Jesus’ name, he is already there! And other Scripture references (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5) point out that God is always with us. We just need to become aware of it and, indeed, expect him to make himself known among us.
      4. (Authentic communication) I agree an ultimate goal should be helping people experience and communicate with God. But I would also venture to suggest that artistic performance can be a way of bringing glory to him, in the same way that beautiful paintings or sculptures or athletic feats can be pointers to the surpassing greatness of God and his image being expressed in humans. I think you’d agree with me, because you do say there is a place for our talents. But I agree that it can definitely be a tough balance to keep ourselves from pride and becoming human-focused as well.

    • Brian Dunn

      Greyson, don’t let anyone ever tell you just because you are young you don’t get it. After spending nearly an hour reading the article and the comments posted, I truly think this is the most heartfelt and right-on comments about what we should be doing as worship.
      Worship MUST be God-Centered! If not, what are we doing….if not assisting others in their quest to get closer to God’s Throne, then we are just glorifying ourselves, and shame on any of us who do that.
      You are right, that you must find music that reaches who is before you, music that finds the emotional connection and desire to communicate that emotion to God. David uses his kinnor (lyre) to help in communicating the heart-felt emotion that his poems/psalms to God. He hired 288 musicians of more than 10 different instruments to help in finding the ability for all to worship God with the passion and emotion that was within them. If today that means a huge guitar solo along with a Chris Rice chart, or thrown in the middle of two stanzas of Faith Is The Victory, then so be it! We are extolled to worship God and He looks to not just the words that come forth from out mouths, but the HEART CONDITION in which they are spoken, or in which our thoughts and prayers are said from.
      For those of use who have been given the gift of music by Him, and earnest look to serve Him by sharing our developed gifts, I encourage you to continue to do so with unbridled passion and with an unceasing energy. I applaud you in your James 4:8 reference. I only hope that our congregation are not filled with unbelievers, but believers who become strengthen, encouraged and closer in their relationship with God. I also hope that they feel confident to let that light shine from them after they leave our churches and that their light and witness can bring others who have not heard or are unbelievers back to Him. If the passion and diversified range in which we play the music that is meant to Glorify Him every week can have that affect, then have we not accomplished exactly what the disciples set out to accomplish in preaching the gospel? We all have a gift(s) that God has given us to serve Him…….music is one way to serve His people and bring them to a closer relationship to Him. Cooking and serving hundreds with food is another gift, especially when those connect with Him through the breaking of bread (didn’t Christ do this a lot?), being able to fix mechancial things is another gift..do we look down on the carpenter or architect who adds a little beauty to stability and unique identity to a House of God because it doesn’t fall with “tradition”? Why do we look at music so harshly? Because it stirs our passions more than almost another other gift/medium. We accept Jesus Christ into our hearts and give Him our body as a Holy Temple. Music physically affects us so much because it is stirring the Holy Spirit within us, however as everybody is different, as every church is different, different types of music is going to bring different people closer to God. When you mention worship is a heart issue, you couldn’t be more right.
      I will pray for you and your continued passion to serve Him and all of His children that your music touches.

  • Kathryn Colton

    I have a cure for you all. Serve a large bottle of wine to everyone when they come in the church door before worship starts. Maybe you will all be relaxed and able to enjoy any type of worship 🙂

    • Jerry

      Oh, I can see coming a new genre of worship music: “Gospel Cocktail” ….

  • deweb

    churches that sing songs that you don’t like probably don’t care that a career Christian like yourself doesn’t want to sing with them. you are not the target audience. (God is.) and you are not the target market. (people who associate with/like that kind of music are.) stop visiting so many churches, pick one local church body, find a role in which to serve, support your pastor, tithe, etc. when it stops being about you, you won’t have to be so critical anymore.

    i don’t know you or your situation. maybe you do have a home church where you are nothing but edifying and constructive. but based solely on the sarcastic and passive-aggressive tone of this post, it doesn’t seem like it. i get it, you’re writing a witty, up-tempo commentary on the modern worship pop sub culture, and you have the right and license to get your jabs in. we can all stand to laugh at ourselves and be called on to reconsider the way we do things. but this article is not constructive. it’s not respectful. it alienates those it claims to be trying to help before they even get to the section that most resembles a suggested solution, which is also thick with sarcasm.

    write snarky, jaded comedy, or write constructive critical commentary. but don’t insult people by trying to pass this off as both.

    • Wendy

      I think the above comment is not very friendly.

  • Greg Hertfelder

    This article could have been written based on comments I’ve been making to my friends in the last months. If I could add to it:
    1. Yes, “life” rhymes with “strife”, and “tree” rhymes with with “me”, but just.don’t.go.there.
    2. Ever since John Redman apologized for having a bad attitude in “Heart of Worship”, the church has been following lock step with first-person perspective songs. Can we just eliminate the word “I” from worship songs? It’s not about you. Or me. Really.
    3. Where’s the joy? We’ve been so busy being “deep”, there aren’t any upbeat joyful songs anymore. I need the them. Upbeat Tommy Walker, Israel Houghton, and Chris Tomlin songs are so important. And don’t ignore the influence of black gospel. Upbeat “I’ll Fly Away” bluegrass is okay, too. Twila Paris and Keith Green are patron saints of contemporary worship music. Pull out that material and put it to use.
    4. If I hear one more lead guitar part that consists of repeated eighth notes, I’m going to pull out my hair…except I’m already bald. Put that music degree to use and learn complex, inventive and catchy melodies.
    5. Songwriters, here’s a challenge: write songs that use different chord progressions rather than variations of 1-4-5-minor6. You can do it. I believe in you.
    6. We’re glad that your church bought new electronic drums, but the purpose has been undermined if the sound console operator buries them in the mix for fear of offending someone. The loudness of contemporary music needs to be loud enough to feel the bass without resulting in bleeding ears – between tepid and painful. Drums need to be as loud as vocals.
    7. Don’t be afraid to introduce instrumentation outside of the norm. Violin, fiddle, steel guitar, soprano saxophone. I understand that everything goes better with cello.
    8. I could sing of the Lord forever. Well, sort of. But, I’m just repeating the author’s point #3. I repent.

  • So good to hear somebody else day it!

  • Anomy-nom Doo Doo Doo Doo Anom-y-nom

    There are booby traps to both contemporary music and hymns

    To me, it all boils down to authenticity. Contemporary music can be a dreadful experience if the “worshippers” are mindlessly getting lost in repetition, shallow words, and concert-like atmosphere with the long mother instrumental solos, and the strobbing lights, and the “let’s play how many sounds I can generate on my electric keyboard” game.

    At the same cost, I remember being a part of “traditional” worship congregations growing up. It was monotonous grinding of the organ and a crowd in the pews that resembled walking zombies going through the motions, slowly being put to sleep. When the preacher would get up to the pulpit to speak, he would clear his throat, and begin, “O thee thou art thy Father, thine majesty beholdeth all thine things therefore upon which thee resteth thy laurels … blah blah blah” Which made me want to yell out, “Please shut the fuck up! I don’t care how intelligent you think you sound, and I guarantee you that God doesn’t either. Be real!” So there’s the other end of being prideful and pompous and going through the motions because it’s the “dutiful” thing to do, instead of really passionately pursuing the Lord with one’s heart.

    I do not wish to clap my hands to the beat and jump around like an ape in a worship service, although some of my neighbors think that’s just dandy. From talking with them, it makes them feel free and able to express themselves, no holds barred. Which is great for them. To me, it just feels silly, uncomfortable and distracting me from time with the Lord.

    On the other hand, I have no desires to have to feel “proper” and that if I accidentally sneeze during the middle of a hymn, the entire congregation will turn their noses up at me, in disgust that I ruined their twelve part harmony. I don’t see many of the blue hairs sharing the gospel in a loving manner and transforming the world in a positive way. Most of them just bitch about the lack of salt in their food and have one foot in the grave and the other up my ass.

    In summation, could care less whether one’s inclinations lend towards traditional music or contemporary. The important thing is the heart of worship … a sincere heart that is truly worshipping, instead of going through a ROTE or labored process. The Lord gave us each different giftings and tastes and unique identities. It doesn’t surprise me that he would design us with differing personal preferences for worship.

  • Patty

    I believe that worship is a “choice” we make, to lift our hearts in praise and not the sole responsibility of those who create an environment for us to so. Over the decades, ( I am old lol) I have seen worship morph several times. The Spirit intermittently pours out new revelation. In turn, each outpouring inevitably produces a unique sound and style that generates a fresh movement of worship. That often creates a sense that we have finally found the formula to “real” worship! And for a season it may very well be. The question is this… What happens to it? Do we tire of the sound? Do we pervert it by adding our own spin? Does God stop moving in that sound because He wants to do a new thing? It may be all of the above…. Those called to worship have a high calling indeed… with great responsibility to hear the voice of the Lord and follow with circumcised hearts.Then to interpret that voice and translate it into music. With such demand to feed today’s hungry congregations it must be extremely complicated. What a high standard we place on these gifted souls. We, as spectators must not be found guilty of placing full responsibility on the worshipers to “usher” us into that place of intimacy. That can only be achieved by a heart that can appreciate that worship is a fragrant offering of praise… Pray for those who are the forerunners… those that bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.

  • I have been actively involved in the church and musical groups for 34 years. In the last few years I have come to the realization, many churches seem to be seeking on how to reach their local communities. Their music has blurred the lines in order to say we are hip and this is where it is at. It may work for many churches. But their church and choir attendance does not support it.

    Recently I sang at a local church who offered some great music with a great choir, ensemble and music team. They mixed some new material with traditional hymns that were understandable and most of all challenged each person to worship. It was a compliment to the pasto’s message. Their choir and music team was talented and wanted to lead worship. As for the church it was at capacity with people who wanted to worship. I am convinced that church found the balance without selling out to the commercial side of the music or so called ministry.

  • Sandy Manning

    I came to your blog through someone who tweeted about you losing your first love and that is why you don’t sing. Sigh. I am in complete agreement with you. I know someone who calls the majority of these songs “7-11 songs.” 7 words sung 11 times! I am done. I mean done with all things seeker, marketing, church. Done. Over. Christianity (as we see it for the most part) is so far away from the Bible I am stunned. I live in a suburb north of Dallas. Many mega churches. Good ones? Well…… I am done with mega churches. There are no gatekeepers or they find it impossible to guard a church that size so it ends up full of false teaching. Am I being hard on the modern church? Well the Bible warns over and over and over about false teachers, false believers and that we much test ourselves to see if we are in the faith. There are, I believe, a majority of false converts in churches today. It breaks my heart. We found a very small church, though gaining people quickly looking for something other than the majority of churches, and I can’t tell you the difference it is making in our lives. We have only been there since Easter and have only missed a couple of times when out of town. I had quit going to our seeker mega church a couple of years ago. Our new church does teach the Bible, teaches the Gospel, sings meaningful hymns (quite a few of the Gettys too), and the people are true converts. Most had been false converts. I don’t know where you live, but if it is in my area, let me know and I’ll give you more info. You could check the Master’s College to see where their graduates are ministering and try those churches. Also, are you familiar with the book, Falsified? Check it out on Amazon. The authors (former false converts – you would probably like the book a lot) are compiling a list of Biblical churches so you could contact them by email to see if they know of anything near you. You are not alone in your feelings. You are in the minority though. I am seeing the remnant of believers coming out of these market driven, easy believeism churches so keep looking and I pray you find something very soon.

  • Sandy Manning

    Sorry – I just saw that you are from Cleveland. I don’t know of anything there myself.

  • Sandy Manning

    Here is the exact quote about you from Twitter: many people have “stopped singing” in the church because they’ve lost their first love like the author of this article.
    See, you will be in the minority. People will say: judgmental, outdated, legalist, no one will come and on and on. That is why you have to search for a body of true believers. If you are a student of God’s Word, you will know it when you see it.

  • SERIOUSLY? An entire blog written about how “MY” needs aren’t being met in worship? Here’s a step-by-step plan for the “mature” Christians who can’t seem to get past the pablum stage:
    1) go buy some tissue
    2) cry a river
    3) build a bridge
    4) and get over your “SELF-CENTEREDNESS”

    You will actually stay home from church because they are singing songs you don’t like?!? REALLY!!!

    Easy solution: go buy a CD player and listen to your hymns during your “personal” devotion time. Then go give yourself away to a lost world of sinners whom your church is trying to reach for Christ through whatever means necessary!

    Sounds alot like our incarnational Christ to me!!!!

    • SingandPlay

      Yup, Stephen. You got it right.

  • So true. I went to an Evangelical College (Liberty) I was in the music department there. We called them 7-11 songs. Seven words. Eleven Times. There is plenty of good new stuff out there, and plenty of good traditional music. But don’t forget, in 2,000 years of church history, there is plenty of garbage that we continue to sing–just look at some of the hymns from the turn of the last century–especially the camp meeting ditties. I’m not saying I don’t agree with you, because that is not the case, but you do complain about how you wish the songs were written for adults and not so simple, then you complain that the chord progressions are too fancy. There is nothing I love better than a great hymn refreshed with more modern rhythms and every so slightly altered harmonies. Maybe even throw in a new chorus or bridge–or better yet, segue into a modern P&W song with similar or even identical text. Or start the set with the modern P&W then morph into the original for the last chorus. Very effective.

  • Rogers Alley

    You have said what I have thought for years. I have attended churches in a number of the major denominations. It takes massive bribery on someone’s part to get me to go to a contemporary service.

    I have thought there ought to be two rules for praise bands. 1) If they want to play rock and roll, have they seen someone like KISS in concert? Because if you’re gonna rock out, you better learn from the best. 2) Would I pay $5 to hear a praise band on a Friday night. If not, then take the guitars home. You’re no good.

    For myself, I prefer hymns of good quality that the congregation can sing, along with special music that is heavily influenced by classical music.

  • Not sure where he heard it first, but my father in law calls these 7-11 songs. Songs where you sing the same 7 words 11 times. I love contemporary Christian but I don’t care for it when they repeat over and over. I got it the first two times.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Eileen. My father in law says the same thing. I do think we must guard our hearts from becoming cynical even as we offer criticism.

      Enjoy your day!

  • Patricia


    My husband and I have also become disillusioned with “churches” and have found that this Jim Staley video puts things into perspective. Watch, listen and learn. 🙂

  • Margaret

    Sorry, I don’t have any sympathy for you. I sat in church for 40 years singing hymns with my head down and buried in a book, and was deader than a doornail, in spite of the fact that I walked the aisle and was baptised at 10. I knew and still know all the words to “Come Thou Fount” and countless others hymns. But never once did I ever, REALLY, REALLY, engage my heart to worship God until I stepped out of the ultra traditional church I was raised in. You know, the one where the members have a disease called “but this is the way we have always done it.” Its also the church were they insist on reading the King James Version because, after all, its the one Paul and Silas used. And they pray in King James English as well. Sorry, but your article sort a makes me want to cry. Now that I’m born again, I actually can worship to “Come Thou Fount”, or any other diddy that was written to the tune of a popular bar song ont he 1600’s.

    • Margaret,

      The last thing I would want is to cause you to stumble in your worship. I grew up in a similar environment so I feel your pain. If God has put you in a church where you can worship Him freely now, I rejoice with you. Keep it up!


  • I went to Passion City Church in Atlanta on Sunday (the church where Louie Giglio preaches and Chris Tomlin and crew lead the worship). I’m 40. What I saw was a group of people who were way into the music similar to how I was into early-mid 90s Vineyard: It was the, to use a tired phrase, ‘soundtrack’ of my spiritual life. It was when I first started meeting Jesus and realizing the possibilities of relationship with him. It was fun at the time because I also fell in love with hymns. I loved ’em both. But the main point is that often we are so in love with the music that ‘got us there’. I have friends (slightly older) who mourn the fact that nobody really sings late 70s Maranatha songs or mid-80s Integrity’s Hosanna. Those are the times when those people were experiencing something that they are trying to recapture.

    I do believe that we need to go deeper when we can. At Passion City, one of the songs was interspersed with verses from an old hymn. Yes updated. But the depth of lyric was still there. The call to commitment to following Christ was still there. The attestation to His greatness was there. There were also guitar solos. And very loud speakers. I felt slightly disconnected only because, perhaps, I need to fall more in love with Jesus myself.

  • Bill, thank you for posting this. Many churches have succumbed to what I call “McWorship” in an effort to attract “seekers.” This attempt to be contemporary or hip has backfired and has become a source of discontent and division within the church. We’re in the midst of an era where church leaders have divided entire congregations of Christian worshipers according to musical styles. Are you kidding me? This is unprecedented in the history of the church. Heartbreaking! In the medieval era, the church sang only chant-a single melody line with no embellishment, instruments or harmony! This was true for over 700 years! Imagine what that was like and yet the church grew during this time. 100 years from now, worship will not look anything like it does now. I know this to be true because the church has simply adopted the latest fads, and the nature of fads means that this too will get old, become virtually meaningless, and will be cast aside in deference to the next new thing. It’s sad, but it’s happening before our very eyes-if it weren’t we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I teach Contemporary Worship Arts at a graduate school here in Houston, but I have stopped attending “Contemporary worship services” as aworshiper because of many of the reasons in this article. We don’t need worship to be slick, seamless, cool or flashy. This is not what pleases God! It’s a contemporary Golden Calf! Our worship needs to be authentic, heartfelt, true to Scripture and Christ-centered. Within our current paradigm, the “how” has taken precedence over the “who” in our worship services. I can only hope that in my lifetime the church will discard fad based McWorship and return to worship services that please God and change lives. I know too many people who have stopped attending church because of the simplicity and lack of depth in the church and the services. There are some churches out there pleasing God and refusing to bow to the pressure of hip worship services. We can only pray for more churches that will dare to offer challenging, meaningful and authentic services that are also multi-generational. I could go on, but that’s plenty for now. Blessings on you and your ministry.

  • Dave

    The dynamic between worship leader and congregation is one of supply and demand. He or she provides what the majority of the congregation finds to be worshipful, or thinks is worshipful. Dislike of the format, simplicity, style whatever, is an expression of the minority, which is an uncomfortable place to be, no doubt, but inevitable. Myself, I wish my worship service had more passionate expression via rhythm, clapping, even to “classic” hymns. But, my church is more liturgical and reserved. Yes, a worship leader “leads” by introducing things that people might not necessarily “want” at first, such as classic hymns, but much like a wedding DJ’s goal is ultimately to get people to dance, and therefore has to play top 40 that people know, a worship director provides what people can worship to, and can only introduce so much that is different from what people know. The real problem is that congregations don’t have a longing for deeper truths of scripture that are expressed in more complicated songs. Change the demand to illicit a different supply. BUT ALSO, simple repetition of a simple lyric to a simple melody is ANOTHER expression of God’s character. He has to say the same thing to Israel over and over and over again because that is the nature of our hearts. We ARE 5th graders, we ARE that dumb most of the time.

  • Tom

    What is the difference between singing and worshipping? Singing is something people do for enjoyment. Singing is completely different than worshipping. Worshipping can be an active form of singing in which we praise God- we raise our hands and shout his praise. (Ps. 63:4) (Ps. 66:1-2) .

    So is it about singing or about worshipping? Just like someone above mentioned earlier- you could receive communion and to some it is a genuine symbol of Christ’s body & blood broken for us. For others- its just a snack.

    The bottom line: It is what you make of it.

  • Great post. For the past 30 years I have had the position of leading worship and through those years have seen the pendulum of worship music swing in many directions. Many of which had nothing to do with re-telling the God story each week. Thankfully I since a new trend that evaluates worship music and other elements based on Glorifying God and Edifying the Body through a retelling of God’s Story, His holiness, justice, grace and our response to who He is and what He has done for us.

    As we plan services we keep the story of God central before any elements is placed on the planning sheet. In some circles we might be accused of adding liturgical elements but our history gives us an outline, a place to start in worship planning.

    And finally…content is key…it is all about the words, however, we recognize the need to balance deep thought provoking elements with more simple ones that allow us to express deep feeling to our Maker.

  • Paula Shearer

    I do not believe the problem lies in the genre of music. It lies in the condition of hearts in the church today. Any song from the simple repetition of a phrase to complicated theological declarations of God’s greatness can bring glory to God when it comes from a heart of love and humility and is directed toward our amazing creator. Conversely, any modern contribution, Psalm or traditional hymn can ring hollow and leave the congregant feeling empty when it is “performed” with the objective of entertaining an audience. Worship is not about edifying believers but focusing on Jesus, the object of our love and giving Him all the adoration of our hearts! I think of Luke 17:7-8 where Jesus say, “Suppose one of you had a servant…would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come…sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?” That really sums up the problem with our whole, consumerism and entertainment mentality in the Western Churches! Worship, in any venue ought to be the body first feeding it’s head and then receiving the “bread” that He offers in response! Just my two sense. Blessings!

  • Robin Self

    I believe that one reason you are seeing the disappearance of choirs in churches is because you are seeing them disappear in the schools. It is a natural trickle-down effect that when there are no kids in schools singing in choirs and learning to read music, that you won’t find people in church that can read music either. Do you notice how choirs ( especially in smaller towns/churches ) have gotten older and older? Then disappear altogether? Our small town does not even have a choir program and most schools in our area have taken music out of the curriculum altogether. It is a natural progression for it to fade away in the churches as well…
    Church music has changed throughout the ages…In the beginning of church music, the piano was considered the devil’s instrument, only used in bars and brothels. It continues to change with the times. Church music has always mirrored the culture of the time…Some of our most beloved hymns are the melodies of popular barroom tunes of the day, including Amazing Grace. So I am not opposed to musical styles changing. God is just as capable of inspiring writers today as he was 200 years ago, and I am thankful that my kids whom God has gifted to play instruments can use their gifts in the church to bring God glory.
    BUT I totally agree on so many points of your blog, Bill…I am our church’s worship leader and my prayer is that the music will speak to the very soul of the singer. Some of the music that is written today is SO very powerful, such songs as “In Christ Alone” and “10,000 Reasons”…I take the music choice very seriously and we vary in song choices from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing ( Some of the old hymns are timeless and speak volumes ) to some of the more modern pieces…( and we still even throw Shout to the Lord AND Agnus Dei in there once in a while! ) Some songs we do full on with all instruments…Some we do with piano only. It’s definitely NOT about us, but how we can best create a worshipful atmosphere ( NOT a distraction or detract from it ) and convey our hearts to our King.

    I agree, the postmodern worship experience usually leaves me pretty empty. I actually was so excited to get to go to a Hillsong Worship service when they were in Texas once…By the time the 2 hour experience ( repeat, repeat, repeat ) was over, I was bored and tired of it all. It all sounded the same. I was like “PLEASE can somebody preach now??” I believe as worship leaders we are preparing the hearts of the people to hear the preaching of the Word. It is about HIM being glorified, not us.
    Sorry for the dissertation!! 🙂

  • Melissa

    Have you been eavesdropping in the backseat on the way home from church? We have also experienced the guilt from “a critical spirit” but the music is such a downer, we have considered not going at all. Actually, for the past 2 months we have had “Church on the Porch” but don’t want to make that permanent, I think. For us, music is what ushers us into the presence of God and most of what we find is a goat path instead of streets of gold…..or some kind of metaphor like that. Anyway, misery loves company so I was glad to read your thoughts.

    • Melissa,

      I thought I was staying out of sight in the back seat, but — you caught me. Actually we have wrestled with the same critical spirit issue and have just sucked it up for many years. But hwne our kids keep askign if the song part is done yet….. As a Christian school leader, I interact with a lot of churches and Christians from a lot of different traditions. I find the same concern in all of them although few dare give it voice.

      Thanks! And don’t settle for that church-on-the-porch thing.

  • Jolynn

    Well, this is interesting and it seems that most here are pretty passionate about how YOU like to worship. Just remember that 1) different people like to worship in ways as different as we are different; and 2) while church is for all of us to worship and praise, we are also there to win people to Christ. Appealing to a demographic that have not been raised in church and are not Christ followers is going to require a worship service that is more progressive. So instead of being frustrated by the music as you are standing in service, rejoice that your congregation is reaching out to those that are lost. And if that doesn’t work for you, then find a different church that worships in a way that is meaningful to you. Personally, I prefer a mix of traditional and contemporary. But more important is that my church be vibrant, alive and providing people with hope and introducing them to a life with Christ.

    • John,

      Thanks for the comments. I recognize that different people can and do worship in different ways. However, Jesus said we must worship God in Spirit AND in truth. When truth is lacking, I fail to see how that can be pleasing to Him even if it is attrractive to those who are not Christ-followers. Come to think of it, isn’t that the point? Why are we trying to attract non-Christ followers with our worship when their hearts have no desire to worship. In fact, they can’t according to Scripture nor would they want to.

      Thanks again!

  • Doyle Ferrell

    Just for humor: I have heard the repetative praise songs referred to as 7/11 songs (They have 7 words and you repeat them 11 times).

  • Rob

    Wow! Seems to be a whole lot critisizing. Very little effort at understanding. Here I thought it was suppose to be about God.

  • John T

    I believe there is room for a wide variety in style of worship music, and artistic expression, as well. God put these things in us, after all, why not use them? But to your point and in the spirit of *excellence* in worship, I agree that lyrically we should not be settling for mediocrity. Likewise, repetition in and of itself is not bad, but it can cross a line which enters something that is more worldly. Repetition is a tactic used in hypnotism that numbs the thought process. Excessive repetition in worship can unwittingly numb our thinking and put us in an almost trance-like state. This does not seem consistent with what God wants.

  • Robin Self

    Sandy Manning: I just bought “Falsified” on Amazon Kindle per your suggestion…The forward already has me amen-ing!!

  • Worship Leader

    While I agree with some of your points, I was reading the Bible for my morning devotions, and what verse did I run across?

    Titus 3:9: But avoid stupid and foolish controversies and genealogies and dissensions and wrangling about the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile.

    Huh. Ok God. Hint taken.

    • Joe


  • Scott

    People like that with which they are familiar and comfortable, and then justify why their way is the right way. We all have our own likes and preferences. Some like chicken, some like beef. Some are vegetarian. It’s like that with everything. When we go to a restaurant, we order what we want. When we go to a banquet, we eat what we are given because we can’t all order whatever we want. We all have to eat the same thing. So then we complain about it.

    Music elicits a lot of emotion. Like my grandfather’s favorite hymn. How I loved my grandfather. Every time I hear it it makes me think about my grandfather and I cry. I would love to hear that hymn more. But it doesn’t have the same meaning to everyone else.

    The hymns that “we” grew up with (those of us who grew up in churches that sang hymns) are not 2,000 years old. Most of them were written in the last 100 years. If you want to go back 2,000 years, language is going to be a barrier, and even I don’t want to sing Gregorian Chants.

    We’ve got to get our heads on straight on church music, folks.

    • Wendy

      It’s not all about what a person wants. That is what is currently driving the music directors in our churches. What they want, what the musicians want, what they think the people want…Besides, it’s completely upside down if there is a decision in the church to be made, and the younger generations are telling the older generations how it is going to be. That is not correct to have the young challeng the old folks.

      In any event, the music that is in the hymns are older than you think. Yes, there are a lot of hymns written within the past 100 years, but we sing some much, much older hymns that that! About your point on the chuch getting its head straight, let me remind you that this “wonderful” contemporary music is being pushed into the churches while it is still the latest thing. Some of it hasn’t even withstood the test of a few decades, or even a few years. The ones who are truly complaining here are the youth..they don’t want to do what the older members know and understand on a much deeper level, and they don’t want to listen or learn from their elders about the history and the goodness found in the old hymns. Continuing with the hymns and not wanting to introduce shallow, repetetive, and often loud music is a good thing for church members of all age groups. But, being too young to understand, and too impatient to listen, and too proud to humble themselves before the older members of the church, (and too used to getting their way), they do more than complain–they disregard the old ways and just change them to please themselves. (Note: Not all young folks–under 50–are this stubborn and selfishly disregard the older members of their churches…I just notice that this is so common now to have the youth dictate to the old.)

  • Matthew

    At one point in history, the standard hymns that are being championed in this article and on this message board didn’t exist. The hymn writers of the mid to late 1800’s and early 1900’s whose songs would be passed down for generations in churches throughout the world created something new. And admittedly, the number of the songs they created still stand to this day as classic songs. I obviously can’t speak to their intentions, but I can allow myself to imagine that one of the intentions may have been to create a fresh way to express musical worship. If they had been applying some of the same rationale being supported in this article, some churches may very well still be using gregorian chant. Musicians who serve in their churches and the church around the world should be allowed to create new and fresh ways to express themselves. Sometimes we may not always like what we get, but we shouldn’t stifle them.

    I get frustrated at times with the genre as well, but think about it this way. If you go back and study the great hymns, say from the United Methodist hymnal ( I grew up UMC) and put them side by side with the popular songs of the day you will start to see similarities in the musical form and make-up of those songs ( musical form , not lyrics). With what has been dubbed “modern worship”, it is no different. Like it or not, the church is made up of people – and those people are affected by all of the music created around them, whether it came from the church or not. The modern worship songs I hear are very similar in form to popular songs of the day. And, if you asked a lot of those who attend church that are 20 years old or younger, I’m betting most of them like it. They don’t see anything wrong with it because the musical culture they have come to grow up in is different than say somone who is 50-60 years old. It’s not better…but it is different. Are you going to be the one to tell them their music isn’t valid? Let me know how that goes for you. I seem to remember some folks telling those of you who grew up in the 1960’s similar things…how did you take to it? Or how about the music that is still sung in churches today that came out of the Jesus Movement? What if they had never tried to create something new?

    I get where the writer is coming from, and I am all for incorporating more theology into the songs being written today. It would give them a depth that many lack. You lose me though on the repetition…”Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” ( or pick your favorite) isn’t repetitive?

    Lastly, can you give more insight into the statement “We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never was.” Did you come right out of the womb and give your life to Christ? You didnt have any kind of period where you had to ask yourself if the God of the universe was real or not? If you’ve been attending church since day one, I would submit that there are plenty of regualr church-goers that I would out under the heading of “seeker”.

    • Wendy

      The hymns we sing today come from the centuries before us, and withstood the test of time. The contemporary music today has not. I think there is a lot to be said in humbling one’s self (at least in the church if nowhere else) and respecting the older folks there. It isn’t about what a young (under 50 years old) person wants to play as a musician or sing as a member of the church. It is not a situation of catering to the supply/demand as though the church were a department store or car sales lot. Or even a “majority rules” atmosphere. To make changes that edify the youth/young adult and disregard the older church members to the point of making it a place somewhat unwelcoming to them seems thoughtless, and I think the young folks do not even know what blessings they are missing out on by not slowing down to listen to the older generation. The hymns are filled with a rich history and depth of Christian experience, and so are the older members of the church. The current trend is, in my opinion, driven by an immature stance and a selfish pursuit.

  • Naria

    I’m not a “Christian” and my husband is. I attend church with him because he likes me too and it is one of the ways I support him as his wife. I’ve been to many “churches” in my life and often felt moved to tears and joy during the worship music. This has never been the case with the current music. I have never felt close to God, connected to God when listening to it. These days I leave when the Pounding, Loud, Simplistic, and Repeative music starts. (my husband doesn’t like it either and he stays for his own reasons). BTW I’ve just seen this side of 40.

    I am sadden by all the nasty/sarcastic/finger pointing posted on this sight in regards to this article. A man is being vulnerable, being willing to discuss something and how it effects him and many start lecturing him on his faith. Isn’t that between him and God. Not really trying to understand the meaning behind the words or the struggle this creates for him. This is well written thoughtful and humble article. If you have criticisms about it, maybe read it again with curiousity, an open mind and heart. I’m disapointed in many of you my christian friends.

    • Thanks for the support, Naria. I suspect that criticism is why most people I have talked to about this over the years seem relieved that someone else brought it up first — and then look about furtively in case we are overheard.

      Seriously though, I’m curious as to why you put “christian” in quotation marks. Care to elaborate?


  • marcy shore

    You haven’t been to Parish Presbyterian in Franklin, TN, yet….

    • Is that where I might find the incomparable George Grant? Irony, I was just communicating with him. Hmmm… Maybe a visit is in order.

  • Bill, I agree with your thoughts about text. Worship has had a didactic component for centuries and should always serve a teaching purpose. I also agree that worship choruses are, in general, too repetitive. We are striving to change this about ourselves. But your tone in this article (which I came across randomly on Facebook) is (to this traditional-church-appreciating Evangelical pastor) unnecessary, condescending, and seemingly elitist. Tone aside, your style arguments (guitar solo, etc.) are as whiny as the music you’re criticizing is repetitive. Generations X, Y, and Z, generally speaking, do not relate to Brahms, Bach, or the bassoon. It’s that simple. And while I love the stress on God’s transcendence (in formal dress, silence, symbol) by traditional churches, His immanence, stressed in contemporary churches by casual dress, exuberant praise, and spontaneous prayer, is equally part of His character. I’m grateful for variety among churches. Most of my parishioners wouldn’t attend the church you idealize. But together, we are able to reach a variety of lost people. “The harvest,” Jesus said, “is plentiful.”

  • Keith Pavlischek

    Yes, yes, yes!! –DEAD SPOT ON, WISH I SAID THAT!

  • Think of religious icons. (Stay with me; it’s germaine!) An iconographer explained to me that icons are written* in only two dimensions; they look flat, stilted and awkward at first glance. They are created that way because we, the viewers, are invited to be active participants in transmitting their message. As we look, we are to pray, and our prayer adds the third dimension. When we do that, we “see” beyond the physical creation and into the faith message meant for us.

    I see church music in the same light. If something is missing from the music, perhaps I am commissioned to provide “the third dimension” for myself. I have the option of walking away and not participating. I also have the option of being present, in song or in prayer, as the singing continues.

    As a young adult, I led a parish folk choir. One parishioner brought his teen sons to the folk Mass every week. When we played (and really, we were pretty good! ☺), the man would literally turn 180% from us and face backward. Week after week …

    When our family moved the next year, the parish hosted a goodbye party for us. That man came up to me with tears in his eyes and thanked me for leading the choir. He explained that our music, as distasteful as he found it, had kept his sons coming to church during a very difficult time for their family. He didn’t like our style, but he faithfully brought his sons because they connected to the faith through it.

    We never know the whole story, do we?

    (*Iconographers “write” icons; they do not “draw” them. Nor do they sign the work; they do not consider it theirs. It is of the Lord.)

    • Debra,

      This is a unique and valuable perspective. I’m going to have to ponder it for awhile. Thanks for stopping by over here.

    • Tom Sun

      I love that point of view Debra! Thank you for that.

  • Wendy

    Guess what?! There is ONE church that has it right, and after years of discouragement, God brought us there. We sing all of the old hymns, and even have two hymnals under the chairs!We don’t stick to a few–we sing them all!! AND we sing all of the verses! (No one does that anymore! Love it!!) They are sung to the piano, violin, flute, and horn, and no-one applauds because we are worshipping God (not people and their performances). The hymns aren’t reworked or modernized, and we often hear a reading of the history of a song writer just before worship. We have a growing church, and we have many members of all ages–not just twenty and thirty year olds, and not just old folks, either. We all enjoy the hymns together. Even the children sing the hymns and enjoy them! The kids even know a lot of them by heart! More churches should come back to this. There is so much history and depth of life experience in the old hymns. The teachings are valuable to everyone. And besides, in the churches where the younger members dictate to the older members what is the best way to worship, they have it upside down. The older folks need to teach the younger ones why the old hymns are so valuable. If the younger folks would allow the older folks to have their way (in choosing the old hymns without loud bands and repetetive, shallow music), and bite their tongues, they would find themselves not only practicing some restraint (a good and healthy thing), but respect toward the older members (appropriate in a church), and would find themselves connected to centuries of Christian culture and teachings that they would find is still very relevant and wonderfully speaking to their hearts. If the older church members were allowed to choose the worship for the church, then they could (as their hearts longing desire would be) teach the younger members to love the hymns. It is very difficult to not appreciate the hymns when the writers’ longsuffering stories are told, and when you sing every verse, and your pastor even preaches through some of the hymns. When the youth choose the music against the older members’ wishes, it is upside down. They WANT something, and they will get it because they want it. That’s not biblical thinking or behaving. Biblically speaking, the youth (50 and under?) should not tell their elders what to do. (And I am not yet old, so not all “youth” want to offend their elders.) We left our old church finally when the music director spoke from the pulpit to say that he would help us to learn a new song each month–we will practice every Sunday for a month, so that we could learn to sing the songs that we hear outside of the church. What? At our house, we hear/listen to/sing the hymns! Why do we need to bring the world into the church? Should the church be the first place for us to be exposed to the world’s music? Shouldn’t the church be going out into the world rather than the world coming into the church? We only sang hymns at our church before that, so we were surprised. It was hard to find even that church. Prior to that, we tried every church in the area, and only found this one that still sang hymns, and had to drive 40 minutes to get to it..and then they were changing (new music director). Thankfully, God showed us one church we had overlooked…now we attend there, and we love it. Yes, the youth are taking away our hymns if there are hundreds of churches to go to, but only one still sings the hymns. (I won’t count the one verse of one hymn that some churches will throw in as a bone.)Some have been posting that this is complaining, but they are the newer generation defending their position to take away something from the generations that came before them. (By the way, the hymns that we sing now that were written over the centuries are the ones that have withstood the test of time. This new stuff is like a fad–you’ll sing it one day, and it will be long gone and forgotten by next year.)

  • Steve W

    Appreciate the article. I am a former rock musician and the modern praise and worship songs remind me to much of my old rock days. Though I enjoy some the the modern P&W works, too often they leave me hungry —– hungry for my past world. It is not a good thing when the elemental sounds of the music in a church produces a desire for getting drunk and all that stuff instead of drawing one to a deeper relationship with our Saviour. So, the solution I have found — and I do not actively advocate this for anyone else — has been a nearly three year ‘withdrawl’ from the local chuch. Not the greatest solution, not a permenant solution, but one that I believe God lead me to make. So, as I’ve made this move, I have been drawn closer to spiritual growth by allowing Scripture and Prayer engulf my life. Also, I have been irresistably drawn toward the old Gregorian Chants and the ‘liturgical music’ of the Anglican traditions. Then, the old hymns of the Faith which no one has ever been able to improve upon, as well as delving into understanding the foundational creeds of Christian Faith. Now, after my absence from organized church, I believe the Lord is drawing me back to it. Though difficult to find a ‘good one’ that is strong doctrinely and in practice, I believe He has led me to my new church home. Unexpectedly too. Not a place where I thought I would find strong, faith building and deep biblical knowledge and practice. But then, this whole experience has been a ‘God Thing’ for me anyway.

    • Wendy

      Wow. You make an important point. I think my husband mentioned this to me before. When he took off the old man and put on the new, he never wanted any more of what reminded him of that. The music seemed too much like the world he left when he got saved. Thank you for your insightful post.

  • Tom Sun

    I really feel for your worship leaders. They struggle every week to bring something that honors God, is relevent to the ENTIRE congregation, is scripturally sound, singable, musically interesting, and supportive of the message. Then they have to deal with this: “Too many hymns” , “not enough hymns”, “too loud”, “not the way we used to do it” and a myriad of other complaints. Pray for these leaders, they have an impossible task in today’s consumer driven culture of entitlement.

    There has never been a time in the history of the church when the establishment did not chaff at the introduction of new musical styles. I supposed it will be this way until the Lord comes. But it still makes me sad.

    • Wendy

      Nope. You have it backwards. Remember when there were churches and then there were other places that weren’t churches in which you would find: inside the churches, people worshipped and sang the hymns in worship to God. Outside the chuches, the music was different for different people. But, now that the church has decided to change and get away from traditional church music, and brought inside the church the music that was not in there before, that is when it got complicated. The worship director shouldn’t be so eager to please everyone. Have him or her ask the older memebers of your church (if you have older members in your church) what to do. They have many years of wisdom and advice to offer. Your worship director will find that it isn’t a difficult problem after all.

      • SingandPlay

        In my past experience as a worship leader, the opinions of the older people in the church were along of the lines of “turn it down, get rid of every instrument but an organ (…because…organs are the most godly?), sing only old hymns.” I think the churches that are having separate services are attempting to serve the tastes (and let’s be honest, it’s just a matter of taste, nothing more,) of the older folks and of the younger folks (or even older folks who did not grow up in the church singing its traditional music). I grew up singing hymns. every Sunday. so many verses. hymns. and hymns.
        I don’t mean to deny anyone their preference, but AGAIN, it’s not about us. Get over yourself and your preferences and worship where you feel you are honoring God. Stop criticizing everyone else!

  • Jon

    I agree totally. I don’t care for what I call 7-11 music either (seven words sung 11 times) nor do I like it being played at 10,000 decibels. Maybe I’m old fashioned but when I listen to music with words written to it, I like to be able to hear what the words are and that they have some kind of meaning. All this waving of hands, clapping, stomping,and emotionalism is a total distraction to worship and holiness. If I want that, I’ll go to a rock concert. Just my opinion.

    • Dale

      I agree Jon. It is impossible to sing to edify others when you can’t even hear each other because the instruments are so loud. Because of this we go to a church that is acapella only. It is amazing how inspiring it is to be able to hear all the different parts and blend with others around you as you praise God and edify each other. I would never think about going back to a church where the emphasis is upon how loud the instruments can be turned up and how many times the seven words in a song can be repeated.

  • So, you are having trouble worshipping because you don’t like the music? Is that really the music’s fault? And it sounds like you think this music is aimed at “seekers” but you feel like that’s not the appropriate for an evangelical church? And you are done seeking? I like a lot of the music. And I gave my life to Christ 10 years ago, and I really dig “seeker” music still. (PS I LOVE old hymns too.)

  • I think the Church is losing a sense of valuing excellence for its own sake, to the point where any suggestion for improvement is castigated as non-missional. We have to get that back if we’re to make any progress. The same thing goes for poor “translations” of the Bible like The Message (though that may not be a fair comparison since at least Chris Tomlin has his theology straight while Peterson is actually twisting the Word).

    I’m glad for the work of Stuart Townend and the Gettys, although personally I don’t think their work is really on par with the old hymns. They try to capture that flavor, but it’s not the same. I think a good test of a great melody is whether it can still sound vibrant and interesting if played or sung “bare-bones” by ordinary musicians and singers. Many of the Gettys’ tunes don’t pass that test. “In Christ Alone” for example can actually be quite boring if the arrangement is merely average. Also, the older hymnwriters had a better command of poetry and language. Getty lyrics sometimes suffer from sloppy rhyming and grammar. However, I’ll sing one of their tunes before the numbing, over-loud, over-produced schlock on the airwaves these days.

    • Your point about losing the sense of excellence for its own sake is a really good one. The heart of the Reformation is that we were supposed to be “reformed and ever reforming.” If we can’t point out what seems to be obvious to a whole lot of people then maybe that refusal to to acknowledge it is the bigger problem. “Open the eyes of my heart….”

  • Chris

    There may be truth in what you say, but I feel your angry sarcasm obscures it. It feels completely out of place in a conversation on how to worship our God. There must be better ways to have this conversation.

    • Chris,

      You may be right although Jesus used sarcasm often when pointing out problems with the church in his day.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Hey, music isn’t worship, necessarily. Sometimes it’s just music. Sometimes, church music is more associated with gospel theatre. Blech. If you need to engage performance art, take a trip and do a little off-broadway. I’m sick of ballons, fairy masks, flags, liturgical gesture, ecclesiastical poncing around, and if it’s concert-form we’re really after, give me Creedence Clearwater Revival. That’ll bless my soul. @ Beth, bless you, I understand your point, but when music gets “in the way” it IS the music’s fault.

  • Kevin Busahrt

    Thank you…I pastor a more ‘traditional’ church (United Methodist) we put quite a bit of work into planning worship as a whole-including music-that helps lead us into closer relationship with God AND praise God for who God is. I feel as though (and I admit my bias) that we have a good blend of the classics and more contemporary. We use piano and organ and on occasion an ensemble of various instruments. But the point that I see is that worship is to be worship…not a performance, which is what I have found to often be the case…

  • Eric

    I have been a worship leader for over 16 years now, and have heard every argument for and against just about any style of worship or ministry model. I have a couple scattered things I want to share in no particular order:
    1) Many of these “precious” hymns that people talk about (I say precious in that sentence both with reverence and sarcasm at the same time, if such a thing is possible – let me explain) today were at one time very controversial, cutting edge even. Many of them were written to popular melodies of their day, which, by the way came from tunes that were sung at the pubs. Many of them weren’t so revered and precious at first because they were “worldly”. One generation’s cutting edge revival becomes another generation’s history! Or better yet, one generation’s controversy, becomes another one’s orthodoxy!
    2) The word “worship” itself has become synonymous with a one-time a week (or maybe 2-3 if you are Baptist or charismatic) EVENT. This, I believe is at the core of the problem. Singing is an outflow of worship, but when we try to encapsulate worship into something that has to have a band, slides and sound system, then nothing is ever going to FEEL RIGHT!!! Worship doesn’t have to be done in song. Now some would agree but would only expand worship to include ALL the various elements of a worship “service”. But again, scripturally speaking, the act of worship is not limited to a weekly gathering of Christian brothers and sisters. There are countless books and scriptures that delve deeper into what worship actually is. But our lack of understanding of worship itself is at the core of the problem. So disputes over styles, genres, formats, instruments will never get to the heart of the problem.
    3) Church as a whole has become a spectator sport! The worship team or ensemble, the pastor up on the screen, the videos – the medium itself breed spectator’s and I believe encourages or at the very least does nothing to discourage passivity among the vast majority of believers. There is a stage, a screen, and performers. I was a pastor at a church of 4000 people for 8 years and to this day still lead worship on a regular basis. I have not worked it out in my heart and life yet. I am torn and dissatisfied most weeks that I lead worship.

    I love depth, but then again it doesn’t have to be some theologically-laden hymn from the Reformation. Those are a product of their own time where the songs themselves were preachy and often used to remind people of their theological distinctives.

    I was reading the psalms this morning. They were cries from the heart of desperate people. They weren’t deep theological treatises. They were praises that sprung from their experiences of God’s goodness and faithfulness. They were full of pain, fear, cries for mercy. They were full of frustration, anger, forgiveness, and faith and hope. They dealt with the psalmists confusion, bitterness and even unforgiveness. Now for all their shortcomings, I know for a fact that many of the modern worship leaders turn to the psalms for inspiration and many of them are singing directly from them. For that, I am grateful and think that many of them are on the right track.

    With all that said, I did nothing to contribute to an answer to the issues raised at the beginning, except this. Church leaders need to prepare with a prayerful heart using their God-given gifts, abilities and experiences to encourage their congregation to fix their eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of their faith. Whether in song, video or through preaching or teaching, everything should be done so that we walk away focused more on God, his love, his grace, his mercy and forgiveness. I always tried to remove every distraction possible so that in the midst of singing, people would forget about me and be singing to HIM and HIM alone!!! But for so many churches that are driven by performance metrics, growth goals and keeping up with their “competition”, this becomes a challenge. My belief about ministry was that I had the impossible challenge of changing hearts and lives. I couldn’t do it on my own. I could pray and prepare my best to glorify God, then I had to trust in him to change hearts and lives. I have grown weary of dealing with the plethora of ministry “models” and also of the “worship wars”….I think I’ll let my comments fizzle right now before I ramble on anymore. I didn’t even get to talk about the consumerist nature to church attendance…”Don’t even get me started!!!”

    • Eric,

      Thanks for your faithful service for these last sixteen years. As a school principal, I know you have a challenging task. You make some good points here.

      Thank you.

    • JP

      “Many of these “precious” hymns that people talk about (I say precious in that sentence both with reverence and sarcasm at the same time, if such a thing is possible – let me explain) today were at one time very controversial, cutting edge even. Many of them were written to popular melodies of their day, which, by the way came from tunes that were sung at the pubs. Many of them weren’t so revered and precious at first because they were “worldly”.”

      I have seen the above argument repeated often and it is simply not true. I’m sure there was no intent to deceive, nonetheless, I cannot let it go unchallenged. The “bar form” is used for a number of hymns and has absolutely nothing to do with the “source” of the tunes being “pubs” or “taverns”. This is a very common misconception. There are many articles on this topic should you wish to research further. Here is one to get you started:


  • CJ

    Right on!!! And Very well put! I am in agreement! Having grown up in a church that sang OLD hymns–and I do mean OLD, I confess that I long for them to be put into worship more often. Thankfully I attend a church that seeks out the better “new” songs that have some meaning and depth and not too repetitious. I don’t know what I would do if I could not sing in church! Probably move!
    Thank you for this!

  • Julie

    You are right on, brother. On Sunday we worshipped at a Nazarene Camp Meeting and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. Campmeeting, where most people are gray-haired singing the music you describe in your article. We just sat there, dumbfounded and I am a former choir director and soloist and I normally participate. Unbelievable what is happening across the country in our churches. There really isn’t anywhere to worship to get away from this. Oh yes there is, Sun City, Arizona. THe Nazarene church there sings the hymns and they sing them well.

  • Doug

    I have an idea. How about writing songs similar to the old hymns, in that they exalt God & cause us to ascend to His throne. Most of our so-called “worship songs” are dominated by the words “I”, “me”, and “my”, and they’re done in a way that tries to bring God down to our level. Not to mention that many of them are also “prom songs to Jesus”, and pardon me, but that is a big reason why men don’t want to be in church. I really don’t.

    • Doug,

      I think your on to something here connected to the feminization of our culture and churches. There. That should spark some further conevrsation. But I think it’s true.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Tom Sun

    Do a little research on the history of hymnody folks. Every generation has had this rift to one extent or another. At one time the use of any instruments at all in the church was hotly debated.

    Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of Lutheranism said of the organ,
    “The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal… The Roman Catholics borrowed it from the Jews.”

    John Wesley (1703-1791), a father of Methodism said of the organ
    “I have no objection to instruments of music in our worship, provided they are neither seen nor heard.”

    Charles Wesleys hymns were considered very radical in his early career and he was discouraged from writing them by his family and church. Many of the hymns you all think of as so sacred were intentionally sung to the popular melodies of the day in hopes that the words would be remembered.

    I believe that as fruits of the Spirit are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of an individual, UNITY is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of a congregation. I encourage you to sacrificially join in with the praise and worship, ESPECIALLY when the song is not your favorite, for the sake of any person in the room who is being drawn closer to God through that piece of music. Seeing your participation may be all that the person behind you needs in order to give themselves permission to let go and enter into worship.

    • Gosh, popular melodies of the day sure have come a long way since the 18th century. Not.

      Can we just recognize that there are objective standards here and maybe these parallels are kind of irrelevant?

  • Deborah

    I heard a worship history professor point out that whatever worship looks like in the nursery and junior church right now is what it will look like when those children are in charge. Also heard a very wise person explain that worship is always a choice, and sometimes it’s a sacrifice, but no-one can prevent you (or me) from worship but you (or me). Having said that, let me agree *so* heartily with what you wrote here, especially the part about the rearrangement of the older songs. If they’re being sung because they’re worthy, they’re worthy without alteration. If they’re being sung to placate me, mutilating them isn’t going to do it. The bottom line here is having respect for one another. There is room for any and all music that moves us; maybe not all on the same day, but certainly rotated through the weeks. Providing what is meaningful is part of how the worship minister does his ministry of facilitating worship among the Church (capital intended). Also to the one who commented that evangelicals are resistant to liturgical music; yes we are! We viscerally avoid anything that looks, sounds, smells, feels Catholic, and we greatly impoverish ourselves thereby.

    • Deborah,

      Thanks for your candid comment on the avoidance of anything that looks Catholic. That is true in many evenagelical circles though certainly not all. Yet non-denominational churches are just as liturgical as the others. Thye just pretend that they’re not.


  • Randy Smith

    Come on Bill, you claim you want worship to be truthful, you need to do the same. What you (and so many others on this thread) are really saying is that your personal taste is the old style hymns done in the old style way. I like them too – as much as I like the contemporary style. Actually, I can worship with both. But this discussion really comes down to one thing – personal taste. There is no right or wrong but there is a solution. Find a church that worships in the way you personally prefer. Those who worship differently aren’t wrong or even unspiritual…they just like their music the way they like it.

    • Actually, Randy, I was being truthful. What you describe is not what I want. I wrote what I wanted in the post as best I can discern my own heart.

      But thanks for the admonition. Always good to check our motives.

  • Michelle

    Wow. I mean, wow. Whether, you’re pro-evangelical or not, this is one of the longest oratories on “why I want worship to suit me exactly to make it worthy of being sung”. You seem to lay the charge that if the song is not ancient, or even decades old, is too easy to understand, or is played on the radio – it’s not suited for worship.

    Even when ancient hymns were written (which I love) – they were still new, modern, and easily understood in their time. So why should we stop doing what they did? Why should we not write new music that is easy to understand and (gasp!) repeat the chorus so that we can reflect more on what we’re singing? Especially in this fast-paced digital age, repeating a chorus or two, meditating on what we’re singing – I think it’s ok to ask me to reflect by repeating.

    I’ve been in many churches and many denominations over the years when I was exploring where to settle (been a member of the same church for 10 years now). I’ve personally found that when you prepare your heart beforehand and come ready to worship with other believers – most of the time it doesn’t matter what song or style or words are being sung – you are ready to join together corporately to worship God.

    And I’m willing to bet He likes all of it. 🙂

    • Michelle,

      Much truth to what you say in the latter half of your comment. I would respectfully ask you to re-read the post to clarify the first part. As I noted in another comment, our worship should reflect both the simplicity and complexity of God and both the newness and ancientness (is that a word?) of God.


  • Bryan H.

    Well sung (I mean said)!

  • Chad

    One of the things I enjoy most about our church’s worship service are the Scripture readings and the songs that the church’s musicians have written which revolve around Scripture passages… one in particular which is a song to the Triune God, praising each member of the Trinity. Some deep theology and good music combined.

  • Sovereign Grace Music, Enfield/Resolved Worship, Sojourn Music, and the Gettys. Solid!

  • David

    I have a couple of thoughts to chime in. For years I’ve grappled with my experiences of church worship music and have been dissatisfied in many ways. I actually led worship music at my church for a while in high school. I have learned several things along the way that I feel would benefit you, Bill, and others.

    First, the lyrics of “Instead of a Show” by Jon Foreman are very insightful (taken from Isaiah 1). They point out that God in fact hates our worship songs and prayers when there is blood on our hands. This refers to the uncleanness of their lives before God. Worship songs do not matter at all if, as many above have said, our hearts are not bowed before God and submitting to his ways. We are each guilty of this daily and must continually surrender our whole lives to him as a living sacrifice. This is our act of worship. There are in fact precious few references to singing together in the New Testament, and they usually come at the end of a long list of commands that address our whole lives (such as Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16).

    This leads to my second point which is that many Western churches today practice a somewhat poor ecclesiology by assuming that a “church service” consists of worship music, a few prayers, and a sermon. As others have said above, there is little in the New Testament that offers us this model. Most references to believers gathering together talk about edifying and encouraging each other with their spiritual gifts. I think many of us may be guilty of reductionism in regards to our idea of the church. The church exists not primarily to gather for music and preaching but primarily to make disciples of all nations and spread the good news around the world and bring glory to God in that way. We are a missionary people. Consumerism plays a huge role in the usurping of the spiritual power in churches and turns us into religious consumers. So I admit that I am a little tired of people complaining about their church’s worship music, when it is hardly the point at all.

    Finally, I recently read the book “What’s Your God Language? Connecting with God through Your Unique Spiritual Temperament” by Myra Perrine. It liberated me so much by showing me that everyone connects with God in different ways, and that is part of the beauty of the church. I hear you, Bill, that churches can get stuck in a rut. No matter where the songs are from, how simple or complex they are, how repetitive or not, how theologically instructive or not. And I think a church doused in the Spirit will not get stuck in a rut. I am convinced that many people are “unsatisfied” in their church because they have been taught that there are certain ways to connect with God. But we are not made from a cookie cutter. There are in fact many spiritual temperaments such as Enthusiast, Intellectual, Ascetic, etc. So I highly recommend this book or similar resources that might free you to worship God in your own way, without condemning others or feeling guilty about yourself. And just enjoy the process of seeing others worship the Almighty God in their own way but together. In love. Unified.

    If there is not a way to talk about these issues among your church, create one. There is some good discussion here, but I have a feeling that having this convo with your brothers and sisters at your church would benefit your church far more than posting it online in a disconnected context.

    • Well said, David. Maybe the best comment yet although there have been lot of good ones. Your thoughts about the expectation of what a church service should look like are awesome — I know because I was thinking the same thing. 🙂

      • David Maughan

        Haha I don’t know about the best comment yet, but thanks Bill! Keep questioning and challenging things, but keep practicing love too. We have to pursue both grace and truth in our interactions with others. This is kindof an aside, but I find myself excited about more organic and missional forms of the church. I say that just FYI because it influences my perspective a lot, but also because it’s through that pursuit that I’m learning not to assume that there is only one way for the church to express itself and for God to work among his people.

  • Denise

    condescending, judgmental and insulting
    maybe a Disney song would be more acceptable?

    • Hmmm. Now that’s a thought.

      Since we often remake secular songs into a “worship” format, what Disney songs would make the best crossover tunes?

      • Lori Jo

        “Make me a servant” always reminds me of a Disney tune.

        • Sorry. I don’t know that one. I’m trying to imagine it to “The Circle of Life.”

          It’s not working.

          Although I can imagine Simba’s “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” being used in a Christmas service somewhere. If Disney let it.

  • Tom

    Please – I hear all of your arguments- I too do not like the rock type of music in worship but who am I to judge the hearts of those people that do like it. I prefer being able to hear the congregants sing and hear the words not drowned out by the music.
    As for the words and genre of music- the references to chants and credos sung or repeated in the church lead me to not feeling any more worshipful. However – there are many for which it does. There are many that love and desire the high church litergy.
    We must recognize there were times when the only singing in the church was that of the leader patterned after the cantor in the synagogues- down through priests in the dark ages- to only men – no women- in the reformation, to the mixed voices of the New Awakening and restoration movements.
    Does that make them wrong? A resounding no.
    The church where I attending sings 4 part Acappella although I love the tradition I do not think it is the only way to sing. We sing music from the 10th century through the 21rst. We sing unaccompanied arrangements of new Christian music genre. We sing solos. We sing songs of the past 200 years that they too at one time were new and tunes from bar tunes such as “Amazing Grace”. This puts to silence the issue of the camp song remarks. Songs like “Sing Allelujah to the LORD”- We sing songs from scriptures such as the prophets and the psalms. Shout to the Lord. Anceint Words. Songs from peoples hearts such as “It is well with my soul” or “Before the throne of GOD above” which were sang by astronauts in space.
    It all has its place. We need to find places of worship that speak to us as we speak to GOD and not be critical of how others worship. Sometimes things change where you have been for years. If it does not meet you needs to worship GOD there then fold you tent and slip silently away to a quiet place where you can worship singing “There is a place of quiet rest- near to the heart of GOD” or “Be Still and know that I am GOD”>i
    But by all means Worship the LORD.

  • Barbara

    I greatly appreciate your article (if I may use that old-fashioned word) regarding the inability to accept the chink-a-chink-a-chink-a-chung of pre-sermon instrumentation. I have tried to convince myself I have no decision in what is a ‘joyful noise before the Lord’. But what about my reverence. I’ve tried to bow my head and thank my LORD for being patient and merciful with me, I’ve even asked His forgiveness for not being about to translate the performing language. But how I long to hear The Word put to a melody that goes somewhere and has an ending.

  • Rhonda

    Although I agree with much of what you had to say I do disagree on the “repitition” aspect. Sometimes the music director may sense a movement of the Holy Spirit where a new soul may be inprocess of being SAVED and the music “helps” the person along this new spiritual journey. This actually happened to me many years ago. I was drawn in by the music and covered in the beauty of not only the lyrics but the repitition of the lyric that told me I was accepted just as I was ! On another note I recently visited a new organized church and to be honest felt no movement of the HS but felt like I was at a rock concert in the 70’s complete with a light show. The people were “frozen” and I did not witness very many of the over 200 persons attending, MOVE or sing. It was too loud to sing !!! It was too distracting with lights and reverbs and lead guitar solos. It also struck me that one of the songs was a solo sung by a young woman about unrequitted love …..left me feeling weird. Was I in church or was I at a concert ? I now know I am not alone in feeling this way and I hope that we may continue to PRAY about this and be open to new things that are from God.

  • Dave Billington


    Thank you for voicing your thoughts on this subject. I completely agree with you. As a worship writer for a number of years, with several songs having made their way around the globe and into peoples’ hearts, sadly, I must echo your sentiments. Many times when I go to church these days, I ask, “Which will be more painful: Putting up with the insipid, trite, cliche, elementary, badly-written songs, or… shaving my head with a cheese grater?” Alas, frequently, the cheese grater wins out. And I’ve found as I begin using the cheese grater, the screaming does not detract from the musical content of the songs. Many times, it is enhanced, but you still may not be able to hear me due to the ridiculous volume. No, God is not deaf, but those of us in front of the speakers may be by the end of the service.

    I have become disenchanted with the content of some of the worship songs of the day. I have decided to write songs that are completely devoid of inward, navel-gazing feelings. Instead, I write songs telling of the greatness of God, his attributes, challenging men and women on to higher, faster, farther (to get in shape for the after-church buffet). Barry Manilow “nothing more than feelings” have no place in worship. Yes, I know I’m a worm, and on some days, I’m worse than worm sweat, but putting the focus on me takes the focus off God. I will also never use the “fire/desire” rhyme. Ever.

    One of the problems is the writing. Very few people have invested and taken the time to gain any knowledge of what songwriting is about, the structure, rhyme schemes, etc. To all the upcoming wannabe writers out there, I issue this challenge: Learn HOW to write properly. So many “writers” have no clue how to write, or what makes a great song. Contrary to what you may believe, God did not give you that song. Maybe the idea, but you thought it was finished and perfect when you belched out the first draft on the page. The difference between an amateur and a professional is that the amateur thinks the first draft is the song. Whew! I wrote another song! No, you didn’t. The pro knows the first draft is simply the idea getting started, and then CRAFTS the song, editing, polishing, nuancing it until it’s done. I’ve had a couple of songs on the first draft, but most which might have any shot at getting finished take at least six to ten major re-writes, and countless small edits along the way. If you don’t know how to go about doing that, please do not subject me or the rest of the congregation to a badly written piece of garbage, just because you’re up there with a guitar or keyboard and are able to command our attention. So go learn about it. There are many resources available on the internet, in great books, and from places like the Nashville Songwriters Association International, Berklee College of Music, etc.

    Another issue is scriptural knowledge and understanding. I can tell how deep your church is from the depth of the scriptural content during the musical part of worship, and by the number of one-dollar bills in the offering plate. There. I said it. Some Christians are really cheap, and rob God of his ability to bless them.

    So? Start going deeper. Sing deep from the depth of your spirit. Look for songs that reflect the truth and depth of God; don’t just wait for the trite ditty that presses your worship button for a couple of minutes before you go back to texting your friend sitting beside you. Pastors: teach your people about worship! If they don’t see it or understand it, or it’s not modeled by you, they’re not going to worship. I see people NOT engaged during most of the songs, but miraculously, they respond when songs of truth open their eyes, hearts, and spirits. So go for it! Search for the heart of God! You will not be disappointed. And turn the volume down just a wee bit, if you wouldn’t mind, because I’d like to leave with my central nervous system and what’s left of my hearing, still intact. Thanks.

    • I love your cheese grater line — shame on you for sarcasm, though. Your points about the craft of songwriitng sound as if they have great merit. I suspect you are correct. We have lost the desire to pursue the mastery of craft in so many circles. The fire has gone out (sorry, couldn’t resist the fire/desire thing).

      Thanks for the comment and your efforts to add to our collection of worshipful songs.

      • Eppie

        To agree or disagree? Yes. You see so many lines of the foolishness of God and the wisdom of man, the use of what is not to bring to naught what is seen, come to mind. The eloquence of our words, of a silly song, of a grand song, are as nothing unless it is the Father who has a purpose for them. So you can’t just say it is the professional who may speak. God doesn’t work that way. Be still, He says. That might help a lot of writers. (better than cheese graters, though that line did keep me reading. sorry about your head.)

        Bill, thanks for the discussion. You’ve only left out my husband’s other point about too many songs being written for sopranos.
        I pray we all have ears to hear – as He would have us hear 🙂

        • Your welcome, Eppie. Hope you follow along with the other posts this week. Challenging thoughts for us all.

  • oksana freeman
  • Gordon Stevens

    I could have written this article and I’m not even a former pastor. However, my wife and I are FORMER members of music ministry who have been told, along with many others, that we no longer fit into a “contemporary” setting. The umbrella of music ministry was no longer big enough for us.

  • Stephen Bogdan

    Church music today suffers from idolatry. It suffers from self-worship: how it makes me feel; whether or not it will attract the “young people.” Music is far too often lost in the self-worship of culture idolatry and ethnic idolatry. It is too often focused on being men pleasers in comparison to doing that which pleases God. Much of what is touted as contemporary music is really rooted in the children of the 1960’s who are now in their 60’s, still living, stylistic-ally, in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, circa 1967. Church leaders are, too often, just old hippies in spirit. The church culture of the present has turned against its own history and the melodic, harmonic, and poetic riches of its music. Much of the blame for this lies in the fact that so many of our resources are spent on stuff rather than on people, e.g. “We spent $250,000.00 on our sound system.” Indeed, you did. However, you did not spend it on people trained in the art and craft of making music in the tradition of your Levite forbears. Consequently, the choir music with wobbly voiced Mrs. Babushka was, quite frankly, terrible. Yet, contemporary music has settled for three chords and a guitar. Three chords and a guitar do not a musician make. I have yet to meet a church drummer who could read a jazz chart much less play it. It is my observation that church drummers are chief among the ignoratti, improvising 100% of the time, second only to pastors who are music illiterate.

    Present contemporary music is every bit as poorly performed as were the white haired, wobbly-voiced choirs of two generations ago. Insofar as so much of the music is not even in written notation, we have told on ourselves that the music of the Christian culture is not even worth transcribing into written notation. Yet, prior to the Industrial Revolution, EVERY family had a Bible and a hymn book. Consequently, we don’t even educate our people to read music any longer. How I enjoy hearing Don Neuen’s choir from Crystal Cathedral. So much of our contemporary music demonstrates the lack of character of discipline.

    I love much of well-written and well-performed contemporary music but, not to exclusion of the riches of our hymns.

    I heard a pastor use the term “worship wars” and not bat an eye lash, being completely oblivious to the fact that satan has, indeed, invaded our worship directing our focus on self and how the music makes me feel. We have even gone as far as to have “contemporary” and “traditional” services further fragmenting our churches because instead of having music which unites us, it fragments us. Because there is no longer any historical common bond through music, we are tragically fragmented because of the music; because its focus is on self instead of on God.

    It is, by the way, totally dishonest to say that young people will dislike the music of hymns which they have never heard and which they have not been given the opportunity to hear. Everyone loves well-performed music be it a stage band or a madrigal.

    Music was so important to God that He created it before he created us. God challenged Job: “Where were you when the morning stars sang together?”

    The hymn is a uniquely Christian art form and it is certainly difficult to write a good one. Why, then, has music become divisive? Why not have a “salad bowl” of music so that there is something for everyone with which to glorify God? Why must it be “either or” and thereby, be a point of contention which fragments us?

    There are, I believe, a number of reasons for this. Our seminaries have failed catastrophically. In sum, we ordain men and women who are utterly illiterate in music. They are completely ignorant of the art, craft, and discipline of having mastered an instrument as was compulsory for their Levite forebears. Yet, as pastors, they wield the final authority of what is chosen for the music of the “worship” service. Parenthetically, many are ignorant of just exactly what “worship” is. They are also illiterate of this biblical and church history of music from Biblical times, through the ages, to the present.

    Seminary, church, and pastoral failure has ushered in further decay by reflecting the culture in a grossly misguided attempt to be “contemporary.” The only problem is is that these people have given up the position of leadership. When trying to be “contemporary,” church leaders are now in the role and position of always trying to catch up with the latest in music (not to mention the “latest evangelistic techniques”). When following that which is contemporary, church leaders chase a phantom which can never be caught because they are chasing secular culture instead of being in front of it. These leaders will never be the leaders who God designed them to be because they do not lead. They follow. NOTHING is EVER quite contemporary enough: “Just give me until next Sunday.” In a grossly misguided effort to be relevant, the church has become irrelevant.

    Dr. Terry Schwartz of Wheaton College Conservatory of Music has, quite accurately, made the assessment that: “Church leaders are consumed with pragmatism, i.e. the end justifies the means thus bringing legitimacy to the use of so-called contemporary music. The evangelical church has lost its way and today swims in a morass of schizophrenic modern trends in a futile attempt to be relevant. The gospel is always relevant but never popular unless perverted. Jesus told His disciples that if they preached the truth they would be hated in the world.”

    Rarely, if ever, does the end justify the means in God’s economy. In II Samuel, chapter six (6) “Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.” Uzzah meant well. After all, if the Ark of the Covenant fell off of the cart, it would have been smashed and the stone tablets with the commandments written on them which were written with the finger of God would have been broken. God said: “Don’t touch it! Ever! Period!” In the same way, we may never consecrate the sacred with the profane. God killed Uzzah and King David learned to fear God that day.

    This writer has observed numerous church pastors and also listened to radio and television broadcasts. The distortion from “fuzzed” guitars does not make this listener strain to hear the pastors. This writer turns them off. For you pastors who might be reading this, I pose these questions: If you want to change the culture, why do you use the aural trash of the secular world to try to attract the unsaved? For that matter, why do you dress so casually and, indeed, slovenly as does secular culture? Remember: it was Charles Finney who during the Great Awakening in the early 19th century introduced the idea of wearing the dignified business suit of his era.

    Why do you not raise the bar?

    Our hymns contained our doctrines. Our hymns contained our theology. Our hymns contained our poetry. Our hymns contained our musical art form. Our hymns contained our culture! How bereft is the culture which has displaced the artistic riches and leadership which the church once had.

    There are, basically, only two activities during a given church service: music and preaching.

    Numbers 31:6 “And Moses sent them to the war,…and Phinehas the son of Eleazer the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.”

    Take a good, long, and hard look at Psalm 68! “The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after. Bless ye God in the congregations even the Lord…rebuke the company of spearmen…scatter Thou the people who delight in war…”

    Twenty-two thousand eight hundred (22,800!) priests and Levites went to war “before” (in front of) an army of 603,550 soldiers, followed by the congregation and then by the mixed multitude. At the front of the battle was the Ark of the Covenant with the priests, followed by the singers, followed by the instrumentalists. Behind the priests and Levites were the soldiers and congregation. The priests and Levites, all of whom were well trained singers and instrumentalists, were alone, unarmed, and unafraid.

    When our music and musicians are of the highest caliber with music that is solely focused on pleasing God and it is rooted in the hearts of men and women who are bathed and saturated with fasting and prayer to understand that which pleases God, then the hearts of our enemies will also melt and the Holy Spirit of God will drive out every demonic spirit just as he did for Israel. When we as a church culture render to God an “acceptable” gift on His terms, then God’s warring angels will drive out our enemies.

    Would to God that He would put it in our hearts the desire to glorify God as did the multitude of the heavenly host at the birth of our LORD Jesus Christ (See Luke 2:13).

    Until the time that we render to God a “right sacrifice…of praise,” we will continue to suffer defeat in our churches, in our personal lives, and in our culture.

    Amos 6:5 “…who chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David…” Oh, that we would chant and invent to God instruments of music.

    Amos 5:23 “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” Oh, that the songs would be His songs and the viols would be His viols.

    In both the Old and New Testaments, God demands: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you.” So much of “engaging the culture” is plain rubbish! Where is “the fear of the LORD”? Where is “Let all mortal flesh keep silence”? Where is the reverence? Where is the holiness? Where is that which is “other” and distinct from “the world” and the culture?! To illustrate, I have observed that among the African-American family in Christ Jesus that they certainly know how to dress for church and in so doing, communicate to un-churched folk that gathering in Christ’s Name on the first day of the week is different from all other activities. I greatly admire them for this! Most folk dress better for a President, a Senator, a member of Congress, a job interview, and a formal date than they do for God! It’s not a matter of fashion or finance. Dress to give God your best! Make your music that way, too!

    As an aside, who in the present culture even has heard an old phrase such as “Sunday goin’ to meetin’ cloths” or wearing one’s “…Sunday best…?” This is further evidence that the ungodly culture has displaced Godly culture by the disappearance of this once common phrase.

    When our church culture returns to God’s design for culture, then we will produce men and women who will change the world. How important was the hymn?!
    Matthew 26:30 “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” Mark 14:26 “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” The hymn was part of the last supper and the last prayer meeting before Christ’s crucifixion! That was a hymn, by the way, and not some smarmy praise chorus to make them feel good. Their focus was to glorify God.

    The art form of the hymn is OUR CULTURE!!! How often the pagans sing our hymns better than we! Psalm 50:16 “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, or that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth.” The pagans often have more sense than we as to the rich beauty of our music!

    Stephen J. Bogdan
    Cheltenham, PA

    • Terry Stoneberg

      I’ve been at the task of music making in church for 60 years, and I feel the need to add one thought to your excellent comment. There is another reason music is such a point of division in our churches. It may not be obvious to the casual observer but there is a deep musical divide within the secular world. Sam Adler was the chair of the composition department at Eastman when I was doing my doctoral work there and he made obvious what we all knew instinctively, that music had split into “classical” versus “popular” in the secular world.

      In Mozart’s day the people on the street were humming Mozart’s tunes. There was no division between popular music and classical music in that culture, there was only good and bad music. But about the time the world was shattered by revolution and world wars, music was shattered as well, and I believe both camps are suffering for it. The “classical” musicians have lost their public and the popular musicians have lost their musical roots.

      We have musicians who grab a guitar in a garage and try to make music. Many are talented but with few exceptions they’ve forsaken any significant training and thus are divorced from the riches of the musical past. They stand on no shoulders but their own and are thus limited in how much they can accomplish. It is no wonder that their music is almost always hypersymplistic.

      “Classically” trained composers as they have tried to wrench tonality apart, have too often divorced themselves from the public and compose only for one another as they sit in a small room in the bowels of the music building and look down condescendingly on the musically untrained public as though they were unwashed lepers. They resist any constraint public tastes might have upon their work presuming without evidence that Bach would have been a much better composer if he’d been free from the patronage system and able to compose what he truly felt with no public pressure to write “beauty.”

      We who would like to share the wealth of the church’s musical heritage with the rest of the church are usually “classical” music people. As such we may have developed a taste for some of the more Avant Guard classical music. I think we have to be very careful not to submit to the temptation to go too far to drag the congregation into the extremes of our world.

      We see the shallowness of the responses we get, saying that “sing a NEW song” means contemporary, when we rightly observe that the style called NEW is not really NEW at all in any musical sense, but instead is really a watered down old secular style that drags the secular culture into the sanctuary right along with it. It’s sometimes hard to resist the temptation to show them what “true” contemporary music is.

      For me I find I must spend time discerning what the music is saying and make sure that not only is it uplifting and not profane, but that it reflects the absolute beauty that is God. I’ve rejected many more “Classical” pieces than “Christian Contemporary” pieces in my music choices over the years (after all there is a lot more of it to reject). I believe we should approach this task on our knees, taking great care to analyze our choices with utmost humility and sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit of God, testing all spirits to see if they be of God. When the Spirit has led me to choices which I would call Christian Contemporary I do them whether I like them or not, whether I like the genre or not. Taste is beside the point for me. But as of this time, the Spirit has never led me to choose a piece whose musical style clearly reflects the God of this age. For that reason I’ve done very little pieces of that genre because that’s what I find in almost all of them.

      Terry Stoneberg

  • Your critique of worship is timely; but I believe you’ve lost sight of the reason for praise and worship…everybody knows it’s a prelude to the announcements!!!! LOL Thank God I go to a church where we sing scriptures and hymns and immediately enter into prayer then into a teaching and end again with prayer. P&W seems to have digressed to mere crowd amusement…and sadly most church goers are okay with that. It’s time to awaken and let the high praises of God be in your mouth!

  • Janet

    Amen. I dislike repetitious “ditties”. I also am not very blessed when the instrumental music is so loud that I can’t hear myself sing, let alone the person next to me. Instrumental music is fine by me … when it acompanies the singing rather than overpowering it. One of my pet church peeves.

    • Won’t it be great in heaven when we will all sing as one the way God intended — whatever that manner may be? I’m convinced it will make all of us — all of us — feel pretty silly about the best we had to offer here.


      • Brian B

        As said by another great Hymn:
        “O measureless might! ineffable love!
        While angels delight to hymn thee above,
        The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
        With true adoration shall lisp to thy praise.”

  • Donna

    You are not alone in your thinking. Just started reading Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. Great book.

  • From an American newspaper in an article objecting to new trends in church music. There are several reasons for opposing it.
    1. It’s too new.
    2. It’s often worldly, even blasphemous.
    3. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style.
    4. Because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all.
    5. It put’s too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than Godly lyrics.
    6. The new music creates disturbances making people act indecently and disorderly.
    7. The preceding generation got along perfectly without it.
    8. It’s a money making scam.
    9. And some of these new music upstarts are lewd and loose.
    You might think this was written recently. But it was written by an American preacher, a church leader attacking Isaac Watts, the hymn writer who wrote the hymn ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’ published in 1707.

    As the worship pastor in a modern evangelical church (which is less than 20 years old), I honestly find your observations overly broad and honestly unfair. Are there environments that would fit your description? Yes, but that’s not every evangelical church, nor the majority. I understand personal preference, we all have it, but to imply “modern” worship is somehow a less Biblical way to worship, for other comments to say modern worship suffers from idolatry … really?

    • Thomas

      Great point and great comment

  • Thomas

    I really do appreciate this conversation on worship style and lyric issues in the church today. As a worship pastor and songwriter, I find these conversations very thought provoking and helpful, as long as those in the discussion are honest, humble, and seek to be Christ honoring. (Please know that I have not read all of the comments but am responding to the article). While I do agree with several points in the article including the last three points concerning truth, written for adults, and timelessness; I do want to mention some additional thoughts to consider.

    First, one ought to always be careful of generalization. All contemporary tunes are not simple, repetitive, nor lacking in theology just as all hymns are not the theological treasures that many believe. Yes, I do realize that some praise tunes are shallow and lack in theological content, but many are not. As far as simplicity is concerned I know that sometimes in leading people to worship the Lord being simple is necessary, especially when you and your pastor feel God leading in a particular direction for the day. Being intentional in planning is important.

    Second, when leading people to worship the Lord corporately one must understand that music is both a tool and language. In college I had a hard time initially understanding the idea that each church has a distinct worship language but it’s very true. While the age of the congregation does play a part, many factors determine how your church is best able to engage with God. I do strongly advocate that those in Christ are to live a lifestyle of worship: loving God before all else everyday (Romas 12:1-2). Being that this is the case it’s important that one understands the style of music their congregation listens to throughout the week. If there is a particular type of music stylistically that people relate best to, why not take theologically sound lyric and use that type of music to help the engage and magnify the Lord (even if it does use screaming electric guitar). (BTW let’s remember that music history within the church is cyclical, some of the reformers preferred to melt pipe organs).

    Third, ( and yes if you haven’t noticed I do favor contemporary music in leading our culture in worship) Scripture is pretty clear when it says sing a new song to the Lord. Still use timeless expressions of praise, but don’t get stuck there because of sentimentality ( the enemy of intentional worship). Creator God made us in His image as creative creatures. Let’s be creative in our worship striving to sing a new song to the Lord.

    Finally, I do have to comment on the maturity of the believer in the midst of a blended demograph of the typical evangelical congregant. While I can’t stress the importance of theological truth in lyrics, lets remember that the goal of corporate worship is to exalt the Lord and sing of His wonders and attributes as our hearts become prepared for further worship and study of God’s Word. It’s not to entertain us, satisfy our academic knowledge of Biblical theology, or please ourselves. The “choice” to not sing bothers me coming form a “mature” believer. Let’s not think ourselves so spiritually mature that we can’t (or worse refuse) to worship because the songs are not theological enough for us. What about the young in Christ in our congregations, should we sing over their heads? Or should we bare with each other, growing together. Again all songs should be solid theologically, but there is a such thing as a simple truth.

    May we continue to seek to worship the sovereign Creator and Almighty God. Soli Deo Gloria!

  • John g

    As I read this I completely understand both sides but I’m also a part of my worship team. My question is: “If this is such a huge deal to you and it bothers you enough to affect your ability to worship, why not meet with the worship pastor? Ask the why’s directly to his face in a loving way, genuinely searching for understanding? I would love if more people would actually come to me and ask questions rather than writing the anonymous complaint note to the church staff/pastors or a venting blog.

  • Melodee

    You have SO hit the nail on the head. This has been my issue for at least the last 15 years. Half of my family left the Evangelical Protestant arena (and my Dad was a pastor for 30+ years!) because, over the years, the message has been watered down and watered down and then watered down some more. There is no depth. It’s all about feeling good. There is no awesomeness (in the true sense of the word) as to God. He’s been made small. Thank you for your post.

    • You are welcome Melodee –and every one else who said “Thanks.”

      Thanks for reading.

  • kay

    I grew up in a church with a piano and an organ and a hymnbook. And I love it. I’m a sucker for the old hymns. Growing up on a diet of that has left me with no taste for gruel. I think Casting Crowns is the only “contemporary” group that I’ll actually listen to. Because not all of their songs are watered down ick.

  • Dan

    If I said AMEN any louder I would hurt my vocal chords!

  • Hey Bill,

    I hear your pain! So much pain that you probably can’t find your own butt with two hands right now.

    I know the Internet isn’t much of a safe place to process sometimes, but really I’m glad you’re at least processing. Faking your way through life/church will kill you.

    I know how hard it is to state obvservations and stay away from judging motives, but going to that hard work will help you be heard and your insights may feel less like acid. That’s how I experienced some of your comments.

    Do we as the church need to reform? You bet! Honest, open, God-saturated disciples who have love in their hearts and no fear of man will do this. I think you’re one of them.

    In the meantime, what you and I can do is this: build the highway in our hearts to Zion (Psalm 84:5). As someone who earns his livelihood by improving things (mostly gathered worship), I regularly have to exercise my will and choose to get on the wide, smooth road in my heart that I’ve built in times with God. I switch off whatever would hinder me from meeting with God and get on my highway. I can’t blame anyone for my inability to connect. I have my own highway.

    You into a road trip? 😀

  • Todd Vander Pol

    Two problems-
    First the music is selected to please the people in the pew and make the visitor feel good about themselves, rather than with the purpose of honoring God and edifying the participant.
    Keep in mind that there is such a thing as un-godly music. Music associated with pagan behavior “screaming guitars”, you can not worship a God of order in a chaotic way.
    Second you need to look at the “outcome” of the music. Does it lead to a deeper understanding of your God, does it lead to joy welling up inside you rather than only external emotion. Does it make stronger Christians.
    I have felt the same way as the author for a decade already.
    And it is better to stand silently than to participate in singing a song that dishonors the God of the Bible.

    • Thomas

      What are your thoughts on clarinets, saxophones, pianos, and organs? All of those at one time or another in music history was accosciated with pagan and worldly practices.

  • Hey Bill,

    I hear your pain! So much pain that you probably can’t find your own butt with two hands right now.

    I know the Internet isn’t much of a safe place to process sometimes, but really I’m glad you’re at least processing. Faking your way through life/church will kill you.

    I know how hard it is to state obvservations and stay away from judging motives, but going to that hard work will help you be heard and your insights may feel less like acid. That’s how I experienced some of your comments.

    Do we as the church need to reform? You bet! Honest, open, God-saturated disciples who have love in their hearts and no fear of man will do this. I think you’re one of them.

    In the meantime, what you and I can do is this: build the highway in our hearts to Zion (Psalm 84:5). As someone who earns his livelihood by improving things (mostly gathered worship), I regularly have to exercise my will and choose to get on the wide, smooth road in my heart that I’ve built in times with God. I switch off whatever would hinder me from meeting with God and get on my highway. I can’t blame anyone for my inability to connect. I have my own highway.

    You into a road trip? 😀

  • Drew

    As a former church-goer I can empathize with many of the points that you make here. The church I attended growing up was extremely conservative and would allow no instruments but piano and organ in the church. That was fine. We sang only songs from the Psalter Hymnal. Delightful. King James Bible. Oh yeah. Traditional to the core.

    So basically, when I was able to break free from the nest, I flew off to find a more relaxed version of Christianity, because, y’know, I like freedom and not judgement and irrational thinking. So, I attended an evangelical church for a while. Well…essentially the worship was very similar to what you wrote now. (Only more speaking in tongues, etc.) It came across as pretentious and worship leaders becoming obsessed with being performance stars while adding “just” to every other word in a sentence. “Lord Jesus, we just wanna bring you praise tonight…” “just give us a measure of your spirit” …yadayadayada. I felt nothing, perhaps partly because I wasn’t a ‘true believer’ but also because perhaps that sort of worship is not particularly inspiring to those who are seeking more intellectual methods of worship/praise to their god.

    In short, while I am not a Christian, I respect traditional worship that does not seek to pander to those who would find it unappealing and need something more modern. I do not respect evangelical churches that are trying to draw in more people and make Christianity more relevant for many than it actually is.

    Bill, I sincerely hope that you can find a church that fits your intellectual style of worship and does not attempt to appeal to the masses. May you find peace in your faith and may the doors of your church remain shut to outsiders, letting us live in peace. Because, quite frankly, most non-believers respect traditional Christians like you far more than evangelical Christians who are trying to be more relevant than they really are.

  • Scott

    It’s a slippery slope when Christians want to try to belittle other Christians because they don’t like their style of worship. Not doctrine, but simply style. I am guilty of the same thing from the other side of the coin when I make fun of my parents’ church. Many want to criticize that people in a contemporary worship service just want to be entertained, but often they are the same ones that are “entertained” by the hymns of old. Worship service or not, they just enjoy the style.

    There is little that is fact in Bill’s blog…it is merely opinion based on his own preference. To try to throw a hint of Biblical theology in there is just plain misleading. I know many blog writers push to the dramatic edge for effect instead of dealing with facts. Maybe this blog is just a religious version of Rachel Maddow or Rush Limbaugh written to exaggerate the writer’s opinion in order to demean the opposite view, but nonetheless… to respond to the 3 things that “bother” Bill…

    They’re really simple…over generalization, but in response to the ones that are simple, many teachings throughout the Bible are just plain simple. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Just a fact…could have been explained in a much deeper more complicated way, but why would it need to be? Too often some people want to keep the Christian “code” secret enough to keep “seekers” and new Christians in their place…to remind them, that “I have been a Christian much longer than you have, so you should not be quite as comfortable here as I.” Not that it’s wrong to sing “Here I raise my Ebenezer” but Bill is trying to tell us it’s wrong to sing…“I have confessed my sins, gotten rid of the things that stand between me and God and I have asked for and received his intervention in my life. He has miraculously come and given me victory over my enemies, so to celebrate that I want to raise a standing stone to say to all who will look and listen, Here’s what God has done for me.”

    They’re all pulled from the latest top 40 Worship channel. “All”…Really?… Again very dramatic but lets say, at the church he visited that was a fact. I don’t knock the local Church of Christ for the fact that they don’t want musical instruments in their worship. If Bill has a piano in his worship service the Church of Christ on the corner is judging his worship just like he is judging mine. Is there anything wrong with giving God the best we have to offer, weather that is a harp or lyre or flute or organ or drum or electric guitar? We are called to make a joyful noise. I just feel that Bill’s style is more noise than joy and he feels the same about mine.

    They repeat. The Bible is full of words or phrases or ideas that are repeated to emphasize the point. I’m sorry that it’s “really, really, annoying” to Bill but again it just his preference. He can try to degrade other people or their calling to glorify God through calling their work “simplistic ditties”. I am glad that Bill can “tolerate it”, but I think he should let the “infinite God of all creation” decide the heart of the person who wrote it and the person singing. And by the way…pulling “vain repetition” out of context to prove his own opinion may be one that Bill will have to answer for one day.
    I spent almost 25 years singing words to a hymn that never came from my heart. The last 25 years I have been truly worshiping God through song. Would Bill rather have me sing his hymn so he is not annoyed when he visits or would he rather that I praise my Savior in a way that is real to me (and I believe glorifying to God.) Many times I am moved to tears as I am praising Him for what He is and what He has done for me. Personally, that never happened with one of the old hymns. I understand if Bill does not feel that way when he worships in my church, but when he elevates himself to the top of his soapbox blog and belittles my effort to praise God it just reminds me why I turned my back on the world of the religious and now bask in the glorious grace of Jesus Christ!

    Please brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of the isle…DO NOT look down others who are serving God differently than you are. Worship with the church family that you feel called to, but love and pray for and ENCOURAGE the entire body of Christ.

  • John

    I invite you to visit an Orthodox church, and experience Christian worship largely unchanged for over 2000 years. You will understand your frustration with Protestant worship, and be as close to Heaven as you can get here on earth. God bless you in your search.

  • Sissy

    I agree with the lady who said we should quit complaining and worrying about what I want. If you do not like the way the music is in your church find one that you feel more comfortable in, so you can be fed. If you do not know who Him is then you better start seeking. How can you say you never were a seeker. I beleive we need to be seeking a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior every day. I do agree some of the praise and worship songs have too much repetition, but for some of us that do not have the gift of being muscial it is easier to read the songs off the screen and not out of the hymnal. If you listen to the words in many of the songs, and quit worrying about how you don’t like it, you just might find they are really worshiping God. I don’t think God looks how we worship as much as He looks at how we love one another. I believe Jesus said that in scripture. The most important commanment was to Love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and the next is to Love your neighbor. Not the exact words, but you get the picture. Matthew 22:37 Get a grip, just be glad your neighbor is worshiping the same God you are. By the way I love all kinds of worship music. Praise the Lord!

  • Billy Mitchell

    This article is irrelevant. It is the object of your worship that counts. The older generation is afraid of really intimate songs that might not be the “traditional” sound that they grew up listening to. I like both styles and love hymns. But if the music and songs are a distraction, then one is not truly worshipping.

  • Dan

    I agree with Susan Sumner 7/17

    your a typical legalist Bill, and you certainly have a corner on musical truth.

    who really cares what your musical preferences are anyway? Maybe you should
    start your own little cult.

    The world is dying and going to hell, and this is all you have to talk about?

    Well, maybe being judgemental is your gift, so have at it

  • Amy T

    Your article is a bunch of crap. Pardon the expression, but it is. What’s with you? If you don’t like the music, don’t go to those churches. Simple as that. Then you can sing as loud as you like. I for one don’t care for the old hymns, except a couple, therefore I don’t go to a church that has that kind of service. My church is a Disciples of Christ church and all we have is one Contemporary service. (with 3 electric guitars, drums and keyboards and 2-3 singers) We tried a Traditional service with the old hymns also and it didn’t work, so we went back to one service. The majority of our church are senior citizens. We are getting younger ones in now and I think if you want the younger generation to worship you need to cater to them also. Our seniors sing right along with everyone else. They clap their hands and sway back and forth. There is nothing wrong with that in church. If you remember your Bible it does talk about dancing, singing, etc. Don’t judge all the music unless you’ve listened to all of it. There are some really good and worshipful songs out there, even if they do repeat. They repeat the most important parts.

  • Lisa Pagan

    I stopped going to the church I was raised in when the cross at the front of the sanctuary was replaced by a trap drum set, the organ was removed, and the hymnals were thrown away.

    • Thomas

      I would recommend a read of the book “Who stole my Church” by McDonald.

  • Mary

    As a worship director at a church where there are contemporary and traditional services, I select contemporary and traditional music each week. In my contemporary band, I allow the band members to help choose songs (although I have final veto power), and often I find that they wish to sing songs that have meaningful, intimate expressions of love for Jesus or describe the mercies of God despite our sinful ways, YET THEY ARE NOT SINGABLE BY A CONGREGATION. I do not want to stifle anyone’s worship, but in my opinion, the first thing we should consider when choosing music is this: Can the entire congregation glorify God meaningfully and truthfully TOGETHER in this song? Expressing this tactfully does not usually get me anywhere. They like the song so much they don’t seem to understand that it doesn’t have a place in corporate worship, unless it is a solo for the offering.

  • I learned long ago to not fake it. I stand motionless and see how long it takes the worship leader to ask why. 🙂

    • Thomas

      So what motivates you to truly worship? Shouldn’t it be your love and heart for God and not your waiting for someone to choose what you prefer? Worship is not about us, it’s about God. When we “choose” not to worship and participate its not about your disapproval of the worship leader, but your unwillingness to Worship the one who you hopefully would be striving to live your life for. Scary!

  • Joyce

    A friend of mine just posted your blog entry on her FB page. Instead of saying the whole bit over again, I will simply copy and paste what I had to say to her:
    Well. I don’t agree with this person…at all! Even though I’m 55 years old, I prefer praise and worship music. Bill is right–much of it is simple and easy to understand. What’s wrong with that? Since when is a congregational song suppose to be the equivalent of an in-depth Bible study or theological discussion? It’s about PRAISE and WORSHIP to our God. A large portion of praise and worship music is taken straight from scripture! As for complaining about repitition–perhaps he should read Psalm 136 and tell me what he sees…
    I have to tell you–this article actually irritated me. It had the stirrings of someone who just simply liked things better “the old way” with no consideration for those who don’t share his longing for the way things “use to be”. I have nothing against hymns, but my feeling is that they, for the most part, “tell a story”. Praise and worship music is, for the most part, just that–praise and worship to our God. There is a place for both.
    Why on earth would anyone complain about contemporary Christian music stations on the radio? Back when I was young, my options on the radio were either organ music or secular rock ‘n’ roll, so I picked rock ‘n’ roll (and a portion of it was somewhat short of wholesome). I know waaaaay too many young and old(er) people who appreciate stations like “KLOVE” to say anything insulting about them. I am soooo THANKFUL that my kids and grandkids spend most of their time listening to contemporary Christian radio.
    Okay. I’m done airing my grief with Mr. Bill. He needs to find himself a church that prefers the same sort of music as he, enjoy his experience, and be careful about his complaints. In my opinion, too much “good” is being done through the ministry of the music he is criticizing…he should reserve his complaints for REAL issues.

  • Mark

    I am deeply interested in this subject. At the same time, I am grieved as I read these posts.

    I have been a full time worship leader in the past. I grew up the son of a piano teacher who longed for the simplistic southern gospel of our country church to be more sophisticated. Through her guidance, music became an important part of my fabric. I earned a BM in Voice from a rather well respected university aligned with a large evangelical denomination. My training was thoroughly classical. At the end of my career, God boomeranged me and I found myself in a storefront charismatic congregation. I had a music degree but found I was lost when handed printed words and a chord chart. Yet the zeal these people brought to worship changed my life. Ensuing years found me leading worship in churches overseas and back home, from start up congregations to larger churches over 1,000 in attendance.

    All that to say I’ve seen a wide range of worship styles.

    The one thing that makes it or breaks it for me? is the Spirit of the Lord inhabiting the praises of His people? I have been in situations in each of the “styles” I list above where the answer is yes. I have been in similar situations in each of these varying churches where the answer is, if not “no,” then “if you are here Lord, I am having trouble recognizing it.”

    I have had occasions where the Lord pointed out it was something in my heart that was the disconnect. I have had other occasions where the sense I got from the Lord was “I am grieved too, son.” Hard to put a finger on the exact reason.

    I have felt transported to the heavenlies singing the Brhams Requiem. I have been just as transported in a singles group where I was on the piano alongside a couple of guitarists and a buddy who couldn’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket praising God from the depths of belly and right into my right ear. God prompted me that he loved a joyful noise and I gained a new appreciation for that term as I repented of my collegiate ideals of musical perfection being the penultimate form of worship.

    The American Consumerist attitude is at the heart of this discussion and it grieves me. However, there is still room to improve whatever genre of worship you are partaking in, especially if you find yourself in a leadership position. Here are some points I recommend.

    1) Are the 80% with you? I have a take on the 80-20 prinicipal, actually the 10-80-10 principal. When you lead worship, you will always find 10% (usually toward the front of the congregation) that will really be into what you are doing. There will be another 10% that will sit with arms folded and face frowned and irritated that they are having to listen to you, usually in the rear. Then there is the 80% in between. When the 80 are with the front row 10, then it is a good sign the Spirit is in your midst. When the 80 are with the back row, it is time to come to a halt and do some soul searching.

    2) Let the voice remain the primary instrument. No matter how glorious the instrumental, the human voice needs to be heard.

    3) An auxilliary of #2. The overall volume should be such that a congregant can hear his own voice when he/she is singing. I have a loud voice, really loud from my operatic foundation. I can get going in the car or at home and the kids cover their ears from the volume alone if I let it rip. I have been to some services where I literally cannot hear myself, an I’m belting.

    4) Will leave it with this: I think God likes freshness. He made us live on a planet with seasons. Let the modern guitar playing church have some hymns on the organ. Let the hymn singing church have something upbeat. Bring in worshippers with different genres and allow different expressions… this isn’t just a contemporary rock vs. solid hymns thing… let some classical back in, let some black gospel in your lily white churches. Bring some country twang… Be inventive!

    But above all, worship God out of the brokeness of your human condition. If you don’t know brokeness, well, I can’t say that much depth will happen in worship no matter what style or whether it be long, doctrinal meaty wrods or the 7 words repeated 11 times. The Spirit of the Lord is looking to inhabit the praises of his people… to be in the midst of the two or three gathered in his name. Focus: God, not is this my style….

  • I could have written this post because I’ve lived it 🙂 As a former skilled musician up on that megachurch stage, I finally realized the idolatry created when we expect entertainment instead of understanding that worship is more than music. Much more. So….I’m now Reformed in my theology (for many reasons) and attend what some would consider a solemn service. But for me? Hearing the Word well-preached is music for my soul. I can actually hear the voices of our covenant family singing to God in praise — instead of monitors blaring in my ears — or waiting for that countdown clock to be sure we make a grand entrance for each and every service. I can sit in awe of the wonder of the simplicity of the gospel, and receive the Word and Sacrament from a pastor who puts the gospel first –using biblically sound doctrine instead of crafting touchy-feely, self-help sermons. I can now understand that it’s not about what we do in the service, but what God wants to do for us. We, as the covenant body, receive. It’s about as close to heaven as I will get on this earth.

    Sometimes I don’t think the congregation really understands what they are doing to the “band” when they worship their talent and place it high on a pedestal. They force those up on stage who truly want to serve to become idols for those who are listening. It’s an awful thing to do to any musician. Thankfully, I will never have to feel that way again at my URCNA church. Idolatry is taken seriously. I am now free. And grateful. And at peace.

  • David Brunelle

    I’m a 25 year old Music Director at a Non-Denominational church and I have found this only conversation to be really interesting and even a little alarming. I never realized how passionate congregations can be about all the details surrounding worship until reading through 50+ comments. I know that many of you more than double my age and experience, so take it or leave it, but my advice would be to consider how your early church environment affects your view of what corporate worship should look like. Any enthusiastic worshipper would say that they want a “new” or “fresh” worship experience every single Sunday. However, as much as we want something new, we also want something familiar. We want something that reminds us of old times. The time right after we became a Christian. We want something that makes us feel safe and free to worship. If you don’t feel safe and free enough to be challenged to experience something new, maybe you should just find a church that suits your worship “needs.” However, if you consider yourself a member at your church, you should take it upon yourself to adapt to your worship teams style and learn to trust them. Any of you who lead worship every week know how discouraging it is to look into a crowd of aged and mature Christians who refuse to worship with you because you’re taking a guitar solo or because the song doesn’t convey the most ground breaking and thought provoking theology in the history of the entire world. I want to worship God with you! I’m even willing to change what I want to play to better suit the congregation. I have a huge heart for new, groundbreaking, complex and challenging worship music, but I want people to connect with God more than anything else. If that means playing music that is 2,000 years old, then bring it on!

    I know that it’s really hard to trust 25 year old Worship Pastor/Music Directors who play Rock N Roll and “Screamo” wearing tight ripped jeans, V-necks, and hip kicks, but I pray that you would. I promise that we’re doing our job as best as we know how.

  • Ed

    Music that is relative to our earthly existence faces the danger of being an enticement or temptation to earthly existence.

  • Wayne

    Know what the “old hymms” were when they were first used in worship? Comtemporary music.

  • Wayne

    One more. If you don’t like repetiveness, maybe we should suggest that angels stop with the “Holy, holy, holy” and leave it at “Holy”, and, of course, most of the chourus’ of the “more traditional” songs repeat as the last part of each verse.

    • Thomas

      So true….hymn refrains often repeat 4 or 5 times, so when comparing hymns and contemporary songs that argument is pretty weak.

    • Nate

      What about Psalms 136 –

  • Carol Paret

    Wow…passionate people, passionate about worship! While I know that most churches want to be modern in approach in order to reach the lost for Christ, most seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater! Some houses of worship are desperately trying to keep up with their neighbors down the street, but they are doing a less than effective job. Others have gone so far as to shout such comments during worship as, “Give God a hand!” And then there are the songs that are so focused on “I, I, I, Me, My…”. That is fine for private worship in intimate times with the Savior. But, my understanding of corporate worship is that the CHURCH is coming to our Creator with our praise. Most hymns of the past are more focused on “We, Our, Us…”. We recently moved to a new town and have visited a church that seems to have not only survived the transition, but is thriving by blending the old with the new in a fresh, but traditional way. The church is growing, blossoming, and definitely reaching the community. Worshippers there are ages 8-80, all singing and enjoying the beautiful music, all done with excellence and reverence. I did not see water bottles or energy drinks or snacks being eaten, but I did sense a spirit of reverence and respect for the Lord and for the place.

  • I find this to be very true. I have been raised in a Reformed Presbyterian Church where we only sing Psalms for this reason. I’ve visited other churches that have this very problem you’ve written about and at the end of church I always leave feeling empty, like I never even worshiped God. I think one of the problems with modern worship songs is that they are focused very much on the singer, there are a lot of “I”s in there and not enough about God. And the guitar/drummers tend to be the focus of attention most of the time.

    • Grace,

      Too the amazement of some on this thread, I’m going to push back a little on the singing of psalms and even some hymns. The some problems can be found with those if sung in excess as very few people know them and, quite frankly, they’re often difficult musically to sing.

      In short, it is the exclusive focus on any one of these styles that alienates other believers. Shouldn’t the church be a multi-generational and diverse place where all tolerate and edify one another within Biblical boundaries yet find some parts that really resonate with how God has uniquely wired them?

      Just a thought.


      • Dave

        Bill in your response to Grace, it seems that you are saying that involving everyone and validating all believers is the main issue…? What about Cain and Abel? Only one of their offerings was accepted. God has asked for the singing of the Psalms in worship to Him. He gave us divinely inspired songbook with 150 perfect songs right in the middle of our Bibles. They have been used to the edification of believers for 3000 years, and are literally without any errors, and the most Christ-centered songs that a church can sing. God has never asked His people (other than a few chosen, inspired song-writters like David, Asaph, etc.) to write songs of praise for His worship…He provided us with songs of praise for His worship. We have been called to sing…not compose (just as we have been called to hear the Word…not write new Scripture). You have bemoaned the lack of history, but I am afraid that you haven’t actually studied it. Your article never once mentioned the Psalms (as far as I can tell), and that is a glaring oversight in any treatment on what we should be singing in our worship of the God who gave them to us in His Word. I hope that you will reconsider the biblical and historical case for Psalmody and break free from the “I like vanilla…I like chocolate” approach to worship.

        • Dave, I’m not sure why you think I haven’t studied history. And, no, I didn’t name all posible musical options available to us. (Psalms , hymns, and spiritual songs) However, Genesis 1 tells us to be frutiful and multiply. That doesn’t mean just have kids but to be “sub-creators” as Tolkien put it.

          Thanks for the comment.

  • Lauren

    A lot of what you said resonates with me. My husband and I are not currently members at a church…and have been visiting a number of congregations in search of a home. While I don’t mind praise hymns in general, I find the atmosphere difficult to ‘drop in on’. Your comment about camp is close to the mark for me…when I was a teenager attending camps like ‘Ridgecrest’ in the south, we came away with the ‘mountaintop’ feeling. We were soaring in our attitudes of praise and worship and those hymns of praise…so like what are being sung now in worship services…were a way to continue our high. The problem with beginning a church service with 20-30 minuets of this (for me) is I’m not usually at the ‘mountaintop’ on Sunday morning. More often than not, I am a ‘beaten and battered ship in the storm looking for refuge’! I find, often but not always, this instant ‘mountaintop’ in services to be contrived…and I feel out of the loop. I’m not there yet…so I’m not ready to raise my hands in reverence sing away.
    I do also feel like the entire point of the praise hymns is to ‘pull me in’. I don’t need to be pulled in…I need a moment to feel God’s presence in my life, time to worship and reflect. I know there is always a need to attract new members and attract ‘young people’…but to me…the congregation and its pastor does that…not the music (I am a professional musician BTW). If young people (or anyone) are turned away because the music isn’t new enough, or loud enough, or is too complex,etc…..maybe that’s not what should be bring them to church? If a service started with members of the congregation speaking to me…welcoming me, perhaps some in prayer…as a young person, I want to know, “What do THEY have that I don’t? How can I have that kind of worship in my life?” We aren’t trying to sell a new TV show…we are gathering together to worship…in whatever way we can. The marketing of ‘new and improved’ church gets tiresome and the original message lost!

  • Nancy

    I could have written this post. I went looking for a church that sings hyms after wrestling with this, and found it. Thing is, since attending there I have LEARNED so much more in the couple years I have attended, than I had in many, many years. There is more to it than just my personal preference in music. There is a whole attitude of knowing God, knowing the Bible, encouraging thinking, and growing Christians instead of just getting bodies into the building.

  • Brenda Marler

    I have felt the same way for years! I don’t enjoy church any more because the music doesn’t minister to me at all. You’ve expressed clearly how I’ve felt about modern worship services.

  • Patty

    Terrific article. Three marginally related thoughts to your essay. (Do not read if you don’t have a sense of humor.)
    1) If white people could learn to clap on 2 and 4, instead of 1 and 3, that would help make the bland uptempo worship songs a little more tolerable. (I am white.)
    2) If ever the worship leader sees a child – or adult for that matter – cover their ears during a worship service, they should take notice and not ignore the gesture. The music is either too loud, or just plain bad. (Too many converted and/or failed wannabe rock stars becoming worship leaders perhaps?)
    3) Not everyone is a tenor or soprano who longs to worship with the vocal stylings of a Steve Perry or Whitney Houston. Worship leaders, please, if you are going to choose worship songs that are total fluff, at least put them in keys that are negotiable by the average Joe/Jill.
    That is all.

  • Shane

    Thanks, I agree. Maybe you’ve heard it before but we call those praise songs, “7-11 songs”, you sing 7 verses-11 times.

  • I kind of agree with him. The worship at my church incorporates all kinds of music. I refuse to just do contemporary. There’s nothing better than finding an old hymn or chant, even, and discovering a new way to present it. But we have to face facts, many old hymns are amazingly antiquated in a way that can pull people out of worship if they have no idea why they are “raising their ebenezer”. To me worship is all about Spirit and truth. Make sure you are saying something about who God is. Make sure you are leading people to God and not just to the music talking about God. The thing I dislike the most in worship is music for music’s sake. We don’t do instrumental solos at my church unless it creates a mood for scripture reading or as score to something that is occurring in the service. I don’t like guitar solos because at that moment only one person is worshipping, the guitarist, and half the congregation is left looking around wondering what’s going on. And if you are going to use repetition, make the repetition count. There is nothing sadder than a one trick pony. There are sooo many ways to use the music to get us to God, but sometimes all I see is the “repetition card” being used… No… beaten to death. Let’s be a little creative. Wow! I think I just ranted on your link. Sorry…

  • Mark

    If anyone is still reading these replies…

    I mentioned in my post above that I am a FORMER worship leader. I still participate on the worship team of a lively church that tries to balance these concerns. But I must be honest and tell you this is bringing up a lot of painful memories.

    From the position of one who brought his musical skill, talents and background to the congregation each week, tried his best to knit a group of unpaid musicians of varying degrees of skill together and then pray that God is glorified while realizing there were a group of critics out there ready to tell you how to do your job to their liking… well, it is one of the reasons I am a FORMER worship leader.

    Worship is my heart. Music is my tool. I am passionate about the power of the musical tool to enhance worship and draw people closer to God. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to remain open and tender to the leading of the Spirit and then have to get a thick skin because of the critics that line the pews.

    Bill, you are encouraging this kind of critical spirit in this post. I did not know of you or this blog but it seems to be getting some play on Facebook as two on my friends list have posted links. That is how I came across it. You seem to be an intelligent individual with a heart for the Lord. But I ask you to stand back and view what you have written from the perspective of many of us who have offered up our talents and skills for the local body only to be discouraged by a constant barrage of criticism. There is a way to offer advice and encouragement outside of the negative tone that I have found first in your original piece and then even moreso in the comments following.

    Two cents from one still hurting.

    • John

      Well said, Mark. Sorry that you have been so badly bruised in your heart to serve the Lord. Thanks for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Hymns suck….you are crazy if you think singing Holy, Holy, Holy doesn’t repeat a lot. I want to rip out my eardrums anytime I have to listen to that crap. Modern worship songs have beats and rythym and you don’t have to listen to some terrible 65 year old piano player struggle through an easy hymn.

  • Kyle

    Seems pretty nitpicky to me. I’m sure, based in your criteria, you could find fault with any song. Not even sure of your criteria. It’s too old. Too new. Too campy. But some of those songs are ok. (?) If its intention is good, if it engages people, mission accomplished.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kyle. I thought I listed my three expectations but perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.

  • Martin Gureasko

    I would encourage you to visit an Orthodox church. The service is 100% God-focused, at least 75% singing, and nothing but Scripture. One visit and you will be amazed by the depth and beauty of the Divine Liturgy. Eastern Orthodoxy is relatively unchanged for the last 2000 years and the liturgical services are unaffected by the latest market-driven worship trends.

    • John

      I have also been to Orthodox churches where people just routinely recite what they are to recite, and sing with absolutely no life at all, i have seen more enthusiasm at a funeral. The danger of liturgy is that people just go through the motions, sometimes not even hearing what they are saying sometimes because they have said the same things 1000 times before and it has lost it’s life. It still requires the Holy Spirit to bring life.

  • Kathy

    My husband and I have had this same discussion many times over the past few years. You hear the argument that the contemporary music gets people pumped up to worship. So if that’s what it takes to worship, what do they do the rest of the week? Worship is not reserved for a half an hour at church or only when the radio is on. Worship is intentionally praising God for Who He is at any moment of the day. So why are we trying to sound so much like the world of unbelievers when we’re praising Him? Isn’t that a slap in the face of the God Who called us to be apart from the world?

  • Karl Heitman

    Bill, thank you, thank you, thank you! Honestly, I have to fake it because if I don’t people get mad at me and then they not always so gently remind me that it my/their “preference.” Thankfully, I don’t see this kind of fluffy music where I go to church very often. However, it is still prevalent around me, but, for the sake of unity, I guess, I have to put my “preferences” aside, right? Thanks again! kh

  • KJK

    The author writes about many complaints he has about modern church worship songs: they’re simplistic, repetitive, and trendy. I think he hits the bulls-eye and gives all of us Christians something to think about. However, the article is titled “Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church,” and I have to wonder: what he IS doing? It sounds like he is sitting there thinking critical thoughts while opting out of corporate worship time because, in his own words, “I just don’t feel like singing by the time the worship music ends.” Unfortunately, I see my old self in this ex-pastor’s self-righteously toned rantings . I struggle with selfish thoughts during worship too. Lately I’ve been trying to improve. If everyone’s singing a chorus that repeats a simple truth over and over, I sing along while thinking of a specific way I’ve seen this demonstrated in the past week for every repetition. If everyone’s singing “I’m coming back to the heart of worship..” and I’ve had a week where I don’t feel like I’ve “left” it, I hum along and pray. The bottom line is: worship is about God. If I’m struggling with worship, it usually means my heart is not right. This author is obviously struggling, and I feel really sorry for him.

  • Margie

    If you don’t like the worship music “they” have chosen, tell “them.” Most worship ministers are very open to comments from the congregation. If you don’t tell “them” they’ll never know. Too many times people just sit in the pews complaining. Get up and do something about it!

    • I must say this is a simple yet very Biblical idea. I think you can see from some of the comments in this thread that 1) a lot of people have felt the same but have been afraid to say it and 2) they can rightly expect a lot of criticism and accusations when they do express it.

      That being said… you are right. Biblical communication is the way to go.

  • Jeff

    Well thought out commentary – but maybe a bit too broad. To me, the repetition gets annoying – and we do sometimes have a “Top 40” approach to the song selections and forget about the “oldies” over 3 years old. As a guitar player, I do take issue with your assessment of guitar solos (or any instrumental solo). We are worshiping with our instruments and hopefully an instrumental bridge, or solo – or an entire instrumental song can lead people to worship in conjunction with non-instrumentals – Psalm 150. As someone who attended a church for many years where only “hymns” were allowed to be sung in services, I will never again attend a church with that stringent requirement. The hymns have their place in worship – but I sometimes lose my desire to worship when I have to sing in King James. Interestingly, there were also many 70’s and 80’s “Jesus Music” songs that were contemporary, worshipful and communicated a good message of doctrine, honor, praise…

  • It is evident that different people respond to different styles of music.

  • Jackie B.

    So many comments, so many thoughts. I am amazed at how the subject of worship, at least the music/singing part of it continues to be so controversial. I’ve seen church splits because of it. We have our preferences of styles/genres mixed with our personal beliefs of holiness, and cultural influences all competing with scriptural truth as we endeavor to define the “right” way (and make sure that way is our own). I will add my experience to the bevy of others: I was raised Catholic so exp. that way of worship. I left the church and entered into the occult which has whole other form and object/subject of worship. I then meet Jesus, the One and Only, the Source, the Emmanuel, Holy One, Lord of All, you know who I mean. For a brief time I visited a charismatic church and was awestruck by the love of Christ in their worship. Their example of adoring worship became a part of my foundation. Then I spent over 1 1/2 yrs at an evangelical church and was fed by the awesome preacher/teacher there as the Lord shored up my foundation. The worship team there consisted of many classically trained musicians. Honestly, although it was very beautiful but I felt like I was at a concert. I wasn’t offended however because I figured that they were worshipping God with the integrity of the training and talents He gave/allowed them. Of course one should give his or her utmost for Him! I didn’t leave because of it as I knew that it wasn’t what I was getting out of a church but what I gave to Him. Eventually the Lord led me to my church home where I met my husband etc.. It was a charismatic church with great teaching. Over the years I have visited so many friends’ churches, my in-laws is a traditional congregational church. Through those experiences I have recognized this about me – it IS the state of my heart that prevents or ushers me into worship. (like previous comments said as well). When there is a time/place when the worship leader is more “aggressive” trying to tell me what to do I also struggle with that sour taste but I try to sit back and pray and focus on my vertical relationship. I do likewise with dead feeling churches. God is and will remain on His throne – probably shaking his head at our squabbling. Thank God that His expectations of us are different then ours for each other. Let’s sharpen one another, challenge, encourage, accept differences designed by Him. What does worship music sound like in India? In Indonesia? Would you expect to sound like here? I hope you say no.

  • Tom Sun

    If your intentions in posting this article were to discourage worship leaders and fan the flames of division in the church I’d say you have succeeded.

    • joyful heart

      … …only if the worship leader is cemented to the ground in his ideas of ‘worship’…

  • Gene

    I SO miss the 1940 hymnal which brought me to the Episcopal Church. I realize this is a little off-topic, but not all THAT much. Superficial music cheapens worship; I know it’s intended to make that worship accessible (at least, that’s the excuse offered), but there should remain some mystery, something more to learn, and the crap that passes for evangelical coffee-bar service music doesn’t allow of that.

  • Bob Brown

    A lot of this emphasis on praise songs with simplistic lyrics and weak theology is due to our “be happy” watered-down culture-based theology. If times got really bad, and I hope they don’t, things would change. After 9/11 I remember people coming to worship in need of something strong and deep and healing. They didn’t come to sing “I Just Want To Praise The Lord!” Give the country truly bad times and all this fluffy worship will tumble like a deck of cards.

  • Wayne

    Sorry if I seemed nit picky in my previous posts. After reading the article again, I realized what my problem was with it. To general. Modern = Bad, Old = Good. That’s what I got out of it. I actually listened to a “Christian Rap” song the other day (All the way through!! Not to bad for a 51 y/o southern redneck lol ) I wish I could remember the title, but it was very theologically sound and would not be that bad to worship to. I think that before we put down a whole genre, we need to make sure we know everything about it. We enjoy modern and old hymns in worship, and as for myself am moved to even deeper worship by both. Just remember, all music was modern and different from the “old stuff” at one time.
    If there are particular songs you don’t like or have theological problems with, mention them. Just don’t throw out all modern music just because it is not the “old hymns”.

  • Huh. I really enjoyed this blog. I’m surprised that there have been so many defensive comments.

  • Sarah

    YES YES YES!!! I was crying I was laughing so hard while I read this. My husband and I have been saying this for years! I just quit singing at church…which is hard for me because I’m an opera singer. Singing is how most I enjoy worshiping. Yet for all the reasons you just described, I find myself skipping music and coming only for the sermon.
    After the loss of my brother 5 years ago, the grief made it impossible for me to fake anything. It’s then that I noticed how horrible most modern worship music is…and that’s when I quit singing. I decided I wouldn’t fake anymore. So now, if music does get played while I’m in the service, I only sing things that are doctrinally true and don’t insult my intelligence.
    Thank you for posting this. If I could write music, I would do something about it, but alas, God gave me a voice, not the ability to write. I live in Nashville, so of course, I have several singer/songwriter friends. The ones who truly write deep, doctrinally sound lyrics and moving music that excites my soul have little success in the Christian music industry. They’ve all gone Indie, so I just load up my iPod and sing at the top of my lungs at home! 🙂

  • Mr. Smith

    Well put. Well said. Well done. Thank you! I had to respond because just today I received an email from an itinerant healing prayer-type pastor, thanking me for my ministry music. While I appreciate the compliments, I’m not sure I agree with them. I just wonder when he says I like your “vibe” and nice “hooks.” I suppose in American Idol-land, that is a compliment. But there is a ton of content in my music and my website.

    Church pastors are at the helm. They need to actually lead, and stop letting the culture dictate what should be in church, or what should not be there. Well that’s my 2 cents. Thanks. I’m sure there are will be many posts — maybe a great book on the way?

    Peace to you.

  • Don Barnum

    If you unhappy with the music in a church, find one that works for you. At least this is what I do. In all fairness, I live where you can find any style and quality one could imagine. Where I am now we do all styles, all tied in by the liturgical theme of the day/feast. I know it is hard when you have been somewhere a long timeand things pass you by, but the dumbing down of the culture in general is reflected in religeous

  • Nancy Vanden-Eykel

    Oh, thank you! I thought the vain repitition thing was just me! Although, I will say that sometimes an old, familiar hymn sung in a new way can get into my heart on a whole different level. I’m thinking about Little Town by Point of Grace and the gospel version of Amazing Grace playing over the credits of the movie Maverick.

  • Bijou Dranes

    What if they are not faking it? What if that music reflects the limits of their imagination and sophistication? I have always wondered how religion can reach and challenge the fearful, the literal minded and those that lack imagination. (i.e. the banal)

    • Hmmm. Seth Godin has made some good points about how faith — our deeply held beliefs — can quickly become religion — the system of preserving those beliefs. His point is that the two are different. MAybe some connection with this thread?

  • Vicki

    Here’s a thought. Many hymns contain references that are misunderstood, as in the previously quoted line, “here I raise mine Ebenezer.” Maybe with some explanation before the hymn is sung about the origin of these lyrics, the hymn would take on a much deeper meaning for the worshipers. I have seen this done in churches that I have attended and it makes me appreciate the hymn all the more. It may also be helpful to know under what circumstances the hymn was written, just as the Psalms sometimes list the occasion on which they were written.

  • OneStepFurther

    The author intentionally kept his piece within the scope of music, but I would like to encourage the readers to go one step further in thinking this through. In many many of the large churches in particular, as a result of this mindset, worship services themselves are being (for all intents and purposes) segregated by age. Take a look at some of the big players in Atlanta if you’re not familiar with what I’m saying. Northpoint Church, Buckhead Church, Peachtree Presbyterian Church just to name a few. Elementary aged kids have their own worship service (if you can call it that), middle school their own, and high school their own. Then it’s assumed that you’ll either ‘graduate’ to the main traditional or contemporary services after that.

    At one of them in particular, literally from the time they enter elementary school to the time they leave for college, the only time they will enter the church sanctuary is to paraded in there to receive a Bible in third grade, about 5 years later when they’re confirmed into membership, and again as graduates. Other than that, it’s assumed you’ll be in your own age appropriate “experience” unless your parents insist otherwise.

    Families not worshiping together is a terrible tragedy in my book. It’s like going to Disney World and sending your young kid to Adventure Land, your early teen to Frontier Land, your older teen to Tomorrow Land, with the parents staying at Cinderella’s Castle waiting until each has had their own age targeted “experience”.

    • Great point about age segregation in the church. What do you think is behind that?

  • Ally

    I agree with this blog because many (most) of the contemporary songs used in worship services seem to be about how “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,” or more simply, “Jesus is my buddy, Jesus is my friend, Jesus makes me happy…etc.” These concepts are all well and good, but church shouldn’t be about your “personal relationship with Jesus.” You can do that on your own time, in your own house, by yourself. The whole purpose of church is to gather as a community to worship. Contemporary music is not bad music, and I listen to it in my car all the time, but its place is not in church.

  • Wade

    Amen and thank you.

  • Thomas

    Bill, I have noticed your not commenting very much on many of the larger post that are going deeper in their responses to your blog. I know it’s a lot of post, but is there a reason for this?

  • Cathleen

    I agree with a lot of this – I like depth and meaning to the songs we sing, and I enjoy the traditional beauty of the hymns. The other thing that literally keeps people away from modern worship is the volume. Why, oh why, does the praise band have to be so loud? My parents are in their 70s, and I think they would tolerate the musical style and like to worship, but the volume literally hurts their ears and they can’t go into a worship center if it’s too loud. I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but this is disrespectful. There is no reason for the volume to be so loud that you can’t hear yourself think – just another way to draw attention to the band and not the worship.

  • G.K. Sexton

    Whentdhe decibels are louder than the disciples, it ceases to be worshipful for me. It is simply noise, grating, irritating, nauseous noise.

  • G.K. Sexton

    When contemporary worship lyrics are married to Power Point scenes of mountain streams, majestic oceans, babbling brooks it tends to rot the imagination and it sends me looking for the nearest restroom to relieve the bladder pressure. “Water, water…everywhere.” Seemed a bit of a stretch when worshiping in El Paso, TX whcih is in the middle of the west Texas desert.

  • The Catholics said the same things about Luther’s hymns; the Scots complained about Wesley’s hymns; the Anglicans hated Moody and Sankey hymns, and mainstreamers hated crusade hymns. You’re just following in their curmudgeonary footsteps, but guess what? The Holy Spirit captivated people’s hearts with all sorts of music, hymns, praise songs, and kids choruses.

    • John,

      Thanks for the comment. Are you saying that modern evenagelical worship represents a new denominational course?

  • paul

    I loved this post, it is putting into words things I lack in eloquence to state well. I have been bothered by this for some time and my personal opinion is that there has been a loss of purpose for the worship service of many churches.. If Sunday mornings gatherings are intended to be ‘seeker’ oriented in order to proselytize then maybe the adage the ‘ends justify the means’ fits and we should strive to be as attractive to outsiders as we can at all costs. If this is our purpose then it would be fitting that our services should be designed and planned in that way. But, if our purpose on Sunday morning is to praise, worship and adore the Father through our worship and praise of Him as a unified body then maybe we would place more of the emphasis on mutual edifying, humble, respectful adoration and we would strive to meet that goal. Wouldn’t it be great if the assembly of the first day of the week was set solely on praise and honor of our Creator as a community of faith and the rest of the week was intentionally set for evangelism? If this were the case, how would our worship look? Would we become centered more on communion as in the First Century church? Would we abandon flashy displays and performances altogether and seek a more primitive yet more profound relational experience with God? Would we even dare to sing a cappella as was the case with the first Christian churches? just a thought…

    • Thanks, Paul. I’m planning a post very soon questioning the current emphasis on being seeker friendly. Not sure it’s what Christ instructed us to be. Depends on what we mean by that term.

  • mary

    Where will all this new praise music be 200 years from now? Is it compiled in a book? Would it even exist if churches removed the overhead projectors? I have heard it called 7/11 music. 7 verses ll times. Thanks for your article.

  • First of all, let me express appreciation for the article.

    Secondly, let me urge that the songs that we should be singing are not 2000, but about 3000, years old, viz., the Biblical psalms–that is, the 150 songs which God has given to us in His hymnbook. This has been the historic practice of much of the church, and is still practiced by a number of denominations such as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA).

    For those interested in learning more about Psalm singing and its importance, check out Dr. Michael Lefebvre’s new book, Singing the Songs of Jesus. Another good book is Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Joel Beeke and Anthony Selvaggio. And let me also recommend a little book which I wrote about a year ago, The Joy of Rediscovering God’s Hymnbook: How to Introduce the Psalter into Congregational Worship. (A review is found at http://www.inlightofthegospel.org/?p=8847.)

    Let me also add that we in the RPCNA would cordially invite anyone–including the author of the article–to come and worship with us as we enthusiastically sing God’s songs, unaccompanied by musical instrumentation (just like the church did for most of its history). I believe that you would be moved and maybe even “blown away” by the experience.

    Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D.D.
    Pastor, Northminster Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA), Suwanee, Georgia

    • Thanks for the comment and info. Psalms certainly have a role to play although I would argue a mix is best that reflects the diversity in the Church.

  • My dad called those songs 7/11 songs. The same 7 words sung 11 times.

    I like praise songs but I LOVE hymns, they are my favorite type of music and they teach us so much. We are blessed in the music at our church…a combination of 7/11 songs with a huge dose of hymns in ever service.

  • I totally agree with Bill.
    Perhaps you might be interested in what’s on offer here – http://www.restawhile.co.uk/music.html
    “Music with a Message” created for the Glory of God and the benefit of all who listen.
    Rest a while website is full of content that is good for the souls of all who visit. May I invite all who read this to come and visit – you just might find something there just fr you 🙂

  • Eric

    Hmmm… interesting story for you… a church has contemporary music, growing, people coming to know God, and one of the older deacons/elders goes to the Worship Leader afterwards. “I don’t like this music, the beat, and the songs repeat too much,” he says. The Worship Leader’s mouth drops in shock, trying to compose a reply. “But!” the deacon continues, “people are being moved to worship, coming to know God, and we’re reaching a new generation that we’ve never had success with before. I’m saved, I know where I’m going when I die: my job is to see that we continue doing those things. So.. keep up the good work!”
    Why is it that so many people complain about church, instead of embracing church and helping make it the best it can be? Why is the church the only army that shoots it’s wounded? Why don’t people tithe out of their “first fruits” instead of the little they have left over? Why ask why?
    And also, aren’t we all glad that Jesus constantly repeated His messages in different ways, in easy to understand language for the regular guy on the street? I am!

  • Susan

    This style of worship also seems to dictate that if you’re not having a soul-shaking, teary-eyed, fall-on-the-floor type of experience, you’re not truly worshiping. This puts a lot of pressure on church-goers. I have come to resent it. I also resent being told repeatedly that my responses are not loud enough, as in “C’mon, you can do better! Let’s hear it!” No thank you.

  • Carol

    Thank you for this article. I couldn’t agree more. You hit the nail on the head.
    While watching a Simpsons episode I began to realize that I was not alone in my feelings about current praise music. Ned Flanders asked his girlfriend, Christian singer Rachel Jordan, what happened to her band. She said, “They switched from Christian music to regular pop. All you do is change ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby'”.
    After reading the other posts I will bet that a Simpsons reference will give the holier-than-thou types something new to gripe about. Maybe they will give the “it’s” folks and other grammatical offenders a rest.

  • Rebekah

    I can’t BELIEVE I happened upon this article this morning!! I have been wrestling with this for months! I’ve been singing in church for about 12 years. I’ve sung at luncheons and a wedding and a funeral. I actually sing all day, while chasing children and washing dishes. Before I was saved I would hide in my room and sing quietly so nobody would hear me. After I gave my life to the Lord I wanted to sing for Him and I didn’t care if people heard. But something is happening in churches that bothers me. I don’t say this in a sarcastic or critical way. I’ve sung with people who really just want to serve God. But I’ve also sung with people who have watched too much American Idol. A few weeks ago my family and I got settled into the pew just a few minutes before the music director invited us to “the show.” Anyway, Lately I’ve been feeling a pull to get out of music but I don’t know yet if I should. I really want to sing. But lately I’ve been thinking about the state of the church in our country. Our culture is absolutely OBSESSED with talent. Our culture puts empty-headed teenagers (no, not all teenagers are empty headed) on a pedestal and gives them a platform just because they have a little bit of talent. Almost every show on TV today is some kind of talent search. Our culture is obsessed with YOUTH. This is why we have 50 somethings running around with dyed hair and graphic T’s. So when I walk into church on Sunday and that’s what I see up in the front of the church, while the white haired Saints..the true treasures of the church…are sitting in the back, I kinda can’t help but think that something is backwards. I’m 32 years old. I have 3 children. I only have so much time to give to activities that take place outside my home, since God says my home and my children are my primary ministry. I look around and can’t help but wonder: does the church really need ONE MORE singer? Does it really NEED more TALENT? Is TALENT going to be what helps us out of our doctrinal shallowness? Or would my time be better spent STUDYING and TEACHING, serving my neighbors, praying, intentionally seeking out the lost to shine my light before them?

    • Rebekah,

      I would add for you and everyone on this thread that we must all be careful that while exposing problems in the church that we do nothing but show love to Christ’s body, others in God’s family who may disagree. Not saying you weren’t at all. Just reminding us all that we’ll spend eternity together. I was reminded of this while talkign to a worship leader friend of mine today — I enjoy her leading in worship, by the way. I know many feel frustrated but we must speak the truth IN LOVE.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Catherine Grace

      But God gave them that talent. Keep that in mind.

  • Carol

    Thank you for this article. I couldn’t agree more. You hit the nail on the head.
    While watching a Simpsons episode I began to realize that I was not alone in my feelings about current praise music. Ned Flanders asked his girlfriend, Christian singer Rachel Jordan, what happened to her band. She said, “They switched from Christian music to regular pop. All you do is change ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby'”.
    After reading the other posts I will bet that a Simpsons reference will give the holier-than-thou types something new to gripe about. Maybe they will give the “it’s” folks and other grammatical offenders a rest.

  • Bootscootn

    Finally …. Someone said it. I feel a weight lifted off my chest. I’m starving for substance, depth, and meat. This milk diet is too thin. God is the ‘I AM’ … Not ME.

    • Now you should tkae the next step and speak the truth in love to your local pastors.

      Go on.

      Let me know how it goes. All of you.

      Remember: IN LOVE!

  • Ben

    I read this because I saw a link from a fb friend. So I thought it would be worth reading. Not. I don’t disagree w any particular point. But, given all the options that are available to the relatively few people inclined to go to church, I can only wonder why the need to whine about this? Go somewhere else. And, some advice: If you find the perfect church, don’t continue to go there. You’ll ruin it.

    • Thanks, Ben. Now you know why so many of your brothers and sisters are afraid to say what I said.

      Thanks for taking the time to read it, though.

  • Steven

    I completely agree. Let’s take it back to the New Testament. A congregation where EVERYONE sings. Not just the choir or praise team. I know of some churches who love doing that. If you would like to study more about it email me at Shugley@yahoo.com. Col. 3:16

  • Lizk

    Amen! Excellent summary of my frequent thoughts in some churches. I am thankful to have found a church that still uses the older hymns with an occasional blend of the new. My husband writes music which is often sung in the churches. But it is more of a Celtic sound as opposed to the Top 40 sound.

  • Sarah Chastain

    I agree with you. I much prefer hymns that treat God with reverence and have a message that speaks to me but it’s obvious from other comments that the more modern music does speak to some people. Fortunately my church does use hymns with a rare praise song especially when the youth are in charge.

  • Cap11

    Bill, thanks for your candid opinion. My first thought when I read the article was “get over yourself.” But as I am sure was one of your purposes in writing the article, as well as, posting it, I thought more about what you wrote, and the reponses I have read.

    I agree, that repitition, in large amounts, can be mind-numbing. We forget that we are “created and creative” beings. It is easy to go with what is comfortable and people pleasing, and although I am no muscian, if I lead worship, I would probably lean towards playing songs that I know how to play, sing and that would generally be liked. But on the creative side ( a part of our soul where passion lies), I would think God calls us, no matter what we are doing, to grow. If you want to grow, you must accept change as inevitable. With change (of heart) comes a deeper sense, connection with the Lord. If growth is not happening ( where’s the fruit?) in your church community, no matter the ministry, action is required.

    We need to get up off our butts and go talk to others in our congregation, and then to the pastor. Do others feel the same? What does the pastor think? What are his views on worship? Obviously, we are not demanding
    that things are done our way, but to open up a dialogue. This to me is one of the biggest problems with some churches- we hide our complaints, issues, sins, etc. instead of voicing them to the right people. If things don’t change, you must make a decision- is this essential to my spiritual well-being? Then I think it is necessary to ask, do I stay or do I leave? From there, you have much to talk to God about. I think my last paragraph here is what I find missing from your blog. A call to action. Otherwise we turn into a complaining, bitter, passive, frustrated people who sit rolling our eyes at each song played on Sunday.

    • Wise words. Let’s add it now. Right here.

      Everybody get out of your pew and go speak the truth in love — withy much prayer — with your pastors.

      Let God will use us to grow His work in His way.

      Then let us know how it goes.

  • Amen Brother! I have heard a song that says it so well….”No More Singin’ On The Wall”. I’m not sure of the artist, but I hear it from time to time on Enlighten. Chanel 18 on Sirius Radio.

  • Tyler Holton

    I am 17 i have felt this way most of my life. In fact until two weeks ago I couldn’t name a hymn. I have been going to church all my life for as far as I can remember. I have never felt like I have till I started listening to hymns on my own time, in a good way, and for my generation, unless we change this, we will grow without knowing the true feel of worship. the only way for us to know and be taught hymns is by our own parents which isn’t as common as it should. In the church I go to the sermon is starting to deepen meaning and preaching the whole bible, not just what we all want to hear but what we should. the music needs to use doctrine and have it bring you up not the people around you doing so physically.

  • The music and melody is really a matter of personal preference. I can deal with that to an extent as long as the lyric is there. What I’m noticing in modern worship lyrics is a trend for depressed, defeated or unresolved lyric. Many hymns that have lasted have done so because of emphatic, positive reassertion of redemption, personal testimony or absolute statements of faith and God’s sovreignty over all things. (Victory In Jesus, I Surrender All, Holy Holy Holy, Joyful Joyful, Amazing Grace, etc) As I read the lyrics on the wall today from the latest Top 40 Wow Worship, many are about “how I failed last week, but I’m serious today”, or “I’ve strayed but I’m coming back today” or “Here I am repenting again” (my own paraphrasing on those quotes). It feels down, depressed and unemphatic. Start reading those lyrics … see if a segment of worship songs today are more about our weakened humanity void of victory and not about absolute redemption or God’s grace and sovereign power. The Word says, if you believe there is power in the Word, that we are made overcomers by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. If a lyric is not representative of the blood (or the price is paid and power is given) or a testimony (I still like I’ll Fly Away because it simply is an affirmative testimony that because of grace one day I will “fly away”) then perhaps the lyric will not leave one with the feeling of being an “overcomer”. I personally prefer lyrics that have me moving into the speaking part of the service and leaving as an overcomer….not a defeated, victory-lacking, unstable, unforgiven, weak promised, frail, just-getting-by-this-week believer. I believe God’s Word holds the key to a life better than I could have had on my own and I like the lyrics to what I sing to reinforce that promise (life more abundant) is a truth.

  • Catherine Grace

    I completely understand! I am an Episcopalian, and we ring with traditional catholic mannerisms, from the liturgical calendar, seasonal hymns and singing The Prayers of The People. We “modernize” by singing newer compositions, and the congregation gets itchy!
    I am also a musician, and often employed by churches. Recently I tried venturing out into Methodist and Baptist older youth groups, but the music held little depth to me. Obviously, my main medium to God is my music, and sharing his beautiful compositions with others. So I find important to actually enjoy or being moved by music.
    HOWEVER, the beauty of God is that people can appreciate him in so many ways. My grandparents’ church moved from the hymnal to the powerpoint and computer piano; but they enjoy it. I suppose because it’s easier than reading the hymnal.
    I do fear that the Church will become too trend-focused, but without adaptability anything will fall. Including the church Jesus gave us, for it’s our responsibility to run it and help it reach many.
    So feel free to worship anyway you want. I’ll take the Bach Preludes before church and the Schubert communion hymns 🙂 I’m just a traditionalist.

    Great post! Thanks!

  • Don

    Hmmmmm. Not sure whether to keep quiet on this… but what the heck.
    (1) Church music history is full of this argument from the time instruments were silenced in worship around 70ad, from when 4/4 was introduced rather than ¾; from when more voices were added to single line chants; from when chants were becoming hymns because there were popular with the people; from especially when Luther, Bach and later Wesley really took the hymnody of the people in the bars and brought it into the church which factored in those great revivals. Heck, I even remember when the conventional church hated Keith Green!! Newness has hardly ever been welcomed historically in the church regardless of its quality.
    (2) Music choruses do repeat a lot – but then there’s Rev 4:8. I notice country, rock, jazz, pop, etc… music repeats a lot too – and that’s what most people listen to. I believe it appeals to those who we are reaching as it communicates a simple message like stained glass windows and seems to fit biblical worship described in heaven.
    (3) For reaching people, there’s no question that quality worship is a factor. I’ve heard that a congregation will tolerate poor preaching longer then they will tolerate poor worship. The most explosively growing churches (The Church of the Highlands – Birmingham – for example) typically produce a weekly rock concert as a service and are achieving worship, preaching and outreach beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Highlands was the fastest growing church in America in 2008. It’s still the largest church in Alabama.
    (4) Are we not all members of a larger body of Christ? I would encourage the success of these modern outreaches and if you are a classic worshiping body – by all means – keep it going and do it well. If this columnist is right, all of these new believers will need to grow past the Highlands experience and they will certainly need better places of worship with more theologically deep and sound congregations to go to.
    (5) For me and my house, I’m glad there are so many variations in worship out there in the body of Christ.

  • Hey, everybody! Bill here — the “author” of the frustrated thoughts on worship.
    If you’re still tracking this comment thread, check out the updated post. I’m proposing a way to seek solutions by requesting guest posts from you.

    My sincere prayer is that it will help all of us move toward sincere and biblical understanding.


  • The Episcopal Church welcomes you. And no bad music allowed!

  • Chance

    I believe your concern about the substance of songs is valid (mostly point 1). I think the 2nd and 3rd concerns are mostly an issue of style and taste , which regard song repetition and song selection(although song selection is somewhat intertwined with song substance). Everyone has their own opinions about those, and my thought is, well, get over it. But that’s just my opinion.

    Regarding the substance of the songs themselves, that is a valid concern, and I won’t agree or disagree with it. Personally, I think I was better at worshiping God when I was a 5th grader compared to now, and there is something beautiful about the simplicity of a song like “Jesus Loves Me”, but then again, we don’t sing songs like that all the time in worship. I just don’t remember the Psalms being overly complex. But, I understand where you are coming from, and there are beautifully written songs from ages past. I personally like my church’s style, which involves new songs, and old songs set to a contemporary style, and old songs set to an old style.

  • Mickey

    Thank You, I am so glad that I am not alone!

  • Stephen

    Thanks for the post. Recently my wife were part of a house church that practiced open participatory meetings and we compiled our own worship songs…including some we wrote ourselves. The singing was completely acapella, but amazing; any brother or sister could call out a song during our worship which led to a sense of community. We invited Christ to lead in our meetings. This is distinct from an experience where a person chose three hymns before the service or a team planned the service 6 months ago…and to be honest it was the most refreshing worship I’ve ever experienced. How the body sings to the Lord matters…Jesus sang hymns with his closest followers and the church has been a singing people since the beginning….thanks for posting again.

  • Jeff

    I have visited a number of different churches and each one has a different “contemporary” music style. I can’t worship where I need earplugs to keep my pain tolerable enough to participate so I stopped visiting that church. It disrupted my ability to stay focused on my worship. I didn’t ask them to change for me. I just found a church that didn’t hurt my ears. Aside from that, I’ve experienced organ music traditional to modern day electric instruments (drums included) and have found when I enter with an attitude of worship, I can blend into whatever style that particular church plays. Since there are enough varieties within driving distance, why not find the church where you can worship comfortablly while letting the Spirit do the uncomfortable work of changing hearts. The body of Christ is big enough to find where you will fit in while growing in faith.

    • Jeff

      One additional thought – since music continues to change – hang in there a while longer. The next “contemporary” will emerge which will draw some to the cross and push others to the church down the street who stays behind the times but appeals to those who love what has become “traditional” but not as “old traditional” as what is currently considered traditional. There is a place for it all as long as it lifts the Name of Jesus with honor.

  • Jon

    Hi Bill,

    My name is Jon, I am a worship leader from New York State. Your comments have made it to Facebook and caused a lot of debate there as well. I have posted your thoughts and added some of my own, the bulk of which are below.

    I do agree with all of your basic points. Worship music should be: 1) Truthful 2) Written for adults and 3) Timeless. However, from reading your blog I get the impression his church is still singing “This Is the Day” and “What a mighty God we serve” every week at his church. That’s what I call campy. I am not sure how old you are but you sound like people my parent’s age whining about Rock and Roll in the 60’s.

    This is obviously a subject that hits close to home for me as well, so instead of spending several hours setting up thoughts and argument I will make two quick points and then keep my objections brief.

    1) Worship music is ultimately only a small part of Worship as a whole. Music is merely a means to help us Worship. The first act of worship recorded in the Bible is not related to music in anyway. 10 points if you can tell me what that act was.

    2) The Bible gives no actual guidelines on what worship music should sound like. Music preference is at the end of all argument still subjective to personal opinion. God has no opinion on HOW we do it, just that we do in fact DO it and that it be genuine and from the heart.

    You complain that worship music in the Evangelical Christian Church is: 1) Too simplistic 2) All from the top 40 worship channel and 3) Repeats too much.

    On Simplicity: First, I’m not sure why this is only a Evangelical problem. It seems that any church, Reformed, Evangelical or any other is up against the same problem if they are playing any kind of popular music written in the last 50 years. Popular music, and the music that has been influenced by it, is from a broad perspective ALL this way when compared to all the “other” music out there. However with this said I do understand the point you are getting at. Sometimes it goes too far, lyrically and musically. The irony here is that early Rock and Roll has DEEP roots in a form of music that is uniquely American–GOSPEL (i.e. Elvis Presley, Ray Charles) So Bill, I’m afraid we have ourselves to blame. My point is there is nothing wrong with simple music, just how people play it. Point No. one: Simple music can have deep theology, and be written for adults.

    On Top 40 Worship: Unfortunately, we again live in a country where badly written, watered down repetitive “Christian” crap sells and is making a lot of people rich. People like it, I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but that is what we are up against. How do you change a culture? By whining of course. Yes, Whine. A Lot. So you talk about 2,000 years of church worship…well other than the fact that I don’t want to sing worship that is 1,000 years old because it’s in a dead language that I don’t speak, I’m pretty sure that most of the music of the first 1,000 years hasn’t even survived. As for the next 500 years, well it’s 500 years of music all the same and stylistically similar—and it’s in Latin. Not exactly culturally relevant either. The words for the Latin mass haven’t changed too much in 2,000 years, because no one was aloud to change them. (i.e. Agnus Dei–which I think is terribly boring). Point number two: music in the church always needs to be updated. The church has written bad music for 2,000 years. The thing is we just stopped singing the bad ones a long time ago. Timelessness will only come with time. You can’t pull a timeless song out of your behind and say “this is a timeless song”. How do YOU know? Good music is vetted over time. In the meantime be happy your church is playing new music, and tell people to stop buying bad music.

    On repetitive music: You just sound really really old school. This whole argument is 15 years old. You don’t just want token hymns, you want “good” hymns. You needs to know that there are a lot of annoyingly bad repetitive hymns out there. Thankfully most of us have stopped singing them by now. I’m afraid I need actual examples of what you consider repetitive. Anything is repetitive if you sing it long enough. This is a subjective thing and greatly falls on the musical preference of the listener and the worship leader. “Trading My Sorrows” is repetitive–but more importantly it’s just not that great of a song. It is not what I would call timeless which is why people should stop singing it.

    So here’s the thing Bill. I was you 10 years ago. And then one day God tapped me on the shoulder and asked “What are you going to do about it?”. So I ask you, since you are a former pastor, “What are you going to do about it?” and then since you’re a former pastor, “Why do you need to hear this from me?”. A lot of this is attitude.

    Now in your defense, you state you just see a problem and don’t know what to do about it. You’re not a musician, you just know you’re not satisfied with the worship at your church. I see the update and the responses on this subject have been over-whelming. I agree it’s a big issue and it’s great to see ACTION. But dialog will only take us so far. The best thing you can do if you’re not happy with worship music is FIND GOOD MUSIC and support those artists.

    But…I do have some other concerns….

    -Why are guitar solos at your church “flamboyant”? These are words that should never go together. This should never be so, I don’t think I want to go to your church either.
    -Michael W. Smith is old and should probably hang it up soon. Do you really like him?
    -I see that you have an iPhone. Are you TRYING to label yourself as a bitter, jaded middle-aged yuppy/tech-nerd blogger? 😉 Just sayin’.

  • Rudy

    As much as I dont necessarily disagree with your viewpoints from a mechanical standpoint my response is quite easy…in America we may be short on A LOT of things but churches is not one of them….my advice to you is fined one that suits your needs….each church is a subculture and in many instances where they might not measure up to your “refined palette” of style and musicality, these are people who are pouring their hearts into what they’re doing……now this might now be a big deal to you but 2 points………church is NOT Burger King where they’ll prepare it your way…..and 2 lets remember the story of the woman who criticized King David’s dancing before the Lord and He struck her down with the disease of barrenness …….I suggest you spend a little time examining your motives because you come across not only a bit condescending but down right tacky. God bless you (and I mean that)

    • Jane

      And how do you think you come across??

  • Great discussion. What would happen if we showed up at church and for 15 minutes were simply silently worshipping God (i.e., “being still, and knowing He is God”). Then singing a capella a psalm…or prayed and praised spontaneously?

  • Clovis

    Hey Bill and everyone, greetings from Brazil!

    Very interesting points of view… I still have in my wallet the Psalm 28:7 I wrote in 1987 after I received Christ in my heart.

    I like very much Keith Green and Michael Card!

    1- lyrics are getting poor and obvious also in Brazil, and many of them pointing to human needs
    2- top40 are being translated here! yes, many of them very beautiful… but there’s a lack of something…
    3- repetition… I like the Bruce Springsteen version of “This little light of mine” …what a power song!

    Hopefully we all connect to the One above all while in church, and specially out there!

    • Clovis,
      Thanks or the long-distance comment. In Christ, we are all closer than we think. Good thoughts.

  • rafael

    Hi Bill,
    Reading all the thread I notice a couple of things. First is that people can’t tolerate an individual idea, it is go with the flow or else. Second is that you’re wrong or right. I was raise in a charismatic church and now I am going to very traditional one. I been part of the contemporary music ministry for many years and now I’m leading hymns, I am also classically trained so any media works for me. The problem in church is general not only music, music is just a reflection. I had a similar experience not musically in a mega church that I attended for a few years. I got to the point that I couldn’t connect at all. I tried to go back several times but it just felt worse. So I changed churches. I don’t find correct to go church shopping if your life is led by the Holy Spirit(and many people here in the thread feel that its perfectly fine). The real question are these for all the church leaders. Why not ALL of the people are connecting to the service? It is OK if most of them are connected? The church has to service ALL their members not only the new. The music part, the sermon is for us, God doesn’t need it (Human can’t do it batter than angels musically and the author already knows his words). I also notice that the level of education is very relevant in this situation, also the character. I know some people that are not interested at all in music, they went there to hear the sermon (they don’t care is is contemporary, hymns, chants or gospel)> Some people couldn’t care less for the sermon and enjoy the music whatever their taste. The cry that I hear from Bill is: I want to be part but I feel that I can’t. The answer is not to judge, is to understand that everyone has different sensibilities and those have to be respected. For me is very hard to sing along if the leader is out of tune or any other instrument, I just can’t avoid it because unfortunately I can’t turn of my ear. I like many types of music and the answer is quality, in text, in music and interpretation. Last thought God is our daddy (abba) but is also Just judge and ruler of all, that its all love but also consuming fire.

    • Rafael,

      Thoughtful response. Thank you.
      I think you touch on a key question when you ask, “Is it OK if most of them are connected?” In other words, no musical style or approach could possibly fit everyone. The question then becomes with whom should it resonate? I sense that many churches are seeking to have it resonate with the “seekers” at the expense of the “disciples.”

      Any thoughts?

      • Andi

        agree completely……the disciples are no longer welcome 🙁

      • rafael

        Hi Bill,

        As I already told I was in a Mega Church (more than one) and they have this “vision”of the flock gets “renew” every few years. At the moment the person reach spiritual maturity finally leaves church. The worst part it is that it seems part of the system from the church point of view. Where they went? Does anybody cares? I left the last Mega Church 3 years ago and they still have me in the email list. They forget the mission of the church that it is to make disciples that reach the same height as Christ. We are not in the business of wooing people or entertain them.

  • John Hightower

    What intrigued me the most about the post was that the worshipper has indicated that he has STOPPED singing. Here is my observation: When praise teams and sound systems are used to sing these modern praise songs, the congregation appears to stop singing. In short, the praise team and the sound system make so much “joyful noise” that the worship participants don’t need to make any “joyful noise.” And my observation is that the praise songs, praise team, and loud sound system are all part of the same “problem.”

    Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon? Please share even if you think I’m wrong. I’m very interested in your observations.

    I’m thankful that I have encountered this discussion.

    • John,

      My inclination is that half the congregation in mnay churches could stop singing and few would notice based on what they heard. Not sure what that means. Part of it has to do with what seems a modern “performance” focus that the people in the pews seem to expect and those on the stage expect to deliver. I’m painting with a very broad brush, I know.

      I have often wondered, does anyone need to be on the stage at all? If so, why?

      Thanks for the great comment.

    • emc_nyc

      YES. Our team sings praise while the congregants stand listlessly until the concert is over. Sometimes, though, we get a mini-lecture from the pulpit on how we’re supposed to be singing. Even the teens have been grumbling about the noise level. It is amazing!

  • Laura

    You refer to “seekers” several times in a negative light. I took a test once that catagorized me as an “old-fashioned seeker”. I love Taize worship and traditional hymns. I love classical music. At our church most people prefer “traditional hymns.” However, at one point in our service we allow the kids to lead a contemporary hymn (sounds like rock music to me). Some are repetitive, and some are not. They kind of dance around and sing, and I sing, too. I have always had one question. We are talking about a SONG. When you consider all of the pain and misery in the world, and the need to raise our children in the Light of God instead of the darkness of world conditions, how can we get so upset as to take up a whole church council meeting talking about 4 to 8 minutes of a song or two? I have a Master’s degree in music – choral conducting and voice performance with an emphasis in Church Music. If I can buck up every week and play with the kids on the music they like, anybody should be able to, also. Most of these songs will disappear in a few years, and a few good ones will stick. I think God will be able to deal with this. I think one reason we haven’t gotten bogged down on this issue and “gone Pop” is that I haven’t opposed it in an inflammatory way. The rest of our service is all traditional, except once a month when the drum group and kids combo play during the offertory. My beloved Taize doesn’t work well at our church. The kids even love the organ Prelude and Postlude (very classical), and the choir music is 90% classical. Be more worried about worshipping GOD TOGETHER, and you will all survive this. It is such a small thing in the live of a Christian.

  • Kevin Gossett

    You can’t please everyone all of the time, but we should try to reach all people as much as possible. I am a music director of a Presbyterian church. My church tries to reach all people using all genres of music. Most of my congregation prefers older hymns and gospel music, but there are those who like contemporary worship music. They deserve to enjoy their worship experience, too. As much as I love music, the words are even more important that the chord structure or style of the arrangement. The meaning needs to be the most important aspect of the music. My congregation ‘survives’ when we do an all acoustic guitar service without piano or organ. But when we do that, we do at least one older hymn that everyone knows and likes. Most of the congregation likes the occasional difference in style and is tolerant of most anything. We don’t do all-out praise band, but we have used world percussion and almost every classical and folk instrument, even harmonica! Bottom line-variety, respect of the preferences of others, inclusion of all ages in participation in worship, and attention to theological meaning are the most important parts.

  • Kim

    Interesting thoughts. I see what you are saying, but I think you are missing the point completely of what it is to be a mature Christian. You spout these ideas but don’t have the mature relationship with God to be able to worship in any circumstance no matter the style, the words, the people around you. Maybe if everyone went into worship saying no mtter what, I will think only of God, what He has done for me, and worship Him, then it wouldn’t matter the music or words or anything. You can change that up all you want, if you don’t change the heart of the worshipers, it won’t matter.

  • Richard

    True story. Our military chapel had a worship service where we sang some pretty insipid “praise” songs (and pretty bad theology) mixed with hymns. After one song, we transitioned into a hym (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) whose words directly contradicted the praise song we had just sung. When I pointed this out to my pastor after the service, I was told I “paid too much attention to the words.”
    God help us.

  • Jerry

    What is really going on here? What is the root of this problem and why is it so touchy? This article has caused a firestorm of comments on my facebook page (Thank God for FB right? Otherwise I would never have had the privilege of reading this well-written article. And, by the way, you have six kids??? That is fantastic…what a blessing!). Anyways, with all due respect, there is something lacking greatly in your article and in the entire comment thread (with a few exceptions). Our first and greatest command from God Himself is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”. The second is to “love your neighbor as yourself”. (You’re a Pastor Mr. Bill, you’ll know where these verses come out of). People have made the Church out to be something so self-serving. Honestly, this article and the entire comment thread (both sides) is what has me seriously considering leaving the Church altogether. What does any of this have to do with the Great Commission? What does song preference or intellectual level have anything to do with loving Jesus Christ? You may be reading this over a cup of coffee in your V-neck t-shirt, plaid shorts, and Penny-Loafers (with no socks) eating something organic. You may be reading this in your sweats and t-shirt and it’s almost noon and you haven’t even put on a bra yet. This whole article and both sides of the arguments are nothing but religous grumbling. If you belong to a Church that promotes religion, I advise you to run. Run very far away from anything that smacks of religion.

    I love music and am a proud Graduate with a music degree. But don’t give me the great Masses sung in the Catholic or Orthodox Churches where I can respect and love the complexity in both the lyrics and music. Don’t give me the Chris Tomlin and Hillsong worship songs where I can respect the simplicity and intimacy that it provokes. Give me Jesus.

    What about the Drug Addict who has conquered years of relapses and is aching for something more? Is he really gonna connect with Bach? Or the Navy Seal who has just returned from his 5th deployment?

    What about the Harvard Prof that has so many degrees and certificates it would make the “simple” person’s head spin? Is he going to connect with Hillsong?

    What about the hard-pressed, the poor, the gang-member turned Jesus-lover, the underground Church in South Korea, the urban community, the Palestinian Christian?

    Anyone else in the mood for Jesus? Let’s leave these white-collar Catholic Intellectuals and Ripped-jeans, faux-hawk hairstyles worship leaders to discuss their Phariseeical thinking of their preference of worship songs to themselves. I’ve got greater battles to fight in life. JUST GIVE ME JESUS!!

    • Thanks for your pithy comment and the congrats on the kids. They truly are a blessing. I would add that Jesus himself spoke several times as to the manner in which we worship (including warning against vain repetitions) and giving us clear commands as to how we are to worship — and to pray, for that matter.

      I asked this earlier of another commentator but it went unanswered. Whenever we say “just give me Jesus,” the obvious question is “Which Jesus?” Or maybe better, “Who do you say that I am?” And that is where the emphasis on truth in our music becomes critical.

      Words have meaning.

      I am not saying that we should be divisive about it. But in our age of tolerance sometimes being divisive and speaking the truth are confused as being the same thing.

      I haven’t read your FB page so I can’t comment on that. The comments here have been pretty civil — pointed perhaps — but I am learning a lot. I hope others are humble enough to do the same.

      • Mike

        This is divisive talk, Bill. Stating your style of worship is more glorifying to God is superior belief thus divisive. The Bible speaks a lot about division, but it is silent to style of worship. Blog about TRUTH, the sin of division, less about your opinions about how God is glorified, and how God is not glorified.

        In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

        • Mike,

          Obviously, I disagree. Was Martin Luther divisive when he put together his 95 complaints about the church of his day? My concerns actually have very little to do with worship style. If you re-read the post, you’ll note it’s about what gets emphasized, where truth is found, and our gretaer vision of the breadth of the Kingdom across time. I think at the core, it has a lot to do with the seeker-friendly focus, but I’ll elaborate more on that in a coming post.

          Thanks for the comment just the same.

          • Mike

            I think Luther argued for biblical truths, complaining about a corrupt clergy. I don’t think your opinion and argument here, valuing different worship styles, is equal to what Luther did.

  • Andi

    I completely agree, gone is the grace and occasion of the traditional service, the humble worship in the presence of God, the order of service and the simple beauty and tradition of the hymns……instead it’s t-shirts, jeans, flip-flops and rock music. I don’t decry how others wish to worship, but more and more churches are turfing out the old traditional service in favor of the new contemporary services…it makes me so sad. I’ve tried the new contemporary style, really, really tried to like and enjoy it, but it leaves me just cold…and my teens don;t even like it, they get excited about a traditional style service with singing responses. So we no longer have a regular church to attend, and I feel lost.

  • Betty

    How refreshing! I would like to skip the music in a lot of evangelical churches we have visited.

  • Niki

    The METHOD of worship is not sacred. They fact that you worship is. It seems people are stuck on tradition and style more than giving all they are to God. I am not pipe organs. It isn’t me. If that is what I offer to God, it is not worship, it is fake. Imagine the reaction at the first church service that featured a pipe organ. It was new, different, a different way to worship and I’m sure many decided that it couldn’t be of God. God isn’t in the lyre of the Old Testament, the bagpipes of mid 18th Century Scotland or the Electric Guitar at my church. He inhabits my sould and I worship him with all I am, with what I have to offer him, the way he created me. Don’t you think he could see through the scripting if I pretended to be a 12th century monk and entered his courts with a Gregorian Chant?

  • CFo

    Sure, it’s hard for me too, but I don’t know the correct response and often feel guilty about the way I feel, like most of the rest of you. I’ve taken to reading my Bible during the songs or simply choosing to work in the kid’s department. They sing those same songs too, but it seems more appropriate for them. This is not the “answer”, it’s a cop-out.
    I just have a few observations and questions:
    1) Luke 4: 16a – “Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as he usually did.” This verse has always intrigued me. Can you imagine, the Author of Life, who was used to the chorus of angels’ praises – sitting in a dusty, little, hypocritical, doctrinally wacko worship service… but, He went every week anyway.
    2) In my mission work in developing countries, I observe that they want to be just like the churches in the USA. They, who cannot support their pastors, choose to buy big amps and keyboards and drums and guitars. They sing “our” worship music in their own tongue, crank the volume and generally repeat the choruses several more times that we do in the USA. In many cases, their songs are their doctrine – cuz they can’t read or study. That scares me! I love it when the electricity goes out.
    3) Our parents (in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s) complained about the new music sneaking its way into their churches too. Did Watts fans complain about Charles Wesley? Should we just shut up about this or is it important?
    4) We treat our churches like cruise ships. So, if the pastor is the purser of the cruise ship, the worship leader is the chef. The chef has to decide what to serve. The problem is, that a chef of the cruise ship cares more about making the hot-dog people happy and the steak people happy and the taco people happy. What a dilemma! Problem is, the church is not a cruise ship, is it? Isn’t it a living organism, meant to honor God foremost and be a blessing to the world – not to ourselves.

    • Your first point about Jesus attending the synagogue is a great one. Worth mulling more. Of course he still often spoke the truth to those church leaders — sometimes even in church. That led to them wanting to drag him out and kill him on at least one occasion.


  • Janet F.

    You have definitely hit a nerve here with people! I’ve felt that way for years! The church has gotten into a mode of ‘what’s the latest fad?’ and ‘let’s follow it!’ The same with communion in the churches today and how it’s done — just like the Catholics! But, that’s a whole other subject!
    I have become a starer in church, too….staring at the words on the screen and not singing much and I was a voice major in college! I am a dinosaur in the church now….there is little place for me as a soloist since I’m not into this modern music and or a member of a praise team. Think of all the talented people in churches today who are unable to use their gifts! How very sad….

  • For me, the BEST song that’s been written in the last few years is “In Christ Alone.” Contemporary, theologically full, Christo-centric, and, if played in the right key, singable for most, even tho a little “range-ie” so to speak. As a 58 year old church-music artist with 42 yrs. experience in Church Music, I’m cool with newer music (all the old songs were once new!) but am not cool with the marginalization of the older music. Younger church musicians…don’t just “throw out a bone” of a hymn now and then. Think of what you are wanting to do, say, to Whom (and whom), and why. Balance… And while we’re at it, the Church is not contemporary, blended, traditional…it is the Church. We are to “bear with” one another…even our differing music tastes. That goes for young, old, in between, etc. FOCUS: Worship Him in spirit & in truth…the Father is seeking these kinds of worshipers.

    • Well said, Tim. “In Christ Alone” is one of my favorites also.

  • Steve

    As a choir member in a 15,000 member church I sing in a more traditional format rather than in a contemporary setting. I have recently written the pastor about this very subject with no response. When the music sung, instrumentals performed or solos done become essentially indistinguishable from the secular genre music something is clearly out of sync. Worshipful music in a church setting accomplishes several purposes. First, it is a tool used by the Holy Spirit to reach out and to speak to the human spirit to inspire, minister unto,convict, convince and encourage the listener. Secondly, it needs to carry a meaningful message, tell a story to accomplish its intended purposes. Thirdly, it should not have a primary purpose to entertain but to inspire. Lastly, it needs to be at a volume that does not require hearing protection. The focus needs to be on the Living God and not the performer.

    • Stev,

      Glad to hear you are trying to talk to the pastor. I encourage you to lovingly persist then let us know how it goes.

      First seek to understand, then to be understood. ~ Stephen Covey

  • Tim Lorman

    The biggest issue I have with music in church is really not how old or new it is or how its performed, but where my heart is at that moment. What kind of sacrifice am I “bringing” to The Lord with my worship.

  • Rich Profant

    Well Bill you now have enough info and comments here to write an interesting book…My comment coming from a person that is in the arts ministry and on the worship team..I love to sing and if I have to sing some of my old favorites at home I am ok with that.I agree the repetition on some songs takes my concentration away,but when I turn my focus completely on Christ, even the choruses seem to penetrate the soul..I also have a book with every hymn imaginable, including the story behind it such as It is well with my soul..Ironically this week we are singing How great thou art to open and I am humbled by that. Very interesting commentary going on here and my prayer is that may God show you and others His truth,whether through a chorus you sing 50 times or a hymn such as Sweet hour of prayer.Only God knows the story and the conviction of each writer and it is not for me to judge but to worship only.God bless you sir for making people think and ponder.Rich

    • Blessings to you, Rich. I think the discussion has generally been a good one. I’m hoping a few people will really distill their best statements into some guest posts so we can continue the growth in Him.

  • Jan

    Scriptures tells us to sing, dance and lift our hands in worship. The praise and worship portion is our opportunity to do that and fully participate in worshiping and glorifying God. I no kid and I can tell you that contempory worship music has changed my view – opened my eyes to the freedom and expression of my love of God. Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to hear and sing some of the most moving and deeply routed worship songs in the church you attend. Here are just a few you might want to listen to: East to West, Even Greater, From the inside out, Glorious One, God of Wonders, He Reigns, Hosanna, How Great is Our
    God, I Am, I Can Only Imagine, Jesus Saves, Like An Avalanche, Love Has Come, Not Ashamed, Redeemed, Revelation Song, Search my Heart, The Way, Unending Love, Waiting Here For You, You’re Not Alone. Just to name a few.

  • Laura Harris

    RIGNH ON! Thank you for opening up this discussion! One note: I don’t think it’s the AGE of the worship song that matters–yes, the hymns of old are full of deep theology that direct our focus to worship God–but there are some “meaty” ones written more recently that we can choose. Perhaps a good mix is best.

  • Lisabeth Vander Wiele

    This whole thing makes me sad and angry at the same time. This is exactly what satan likes to use to cause problems and dissension between Christians. Satan is thrilled to get the focus on this and off of other more imporatant issues, such as money, materialism, sin issues, gossiping, lying, PRIDE!! This topic is purely personal opinion and preference. This is nothing more than a heart issue……the verse in I Samuel 16:7 says…”….for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So there could be someone leading music or a worship band that is singing all the songs that YOU think are the right ones, but their heart may be completely consumed with something else. Also, read II Sam 6:14-23, what would Christains today think of David and how he danced. OH NO not dancing!! and almost naked! But God knew David’s heart, and David’s heart was worshipful and right with God. Let’s try to be concerned with more important issues than music and its style, content, etc. I think we will be surprised when we get to Heaven what Christ thinks of all this music stuff. There are far more important things in our Christian walk and sanctification.

  • I confess I haven’t read all the comments – but for me it’s the screens with the words or a loop of a bird flying over the same canyon or whatever. I feel compelled to look at them instead of people. (conditioning?) Anyway, if I wanted to watch TV, I’d stay home… I love the hymns, and I don’t mind worship music either, but I don’t think that the theology comes through, or the passion, when the congregation is staring at a few people on the stage (or a choir either – I prefer a choir in the back a la Anglicanism) or a screen. Where your eyes are, there your mind is – for many of us. So in the midst of reading through a well-written hymn text, (this would be not UMC in the last 20 years), I’m reminded of key points to our faith. Great post and follow up!

    • Thanks, Sara. A guest post coming from you, perhaps? Already receiving a few good ones.

  • Parody of the Modern Church Service

  • Great article! I plan to pass it on to my church’s worship committee.

    • Please pass on my request for input via guest posts. I truly want to see us all make progress through this.


  • Mr. Mayo Hutt

    Those of us who grew up on the ‘old’ hymns have no one to blame but ourselves. We have not interacted with our kids and taken the time to have them by our side and teach them the things that God has taught us. We have settled into the worldly philosophy that we are incapable of teaching our own children. We send them to day care, public school, private school, college, special degree programs. We carried this attitude into our churches and hire professionals to do what we should have been doing. I teach kids and it saddens me that so many parents just don’t involve themselves in the spiritual training of their kids. Maybe because they weren’t. We settled into letting the kids have their own youth pastor who brought to them exciting songs so that they would not be bored. We figured that if they just did what we expected them to do that they were good kids. What did we expect would happen? Our kids were not taught to think – just believe. Is it any wonder many have left the faith? Their knowledge of the scriptures is surface at best. They grew up not knowing the great songs of the past simply be default. This is not to say that new songs don’t have meaning – they do. Even many of the old hymns were sung to bar room tunes of the past.

    I don’t think the solution lies with what we sing or even how we sing. I think it lies in the church getting back to teaching the deep truths of God. Look at most of the children’s religious teaching materials that are available today. At best they concentrate on a simple theme of being nice to each other. We call it being ‘age appropriate.’ What that means is we follow the worlds standard for teaching. To me it is just teaching dummies. We need to get deep with the truth’s of God and at a very early age. Once our kids grow up with a real understanding of who God is and what He has done for them will we see it reflected in the songs they write.
    If you don’t this is true just take a look at the type of songs that new believers have written and compare it with the songs they write 20 yrs later. There is a definite change in how they write. Unfortunately, those songs are not on the top 100 list so they are not the song that the kids here.
    First we need to STUDY the Scripture before we can TEACH the Scripture. This take work and lots of it. We just don’t want to do what is hard and demands our time. We have taken the easy way out and we have what we have today in our music because of it. (and many other issues as well!)

    • I think those are some really good observations.

  • Fluffy

    Hi, Bill, I’m a worship planner at our church and also the pastor’s wife (small church). We struggle to keep a balance between psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, as Paul writes in Eph. and Gal. How do you define these? To me a hymn is any praise or corporate worship leading TO God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Psalms could be thought of in the border sense as Scripture — singing the Word of God. Spiritual Songs are harder to define but for me this means a song of devotion ABOUT God. The question to be asked — are we choosing a balance of all 3 types for our services? I find that blending styles works best to achieve this.

    One of the problems in the church today is that we have not been taught what worshipping our Lord is! It can’t be touchy-feely, but nor can it be shallow (without thought or focus on God). I was not taught to worship by my folks or the church in which I grew up. My Dad — a pastor and musician–did not teach this. This subject is worth educating the church. What modern “praise choruses” (excuse the term) have done is try to replace this teaching by just changing styles. Worshipping is ALL about our Creator!Soli Gloria!

    • Fluffy — I love that name! — I’m not sure what the three categories mean or even if they mean three distinct categories. I just know they can’t mean exclusively psalms since they obviously include psalms AND other songs of some kind.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Fluffy

        A great book to read — “Exalt Him!” Designing Dynamic Worship Services by Terry Howard Wardle. Short paperback but thoughtfully written. Also anything written by Don Hustad. I’m sure many of you know that books by Don Hustad, but maybe not the Wardle book.

  • Sue

    I understand your frustration, and that your not alone. After being on worship teams for 15 plus years I’ve experienced one end of the spectrum to the other. In fact, I’ve finally chosen to step down in the last few months because of the things you’re talking about. However, in the light of scripture, I see them very differently then you’re talking about.

    Most of what I hear people saying is concerned with and centered around “me”. These worship discussions are usually about “what I want to hear” and ” why isn’t this being sung or done?” etc. We throw in “God has to be glorified” but it’s usually in the context of “my preference is the right way”.

    The more I grow in this area the more I can see many sides of the issue (and the more I see I have to learn!)
    I see so clearly in Gods word that what He cares about more then anything is that I/we love Him and therefore worship Him. He wants me to love Jesus Christ and be in a living, active relationship with Him. When Christ truly becomes my life as Romans and Colossians proclaim, then worship, true God honoring and glorifying worship, will flow from that heart. It can’t help but happen. Our eyes will be on Jesus Himself and we won’t be aware if we’re repeating a line or critiquing the music or deciding if the song is 3 years old or one thousand years old.

    This is all not to say that there is not a place for these discussions. I strongly sence however, that we are missing the point by putting the emphasis in the wrong place. We are so easily tempted to look at things below and not keep our our eyes fixed on things above. Jesus Christ has to be the the center and focus of the entire discussion, not my preferences. Let’s ask God to show “me” how I may love Him more today then yesterday because worship is a response to God not to music.

    I am learning, slowly but surely, that as I see and love Jesus more and more I am empowered to love others more more and more. I am continually being struck with thankfulness for all Christ has done for me and from that heart worship flows. I don’t have to fake anything, especially worship, as I seek my Saviors face. It’s all about keeping my eyes fixed on things above and as we do so together worship takes its rightful place. It’s all about Jesus.

    • Thanks, Sue, for your heartfelt and obviously sincere advice. I appreciate it. My concern is that we not let go of the second piece of worship Jesus commanded. We must worship God in Spirit (sincerity and, yes, emotion) but also in truth (knowledge, doctrine). Both are commanded. Both are required or our worship is NOT pleasing to God.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Mary Brennan

    , Amen, Amen and Amen my brother. In the 1980’s I let worship for a group of women I Women’s Aglow Fellowship. We sang to our Lord until we were weeping and felt the prescience of the Holy Spirit then He gave us new song never sung before and it was gloriously edifying. My church, I’m sorry to say has gone the way of rock music. I need to fast and pray about this. Thank you so much for reminding us. This was sent to me by a Wicliff Bible Translator in Paupa New Guinea ( He use to be my neighbor)

  • Darrell Hugueley

    I understand what you are saying, and it appears that you and the respondents thus far are seasoned Christians who yearn for what shaped you in traditional worship. I respect that. I miss it sometimes, but I think of my 23-year-old son who comprehends the doctrine in the old hymns of faith, but does not like the style in which it is sung. He is also sophisticated enough to find the sophomoric strains of contemporary Christian music banal. In our humble opinion, “secular” musicians nearly always do a better job of singing about truth, true feelings, and written for adults. I’d like to see a church to sing Sting’s “O My God,” or Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming,” or U2’s anthem “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

  • Joe

    It seems to me that the popularity of plain english Bible versions i.e. NIV, NLT indicate peoples desire for modern language to convey the meaning in Scriptures. The same for worship music. Many older Hymns use language not used today and unclear to many younger Christians as well as those whose second language is english. I find that I can go around all day singing a Chris Tomlin or Third Day tune (keeping me focused on the Lord) but I wonder how many folks spend the day humming a traditional Hymn. Many of the contemporary christian songs do not have “wild guitar solos” but truly inspire worship of our Lord.

  • Sue Blouin

    I have been married to a Minister through Music for 50 years and we have certainly seen many changes in churches as well as church music. My husband and our pastor spend many hours each week planning thematic worship which includes both hymns and choruses. We still have a choir that usually sings contemporary anthems, (Mary McDonald, Joseph Martin, etc.) but also do Hillsong type music as well.
    We also have a young adult ensembel that sing the “praise and worship” genre exclusively (my husband takes issue with this phraseology, he says he has praised and worshiped God through music all these years.)

    One thing that we have seen consistently throughout this changing idea of what is appropriate for church is that those who want the current music are not satisfied with that being only part of the music in the services.
    They seem to feel that anything else is not “spiritual” enough for them and those of us who prefer the other are also not spiritual at all.

    A leader in the development of children’s choirs said, “Music that entered the body through the feet seldom rises above the hips.” This is true for me. The one thing I miss the most is the great organ music that lifted my spirit to the throne of grace. I still worship, our pastor is excellent and one of my husband’s gifts is that he can bring forth beautiful choral singing from average people, and I am certainly willing to compromise. All this to say that I appreciate and agree with your blog. You must be highly intelligent and inciteful. HA

  • John Steele

    People have missed the point on praise and worship. There are seasons where it is ok to write one song. Some seasons to write a few more. Some to make a lifetime of writing new music. I have a question to pose to the church in regards to church music. Where are you? Where is the local church? Where are the Kent Henrys? Where are the Harold Forbises? Where are the other Dan Whites and Charity Longs? You may not have heard of any of these afore mentioned musicians, but all have their homes in local churches. This to me is a challenge to worship leaders. A challenge to train the next generation, and to bring new music and creativity to P and W to institute the needed move of GGod in your town. 🙂

  • Terry Stoneberg

    Let me begin by saying I’m a radical on this subject so you may want to skip this comment.

    40 years ago I changed from being a worship team leader (back practically before anyone knew what a worship team was) to doing what seemed more biblical to me and that was singing to God instead of to myself or to others. I wrote a long paper to my church denominational journal at the time which was published and gave my suggestion for a solution.

    My solution involved separate services for worship and evangelism. It seems to me that the problem is much deeper than just music. It goes to the heart of our definitions of worship. In the old days we had 3 or 4 services every week and we all attended all of them. As the decades have passed we’ve removed services and tried to combine tasks. What is worse “Go and tell” has become “Stay and Attract”. Our notions of evangelism come from the finest sales philosophies of Madison Avenue and not from Scripture. How will your church grow if you actually shook off the dust from you’re your feet when the message is not accepted. No if they’re not accepting the message we MUST change our approach, different music, different packaging, better bait. We get together to worship God but we make our decisions about music and everything else for that matter about what will attract the most, please the most, I could go on and on but the object of all this attraction and pleasing is people and not God. Anyone who would suggest other choices is accused of trying to make their personal tastes the chosen ones. It is clear that the Devil has a real wedge here and we are unwilling or unable to see any criticism as coming from the Spirit.

    Over the years I’ve found that one of the great confusions is that folks begin by talking about music but before long it is apparent that mostly they are talking about the texts that we sing and not the music that accompanies them. This article and the comments which follow it reveal how broken we are on this subject.

    As I read the scripture I find that we are overwhelmingly compelled to sing to God. Sixty-eight times the scripture identifies God as the audience of our music. Only once is a human audience mentioned. No verse in scripture says to sing to one another or to the heathen. Remember that both Eph 5:19 and Cols 3:16 say “SPEAKING to one another” followed by “SINGING to the Lord”. That’s a clear demarcation of the difference between text and music. The texts of our music may be edifying, may be evangelistic, in short may be aimed at a human audience. But I believe our music is something God reserves for Himself. (If you think I’m over parsing the scripture, I would respectfully suggest that I’m trying to follow Jesus’ example in how he interpreted His scriptures, parsing down the very tenses of verbs when teaching the Sadducees about eternal life).

    But I’ve given up on solutions. I’m tired of the battle and just want a place to worship in peace. The church where I have served as music director for 15 years had been thoroughly traditional. I would not have gone there if that were not the case. I have no further desire to fight this war. But a few people joined our church and demanded a service with no traditional music and recently started what they call an “alternative” service. So now while I exit the sanctuary I get to walk past sounds identical to the sounds coming from the strip clubs in Washington, DC. (I know because my wife used to work a block away and I often had to pass the places after parking).

    This kind of music pervades and consumes the congregations that it touches. I give us 5 years before there is no traditional service in my current church. No one can comment about this issue from either side without being accused of making worship self centered. All I can say is if you are a trained musician and your training was like mine, you’ve learned to hear what music is saying separate from what the words are saying. Personally, I find modern Christian Contemporary music to be a mirror of our modern popular music which almost universally communicates sex quite convincingly in our culture. I can no more be a part of that than I can utter profanity. For me Christian words no matter how deep do not redeem music that is plainly secular. Any of us who want to include music when we say we don’t want to be conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds are belittled for our rigid and backward looking stance.

    What is worse is that I find myself with no place to go. It is interesting that the purveyors of Christian Contemporary Music have claimed that this is about allowing the individual to worship in a way that is meaningful to them but the result after the last 40 years is that those of us who find this music offensive have no place to go. For some reason when it comes to music, it is easy to ignore Paul’s admonition that if some find an action offensive then the appropriate response by those with freedom was to willfully refrain for the sake of the body. (1 Cor. 8)

  • Chelsy

    Thank you for this post! I have felt the same thing many times, but am always made to feel like the complainer who is holding things back, rather than the one trying to best serve and worship Christ in our church. I am a younger person (23), and have always been frustrated that “someone” has decided that no young people want old hymns anymore. I was raised with those hymns! I feel as though mine was the last generation of children raised in the church to know the hymns, and it saddens me that my children will only learn the pop-infused songs of the today’s contemporary church. I’m not saying that we should throw the new songs out, as I enjoy many of those as well, but that we could have both the newer and older (as they were made to be sung). And I think the contemporary vs traditional debate over music is oftentimes just the head of the issue. Many times, I think people discuss it while somewhat referring to the church’s transformation as a whole, seeing as the church has become more and more watered down in order to bring people in. But that’s a whole other debate in and of itself….

    • Amen, Chelsy. I know what it’s like to be young and not want to admit that it’s getting hard to worship. I don’t want to look like a complainer. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Church incorporated music from all ages of its history? I think young folks would feed off of it. I certainly would. People complain about “traditionalists” not wanting any new music…but I’ve never encountered that. What they want is for the Church to stop shutting out old music, or having most of the last 2000 years represent 10% of the music and the last two years represent 90%. Good point about the deeper issue, too. I would add that turning worship into a performance is another big part of it. We are an audience now; not a congregation. It’s a big show with so much obvious emotional manipulation. Maybe some folks need that to worship and that’s fine, but where are the rest of us to go?

  • Paul Brackett

    Remember the words of Paul Harvey: http://www.youtube.com/embed/H3Az0okaHig?rel=0

  • Don Pipkin

    Bill, I wrestled with your blog because as a worship leader for more than 40 years, I have wrestled with this issue. A minister called by God to lead in worship should be equipped and gifted to serve. I believe that the Spirit leads us to the right kind of worship music as we let Him lead us.

    Like a pastor, sometimes we are distracted or not listening to the Spirit. The worship comes from the heart and is between the worshiper and God. The leader, like a preacher or teacher should be using God’s gifts the way He leads. I hope you find your voice to sing but may God give you the song.

    The songs will not always be easy but neither is the message. God give us the discernment to know what is good and what is not. Blessings,

  • OJ

    Could I say, “please, oh please, don’t turn the lights LOW for the music time”? If I come in while the singing is going on, I have to stop right where I stand until my eyes adjust. Can’t see one thing. I feel as if my “mood” is being manipulated, and the constant repititions also contribute to that feeling! I do not mind the choice of the modern music, IF the repititions are stopped! Again, it is almost mind altering. We have sound biblical teaching from the pulpit, awesome SS teaching, and wonderful mission programs. I won’t stop going because of the music, but am not happy with the style of the music/worship experience. Thanks for the opportunity to share this. As I sit in the pews, many, many people seem to enjoy this, so that is fine. Some of us don’t, and some of us step out for a while, then come back in. No one seems to mind, and that is fine.

  • Judy

    Thank you for this article. I have felt this same sentiment since worship “songs” started coming out. The old hymns are so rich in doctrine and very little of that gets into the repetitive worship choruses.

  • Grace music


    As a music and worship director for a church, I live regularly in the world you describe and have mostly came to the same conclusions as you regarding praise music and singing. But, I haven’t stopped singing because generally I’m the one leading. Only when I’m in the “audience” do I find it difficult to sing with the same energy and focus.

    I too, have complaints about the campiness of praise music, about the repetition, about the weakness of the lyrics, and about the show-off ishness of leaders. But, I’m beginning to reach other conclusions, and they differ slightly from the ones offered in your blog “Why I stopped singing in church”.

    Many congregations have forgotten, or haven’t been taught that they are supposed to sing, or how to sing. I think they believe they are an “audience” rather than a congregation.

    Because of this, our praise music writers are writing music for an audience rather congregations.
    • A congregation needs songs they can learn to sing
    • They need songs that are group minded
    • They need songs that are tuneful.
    • They need leaders that desire and know how to encourage everyone to participate.
    • They need authors who write compelling and truthful lyrics
    • They need song writers who know what a compelling song sings like

    The three solutions you propose resonate with me, yet #3 is not achievable. Martin Luther had no concept of timelessness when he wrote “A Mighty Fortress”. Nor did Fanny Crosby know or understand this concept. Our modern/contemporary writers must be responsive to the tone and tenor of the times, and meet the needs of their congregations. Only time will tell if the song is timeless.

    I value a song if it is compelling musically and lyrically. It’s origin makes no difference. It could be “of the Father’s love begotten,” or “In Christ Alone.” I try to avoid choosing songs because they are traditional, or contemporary. We need to teach our congregations what to value and how to sing.

  • I do not feel the presence of God in this new way. It makes me very very uncomfortable. All for a good shout down worship songs, if they are not soaked in this new age spirit……new or old.. but the professional props, all that stuff.. repeat repeat repeat repeat… guitar solo… I came OUT of rock and roll…. I have no desire to go back there. It is a spirit invasion… and not a good one. If it was good it would not grieve the Holy Ghost within me.

  • I wouldn’t be so sure everyone else is enjoying the music. I’ve noticed that when we sing our praise songs most people just watch the show, but when we sing a hymn (a rare event) suddenly everyone starts singing. Please don’t think this is an age thing, either. I’m a young adult and can barely stand the repetitive, performance-oriented contemporary “worship.” It’s so dramatic it looks fake, and are we really supposed to mean it more every time we repeat a chorus? Besides, I miss the connection to past generations of Christians so much it almost hurts, and would like the connection to run centuries back; not just decades. Choruses were fun at children’s camps, but now all we have are children’s camps.

  • Brian

    I understand that different people like different kinds of music. You say that you like music – but maybe not all music. Many of the young people of today (and just for the record I am no longer one of them) struggle to identify with the music, and a number of the words/phraseology in the old hymns. I know that if you spend time to understand them, there is nothing inherently wrong with them – but in the same way that I struggle to understand the language that the KJV is written in, I struggle to understand the words in the old hymns – an lets be honest, many of them are terrible too. We need to ask ourselves – who is church for? Are we just “doing church” because it is a safe thing to do on a Sunday morning, or do we really have a heart for the lost of this generation? Do we care that in a generation kids will be raised who have never been into a church. Church – and the songs we sing and the way we do worship needs to be accessible to these people. We can still glorify God, whilst staying relevant to the young people of today.
    I understand that some of the newer songs are simplistic – but lets face it, in the bible it says that we are sheep. When we talk to the shepherd it is always going to be simple – all we can really say is baaaaa.
    Personally, I am finding more and more that if I spend the time in church focusing on the one I am singing to – often I cannot remember what songs we have sung – I have simply spent time in the presence of the Almighty, and haven’t done much singing. Worship should lead us to an encounter with Him – anything else is religion and ultimately will disappoint.

    I know these are ramblings – but hope that they make some sort of sense and add to the discussion.

  • Tim Hoke

    Well put. I would only add for improving the music that it ought to be focused on God rather than man. I think your point about it containing truth covered that, but I’d make it more apparent that we’re in worship to sing about God and the things of God rather than man-centered stuff.

    • Good point. God-focused should be our first priority, but the Bible does speak much about our experiencing God. Both are permitted and encouraged by Scripture. I think we’ve likely both seen the problem when it become centered on our own experiences to the exclusion of God.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • eettheword

    I do share some of your feelings. I have experienced poor worship leadership in churches and felt so unmotivated to engage, offended and judgmental. It is true that there are ill-equipped worship leaders and musicians out there. On the other hand I have been under extremely talented and experienced worship leadership and, on my own accord, disengage. For struggles and frustrations within myself, no amount of theological depth, musical skill or leadership would provoke me to worship. It was not until God worked out a lot of healing in my heart, by his word and power, that I was able to engage anywhere! At that point am I a “seeker”? What do you mean by that?
    I definitely agree that worship music has changed and in some cases not for the better, but I think issue lies in each individuals’ heart. I know that the Lord can do His work in people’s hearts whether we sing hymns or repeat choruses. It is He that gives His presence and anointing to the gatherings we have on Sunday mornings.
    I am grieved that there are so many people who don’t feel like singing in church, but I praise God that many feel bored and have learned to ‘fake it’ because God is faithful and true. He has a love that will not let us go no matter how cold and rebellious we are. He will revive us in His time. He sees the state of our song and worship, its weakness and insincerity, He will revive us.

    • Thank you. I’ll try to explain some of my thoughts on seekers soon in a post for everyone.

  • Joseph Wheat

    Thank you for using the word “I” in “I stopped singing in your church.” I appreciate when folks are honest about the subjectivity in this as they make their arguments. Well done. “I” have noticed over the years that there are churches of several styles where people don’t sing with a much heartfelt giving of themselves to God as He deserves.

  • Anne Dale

    Thank you for writing is words my thoughts so much better than I could. I love the old hymns while worshipping in church and I enjoy the “new” modern praise music on TV. What about the way people dress to attend church. If I envited you to my home for a dinner I would hope you would be appropriately dressed and I also would hope that you would wear you best to church on Sunday. Think about it.

    • Anne,

      What’s for dinner? And what’s the dress code? Want to be sure I’m ready.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Bill,

    As a former professional musician and now a professor of worship and preaching after 40 years of pastoral ministry, I see the issue from more than one perspective. I call the problem “Music for Musicians.” It can be so highbrow that nobody “gets it!” (One example: “I’m not sure that God appreciates choirs that sing in Latin any more!” I know I do not because too many pew Christians have told me that they did to understand a word of it–and a few choir members the same thing! (and I know my Latin!) On the other hand, there are those who say, “Well, as a church musician…” Don’t give me that holy sounding baloney! If I want good rock and roll I know where to get it and it’s not in any church that Ive ever been in! Frankly, they do it just as well or better at the Irish Pub down the street a ways except that those folks don’t give me “We’re doing this for God” baloney!. No you’re not! Most of the time you’re dpoing it because those folks at the Irish Pub don’t think you’re good enough to play there. Sorry, but I really am doing this for God!

  • Daichi Tsuruta

    ‎”What ever happened to the previous 2,000 years of church music history?”

    Mr. Blankschaen, in which language? Isaac Watts didn’t write his first hymn until the late 17th century. Consider, too, that for half of those 2,000 years, laypeople weren’t singing in the church, and it wasn’t until the Reformation that congregational worship was recovered.

    • Daichi,

      please forgive the use of slight hyperbole to make my point that we can surely do better than within the last decade.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • I cannot help but wonder whether there were similar complaints about worship music in biblical times. After all, the Psalmist enjoins his readers to “sing a new song to the Lord.” There are all sorts of instructions to clap, to shout, to utilize all sorts of musical instruments and, dare I say it, even to dance. And yes, there were those who did not care for such emotional worship. Michal, the wife of David was one such. Perhaps she preferred the more dignified worship of an earlier age. But she was put off by that which was outside of her comfort zone.

    To be sure, there is some contemporary worship music that leaves me a bit dry. But then, there are some old hymns that do the same thing. On the other hand, there is some quality praise music that lifts up the heart to speak praise to the Lord who created heaven and earth and I am glad to use such music to worship, especially those which are taken directly from the Scriptures.

  • Angel Christ

    Perhaps we should do as scripture instructs….sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (could the early church have been struggling with the same issues regarding appropriate worship music?). I am a lover of many styles of music. We must understand that much of music is relative. The church was appalled at Charles Wesley’s music, thinking that it was more fitted for a bar than for worship. In more recent years, Gaither music was rejected by the church. Music writers like the Gaithers and the music of Sandi Patti was considered cutting edge contemporary. My understanding is that they began singing in auditorium style venues because in the beginning of their careers most churches would not have them because of their radical contemporary nature. I am a strong advocate for worship diversity (sometimes known as blended worship). This “style” (if that is what you want to call it) leads itself to a balanced view of worship. I want to sing the hymns. I also want to sing contemporary songs, gospel songs, traditional songs, folk hymns, spirituals, etc. My son is a Christian rapper and though that is not my cup of tea, I love to listen to him praise God through his chosen genre. Could it be that we are told to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs so that we can unite our diversity in worship? My concern with services that are marked “contemporary” versus “traditional” only give us another way at division instead of unity. I believe that accepting each other’s differences and being willing to embrace another’s diversity (even if it isn’t my preference) will help to keep the love of God and the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit front and center in our worship.

  • Hamilton Collins

    As my anesthesia from hernia surgery was wearing off this afternoon, I felt compelled to sing a few of these repetitive worship songs that I so enjoy. Groggy as I was, I sang “Mighty To Save, Here I Am To Worship, and You Are Worthy of My Praise.” My nurse asked if I was singing my favorite song. I explained that they were just songs of praise to Jesus that soothe my soul and were helping me relax. The nurse from two beds over poked his head in and said, “I like that song” as I sang the last one. Turns out he goes to the Rock Church but has never joined the 150 – 200 men on Tuesday nights as we belt out these silly repetitions in the men’s ministry. Those simple songs comforted me, enabled me to witness, began fellowship and hopefully will result in drawing a man into a more intimate relationship with Jesus when he joins Men of the Rock who are powerfully swept up in worship, albeit to songs of repetition and electric guitars.

    God is so good. He can use the simplest things to reach the lost; to edify the saved and to glorify his name. I know, He did it today!

    I can’t stop there because I agree with the spirit of the discussion and want as much nourishment in times of corporate worship as I can possibly get. Playing in a worship band these last 5 years and now leading at men’s breakfasts and at Sunday school has got me thinking a lot about worship. When I’m just a man in the pews, I am highly critical if the music doesn’t meet my liking. God’s working on me there because it’s not about me or my liking. I would welcome an old hymn in the set list although Amazing Grace is typically the closest we get until Christmas comes along.

    That said, Christianity in all denominations, as the Bible teaches, is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Good worship leaders/pastors connect the simplicity found in today’s contemporary songs and make them personal through a prayer, through words of encouragement, with their message that follows, and with the whole worship experience. As they lead us through the entire Bible, it’s there that they can teach us to press into God and his Word. Together with heartfelt worship, pastors and worship leaders are used by the Almighty even if the music is filled with simple repetition and an electric guitar solo by Joseph Sabolick at Mission Valley Christian Fellowship (shameless plug).

    Here are a couple of my contemporary favorites:
    “Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle (ref. Revelation 4, Ezekiel 1:26-28)
    “Abba Father” by Joseph Sabolick (ref. Romans 8 (not yet recorded or released)

    • Thnaks for the good thoughts, Hamilton.

      And I pray for a quick recovery for you.

    • Thanks for the good thoughts, Hamilton.

      And I pray for a quick recovery for you.

  • I am sure that Christians complained about the worship songs of John Wesley too, as they pined for the old Gregorian Chants. I remember the old-timers complaining about the new choruses sung by recently converted hippies during the 70’s Jesus Movement. And now, I hear complaints about the worship music of such awesome young men as Chris Tomlin, Keith Green, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith,Tommy Walker, and so, so many others. I am quite sure that the heart of God is blessed far more by this new worship music than the stale and condemning attitude of those who long for the past. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

  • MiddleAgedLady

    I’m 58 and enjoy all types of music. But I did leave a Bible church that had a truly gifted pastor/teacher because of the endless repetition of the simple songs. Now I’m in a Baptist church where the music minister has a seminary degree in hymnology. We have a mix of hymns and contemporary, but he is careful to select newer songs that have a solid Biblical message. I think the 70+ crowd would prefer no contemporary at all.

    My main gripe is the projected words and no hymnals! If the music were included with the words, I’d know whether the notes go up or down at the end of a phrase but I’m always guessing. Often, wrongly.

  • Adom

    Okay, so there is no way I could get through all of those comments. I think I was an eighth of the way down the page when I stopped.
    It’s hard to read sometimes because the first instinct is to react, but then you have to think about how you’re called to sacrificial living while still being discerning.
    I don’t like that I’m saying this (because it is a focus on me), but what are musicians who are not playing on a Sunday supposed to do when the music being played isn’t being played well? I’m not saying that churches all need to be hiring professionals, but it really bothers me when stuff the music is not being played to the best of the ability. It is supposed to be worship and to me I would think that means giving your best. However, I’ve also felt that can mean practicing like mad so you know it well and then letting go some when Sunday morning comes and not having to worry 100% about what you’re playing and letting the Spirit move you (I realize this can be considered contradictory to my statement about giving your best, but in my opinion, that is your best).
    I just don’t know, so I must humble myself in submission and ask God to accept my offering…

    • Thanks for the honest comment, Adom. Follow here next week for some great guest posts on the topic. Hope it helps.

  • Juili Bailey

    I find it interesting that you won’t apply any balance to this subject. While I understand the desire for rich lyrics, most of the people commenting here just seem out of touch. I am a worship leader in a very modern, missionally driven church, and I do pay very close attention to the participation or lack there of, by our congregation. These are not all “churched” people who know how to fake it, mind you. We baptized 300 new converts last year. Never mind the fact that Bible is very repetitive in the Psalms at times, and it it’s description of worship encounters in Heaven have repetitive elements…”Holy, Holy, Holy” ring a bell? That being said, I think that a worship time should have both lyrically rich songs and those that repeat and do not take a lot of concentration…I find in our congregation that the repetitive songs give the people a mental break, they are a moment to just connect on a heart level, no reading the words necessary, new people can easily join in. I consider these types of songs to be more like a love song…you don’t have to give a list of facts about God, you can just tell Him that you love Him! As far as musical breaks are concerned, be it guitar solos or whatever, that is YOUR opportunity to say whatever you want to God! If you’re sick of singing the same thing over and over, you get an opportunity to say things that have deep meaning to you in those moments. And don’t get me started on the folks here who want to act like the Bible doesn’t talk about shouting, dancing, clapping, etc. Way off base!

    • Thanks for the comment, Julie. I didn’t know that’s what the musical breaks were for. Now I do. Appreciate it.

      I’d be interested in your assessment of the guest posts coming all next week. Some would agree with you more than it would seem you agreed with me.

      All the best.

  • Jonathan Livingston

    I’m a full time church musician(34 years) leading music in a cathedral church – pipe organ – very traditional. My challenge is this: it is rare that we sing anything but the “old” traditional hymns. I can’t seem to get my congregation or ministerial staff to open the door to all of the wonderful music that has been written in the last 20 years. We have become so stale in our congregation singing! I offer suggestions but my ministers pick out the hymns. We do offer a contemplative service on Sunday evening (Taize, Evening Prayer, etc) and that allows me to open the door to a different kind of music. However our traditional services are really missing out on some wonderful music.

    • Wonderful! Pipe organs in a cathederal church. Sounds delightful. But I also feel your pain on that being the only thing in the worship music diet. Been in churches with extremes in both directions. It seems the balance of spirit and truth is harder to achieve than we might think.

      And that balance shows itself elsewhere in church worship, not just in music, don’t you think?

  • Evelyn Milne

    If you visit a Traditional Roman Catholic church during High Mass you may hear a touch of heaven on earth.
    The music from the early church. e.g.Gregorian chant in Latin and polyphony, maybe written by Palestrina or Allegri, raises the soul to the highest levels. Unfortunately most of the congregation ,unlike prior to 1960, is no longer familiar with the music or the Latin and must depend on the choir. Apart from this heavenly music, you will also find some very old Hymns of praise and supplication e.g. Abide with me,
    Amazing Grace, A Mighty Fortress, Faith of our Fathers, Crown Him with Many Crowns, O Sacred Head Surrounded, Lift High the Cross. Holy Holy Holy. However, in the more liberal minded Catholic churches we also have the blight of modernism with guitars instead of organs and people waiving their arms about and clapping to mindless beats and words that have little or no meaning. Sure, they are enjoying themselves but that’s not why we go to church. We go to praise and thank our Lord and Maker and ask Him for His help to become better people. For your edification, I suggest you go to Youtube and punch in -Misereri/Allegri. I am sure you will love it.

    • Thank you, Evelyn. Will check it out. Certainly there is much to be said about the evangelical trend to reject all things that appear to be assiciated with the Roman church.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Well said, Susanna. I am honored that you put such care into your response. I would argue that sometimes poeple need to be awakened to listen. Judgment call? But your words are wise and biblical and ones that I live by. If you don’t mind, I’ll tuck a link to it in one of the Worship Week posts, likely Sunday to kick things off.

      And thanks for caring and evidencing the love of Christ as a sister in His family.

  • We need songs that point to God. I wrote this blog to talk about what that means and how we might actually go about doing that as songwriters/worship leaders. This is meant to challenge booth worship leaders in their song selection and songwriters. WHile I love old hymns, lets have some new songs as well that will stand the test.


    • Thanks, Mark. Subscribed to TWC. Looks like a great worship resource.

  • Davede Thompson

    If you’d like to experience “Heaven on Earth” in worship, I suggest you find an Orthodox Christian church in your area and attend one Sunday. Orthodox worship is 2,000 years old (though has been modified, expanded, etc over the last two millennia), highly theological, immensely beautiful, and it’s simply an experience that a Christian should have in his life. Check out http://www.oca.org to find a parish near you.

    • Again with an Orthodox fan…. Seems to be much to value in that tradition.

  • Phil

    I get tired of hearing the terms like “traditional”, “old fashioned”, “contemporary”, and “modern.” The first two seem to mean slow, antiquated hymns, sung with no passion. The last two are songs sung with a band, uplifting and energetic that appeal to young people. That seems to be it, but there is so much music out there. Hymns written over the past centuries that have stood the test of time. Older hymn tunes that have been given new words. New hymns, being composed and written as I’m writing. Songs from around the world that any hymnal released in the last 20 years should have a good sampling of. Taize, Iona Community and many others. There are many songs written today that get labeled “contemporary praise and worship” that are good songs, and others that are not. I’m sure most of Wesley’s thousands of songs were mediocre or worse, but a few we still sing and love. Songs can be sung with a wide variety of instruments, or with none at all. Any song old or new can be sung with passion and vigor, or just the opposite. Our stereotypes of terms like ‘traditional” and “contemporary” get in the way of lots of great music that unfortunately gets ignored most of the time. Labels for music are probably necessary but cause so many problems.

  • Great post!!! I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt that says “I survived.” 🙂

    I did not read every post, so please forgive me if I am repeating someone else. As I read the post, the first thing that came to my mind was that our hearts have to be in a place of worship before we can actually SING worship. Singing (to me) is an expression or overflow of what goes on inside of us.

    Sure, we can go back to the hymns of old and sing doctrinally deep songs, but the result will be the same if our hearts are focused on anything other than our loving relationship with our heavenly Father. Our adoration of him should motivate us to sing. Our love for him should spill out of us as if it were overflowing.

    So how do we get there? Answer: Seek him! Like the woman in Song of Solomon who searched for her love, even when she was beaten for it. How much do we truly love our heavenly Father? How much do we see Jesus as our bridegroom? How much do we see the Holy Spirit as our guide to see God’s glory?

    To quote the modern-day theologians, The Black-Eyed Peas (ha ha), “Where is the Love?” Show me a church that truly loves God, and truly loves people, and I’ll show you a church who worships in spirit and in truth. In other words, this is the church who worships in unity.

  • Heather

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE. Let me begin by saying I am 26, and I was raised on hymns in a small Southern Baptist Church. When I was 16, I attended a church occasionally that purported this kind of music. I joined in, I tried to find the fun, but that’s it: it was just….fun. I didn’t feel like I was worshipping God. I felt like I should be at a slumber party jumping on a bed in my PJs and jamming to the radio. In all honesty, I lost my way from God for a while, and this music was a huge trigger for it. This was how I was supposed to connect to the ALMIGHTY? Through something that sounded like it aired on Top 40 and was written on a very uninteresting I-V-I chord progression with an ELECTRIC GUITAR solo crowding the bridge? God is worth more than that to me. I have been singing for an Episcopal church for four years now, and I’ll NEVER go back to mainstream.

    • Heather,

      Thanks for the comment. Hope you’ll follow along with the Worship Week posts starting today. Some good thoughts — some agree with you while others bring a different take.

  • Wow. I’m not alone. I once heard the head cheer leader – er I mean head *worship* leader shout: “Everyone stand up and sing ‘I’m falling on my knees!!!’ “

  • Bill in NM

    While I agree with essentially everything you’ve said here, I think you may be making the mistake of confusing the symptom with the disease. To my understanding, the church (small “C,” i.e., temporal) exists for three basic purposes: reaching the lost (evangelism), glorifying God (worship), and assisting believers in living in a way that is Christ-like (congregation). Individual churches can choose different emphases, and different interpretations as to what’s involved in addressing those three purposes; for example, I acknowledge legitimate differences among believing, committed, sincere Christians as to how strongly to emphasize ministering to the poor as part of the Christ-walk, and there are other, more — contentious — areas of difference as well. But under no circumstances do I see “entertainment” as fitting into one of those three purposes.

    Substituting Christian bubble-gum music for the great hymns of the faith, monuments of sacred classical music, etc., may be offensive to me as a musician, but it’s not the essence of my disgust with the practice. Rather, it’s the bald-faced presentation of that music as “entertainment,” which more than one minister of music has acknowledged to me as occurring, that says that it’s on fundamentally the wrong track. Deal with the entertainment issue — which, note, may involve royally hacking off a non-trivial proportion of churchgoers who attend to BE entertained rather than to be challenged to be Christ-like — and I suspect the musical problems will take care of themselves.

  • squirt410

    I switched to our church’s early service which is a traditional service. That seems to fit my worship experience MUCH better. I love to harmonize with the hymns. I can’t seem to do that with the modern contemporary music; the guitars, the drums, etc. Old fashioned, I guess but MY worship has to also include me SINGING in church.

  • Pam Lucas

    Thank you for speaking out about a significant problem with many congregations. My home church has now added a separate worship service for members who actually desire the contemporary style and music. So far attendance is significantly less than any of the other services. The problem with most contemporary Christian worship songs has been correctly addressed in other posts – no melody, too much repetition, no musical imagination or sophisication – cookie-cutter camp songs. Let’s keep these where they belong – around the campfire, but not in our sanctuaries.

  • Andrew

    I really appreciate some of the thought (and thoughts) in this list. However, another idea is that what we call “God” might not really be particularly bothered about what we sing (or not). I don’t think we know very much about God at all. I suspect that worship is actually more for us than for what we call God. For me, as I put the music together for church services where I minister, I view our music as an art-form that we enjoy. But it should also speak of what we actually believe about life. It should be true to reality. Not pretending to believe what clearly is not real. Ministers shouldn’t expect their congregations to sing what ministers wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) preach. Some of the theology in songs old and new is frighteningly bad.

  • I remember Brother Jamison from my youth – old, blind, black man who played guitar (some open tuning, laid flat on his lap). When he led worship he had the ability to bring the group right to the throne of God and LEAVE YOU THERE to praise and worship God.

    Also I’ve been in a church recently where one of the leaders said – I literally heard this statement from a leader speaking to the congregation from the platform during a service about the youth, “More lights show that you love them.” Is that the depth of 21st century Christianity? Certainly we are more than capable to worship our Redeemer out of gratitude and thanksgiving at the minimum. No wonder why people place such an emphasis on transparency and authenticity. Certainly we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in the car and at home with our families. But when we gather we need to unite in worship of God. Have we become so spiritually bankrupt that we cannot show the love of God for humanity except with “a show” of some kind. There are enough (younger and older) people connected to the Living God through the ministry of Jesus Christ and the sealing of the Holy Spirit where the manipulation of the environment (and in turn the congregation) by the intensity of the light show is not needed to cause us to worship. Church where is your faith in Jesus Christ? When he said, “I will build my church.” can’t we trust Him?

    Like Bill, I’ve been in the congregation of saints and couldn’t get before God even though I was ready and willing and able – the church service got in the way. Sometimes that happens randomly, but more and more it seems a reliance upon things has become a systemic design flaw to allow people to rely on things and not the Creator of all things. I’ve also served as a worship leader so I feel I understand this from “both sides” of the platform. Even this “both sides” thing can undermine the unity of the body of Christ.

    Congregational worship is more than a ‘shared experience’ among people. Oftentimes in the lives of believers, who are in the world but not of the world trying to be salt and light in the world, it is the only time in the week where we have opportunity to worship Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the body of Christ united before Him. My advice: Worship leaders – serve the worshipers so that they may exalt and enthrone Jesus and glorify God. If you are looking for a place to showcase your skills get a gig outside of church and keep playing. Then bring all that experience and your tremendous expanding skill set to be a SERVANT in church and SUBMIT your will, skills and abilities to serving the ones He came to save and give them an unobstructed view of God High and lifted up. In the end I think you will find greater freedom and rewards in Christ and a certain respect you seek from worshipers being known as a person of spiritual giftedness not only musical giftedness.

    If you are one of those leaders that Bill is talking about where we have to fake it to be there with you please change and release God’s people to God. Facilitate worship of the King and kindly get out of our way. We don’t need or want a “Moses” to intercede for us at Mt. Sinai. We don’t need another idol before us our world is full of things attempting to draw us away. We don’t even want someone else to follow although the group does like moving together while singing songs. We already have someone to follow and it is not ourselves , or you or your pastor. We have Jesus Christ and he is, ‘more than enough’.

    God Blesses,

  • Brooke

    I thought that your article was careful and thoughtful. I would hope that there would also be a recognition of a couple of things in such a discussion. 1) If we are honest, many of the hymns in hymn books are just as theologically inept as many more recent songs and yet those hymns are celebrated – I mean is there any thing remotely valuable about “In The Garden”. The goal, as you rightly observed, is that songs would be God centered AND true. There are other hymns written by heretics that have continued to be printed. Many of the hymns that are most often sung were written in the 1930’s -50’s. Those “gospel” songs are not exactly rich in content and had a repetitive refrain precisely to make them easy to learn and to sing But 2), I think there is an over generalization about this “repeat” concept. Yes, the worship songs particularly of the 80’s and 90’s were often devoid of content and overly repetitive. Yet, today there are many (Getty, Townend, SGM and others) that are rich in theology, not repetitive and deeply Christ/Gospel centered. and they are not very repetitive if at all. Even some of the songs by Hillsong are very thoughtful and well written. Sure there are many songs that are poorly written and not very content driven. And yes, it is true, that many churches are undiscerning and do not spend much time thinking through what they are saying. But there is also an entire generation of Christians who could mindlessly sing older songs with words they didn’t even know what they meant. If a song is well written, teachable, singable, and with content that is worthy of the praise of our God and King, shouldn’t we sing it regardless of when it was written. And aren’t there times (as the Psalter demonstrates “repeatedly”) when singing repitition is not only good but biblical (…his love endures forever….his love endures forever…his love endures forever….his…I think you get what I mean).

    thanks for the article. good conversation.

    • Your welcome, Brooke. Hope you’ll follow along with the guest posts this week for more excellent thoughts on worship.

      Thanks, for the comment.

  • Tim the drummer

    Good morning folks,
    I’ve found all this interesting and enlightening. I’ve been either singing in choirs, or singing and playing drums in worship teams for a long time. I try to remember why I’m doing this, and it comes down to several things. To help lead the congregation in worship, to hopefully inspire from the music
    the passion and love for the Lord, and hopefully share the joy with one person, who hasn’t accepted Christ yet. I love the old hymms as well, but I prefer more modern worship. I guess it’s just the 80’s rocker in me. As one of the band members, I have to remember it’s not about me on Sunday mornings. Someone a few Sundays ago mentioned to me after the service how awesome a part I played on the drums was, and I politely said thanks, but it made me think, did I do something to take away from the worship? As all I tried to do was follow the cd version of the tune we were covering for worship. My wife and I have church hopped a few times since we met at the church I grew up in for different reasons, but they key to us has always been about music, forget the fact that we are both musicians.
    One needs to worship or attend church where the feel called to.
    Finally, music is a powerful element in our lives, in church, and outside in the world. It inspires, make us happy, fits our mood, it angers, it makes one think and ponder many things, but in church it needs to inspire us to bring others to Christ in the end in my humble opinion.
    Great discussion folks. Have a great day! Tim

  • Tabbetha

    When did worship become about a “song” or a certain “style” of song? “Worship is not just a song it is a lifestyle ” When I lead people into the presence of God during any service, my praise and worship is a reflection of what I’ve done throughout the week. I worship in the middle of my living room, I find myself praising God, out loud, in the grocery store. Wherever I am I allow what’s in me to flow outwardly. I too have sung songs, on any given Sunday, that to look back now on them I realize that they were shallow and lacked depth. However, I’ve also sung songs that merely had 2 or 3 lines that shattered strongholds in people’s lives. Worship is not about what God gives us, it’s about what we bring to Him. When I see people at the altar relinquishing their lives to Christ or just drawing closer to Him during a song, I know that “whatever” I sang was not necessarily the thing that brought them to the altar. It was the anointing behind what was sung. The anointing breaks the yolk of bondage. I could sing Jesus Loves me and if the anointing was present it would change lives. When I hear people say,”I haven’t been worshiping in service for the past several weeks because of.” this, that or the other. It isn’t necessarily because I sang or didn’t sing a particular style of music. It is because of their own heart. I can go into ANY church in the world and be a part of a service and the responsibility of worship isn’t completely on the worship leader, it’s on me. I have a responsibility to worship NO MATTER WHAT its being sung or played. Several years ago I went to a youth concert at a church and NO ONE was standing, clapping or singing with the group. I stood to my feet, ALONE, and began to worship The Almighty. It didn’t matter what was being played or sung. What mattered was MY attitude of worship. And you know what happened, as I released my insecurities about what anyone thought of me for standing alone, others began to stand and honor The Almighty as well and several hearts were changed eternally. Was the style of music one I was comfortable with? no Were the songs, songs I was familiar with? no. Was I after God’s heart? yes Did I worship God? yes Did it matter what the song was? no What mattered was MY attitude toward worship. Just a thought…

  • Jolene

    This just makes me want to cry. Kinda physically hurts my soul. There are a lot of good points here that I agree with such as repetition can be aggravating and we should always be singing what is truth according to God’s Word. However, as a worship leader myself what I hear is another person perpetuating the stress put on worship leaders today because of their own selfish opinion. I am a 30-something who also works with the youth and who has a 13 year old. But I was raised in the very traditional Mennonite Brethren faith which enjoys a rich history of hymn singing with all 4 harmony parts singing together. So I understand and love both traditional and contemporary styles. BOTH styles resonate with my soul as I glorify my God. Not ALL songs resonate but I can worship my God in any style. However, this article reminds me of my conversations with the teens in the church. All they care about is THEIR style and how THEY worship with no regard for anyone else’s feelings or needs. Kinda typical for that age though, right? What I always try to remind them and drill into their brains is that IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THEM!!! I almost stopped reading right from the first paragraph where you commented that you’re sure there are ‘some churches that get it right’. Implying that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to worship through music and YOUR way is obviously right – again with no regard for how someone else’s soul may connect to their God. Every single week that I am leading worship I have a great deal of stress in large part due to people like you (including the teens). I agonize and pray fervently over song choices trying to marry them to the theme of the Pastor’s message as well as trying to consider EVERYONE’s worship style. I take it as a HUGE and important responsibility to be leading people in musical worship and trying to allow for everyone to connect in some way (even if it’s just one song) to God. And often that stress and time and consideration is not appreciated. And, from a purely technical standpoint, you obviously have no idea what it’s like to try to create a musical flow when putting a music package together. It’s not as simple as you suggest to just flow from a contemporary style into a hymn from 2000 years ago. And then when we try to create a better flow so things aren’t so jarring between songs we get accused of throwing in a ‘token’ hymn which is too different.
    Sigh. I wasn’t going to bother writing but this just hurt. It reinforced my ever increasing feelings of ‘WHY BOTHER’? Why do I bother to use my gifts to try to lead people in musical worship before their God when they can’t get beyond themselves to bother trying? It will never be good enough. I suggest that all you complainers take over and lead God’s people in corporate musical worship and see how it goes for you.

    • Jolene,

      Certainly did not intend to hurt. Hopefully the discussion underway with posts this week will do the opposite — help us all. Some good points made already in line with your thoughts.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Bill,
    Thanks for your valueable insight. You hit it right on the head, man! In my most recent article for my church’s newsletter, I approach this subject from the angle that singing in our churches is good stewardship. To quote myself, “Indeed, singing is good stewardship. A wealth of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs has been handed down to us and continues to be written. This great legacy of faith has been entrusted to our care by those before us, and it is our duty and privilege to preserve it for those who will follow us. It is not our place to ignore either older hymns or newer songs of our faith, but rather to accept and sing them, insomuch as they are of sound doctrine and well-written. It is all about God and that He is glorified!”

  • KK

    Ah the glorious worship wars debate! Don’t get me wrong … You obviously have a point – I too get a little tired of the simplicity of some songs (though we have blended worship, hence the best of both traditional and contemporary!). Yet at the same time I think we can be a little selfish … the worship afterall is not about us, or our preferences. Your blog title suggests however that the subject could be more about personal preferences, than worship to God. I think it is helpful to ask oneself the following:
    Can we worship God just as effectively with simple songs as with more intellectual songs? Can we worship God equally with a guitar or a pipe-organ? Can we worship God equally in both a simple Gospel Hall, or a Grand Cathedral? This may tell us something about where our hearts lie in response to worshipping God.

    You mentioned , “We’re not seekers anymore. Come to think of it, I never was…” I am glad that you (and I) had the oportunity to grow up in a Christian home and experience the sheltered bubble of pure doctrine … but many people are not so fortunate. For example, I know far too many people who cannot connect with archaic language from the past, anymore than they can connect with the KJV (do you want this brought back in as well?). We did a survey to see how many people in our church could understand the language of some of the hymns of the past – sure the lyrics are beautiful, poetic, intellectual etc etc, but can people understand them as they sing them? (of course those with a classical education can … but how many people get this?) … well outside of the Pastor and 1 elder, no-one in the church could fully understand any of the hymns with their various archaic phrases (even people in their 50s!). My question is, how can one worship if they don’t understand what they are singing – it will be frustrating at best (at least as frustrating as singing simple songs). Our pastor was a little irritated by the survey and thought our church needed to go and learn English again … but whose English? English from 200 years ago? Our job is not to teach English (whatever the era) but Jesus Christ … and his death and resurrection. If my “deeper English” preferences gets in the way of someone else’s learning/worship than I am happy to waygo such … sacrificing self is important for Christian community.

    I know the majority of our people would prefer upbeat simpler worship songs which they can really proclaim God’s greatness with … than stumble over words they didn’t even know existed … let us remove the stumbling blocks from our brothers and sisters, rather than trying to create them.

    Someone once compared preference in churches to going to the movies – if you don’t like a particular movie, then you don’t go back to watch that particular movie again and again to try to persuade other people that it’s terrible. Instead you find yourself another movie to watch! Similarly, rather than trying to convince everyone how terrible contemporary worship is (when some are actually enjoying it, including myself), I am sure that you can find more “intellectual” churches around – if the worship style of the one you attend is not satisfying. Perhaps its time to vacate and try a more traditional congregation.


    • Terry Danley

      well said, KK

  • I find your cynicism about modern worship music is just a way to mask the fact that you are in a strange stale place in your walk with Christ. Worship doesn’t equal music so the fact that you won’t sing because you find the “music” annoying or obnoxious or child-like shows that maybe you shouldn’t be writing blogs on worship in the first place. Grow up.

  • Johnny Jackson

    I too am tired or the 7-11 style singing 7 words in a verse 11 times or the 24-7 approach. Look around your congregation and see who is singing, almost nobody except the choir and leader. Sing at least 50% of the songs for everybody

  • Terry Danley

    On the other hand, it is tempting to think that if the music is majestic and transporting, it’s great worship. I too love the great hymns that are theologically significant, with well-crafted lyrics, singable melodies and pleasing chord progressions and harmonies (“Be Still, My Soul” remains one of my all-time favorites), but I don’t always need nor want “heavy” church music.

    Sometimes I need something simple, or refreshingly modern or, dare I say, fun. Yes, my God is not a stick in the mud; my God wants his kids to honor him, respect him, be in awe of him… and to laugh in his presence, or dance, or clap in time, or shout. All are biblical expressions of worship, and if a wooden pew, a hymnbook, and a pipe organ are all we experience of worship, we are no more spiritual, worshipful or well-rounded than the “Kum ba Yah” crowd.

  • Wayne

    After reading you article might I suggest an alternate title: “Why God Is Only Worthy Of Worship When I Like the Music”.

  • Jen

    I love worshipping through music. It’s the only reason I troubled myself to learn to play guitar all those years ago. It led me to become a song leader in small groups, then to being a worship leader and planner in our church. The church we were called to serve was mired down in the flattest worship habits ever, and when they said there was an opening on the planning team, I offered to help. Now, years later, I’m not sure anything important has changed. Yes, there is guitar and even a band in worship at least once a month, and we are singing songs that aren’t in the hymnals. We have broadened our resource base for materials that we use in worship–it’s not all responsive reading. But there are many, many Sundays where I am not sure ANY of us are really bowing before the throne of God. Worship isn’t just music, but music is such a powerful tool in worship that it becomes “important.” And in our entertainment-thirsty culture, the battle I find I’m fighting is “watchers vs. participants.” But now I wonder if they are feeling the same thing you are. I know I feel that way a lot.

    As a leader and planner, I don’t use a lot of repetitious songs because the old guard complains, and I try to find music that is to God or about God, not about “I” and “me” and “we.” I am constantly reminding my fellow worshipers that this isn’t entertainment. I also try to remember and to remind others that because this isn’t entertainment, it doesn’t matter what WE get out of worship. It isn’t aimed at us, and it isn’t for our enjoyment. But what ought to happen in worship is a greater sense of the presence of God. A subjective measurement to be sure, but symptoms can be seen: there ought to be something on the faces of the congregation to indicate that they are engaged in the activity. At the same time, I am trying to find balance between emotional, “mountaintop” experiences in worship and thoughtful, faithful, belief-driven worship experiences.

    You are saying what I’ve been feeling, but also what I need to hear as a leader. Frankly, at this moment, I am in despair that the congregation I serve will ever do anything other than sleep through worship–not because it’s stultifying, but because they’ve been asleep for so long, and are maybe unwilling to stir themselves up even for the sake of God.

    • Jen,

      Without knowing any more of your circumstances, I am reminded that everything rises and falls on leadership. Maybe it’s a topic the church leadership team needs to tackle together with fasting and prayer.

      Thanks for the thoughtful and sincere comment.

      • Tom

        This Sunday we sang “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant; “Our God Is Greater” by Chris Tomlin; and “Holy Spirit Rain Down” by Russell Fragar (without endless repititions). This was an opening set that had a thoughtful and “meaty” new contemporary song, an upbeat song of declaration, and a heartfelt prayer with just enough repitition to forget about the words and focus on God and the prayer we are singing. It was introduced by Scripture and spoken prayer; followed by Scripture and prayer. And a classic hymn, “Be Thou My Vision” that led into the proclamation of the word. More song, and prayer, testimony and communion would follow. We try very hard to help all our people focus on the Lord who is the audience for our worship. The blend of music is an important part of that worship, and an overall and long term balance is critical. Balance of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar; upbeat and meditative; loud and quiet; hymn and chorus; for the “head” and for the “heart”; for the young and for the old; for the newcomer and longtime saint. For the purpose is not our taste, or to be most up to date, or variety for varieties sake–it is to help people get into God’s presence with heart, soul, mind, body and strength as the gathered Body of Christ in unity. The balance will shift over time and particular place, but we must be conscious of it always. I know that we have worshipped mightily singing the chorus of “Awesome God” over and over acapella, and with an orchestra playing “A Mighty Fortress,” and a band playing “God of Wonders.” And I have experienced other times when I have worshipped, singing those same songs, and it has been nearly routine. The best we can do is seek a dynamic balance that tries to foster unity and promote openness to the Spirit’s presence and inspiration. It takes much prayer, teamwork, planning and communication. Many of the problems in worship are because of a lack of these.

        • Tom,

          Quite possibly the best comment yet.

          Well said. Sounds like a terrific church service!

          Thanks for taking the time to share!

  • cruiz7197

    It was only a matter of time before this “new music” phase started to make it’s way out. I believe the music shouls be a reflection of the worship tone, and we have not been afraid to pring in a hymn where it fits…unfortunately, worship services focus on being a “show,” so many times, that we lose the true worship nature. We continually pray that the Jesus is the central focus of the worship–not the not, the words, the key of the songs, how many times you repeat. I df have to add that I pointed the out that the songs like Open the Eyes of My Heart, with their repetetive mantras, of “Holy Holy Holy” for 96 measures (no kidding) lose their impact and one could questinos whether these mantras-methods are Christian in nature.

  • Julie

    I thought you would get a kick out of a couple of the more eccentric “rules” we use to flesh out what can’t be sung in our worship services. 1) The Girlfriend Test: If can change the name of Jesus to my girlfriends’ name, or coffee, or anything else I dearly love and it still makes sense — it’s out. 2) The Seven-Eleven Test: if we sing the same 7 words 11 times, it’s out. 😀 Of course there are many others that are way more serious, but these are just hilarious and my favorites! 🙂 Thanks for the article.

    • You’re welcome, Julie. I truly desire us as a church to move to a better, more edifying place.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • repete s’il vous plait

    amen! i loved the article. it could have been written by me, only it couldn’t actually because i’m too busy playing/singing the songs you and i don’t want to sing. a dozen years ago, there were some of us who couldn’t stand the dirge-driven music and dry sermonizing at a very old babtist (why not spell it like we mostly say it?) church. we happened to be able to sing and play instruments, so we offered to add a “contemporary” service in addition to the traditional one.
    it was fine for a few years because of the newness, but that soon wore off and i realized that 90% of the songs sound the same, repeat lyrics and music ad nauseam and, because our lead singer has a limited singing range, most songs are played in the same key. it’s so bad now, that the band gets confused because even the intros to songs are so similar!
    anyway, i’ve never been an arm-raiser/hand-waver, and i absolutely hate to clap. i think i’d prefer a high episcopal or even a catholic service at this point just to get back to basics and, yes, ritual. i cannot worship in a “contemporary” setting. seekers want non-church environments, but i wonder if we haven’t taken it all too far.

    • If I may point out — you’re in charge of you. Whether or not you continue to participate in a style of worship that you obviously struggle with is entirely your call.

      Maybe it’s time for a courageous move on your part?

      Just a thought.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Jeff Lancaster

    Matt Redman at one time claimed on his website that the “music is intentionally made less of in order to allow for the words to hold the prominent place in worship” (paraphrased from memory), but that was the gest of what he was saying. I have to say that as an educated, and trained musician I totally get where he is coming from. If the music is incredible and full of depth, layers, and textures then my mind is automatically going to the music. I literally won’t even hear the words. I realize that my ear is probably a bit more trained than most but I do see the potential and I think probability that “fine music” has much more potential to distract from rather than add to worship. If your stuck in the music instead of the lyrics there is a problem.

    • Hmmm. Interesting thought, Jeff. Thanks.

    • John

      Just a thought, music itself can be worship, worship is not equated with just words. All of life is worship and the original worship leaders were admonished to play skillfully. I personally have been very moved to worship on more than once occasion through instrumental music. (Michael Cards “The Eucharist” and Iona’s “Flight of the Wold Goose” to name a couple – note – The Wild Goose is the symbol of the Holy Spirit in Celtic Christianity)

  • Bobber

    I remember a music leader in a church saying that they did more “modern” praise music because there were words that were in hymns that no one used anymore. Words like, “sepulchre” and “diadem.” I remember thinking to my self, if you don’t know what that means, why not look it up and actually learn something. I guess writing a 7-11* praise song is easier.

    *Take seven words, repeat eleven times.

  • BGW

    I thoroughly agree that the vocabulary level tends to be quite low in some (certainly not all) of the newer worship music. But there are song/hymn writers (like the Gettys) who incorporate depth and good theology into their music – and I applaud that. I think one point to consider is that the purpose of church music has changed over the years. Long ago, when the Bible was not available to anyone except church leaders, the songs were the primary way of teaching theology. So the main point of church music was teaching rather than worship. Now the focus has shifted to a primary focus of worship rather than teaching. I suggest that both have a place in current church worship. (And the fact that a hymn was written long ago does not necessarily mean it has depth – some old hymns are insipid and shallow. “And now I am happy all the day.”)

  • Beth

    Do you know, I’m 18 now and I know few (if any) of the hymns. This bothers me. Every time I’ve heard any of them I think they’re great; they make me want to sing more. I rarely get this. The other problem with my current church is the volume level. I don’t need to feel the baseline in my skull. Honest. I just went on a missions trip to Peru a few weeks ago. We had a great worship session the first week. I could actually feel the Holy Spirit fill the room. For the first time, I was free from the world to truly see my Lord and Savior. Tell me. Isn’t this what worship should be?

    • Thanks for your comment. Your missions trip makes me think you would enjoy a new book WRECKED by Jeff Goins. Watch for my review here this week. I think it will resonate with you.

  • Simon

    I am the MD for my little church here in Australia. One of the key things I factor in when programming music is the abilities of who is performing that day. There is no sense in picking an awesome piece by Vaughn Williams if it isn’t going to be sung in tune. I pick music that matches the abilities of the singers as a main guide.

  • John

    I am quite disappointed having read this article, (and all the following posts) which really is very generalized and hyper critical, and honestly quite smug concerning modern worship. At the end of time, when we stand before the Lord, and He asks us why we didn’t worship, not one of us will be able to blame the worship leader, or the band, or the style or the content. We will be confronted with the fact that we put personal preference first, rather than Him. To imply that hymns of 100-1000 years ago will allow us to worship better, and today’s songs do not is ridiculous. Also, to be disparaging about the quality and longevity of today’s music is also foolish. Fanny Crosby wrote thousands of songs, as did John Newton, Of those several thousand songs, we sing a handful. I am sure they also wrote some songs that were trite and weak musically, that were sung in churches in their day, and people likely complained about it then, wondering why we couldn’t stick with the Gregorian music etc. Also, while it is suggested at the end of the article that we should play excellently for God, there is a negative comment about the guitar solo. However, I have heard many people who frown upon that who love to hear a good organ swell, and rejoice if an organist does a big run up the ranks. When the organ was first introduced to the church, it met with opposition as well.
    Also, to imply that clapping is not worship when the Psalms themselves tell us to Clap for joy. There may be those who clap for the wrong reasons, but there are also those who do not clap for the wrong reasons.

    What I am trying to say is, the very tone of the article and many of the responses indicates a fundamental position of resistance and criticism, and not an attitude of love and encouragement, let alone a heart to worship in all circumstances. I want to share with you a small story. I enjoyed Hillsong United in their early days, and found their music very moving but as time wore on, i tended to find their music a bit repetitious and very patterned from song to song, in other words, not a lot of variation of style. While running our youth group, I organized a trip to a Hillsong United concert with our teens, and braced myself for a long night of endurance of putting up with a lot of songs I didn’t like. However, to my amazement and my own shame, even the songs that I actually would have said I disliked greatly ended up moving me to tears, I found I was unable not to worship, song after song kept pointing me to Christ, and I heard God say to me that it is not okay for me to be selective about when I worship, and it is not okay for me to be judgmental and critical of people who Ireally don’t know, and to judge their motives when I have no way of knowing what is in the heart. In many of the statements we make, we are implying that the writers, players and singers of these songs are not really worshiping, they are only glorifying themselves and looking to satisfy their own desires, when in reality, that is exactly what we are doing when we refuse to worship and instead criticize and judge those who in many cases are pouring out their worship before the Lord in abundance with the tools and the means by which they know how. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have personal preferences, but please do not mistakenly identify personal preference as a means of determining Biblical worship. And as far as repetition goes, the angels around the throne never stop saying “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come” and that is about as repetitious as you can get. Rather than organizing hymn parties and trying to revive something, let’s just commit ourselves to worshiping in all circumstances, whether we like the band, whether they are too loud or too soft, too old or too new, not very skilled at all, or are playing killer guitar solos, and whether or not their heart is in the wrong place. The Holy Spirit is big enough to convict them of this ad bring a change of heart. In the meantime, each one of us has to answer for our own stubborn selfish hearts before the throne, and thankfully, there at the throne is also the mercy seat, where we can find forgiveness for our sinful nature and actions. That should always inspire us to worship.

    • John

      I also apologize for my negative tone about the writer of the article and the people commenting, I recognize in their my own critical spirit, and apologize for that, I am sure you have hearts to serve and worship also.

    • Message received. Thanks, john.

  • GloriaHe

    Just have to share that I’ve been to several Masses by a priest who clearly “gets” the music legacy. The mass starts with older hymns, and as it progresses the music does too – there’s the younger “hypnotic” music, the traditional chants and hymns all thrown into one service. His charisma is so wonderful, you love the music but you’re focused on the “Celebration” at hand. He truly celebrates the Mass, sharing the joy of forgiveness through the resurrection. To get there, you follow the path of confession, you reach out to your fellow worshippers, and you experience the joy of coming together as a community. You are part of the event, a necessary participant. And corporal worship becomes life.

  • Doc Lorenzo

    Long article. I’ll be brief. Music to please everyone is practically impossible. The music of the particular church and it’s service is dictated by the pastor and or the music director. Some will love it traditionally some will not, and everything in between. Getting it right is just like the struggle to get life right….endless. If you don’t like the music, go to where the music you like is sung and played. Do you think God resides in your church only? So to me it doesn’t matter where you attend. Go where the music moves you. I play bass in two worship bands, I don’t care which denomination as me to play, as long as their not close minded fundamentalist . That last sentence might rile a few. Ciao

  • David Gentiles

    I just read through the post and find it very interesting and enlightening that so many are intrigued by this post.. It really is something that Christians will struggle with until Jesus returns.. The reality is.. most congregations are so wide spread in their generational representation that each church must ask the question: “What is our voice?” I think if every church efforts to know her own people and sing the kind of tunes that connect with their culture, there will be great success and transparency.. To be honest.. my biggest issue is not necessarily with kind of songs we’re doing, but the lack of scripture being used outside of the sermon.. I think marrying the great hymn w/the powerful worship tune w/tremendous truth from scripture read aloud in services can be a powerful combination.. Also, each kind of song serves a specific purpose and when we realize that I think we’ll be in great shape. There are things that hymns accomplish that modern songs can’t.. There are also things that modern songs can accomplish in the heart that hymns can’t.. Each has their purpose.. The modern song has encouraged an amazing bit of high energy response. Scripture calls us to that. I think the hymns keep us grounded and the modern tunes call us to express ourselves beyond where we sometimes are uncomfortable going. Both are essential in biblical worship. I think it’s a balance.

    • David, Thanks for the comment. I share your concern about the Scriputres being absent outside the sermon — and occasionally within the sermon. As you may have noticed, truth was at the top of my list of what I thought essential to good worship music.

  • Bob Dove

    And yet, when it’s all said and done, God has heard every style of music from every tribe, from every dialect, from every century known to man since the creation…and he’s not moved by any of them – it’s only cultural of different people groups in whatever time on earth it is. I’ll bet we wouldn’t be able to relate musically to David’s Psalms if we heard them today – they were of a diferent time and culture thousands of years ago. It would seem foreign, much like asian worship music would seem foriegn to us. – God has heard it all and still hears it all. The only thing that speaks to him is the heart of the worshipper no matter what syle it is. So whether it’s a continuation of the main stream contemporary worship (which can be wearisome at times), old hymns, heavy rock, jazz, or indonesian, arab, asian, some african tribe, or a little girl singing in the front pew of the church “Jesus Loves Me This I know”, none of that matters to God, all that matters is the heart – “Are they worshipping me sincerely? Do they love me?” That’s all that God hears when we worship Him – style is not relevant. That’s what I’ve learned over the years singing where I sing – music style is not relevant to God – music style is cultural of the time only. So I’m able to be where I’m supposed to be and serve how I’m supposed to serve to help the Body of Believers God has placed me in to glorify him and edify the saints: whether it’s a hymn, Chris Tomlin song, black gospel, or whatever. The style of music we like all comes from what we’ve grown up with in our own time – it’s neither right nor wrong. It’s the same with the mainstream contemporary worship music, no matter how predictable and monotonous it can be – I still sing it though when it’s on the schedule. What matters is my heart. I would imagine as a worship leader it is frustrating searching for new music and only hearing the same style out there. I understand. If I hear another new song on KLove that has the same chord pattern that’s been used over the last 10 years by the popular artists – I’ll see right through it. But if it’s picked for me to sing on Sunday, I will do it with all my heart, because that’s the way it is. God has a purpose and a plan. It’s a matter of the heart only.

  • cwb

    The old songs have a story to tell and when the day is bad it is the old songs that make the day better. The repetitive songs are just that, repetitive, with no meaning. In our church if you look around while singing, the modern songs there are not that many of the younger crowd singing. When singing the “moldy oldies”, as many younger pastors call them, more people are singing…go figure that one out. When we are worshipping and being taught God’s word, we should be convicted by the Holy Spirit of what we should be doing and not necessarily “feel good” as we leave(a little bit of toes being stepped on never hurt anybody).

  • Jeff Morgan

    Hey Bill,
    You really kicked an ant hill here. I am not surprised at all that you received this much response (I found this linked to a Face Book page on with more comments there). I am a worship and arts pastor and this is pretty standard – people having strong opinions about their worship music. Like clothes and pizza toppings, everyone knows what they like – and especially what they don’t like. Outside of church we are consumers of music, of all the elements in a worship service, it is the one thing we understand best. Worship at it’s best will often bring out deep emotions and can be linked to unique moments in people’s lives. Combine subjective preferences, a higher level of understanding, and emotions tied to one’s spiritual experience… it is no wonder music is the touchpoint of so much discussion, controversy, and church division (the average worship leader only lasts 2-3 years at a church).
    I was tempted to respond to your particular concerns, but I see you have enter my world and received abundant opinions of all types. What I would like to say is that with all of our concern over music we may be distracted sufficiently so as to miss greater issues within the church. Church attenders focus on the service, theologians debate free-will and predestination all as the American church as a whole spins clockwise down the toilet. We are quickly losing ground. Churches are shrinking in size and dying in droves. People are no longer choosing church when they search for God (and often find something other than God). I cannot go into all of what this may mean here and what we may need to do. Suffice to say we are losing the game as we stand on the sidelines and debate the color of our uniforms.
    I will admit I have only read your one blog and maybe half the responses, but it is clear you have a following and the potential to influence. As a pastor (former or not) you have influence, I’d encourage you to engage in the more critical issues that face the church, and pray we would as the Body find the answers soon.

    • Jeff,

      Wise words. Watch for my post tomorrow and let me know if I am succeeding in driving this conversation closer to the roots of the problems facing us. By the way, I am curious what the top three issues are, in your opinion, that face the church today?


  • Karen Fincher

    I’m also a music educator, and as the church is dumbing things down, I’m seeing it reflected in the schools too. Gone are the days when kids learn to read music by following the alto line at their mothers’ elbow… Not even my kids get to do that, and it breaks my heart. There are no hymnals!

    • Karen,

      You express a valid concern about our kids not learning the “grammar” of much of anything anymore — including music.

      Thnaks for the comment!

  • Mike

    It seems to me that many of the modern songs (contrary to what many critics say) are more ‘biblically’ based than many of the hymns are. Now before some of you crucify me, hear me out. Many of the great old hyms were not intended to be taken right from Scripture. The truths communicated in them are Theologically accurate and meaninful for sure, but they are not ‘biblical’. It is sort of like the difference between ‘biblical’ theology and ‘systematic’ theology. It seems that many of the older hymn writers seem to have begun with a theological truth(s) and then expounded on that poetically/musically. On the other hand, many of the modern choruses begin with a biblical passage and then expoud on it poetically/musically. Some examples:
    1) ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ by Matt Redman – Story of Job – passages out of the first couple of chapters in Job
    2) ‘Shine. Jesus Shine’ (the ‘prime’ example of shallow worship songs according to many of today’s critics) – vs. 3 comes right out of 2 Cor. 3:18
    3) ‘I Will Boast’ by Paul Baloche comes right from 1 Cor. 1:20-31
    4) ‘Better Is One Day’ is from Ps. 84:10.
    5) ‘Cares Chorus’ from 1 Pet. 5:7
    6) ‘May the Words of My Mouth’ by Tim Hughes from Ps. 19:14
    7) ‘Forever’ by Chris Tomlin with all its repetition comes from Ps. 136
    8) ‘Everlasting God’ from Isa. 40:31
    9) ‘Give Us Clean Hands’ from Ps. 24:3-6
    I could go on and on. I realize that there are many modern songs that don’t follow this paradigm, but it seems to be more common today than in the hymns of the last two centuries. I’m not saying that this proves these songs are superior to many of the old hymns, I don’t think that at all. I just find it rather shallow when so many accuse modern praise songs of being shallow. Either they aren’t really scrutinizing the songs and are just assuming them to be shallow, or they are being academically dishonest in their criticism, or they’re blinded by their traditional preferences, or they have a man-made set of stipulations that they use to judge a song’s ‘depth’. I don’t know – I’ve known many who are critical of modern praise songs who strike me as very genuine and sincere in their concerns. I know that they all believe themselves to have valid concerns and criticisms. I fear though that far too many of the Psalms themselves wouldn’t pass many of these critical people’s tests today – that is if they didn’t happen to be part of the inspired text. I mean, what’s up with this David guy talking so much about his ‘experiences’ and how he ‘felt’ when Saul was attacking him. It’s not about him and his feelings, it’s about God. And what about all that pointless repetition in Ps. 136 – do we really need to sing that line 26 times about God’s love enduring forever? I don’t know about you, but the only thing that seems to last forever is this repetetive Psalm! And how shallow is Ps. 133. I mean, it’s depth is no more than a statement about unity (way too ecumenical in my opinion) that goes on to liken it to oil flowing down Aaron’s beard. Can we all say ‘shallow’ with a capital ‘S’? And how about Ps. 45? The whole thing was written as a love song between the king and his bride. I guess we’re supposed to read some of those lines as though we’re now speaking about our relationship with God in order to make it work for corporate worship or something. And while I’m at it, what’s up with Ps. 1. Is this worship song meant to glorify God or is it exalting ‘godly people’? It seems to be ‘blessing’ a person who is godly rather than God himself. The last thing we need is a song that puffs a person up because he meditates day and night in God’s Word. That’s good and all, but we don’t need a worship song to actually ‘bless’ those people. And this wouldn’t be complete without challenging the doctrine of all those imprecatory Psalms. They aren’t just shallow; they’re downright incorrect. I mean, Jesus said we’re to love our enemies, but David and others pray for God to curse them. And what about the doctrinal implications of Ps. 22:1 – is this song writer suggesting that God forsakes us in times of trouble – that He doesn’t listen to us when we call out to him? In the emotion of the song writer, he teaches things that aren’t even true.
    OK – you get the point. I really am amazed how every generation can have the same criticisms about the new music of their day and think that they are the first generation to really have a valid point. I close with a couple of quotes that could have been written today.
    “There is an unsuitable … style of church music given by some of the … singers now so popular. The answer is frequently made that this is necessary to attract a certain class of persons to [church]. We believe that the object of church music should be not to attract men but to please God.”
    This quote is taken from ‘The Christian Index’ (Georgia Baptist Convention) in the year 1856. Here are some of the songs that were new in the few years preceding 1856: Crown Him with Many Crowns, In Heavenly Love Abiding, The Solid Rock, Brethren We Have Met to Worship, Nearer, My God, to Thee, My Faith Looks Up to Thee, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.
    One more quote – “There are several reasons for opposing [contemporary worship music]: . . . It’s too worldly, even blasphemous. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style and because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all. It puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances, making people act disorderly. The preceding generation got along without it.”
    This quote is from even longer ago than the first, 1723 to be exact. What was new then? The hymns of Isaac Watts, including Joy to the World, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need, Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Am I a Soldier of the Cross, Come We That Love the Lord, and Jesus Shall Reign were still to be written.
    I hope this helps to put this modern debate into some historical perspective. The same emotional frustrations to things new and different lead people to look for ‘legitimate’ reasons for opposing it and upholding the way they did things before as the more God-honoring method than the new way.

  • Sheldon Lehman

    My main problem with P&W music is that they don’t provide the MUSIC, just words on a screen. So if I walk into a church and they are doing a song I don’t know, I can’t participate. I am a college-trained musician and composer who has loved singing in church my whole life. I know there’s little to do about that because of all the CCLI red tape, though. I have been in church music professionally for 18 years and I consider myself familiar with many styles and I love doing all of them in church.

    The other problem is that we have let just any person who “has this song laid on their heart” to enter the foray of music composition who has no business being there. They write the music in the key they are comfortable singing in without considering whether it’s conducive to general church singing. Then they write all the harmonies in double tertial harmony (for the uninitiated: think “Louie, Louie” chords) with the bass just doubling the melody instead of providing an actual base upon which everything else is built. You can’t just sit at a piano. or the way for most, strum a few chords on a guitar, and write music without giving other elements consideration. Or some songs have great choruses, but the verses are unattainable. The prime example I can think of is “Awesome God.” It’s just painful to see a congregation try to sing the verse to this song together. There’s a reason why Rich Mullen sings the “chant” and the choir does the “Our God is an Awesome God”; it’s the ONLY way it works musically.

    Now that I’ve laid out a nutshell of what I could say on CCM, let me say that I think it is sad that some churches have completely abandoned the hymns. For the most part, the harmonies are amazing. I like to sing a different part on each verse and, if there are, like, 5 or 6 verses I like to experiment with jazz 7th of 9th chordal harmonies filled with suspemsions and anticipations. You can’t do that with P&W as well. One of the saddest things I’ve found is that most churches don’t sing hymns correctly. I can sum it up in three words: tempo….tempo…tempo. We have this idea that we should be so focused on what message the words are giving us that we become completely unaware that we are butchering some really good music, especially when we let the tempo drag. The human brain is capable of amazing things, including processing the message of the words while still focusing on the performance aspect; it just takes discipline.

    I think both groups of people are too lazy to learn the ways of the other. If you are in a predominantly hymn-singing church, if you make the effort you can learn other stlyes if the ministry presents it correctly and you pay attention. For example, at my current church (a Lutheran-Missouri synod) where they recently, a few years before I arrived, started a “blended” service. How I changed that was this: whenever I want to teach the congregation a new song, I have my choir sing it for at least 2 and sometimes 3 weeks during pre-service, then I have the congregation sing it 2 weeks in a row, then I make sure it’s sung at least once a month for the next 2 months. If you can’t pick up on a song in that frame of time, you aren’t trying hard enough.

    Now I know what some of you are going to say to all this; “It’s not about the music, it’s about the words.” Fine, then just stand at the pulpit and chant the words out loud. Don’t insult what I do for a living and what I am most passionate about when I am worshipping my God. Like some others have posted, God honors the heart, NOT the actions. If I walk into church with my heart right, I can sing “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and God accepts that as worship.

    I could go on and on but I’ll stop now before I have a coronary lol.

    • Good points all. And don’t do that coronary thing. Check out my sequel post: Why I’ll Never Stop Singing in Your Church.


    • emc_nyc

      You had me with your theological logic until Zippadeedoodah. That’s simply not true. What does Zippadeedoodah have to do with who God is?

    • MaxYclarice Erasun Perez

      totally agree! we do the same thing in mexico..

  • Jamie

    15-20 years ago the big debate was what was the need for “contemporary music”. The answer was, it gives an honest voice to the children of God. Now we are having a discussion about whether we should even bother singing “contemporary music” because of the annoying repetition and simplistic words. So we are still having the same conversation. I have attended many churches and denominations (due to moving) and all of those churches struggle to find an appropriate balance with classical hymns and beautifully written praise and worship music. The only church that we have attended that focused on praise music is a young church that focuses it ministry to young urban folks. We visited there for a time but as mature Christians we needed more musical meat in our diet but we don’t judge those who continue attending there because I see true worship on their faces and delight in their Savior. Folks will leave if they want to hear more theological songs or they will stay involved in that body they have built relationships in and listen to Moody’s Majesty channel on their website. Just as I have done attending a high church congregation but have developed caring relationships but listen to praise and worship music to get that very important element in my spiritual diet. My key point is; get involved in a church body Hebrews 10:25 “Do not Forsake the assembling together of the body.” Jesus wants us to go to church and become part of the body of Christ. No church is perfect but find one that preaches the Word without apology, excuse, or modification and get involved. Volunteer, exercise your spiritual gifts and worship your God. If you don’t love the music that ok. Remember the Lord may have you there not for what you will receive but for what you have to contribute. Look around to see who the Lord has brought into your sphere of influence in that church and love them for Christ because with the Holy spirit living with in you, you are Christ to them and they need him. So get out of your head…”what I like, what I want, what I need” and ask God to show you how he wants to use you in the church you are finding yourself faking in. Before long you won’t be faking anymore. Blessings to you all and know that you have a vital part to play in the kingdom. Let’s not allow the enemy of our souls to distract us from the Devine purposes our Heavenly Father has for us in the walls of our church and outside. Stand Firm! 1 Corintians 16:13

  • regina

    I attend mass because I firmly believe in the Transubstantiation! Anything else I get as gravy or ….? (fill in the blank.) I love good music. For everything else, invest in good ear-plugs! Good luck! There are crosses of all types we have to bear!

  • I read this article just because it caught my eye. I’m glad I did now. I’m 29 years old and was raised in the Old Time Pentecostal ways. I LOVE the old time hymns and can’t stand modern “worship” music when all they’re worried about is if their making all the right facial expressions and body movements to please society. Old hymns were written about Jesus and only Him. Because He’s the only one who matters. As far as worship goes…lol well let’s just say that the “no applause” people on here would NOT make it one minute in the church I go to. God said to make a joyful noise…didn’t say it had to be just our voices now did He? But as with all things in life, to each his own. I believe that “modern christian rock” has no place in church. How can you worship God when there’s nothing but beating, headbanging and confusion going on? God’s not the author of confusion. Worship is supposed to wash over you and put you in sync with God not give you a migraine and make you wish you would’ve stayed home. It seems the more “modern” the church world gets the more out of sync with God it gets. But that’s just my opinion. As for who ever said that “God doesn’t hear our worship.” Sorry to disagree with you but I do. God hears our worship and enjoys it. Even the angels in Heaven sing to Him. It’s even written that Moses and the Israelites sang to God. I’m sure if I looked even harder I could find even more scriptures. Yes, it’s about the heart but God also hears our songs too 🙂 Hope everything has gotten better for you.

    • Thanks! I confess these awesome readers have hleped with my own perspective. And your point about our worship aligning with who God is –at least that’s what I got — is a good one.

  • Stephen

    This article attempts to re-engage and re-stoke the fire of worship wars that ended years ago. Perhaps some churches don’t get it right on both sides of the hymnody aisle – which if we’re honest is what you want to hear – hymns. All the arguments you wrote throughout echo those heard since the shift became more outward in the 80s. Honestly, which is worse, music you don’t personally enjoy or music that bores the living daylights out of you while it is sung with no heart or connection to the text (while it is rich on supposed theology)? At least modern worship is often sung with a great deal of passion. Also, what is the difference between a raring organ solo and an electric guitar solo? I don’t know whether to wave my bulletin when he hits the Tutti 2 knob. I appreciate that satirical nature of the article, but where are you attending that sings campfire songs with less theology than when you were ten and at a campfire? That’s an absurd argument that I would dare to question has any merits or facts behind it. No doubt weak songs exist, but they don’t get sung – at least not more than once (can you believe Jesus Loves Me is still in the hymnbook ?). This WAR has been over for people who are actually moving forward in their faith for years. Leave it alone and for the sake of everyone stop trying to start it back up. The dangerous things about these kinds of articles is that it elevates you to a place of authority that you don’t actually hold. You’re speaking for people that don’t actually want you to speak for them. Careful.

    • Thanks for the comment, Stephen. Obviously many, many people do not agree with you as evidenced by the plethora of comments. I trust you also read my follow-up post? Hope it helps move us all forward.

  • AnonyLutheran

    I’m so glad I found this today. After yet another weekend in which I’m questioning what is wrong with me, I decided to just browse around and found your article. We go to an LCMS church (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod), and our church offers both a “contemporary” and traditional service. I love chants, hymns, Bach, etc., but I just cannot get into the new Evangelical worship mode. It is so distracting. By the way, I’m only 34, so I fit the demographics for those who supposedly like this kind of worship. I find it harder and harder to worship, and we only started going to that service for our kiddos. HOWEVER, they don’t like it anymore and asked to go back to traditional. Doesn’t that say something?? We enjoy listening to Christian music . . . on the radio. I love reciting creeds, going through the liturgy, and singing/playing beautiful music with depth. We returned to traditional service this week, and it was as though we went back to church for the first time in months. I hate being critical, and I wouldn’t dare say anything at my church since we do have both offerings, but I can’t imagine trying to find a church today if someone is looking for the first time. Also, this will REALLY get me in trouble, I feel like the “worship leaders” are having their own personal concert and using the platform at church to fulfill their music dreams. I don’t know when I’m even supposed to sing many times because it’s solo/solo/solo. Don’t get me started on the provocative dancing of some of the folks who get up on that stage . . . .

    • Sorry to hear it. What do you make of my solution that I linked to at the bottom of this post?

  • Richard

    Bring on the Gregorian Chant!!!!

    • Just a minute. I have it here in this drawer somewhere.

      I’ll get back to you.

  • Carolyn

    I always thought music was the “universal language,” so it is logical that a service would contain classic hymns and contemporary music. I love to sing too; however, I do tire of singing the same song and the same words over and over again in a praise worship service. I was under the impression that God hears you the “first” time, so why do we keep repeating the song over and over again? It seems to me that God might like to hear us sing more varied song choices; after all, we are praising Him.

  • Hi Patheos,
    Thanks you for your post, Singing is truly one of the purest forms of expression, and I do believe that people, young or old, trained or not can sing. If you have the vocal chords and the diaphragm and you can speak, then you can sing!

  • Wendy

    I love the choruses that are sung today, but I do agree that there should be more hymns sung. My concern about the use of choruses in many churches is that they are used more to bring everyone into a specific state of mind, not unlike meditation or hypnosis. I don’t believe all are used that way, but when they are repeated to the point of nausea and then seemingly trail off into oblivion while the music continues eerily, then I believe the purpose is to bring everyone under a trance-like state. I’ve attended AG churches that I loved and others where I felt incredibly uncomfortable. Likewise with American Baptist churches.

    Having been a member of the Mormon church just long enough to know it is a fraudulent and lying corporation, my suspicions are heightened to any subtle attempt to control a congregation from within.

    • Wendy,

      That’s a great point about music being used to induce a state of mind of some kind. Music has long been used for that reason, of course, and I’m not necessarily opposed to using it to encourage something good. I listen to Bach when writing and to various deeper soundtracks when thinkng deeply.

      I wonder what others might think….

  • Jessica

    I will start by saying: I LOVE my church (Awakening) and everything it stands for. It’s brand new and will officially launch in a matter of weeks. They are in the process of praying over and deciding on music ministry. Sadly, they are going down this projector path. As a member with a degree in music education, I am absolutely uninspired by the music. They are “top 40” type songs that I don’t know and can’t sing for lack of written music. I’d settle for keeping the pop songs if I could just have the notes in front of me. Another music teacher and I have tried to politely offer our services in this regard, at least writing out the melody line, and it’s been politely ignored.

    • Thanks, Jessica. In truth, though, we must not let such differences become roots of bitterness for Satn to use against the Church. Speak the truth in love — emphasis on love, right?

  • I loved this article, even though I’m a worship leader at one of the very churches you’re talking about. I’m also a Christian songwriter who tries to write songs that are deep and meaningful. I’d love for you to listen to some of them on my YouTube channell (scottyg222) and give me some feedback. Unfortunately for me, I long for a worshipping congregation but I’m in a place where it seems like they just want to be entertained. It seems like every time I look out anymore, I just see people talking and laughing and looking at their iPhones…..not engaging in worship at all. I just had another such service just a few hours ago, where I finally spoke up and said something about their apathy. I fear I may have lost my job over it, but I just felt like I needed to lead them to a deeper understanding of what worship time is really about. Don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow!

    • Scott,

      Join the club on not knowing where we will be tomorrow. But we know who holds tomorrow. If your heart is are in the right place, speaking the truth in love and seeking His Kingdom first, He has promised to take care of the rest.

      I encourage you to rest in that promise. And keep up the songwriting!

  • Cameron

    This whole conversation makes me sick! All I wan to do is give glory to God with the different kinds of praise he has commanded (Halal, Yadah, Towdah, Shabach, Barak, Zamar, and Tehillah to name a few). Do you really the the all powerful, all knowing, creator God of the universe cares whether you are singing How Great Thou art, or How Great is Our God. I think He is a little more concerned with the condition of our hearts, rather than the hollow words that come out of our mouths. Don’t we “Christians” have better things to be doing anyway??? Didn’t God give us some commandments or something?? I don’t know, I think one was about love and the other about baptizing and making disciples or something of that nature…That’s weird nothing in there about what we sing…hmmm….. – Look, if you want to worship God, do it with your life, your actions – not by the songs that you sing on sundays.

    In His Grip,
    Cameron Ford
    Music Director

    • Cameron,

      I must have misunderstood when you said don’t worship God by the songs you sing on Sundays. And if our songs have words nd words have meaning, how can you possibly separate them worshipping in spirit and in truth?


      • Cameron

        I apologize, I wrote that last night when I was tired and a little irritated – but maybe rightfully so. I could have stopped half way through my post with the sentence, “Do you really the the all powerful, all knowing, creator God of the universe cares whether you are singing How Great Thou art, or How Great is Our God. I think He is a little more concerned with the condition of our hearts, rather than the hollow words that come out of our mouths. ” That would have sufficed. That’s the point. I’m not trying to take some theological stance here. And a correction, I didn’t say “don’t worship God with the songs you sing on Sunday” I said, ” Look, if you want to worship God, do it with your life, your actions – not [only] by the songs that you sing on Sundays.” (I added the only for clarification of my point). You know just as well as I that we ought to worship God in spirit and in truth, and that can be accomplished, and is accomplished through singing praise. Whether is a contemporary chorus, old baptist hymns, psalms, or spiritual songs. Frankly, as a music director, worship pastor, worship leader, whatever you want to call me, I’m tired. Tired of this debate. I think it’s time for us, as the Church, to realize that man was created for God, not God for man.

        • Cameron, Thanks for taking the time to folow up. Did you read my own follow-up piece to this post? I don’t think we are as far apart as you may think although theology is always pratical. What we believe determines how we live. Always.

          Thanks again.

        • Teresa Moglia

          I must comment that I have three young teenagers who are angered by the contemporary christian music being played at church. When I comment that they listen to it all the time, the response is a vehement “It doesn’t belong in the church!” When I think about it, I’m sure I would have flipped if my church had started playing Eagle’s songs or Elvis at church when I was a teenager, even though I had no problem listening to that genre anywhere else.Worship leaders might be a little surprised to find that the majority of young people expect to find a different style of music in the church house than what they hear “in the world.”

          • Thanks for the comment! I think we do a lot of stereotyping when it comes to worship.

  • Whyisit?

    I have gone to a few different churches where I now live and it’s not even the music that I find….disconcerting, it’s the “contemporary church” church down the road that has managed to mix secular music in with it’s contemporary message and then at the end of the service says have a nice day and come back again – wait?? what??? if I wanted to know God and be saved how do I do that?? You never said anything in the entire service of “we want to show you how to know God and to accept him as your Lord and Savior”, the message was “It’s alright, God loves you, we love you and we will take you however you want to be – regardless of how you are living cause we love you” and “do good works day” but not once did I see a Bible come out (the big screen has the verse so obviously we don’t need it), how do I sing to music I don’t know because there is no music sheet to read, I want to talk to someone about God and how I need him in my life but there was none of that in this “church” yet it’s members believe that they are filled with the love of God – but not showing others how to get that same love. How can you say you love your community and the people around you when you are not even telling them how to accept God into their lives and you don’t even give that opportunity in the service to talk to someone (I’m not talking about the traditional go down to the front – even directions to an elder/usher/deacon somewhere else would have made me fill more at ease being there). I have found a place that I like, the big test for me wasn’t the music (though no secular songs which I found nice – why should Katy Perry’s fireworks be sung in a church? Yes, you saw that right) which, yes, I didn’t really know and didn’t really sing but guess what – when it came down to it the minister got the message across and explained how to accept God into your life – that, to me, is the sign of a church that I belong to. I can learn to love, or not, the music but if the message isn’t touching my soul then it’s not where I belong – and if the church feels that it doesn’t have to show others to God than it’s definitely not the the place for me.

    • You make a great oint that love is about speaking and singing the truth. Thank you!

  • A little remark to thanks the author, it was genuinely obvious

  • Amy

    How about a genuine attitude of thankfulness? Thankfulness that we live in a country that can worship freely and legally in any way we choose. Thankfulness that at our own preference, we can choose to attend any church we wish on any whim we might have! All the negative dialogue in recent years about various church ‘styles’ saddens me. If suddenly you were dropped into a nation where church/religion was strictly prohibited, I think we would all be much more thankful for any church service we could be a part of that brought glory to God. We have been so blessed in America that we are often forgetful that our freedoms, especially religious freedoms, are a priviledge, not a right. Don’t like the music? Choose an attitude of gratitude. And worship.

    • Thanks for the comment. If we were placed in such tough circumstances, I suspect a lot of the fluff in our worship would vanish also. Along with, perhaps, many of the poeple in the pews.

  • bill douglass

    Sorry but this has heavy overtones of spiritual superiority..
    Obviously, lots of people ARE able to connect with God in the modern worship style..

    There are almost 1/2 million churches in the US in almost every style and tradition imaginable..If you’re having trouble in the church your at, instead of being the ‘long dissenter’, which doesn’t help you or anyone else, look for one where they play music you can worship to…

    btw, George Bailey said “I want to live again”

    • Thanks, Bill. And, uh, I know what George said. Taking a little poetic license with the legend.

      Is that relaly the most Biblical solution? Find another church that doesn’t ignore your concern about truth being at the center of worship? Since that post, I have uncovered many churches who do make sincere attempts to acknowleedge the breadth of styles while staying focused on the truth. I don’t think that is too much to ask. “May they be one” as they “worship me in spirit and in truth” is pretty much what Jesus prayed isn’t it?

  • Ingrid Crozier

    I too am really depressed about the state of “worship music” these days. I have ended up in a contemporary church where I dont think the music director can even read notes and am driven to dispare by the sameness of the instrumentation every week. I mean , can we get over the guitar, bass, drums band already. Thereare so many other instuments that could make it pleasing and fitting to the messages. Also the tunes!!! are hopeless many times. They use very few notes and have a very small range and are simply not good for congregational singing. Lots of them would be better as performance songs. People dont sing that much any more. I miss that. Its not the way worship should be. Being a musician, I have trouble with the crafting of the songs as much as the lack of depth in the lyrics. I find repeating a phrase 8 times is somehow embarrasing. What is with that? Are we suppose to sing ourselves into some spiritual trance? I find the services to be formless too. We come to worship God almighty, but start with songs about “I” , “me” and “we”. I also see that there is a dearth of knowledge and skill at praying prayers of worship. It always comes out, We thank you for … and Lord please do ……instead of expressing the greatness and attributes of the Lord. There is so much more richness that could be injected into the contemporary services. I am for always keeping an eye out for new music, as we are to sing a new song unto the Lord, but I think a wider range should be included. The oldies but goodies were often written by great theologians or pastors who had a grasp of the beauty of the English language and a grasp of the depth of the gospel that is seldom seen today. I like the use of folk-like material because of its singability and it lends itself well to guitar or keyboards, or both. I know there are new hymn writers out there who are creating great things. The old hymns that have survived are there because they were great. (give or take a few really sentimental ones that keep persisting) Just look into any old Christian song books from the early 1900’s and see how many songs you have never heard of. Evidently this “paper plate” approach to music is an old issue. (use it and throw it away). I would like services to include praise and worship for God’s greatness, for forgiveness and salvation in Jesus, for God’s care for us, and for the great hope we have in this life and the next and songs of response to the word that was preached. Our worship music is very much a teaching tool in the church. It is singable statements of faith. Thats why we need them to be great!! It takes a lot of creativity to make a service have the best music, the best words, the best content and make it hit people between the eyes instead of lulling them into a stupor. I hope that the slavish use of “the band” and the use of only the “coolest” songs and the lack of trascendence will be re-examined.

    • Ingrid, Thanks for the the heart-felt comment. I would agree that we only damage ourselves when we insist on splitting up the church along generational lines based on music. All need to give a little and appreciate both the rich history of music and truth in worship music as well as making it relveant stylistically to culture.


  • Leon

    I too have grown up in the church singing hymns as well as the “newer” worship songs such as some the Gaither’s have put out there. Even songs like Andre’ Crouch have put in our hymn book seem out of date according to some. I not only have quit singing I have almost quit attending. There simply is no point in going to be annoyed or disgruntled over watching people that think they have to put on a show for the “seekers” to get them to come back. What about the older folks that just sit throughout the entire song service and are ignored week after week. Are they not important enough to even be considered? I realize it is an old argument, but it is still true, those old folk probably pay 70% of the salaries of those on stage trying to act like rock stars. Perhaps we would be better served if the people of the congregation acted in unison, not to create division, but to make a position known to the leadership that they should, and need to be heard about the subject of worship. If as the worship leaders say, it is not about us or the songs, then why do we not sing more of the old songs with true meaning? If it truly is about worshiping God, why not do it with songs that have depth and meaning rather than fluff songs. Of course this is just one old man’s humble opinion, and I am figuring out that in reality I have no opinion.

  • Cody Patterson

    Psalms tells us to sing a NEW song to the lord raising our hand and lifting a SHOUT. Thence ends my comment.

    • Ok. Thanks. But the new song must be in spirit AND in truth correct?

  • Childlike Faith

    So long as our worship is not vain and boastful and for our own benefit; who is to say what music is theologically correct to sing? Who is to say what music our Lord adores most? I trust, that if I am singing with my heart, and adoring Him with my soul – the words will not reflect the depth of my love or worship for Him – but something deeper will. I trust that God knows the intent of my heart and that even as I sin and make mistakes, even as I fumble through worship… even if for some reason I did end up singing something “doctrinally incorrect” (for I am no theologian), He would forgive me still and take what I am doing for Him as it is. My very best Worship. I choose to sit in that place inside of me where only he can reach and even in the pews, with all the other people, I am singing to Him in the solace of my soul. After all, none of it is for my enjoyment or benefit any way. I love Him. And He loves me. And in the end. That’s all that matters. I do not analyze. I trust. I do not understand. I believe.

    Tam explained this much better in my opinion… but that is all the explanation my childlike faith knows how to muster.

  • Angela

    I agree with you completely. When I got married my husband and I couldn’t agree on what church to attend. He grew up Old Time Missionary Baptist and I grew up in a Nazarene church. After 9 years of just not going to church anywhere we fell in love with a Missionary Baptist church not to far from our home. They only sing with a piano and hymns out of the old singing books. Nothing is prettier then listening to a congregation singing “God on the Mountain”. We’ve been attending this church for about 5 years now. A few months ago I went to my old church with my Mom and was shocked at how “modern” they had become. When I attended you had to know you were saved before you were baptized. Now, the pastor notes in the newsletter that anyone that wants to be baptized to please let him know. Really? Also, they had drums, guitars, trumpets and other instruments. Sometimes I just feel like those take away from the worship. Nothing like an alter call and someone beating their drums at you. How anyone can feel the spirit of the Lord with all the noise is beyond me. We are a spiritual church, if the Lord lays a song or testimony on your heart you do it. If you feel that you need to hug someone or say something you do it, it doesn’t matter if the Pastor is in the middle of his sermon or not. I love our church, their is such a sweet spirit there. We’re not big and I know it’s because we’re old fashion but we don’t dare do anything that may get in the way of someone’s soul being saved. That is the most important thing of all.

  • david

    The key thing you have to remember with worship music is that its not for us… It’s for god … And what you see with the modern day music is that its more an expression of the heart towards god… True worshippers worship the father in spirit and in truth and with that what words can we use to describe him that would be sufficient ? There arr angels around his throne who repeatedly sing the same thing … So I think with that if the heart behind it is postures correctly with an attitude of worship a little repetition isn’t always such a bad thing…. God bless !!

    • I mostly agree — provided it is truly in spirit AND in truth. But it hardly seems right to settle for endless repetition of morsels of truth when the buffet is available from an infinite God.

  • Kim

    One way I best worship God is by singing songs with words that help me see who He is and what He has done. I don’t get to know God better by singing songs that center on me and how I feel and what I’m doing and what I’ve been through and what I need. In fact, when I go home with those stuck in my mind and hit troubled spots during the week, I find that the song doesn’t recenter me, but reminds me of myself, which is where I don’t need to be. My husband illustrates the pointlessness of such songs by starting one out and then adding his own words. “Here I am, standing here, here’s me O God, singing to you, oooh.”

  • I think you raise some interesting ideas in your blog. As a modern worship leader I too have wondered at the value of many songs that we sing. That being said, I find myself sad that you have responded in this way. I’m sure you have read or at least heard Phil 4:13 before. Many people have put it on coffee cups but few take time to understand its’ context. Paul is saying that regardless of the situation, he can be content. So many battles over worship could be avoided if we would learn the value of contentment. To be honest, this is for both sides of the worship debate. I love hymns but I also love modern worship songs. We do both. In my opinion it is a bit short sided to suggest that hymns are good and modern songs are bad. There is biblical impetus to both remember your heritage and to sing a new song. While I think your desire to sing songs that are timeless is a good thought, the truth is, it is singing a song that makes it timeless. Who could possibly know what the next “Holy Holy Holy” or “A Mighty Fortress” will be until it is sung in church. My guess is that most song writers are sure their next song will be timeless. I have found that if we are all trying to serve each other and be content, then our worship regardless of what song is sung, can be God glorifying.

    Thanks for your thoughts. It is good to think through such issues.

    • Thnaks, Matthew. Did you read the related posts of the conversations that followed? I think I clarified some of my objections and grew through the process.

  • Linda

    I don’t think anyone really likes this new modern music except for the ones that lead it. Everyone I know want the old hymns, but there are no churches in our area that sing them. And if they should happen to sing maybe once a year it’s like it is out of pity. I just skip the music and go to church for the preaching. Not going to fake it.
    They know we don’t like it, but really don’t care.

    • Linda, Thanks for the comment although I don’t think most don’t care. Maybe it’s true in your church…

  • David

    This is yet another of those very sad posts which appear on the internet every so often from professing Christians. Why is it sad? It is sad, because these are the words of a writer who is no more attached to the heart of God than those he seeks to criticise or judge.

    Be assured of one thing – in terms of musical style, Jesus Christ would not have been particularly impressed or have any liking for the style of hymns produced by Christians and various denominations over much of the last 2000 years, let alone the last 200 yrs. The musical style of Christians during the last 2000 yrs had long since departed from that which Jesus knew and loved. Neither would He have thought much of some of the theology and replacement theology embedded in many of these “hymns”. In fact, He would regard some of them as heresy – and they are.

    The writer of this article would do well to reflect upon the gospels, the Word of God and the Hebrew nature and roots of faith in Christ. He will then begin to appreciate what it means to really Praise God or be involved in the worship of The Holy One. Return to your prayer closet and become a “seeker” again, seeking the living God with all of your heart.

    Please, no more petty and pathetic criticisms of your brothers in Christ. Stop going to church for what you can get and go to bring something to others. Stop going to judge services, musicians, singers, music or preachers and start going to bring a blessing that you have found on your knees at home. Get a heart of love for those that serve God in the church, instead of a heart of judgement.

    • Amazing how you do that — know the hearts of people, I mean. Well, thanks for offering your comment and for reading.

  • Chuck

    Never read anything like this. I’ve always thought that the purpose of the new style was to offer more scripturally accurate songs with words that are more like the songs we will be singing in heaven. The angels repeatedly crid “Holy, Holy, Holy. Making the simple is so everyone can catch the melody and sing along.
    This articles give me another perspective to consider

    • Thanks for the comment, Chuck. I trust you’ll check out the follow up pieces and the growth that ensued from this line of thinking…

  • I stumbled across this website in search of where I should share the music God gave me to write and siing. Believe it or not, I am a 20-25 year old veteran of playing a pedal steel guitar and lead guitar in all of America’s Honky-Tonk Bars across the nation; 6-7 nights per week….non-stop. I also have my own recording studio where I had to endure a steep learning curve to produce a CD that took me several years to produce. Now that it is finished, you might just be shocked to hear what I have. It is about the TRUTH that all of the glory seekers try to steal on a weekly basis. If interested, just go to CD Baby and put my name into their search engine; Greely Baggett Jr. You ALL will be definately surprised to see that someone like me even exits. For what it’s worth. God Bless you all!!

    By the way everyone, what I forgot to mention in my initial response above, is that my CD is titled “Proof Of Purchase”. You can also search the music that way at CD Baby as well. I will never make any apologies for the boldness of the messages either. The entire CD gives Jesus ALL of the glory and myself the fortunate opportunity in being his little delivery boy.

    A small oversight here. I’m not a 25 year old veteran. I am currently 57 years of age. I should have emphasized that above more clearly that I was a professional musician for 25 years; being one of Satan’s lead players in one heck of a lot of honky-tonks and bars. I’m also a Viet Nam era Marine Corps disabled veteran. What motivated my doing this CD was for the reckoning; being that Satan nearly destroyed my life. So….I ultimately recorded it to give Jesus ALL of the glory for saving my butt…..literally…..and for exposing the devil for who he is and what he does to people. You will all like the songs, I’m sure. It’s a real breath of fresh air and down to earth where the rest of us live during the meanwhile.

    To put things/music into a simple perspective for everyone would be to answer God concerning his questions here. God is asking “Where is the new song”? God is also asking “Where is the song of salvation”? Of course, that would be the very music/songs that is emphasized in Psalms 33:3. Thank you so much for allowing me to drop in here and visit uninvited. I just couldn’t resist though. I hope God blesses you all and directs your paths in glorifying him. He did that for me….and continues to do so.

    I originally should have posted this thread here. I mistakingly posted these threads on “Why I’ll Never stop singing in your Church”. Anyway, I’m glad that I posted on both ends. God bless you all once again.

  • Pauline T

    I totally agree. It was done in one of our churches to bring the children in. It doesn’t seem to have worked. It’s not difficult to count on the fingers of one hand the number of under 60s in the congregation let alone the under 20s. And sometimes when I try to include the ‘old’ hymns it’s so long since our previous vicar allowed me to use them that they have been forgotten. Fortunately our new vicar doesn’t ignore the organist’s opinion.

    • Glad to hear the organist is back in the mix! Thanks for the comment.

  • Tim Pottorff

    I whole-heartedly agree with the original post. I hate going to contemporary services. I can see quite plainly that we are being dumbed-down with the ‘worship’ songs. I am embarrassed to sing along. What has happened is that the church is so quick to embrace the packaging of MTV. Luther said that ‘ the church is the most effective when it is the least like the world…’.
    I thought it interesting that one of the posts was from a twenty-something who said that if he wanted to hear top 40 music he would just tune into a pop radio station. The church should pull the believers higher than just the simple, earth-bound music of the world. Just sayin’…

  • MrsTannja

    So glad to hear someone feels as I do! Thought I was an old fuddy duddy….I long to worship…there’s no annointing on this modern church music, bland, boring and the name of Jesus almost completely absent!
    I have tried to adjust my attitude to no avail. Thanks for writng the truth. I notice hardly anyone sings with the new stuff, but the congregation responds with gusto to the old hymns. Are we not supposed to be different from the world?

  • amelia vickers

    I just stumbled upon this post by accident but I have to say that a churches style of music shouldn’t be something that is used to judge whether the worship is pleasing to God. If the songs are sang as unto the Lord than who is it that can decide if God is pleased, besides the Lord himself? I attend a bible based non-denominational church the does have a band that plays contemporary worship music and I know that we worship our King with our whole heart. We worship to glorify God and to be filled with Jesus’s Holy Spirit. Maybe not everyone can connect to God and Jesus during our style of worship and that is why they are free to worship at a church that they feel brings them closest to our Lord. If a church is not right for you, why not just find one that is? I think God is more concerned with whether or not we are worshiping him and not how we are doing it. That’s just my opinion at least.

    • Thanks, Amelia. I agree that God is concerned about whether or not we are worshipping Him, but not to the exclusion of how we are doing it. He makes a big deal out of that in the Scriptures. My concern is the absence of truth in worship, or at least the great shallowness of it.

  • Sebastien Malo

    Hi Bill and all, I’m a journalism student at Columbia University in NY. I found your article really interesting. I’m currently conducting research on worship wars that relate to musical preferences. I was wondering if you are aware of churches in the NY area that are in a situation of conflict over the introduction of contemporary worship music in their service? Any kind of guidance would be of great help. Thanks! Sebastien

    • Sebastian,

      I doubt that it is only in NY that the problem exists, unfortunately. The key, as I pointed out in subsequent posts, is that worship be grounded in both spirit and truth. One without the other cannot be pleasing to God no matter how traditional or contemporary the style.

  • It may sound “intellectual” and all, talking about wanting a richer and deeper theological bases for every congregational song, but really how deep and theological is: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 Or, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 Or He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Is that just too simple for today? So if a song I worship to contain these simple messages am I participating is shallow worship? or Worship unfit for a 5th grader? And for the record, some things deserve to be repeated. So if repeating God’s attributes, or his mercies, or his goodness, or that His love endures forever is too much for someone to take in this temporal place, God help them when they get to eternity. In closing, you might to take a moment and have another read of Psalm 136. That author didn’t seem to have an issue with repeating simple truths of what God can do.

    • Alex, Thanks for the comments (not sure Tom feels the same). Simple has it’s place. But a steady diet of simple just doesn’t cut it. If we consistently reduce worship singing to the lowest common intelligence denominator, we do everyone – especially God (the Logos) — a great disservice. We need spirit and truth.

      Neverthelesss, if I say you made agood point about th eneed to opreserve simnplicity, woudl that further disqualify any future insigth I may have? Just checking.

      • Simple has its place? Interesting that is seems there are many who commented here who actually seem to want simpler worship but only simpler musically. They seem to long for the good old days of the organ and the song leader, who had “no pride”. The fact is the Gospel message is simple. God loves you, is a simple message. How is approaching God in worship under those terms too simplistic for you? Worshipping to God’s grace, mercy, and sovereignty. Why does it seem that what is really wanted is a worship that simply uses big words for simply truths. Do you also require your pastors to use the same ancient language in their sermons that you prefer in your worship? Or are you ok with them using modern language that connects with this generation.

  • Jon Curtis

    Bill, I think that your original post is 100% on. I didn’t read all of the comments. I found this site because I was doing research for a sermon in a series on Colossians. This morning we are at Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

    I will share a couple of points below:
    Singing in church ought to do two things:
    1.) Teach other believers.
    2.) Admonish other believers.

    Well, what should the it teach?
    The word of Christ.

    Our songs, every song, should contain solid bible doctrine that directs peoples thoughts toward the word of Christ.

    Admonish simply means to warn.
    When’s the last time you heard a song of warning sang in the church?

    Before every singer sings they should ask this question, “Does this song teach the word of Christ and/or admonish the church?
    If not, pick a song that does.

    Think of the large portion of time that we devote in nearly every church service to singing.

    Opening hymns, special singing, choir singing, altar singing,…more than 50% of what we do in church is sing.

    And I have serious doubts as to whether most singers have ever even seriously considered the long-term affect of the songs they sing.

    The songs that we sing should inspire us to an awe of God’s holiness and lead us to an overwhelming sense of dependence on Christ.

    In his book, “Real Worship”, Warren Wiersbe wrote, “I am convinced that congregations learn more theology (good and bad) from the songs they sing than from the sermons they hear.
    Many sermons are doctrinally sound and contain a fair amount of biblical information, but they lack that necessary emotional content that gets hold of the listener’s heart.
    Music, however, reaches the mind and the heart at the same time.
    It has power to touch and move the emotions, and for that reason can become a wonderful tool in the hands of the Spirit or a terrible weapon in the hands of the Adversary.”

    “…more theology from the songs they sing than from the sermons they hear.”
    If that‘s true, then just stop and consider for a moment,… that would make the writer of the songs we sing sort of our theologians, our bible teachers.

    If you want to know the direction that a church is heading,…listen to her songs.

    • Jon,

      You make good point about warning in songs. I think the purpose is wider than the two you gave though they should certainly be included. Youa re correct that it comes from the mind and heart — although I’m not sure they are really two different things. Thanks for the comment.

  • Kelli Jones

    Your comments are so arrogant. What a turn-off.

  • laszlo szujo

    Your description about contemporary worship is right on.I’ve been a Christian for 24 years now and in recent years I got to the point where I just basically skip the corporate worship time at church.I hate it,I feel guilty at times,but the misery of singing the mindless lyrics added with raving unskilled musicians/normally kids/..I just can’t take it.Yet there is so much great/I mean spiritual/worship I find on Youtube?????I spend hours worshiping at the front of the computer…..this is the sad reality we live in.PsHave you ever heard of Robin Mark?Check it out…won’t regret it.

  • Rodney Johnston

    Congratulations, Every blue haired bitter older person will take this article and beat their music minister silly with it.

    You are partially right but also incredibly unenlightened as to how hard it is to lead in the modern multi generational Church. Virtually every age group is convinced that they are right. It is only about personal relationship with Christ and giving Him praise. I know many music ministers that want to be Chris Tomlin so bad sing you in the ground or many older guys sound like a bus engine but if they love God and are doing their best give them a break!!!!

    • Thanks. That was me giving them a break. Even those who are sincere of all ages, must worship in spirit AND in truth.

  • Richard A. Edwards

    A very fine synopsis of a great problem we have in the modern church. It is symptomatic of a greater problem that exists in the modern church. I am a student of the reformers and the puritans since the early 80’s and have found the difference between born again Christians today and those of yesteryear. We can never return to that kind of dedication, one-mindedness without a God given revival. The overwhelming majority of us are satisfied with our smug Christianity and level of dedication. We don’t live in repentance, we live in mediocrity. We do not know history, we will not read about church history and how Christians lived before us and then give up what we must give up to be better than they were. The love of money is the root of all evil. May God help us to repent.

  • Roberta Davis

    I’ve been feeling this ever since we got a new pastor some years back who insisted on playing the guitar and formed his “band” complete with a bass guitar and drums. The songs to me are so bad I can’t sing them. In addition, I didn’t go to church to see and hear a rock concert.

    • So what do you think of some of the solutions proposed here in related posts? We can’t just drop out.

  • Ian

    Great post I really can sympathize with your own feelings. I am in fellowship with a group of Christians who have been drifting from solid worship to what I would call Laodicean wishy washiness.
    I had the opportunity last Easter to attend a Gospel meeting put on by Open Brethren Gospel Halls in the Toronto area. It was really refreshing. There were a couple of thousand people gathered at Le Parc inn and conference center. They sang solid Gospel hymns for 15 or 20 min completely accapella, and could they sing. I think the difference is they believe it. And their convictions move their hearts to sing to the Lord.

  • Sheri

    Thank you for writing this. I really wondered if I was just some kind of critical nut who could not stand the music in church anymore. I used to go to church and during the song service / praise and worship time my cares would be lifted, my heart unburdened, and my soul would soar … It was such a thrilling time with The Lord. I would truly rejoice in Him. I don’t want to sing about me. I want to sing about Him and to Him!

    The repetition goes on and on and on and you said it…then they want to sing it a few more times reeeeaaaalllll slow. It makes me want to scream! I honestly think there is some kind of sleepy spirit assigned to much of this stuff that is supposed to be music now days. It is almost hypnotic…

    I want songs of victory, songs that produce confidence in Him and even a greater knowledge of Him!

    • Sheri, I’m with you –especially on the songs of victory part.

  • Janice S

    Thats one reason why I have church at home. The modern day church too fake and plastic. Turn around and shake hands with people who don’t want too. They come in and go out only speaking to the small clique. Its been that way for years. Ive been a Born again christian since 1972. I LOVE JESUS with all my heart, but the music leaves me cold and so does the corporate church. That’s what they are is a corporation with CEO’s – senior pastors and all the other corporate heads. I love listening to many of the young worship songs written by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redmon. But I also love the old stuff too! Ive guess I just want to be apart something real that’s not just going through the motions. That’s where I’m at in my old age of 59 and holding! LOL Blessings and Smiles, Janice

    • Janice, You touch on something here that I’ve intended to write about for some time now — the informal liturgy in many evangelical churches — churches that would cringe at the mere mention of the word liturgy.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • CPT Nieves

    Brother Bill, I can see for the amount of comments, that you have touched somethng close and dearly to us (either our hearts or our nerves!). Spanish-speaking churches are going through the same crisis – and yes, it is a crisis, if you have not notice. I will illustrate my point: During a devotional in a church-based scout group I lead at a church, I asked the boys what song they wanted to sing. One asked if we could sing “Yes Lord” (or whatever name it has) song, one of the “hit parade” at the time. I told the boy to lead the group in singing it. Needless to say, he could not. If it wasn’t for the instruments and the group noise, they could not “sing” it. We go to a church in Orlando with a great pastor. However, my wife and kids skip the devotional as they find boring the music. This is their opinion, not mine. No appeal, with all the “razzle dazzle” of a band, choir, music pastor, and big TV screen. I really, really, really, miss the ol’ time religion and its worshiping!

  • Kristina

    Wow! Your words touched my heart. I long for a place where my children can learn songs that come out of deep study, devotion and trial versus the music production mills. Style may get updated but the messages shouldn’t be dumbed down.

    One other thought . . . I feel like we have memories as a gift from God. The pull of nostalgia is a strong emotion. When musical directors continually change the lineup, are they sacrificing this powerful aspect? When I hear a dear hymn that my parents and grandparents sang years ago, it makes me feel a part of something greater. Used to be that I could attend a congregation for the first time and immediately feel a part of the “family” just by joining in with them. Today I feel like anything “old” (including my favorite memories of dear Saints) has been thrown out and is considered passe. Can’t help to feel a little kicked to the curb myself.

    (Note: I do not let these changes take me away from worshiping my Lord and keeping the main thing – the main thing.)

    • Good point about memory and worship. Much wisdom there I think.


  • Rosie

    I found this thread by accident today.
    All I can say is I agree with the original post. You see, I am an Aussie, and Hillsong Incorporated as you call it, is a local church here where I live. Hillsong has some great points, but when the pastor drives a sports car and the National Newspaper runs a story like this, I have to say I think the mark has been missed http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/08/03/1185648145760.html
    I have been to this church. The repetitive singing, the hand waving and clapping, the hysteria, is all driven by an all – star rock band at the front complete with the Pastor’s wife singing like the star of the show… and then the music dies down and the Pastor comes out, saying “the Lord Loves a Cheerful giver” and the money starts flowing into receptacles passed around. Passed around more than once. Where does the money go? there have been many enquiries into that here. You won’t know about them, so far away.
    Many years ago an elderly lady pointed out to me that songs about our Lord and Saviour should be specific – otherwise she said, what “god” are you singing and praising to?
    At the time I thought in my youth and foolishness that she was being silly. Now I think perhaps she might have had a point.

    Rosie in Sydney

    • Rosie,

      I like your point about being specific. We should be that way in prayer, why not our worship music?


  • Mary Allard

    For a while now, there has been something missing for me as well in a lot of the music that is called worship music. In fact the whole experience for me is missing something. And, it’s not just the songs or style of music. I used to be able to worship God through music with any syle, with the exception of rap or heavy metal maybe, ha. Although, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it exactly. It’s just has something to do with my spirit being unsettled. We are suppose to share the same Spirit right? If I’m going to meet with other like minded believers for fellowship, it’s not just about singing hymns and spiritual songs, using various instraments, at least it shouldn’t be. What about prophesying, sharing a scripture, encouraging one another in love, confessing our sins, and if we are truly there in obedience to our Lord, shouldn’t we expect truth? Shouldn’t we expect love? Should we not leave encouraged? Rested? Forgiven? For some, convicted which should lead to repentence? Isn’t that all part of worship? We are suppose to come together in one accord. Putting aside our differences, ie, our worship style, choice of song etc. and coming together to edify the church which is us, to worship our God. Do we have to neccesarily come together after hours of worship practice with planned out music choices to worship our God? I mean, it’s because if Christ that we can even cry out ABBA Father. We are suppose to be one in spirit, worshiping in spirit and truth are we not? For me, I need to engage in worship the way my spirit cries out to. It won’t be exactly the same for everyone. Yet there has to be order right? Everyone can’t talk at once, or we wouldn’t be able to understand each other. I think that the kind of worship that pleases the father is not just what kind of music we are singing , but where our hearts truly are. Are we here for ourselves or to serve one another? I think music is just one small part of our worship to God. I cannot engage in worship if my spirit does not testify with other believers spirits. Another words, if a song is being sung that does not line up with scripture, then I cannot truly and honestly sing in aggreement with the congregation or with a worship leader. It’s like someone speaking in a tongue without an interpretation, how can I say Amen if I don’t know what was spoken? The tongue could have been a doctrine of demons for all I know. If a song doesn’t line up with scripture, how can I say Amen? I would feel like a hyprocrit to just join along knowing that what I’m singing is not truth. And if I just stay quiet keeping my mouth shut, or just merely tapping my foot to the beet, then what does that make me? Lukewarm? Tolerant? I would feel like I wasn’t a part of something that was suppose to be mine too. I wouldn’t feel connected to the body. Being of one mind and one Spirit. I think that maybe the modern american church has lost some meaning of the idea of what true worship is, and we have made it all about us. Instead of all about God. I think of King David’s example of pure unadulterated worship. He took off his kingly garment and danced before the Lord. It was as if he and his Lord were the only ones in the room. It didn’t matter who was watching or what anyone else was doing in the room. He was oblivious to it. Oh, his wife was upset because in her eyes he disgraced himself and her by taking off his robe, but to King David it was an act of humility, before HIS King. He knew his place. In the Psalms, which are King David’s spiritual songs unto the Lord he totaly makes himself vulnerable to his God. He is real and honest before his King. He didn’t just go through the motions, give his money and leave. His worship was true. I think we have lost that connection and humble spirit when we worship. I have been to churches that have a cafe in the sanctuary and we are free to sip our coffee while we worship… or not. At the same time being entertained by the latest worship music, with rock star performers and electric guitars. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rock n roll or rock stars but if our hearts are only in church because of what we are getting from it, then we are taking our eyes off Jesus and onto ourselves. I mean, if the only thing we can talk about after we leave church is how great the band was or how wonderful the pastors sermon was then I think we have missed the point of gathering together, because all the focus is on the worship team and the pastor. But they are not the only ones that make up the church. We all have a apart to play, that is equally important. I know people that have left churches because they didn’t like the pastors style of preaching, or they couldn’t relate to the music. Has anyone ever left a church because they didn’t like the way someone poured their coffee, or hugged them, or prayed for them, or encouraged them? Or gave them their garment because they were without and naked. Or because someone gave them some food because they were hungry? We had some Christian visiters from Africa that came and sang some songs in their own language and some using a lot of broken English, while they danced unto the Lord. It was beautiful. The spirit was truly there. My spirit testified to that. I worshipped right a long with them, and I didn’t understand very much of what they were saying. Their English was very broken, but it didn’t matter, because it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t even about them, they were there to glorify our God and testify to the wonderful things that he had done for them. For the restoration that was being made possible because of what Christ has done for them. For his grace and mercy. Their testamonies were so powerful. They had been through so much horror, rape, seeing their families die right before their eyes. A lot of them had aids. Yet they shared stories of forgiveness and love and triumph over such evil. It was just so touching. I think that was the most powerful Worship service I had ever been to. God’s people were truly one in Spirit and Truth that day.

  • Amen.

  • Phil McIntosh

    I have struggled with the contemporary music issue for years. You put many thoughts into perspective. Thanks.
    One concern I have is the habit I see all around me to define worship as music. From conversations I have had, worship can only happen when the fingers strike the guitar stings (or the keyboard). Too bad. True worship is so much more than that. Especially, for me, worship comes when I am engaged with God and my understanding of him is magnified – whether through Scripture (especially this), music, exhortation, conversation, etc.
    Anyway, thanks for the comments.
    I also enjoyed seeing my cousin Ingrid Crozier’s comments from 10–15-2012.
    Phil McIntosh

    • Glad it could be a family reunion of sorts! You are, of course, correct that worship is greater than music. As long as it is in spirit and in truth. We must be ever checking our own hearts to ensure it is just that.


  • David

    The problem you are referencing is that we as Christians are selfish. We want things to always remain the same and never change. Guess what….God did not create the church for the saved but for the unsaved. You put an unsaved young married to teenager in a worship service full of hymns, traditions (doing the same thing week after week at the same time), using “church terms” that unsaved people will not understand then you might as well place a sign on the door of “your” church reading “DON’T COME IN”!!

    Every church should be about spreading the gospel. The message of the cross never changes however the method in which it is delivered has to change. If people still work do you use a manual type writer or and PC or MAC. Do you have a rotary phone or a cell phone. Still send letters very much….nope….email or text messages. Yes the world has changed and the Church must change with what society will respond to without ever comprimising Jesus.

    Everyone just needs to take a deep breath and relax. By the way, those great hymns of the faith were at one time, not allowed to be sung in church because the music came from pubs in Europe!

    • David, thanks for the comment. I think the Bible present the Church as existing for both the saved and the unsaved though for different purposes.

    • Jane

      I don’t think the choice is between old fashioned dirges and rituals and modern music, David. It is between modern music and repetitive, tuneless, contemporary dirges. My teenage sons and their friends avoid worship time as much as possible, despite it being “contemporary”. Just because it is modern, it doesn’t mean it is good or appealing to young people.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      David, it is quite obvious that you have not read anything here. There are a lot of very good posts on this matter. They have good things to say that are true and represent the heart of many people.

  • Jane

    I am so glad to read this and know that I’m not alone. I have struggled with worship for quite a few years now – ever since Hillsongs became popular. I love singing and a good worship/ praise of whatever genre can really be uplifting ie whether it’s a hymn or a modern song. But I find now, that churches seem to sing one song that you can engage your mind and your spirit with and then just as you feel you are connecting with God they spend the rest of the time singing boring, repetitive, droning, dreary ballads that cut my spiritual connection like a light switch and go further than that by actually depressing me.
    Many times I have gone up for prayer for this inability to participate in contemporary worship (I loved the up-beat happy, clappy songs of the seventies). But I have come to the conclusion that it is a personality thing, just as we have different senses of humour, ie what makes me laugh might not make you laugh. The problem is that this culture is all pervasive now and the only place I could get away from this sort of worship was an Anglican church, the downside being it is pretty spiritually dead in this particular church.
    So what are we to do about it? How can we start a new movement of intelligent, meaningful and uplifting worship that would appeal to more people and probably much more to non-Christians too?

  • Jong

    Sometimes I feel like attending a concert rather than a worship service. I do not judge them since there is no specific type of sound or music that the LORD required, but the heart of those that sings them. I still prefer the old Hymns due to the fact it is much more doctrinal than the modern contemporary songs that evangelical churches used in their worship service.

    The Heart of Worship is what the LORD looks at and not the song nor the music nor singer.

    Psalm 51:17 The Sacrifices of GOD are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O GOD, thou wilt not despise.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      My husband and I do not go to concerts and prefer not to because the volume in most of them endangers the hearing. As it is, he already needs hearing aids. We love worship but it has been turned into Concerts in most of the churches. A proper worship is when we all can sing together in one accord, not just sit back and listen. The leaders need to teach the congregation the song so they can all sing. Worshiping out loud in song from our hearts creates an emotion of worship within our spirits.

      • disqus_lmbvOJIq6C

        You just said you don’t go to concerts yet you think you know what there about? I have seen several contemporary singers (Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Mercy me, etc.) and the people there seem to have an easier time worshiping than at church because they don’t feel obligated to do so

  • Jane

    I’ve been a Christian for about 36 years now and have seen the evolution of worship through that time. We used to sing many songs during the worship part of the service and they generally had good melodies and were quite often up-beat. The songs were a great encouragement to connect with God so that after a number of them, the congregation would start to offer up their own private worship to God. This didn’t usually go on for too long. This was usually led by someone on a guitar or piano and the congregation often played tambourines. But then we got the “worship team” who were almost like professional singers and musicians. They took themselves very seriously. They decided in advance what songs were to be sung, whereas previously it had often been spontaneous. They controlled the whole thing with the aim of getting to the personal worship time as soon as possible because they thought that was really the only authentic part. But of course the personal worship part was also led by them. They took pride in their spontaneous lyrics and their virtuoso singing with all the embellishments that pop stars would use. Then came Hillsongs with performance songs that suited the worship team perfectly. They didn’t need nice sing-a-long songs anymore because they were doing most of the singing. They just needed songs that had scope for lots of twiddly bits (that’s what I’ve always called their embellishments) and they didn’t need much of a tune or words because they would repeat them over and over again, thereby getting straight to the heart of worship. The sevices appeared to be very spiritual and it became the hallmark of a “good, contemporary church”. So any church wanting to be seen as successful and modern would copy that format. And that brings us up to where we are today with boring, droning, repetitive music, very controlled and very difficult to engage with and possibly only really enjoyed, in truth, by those leading it and the fortunate few who don’t need to engage their brain to worship.
    I know I may sound cynical but in fact I just feel very concerned, and disenfranchised and cheated. There is now no apparent opportunity for me to participate in the kind of worship that drew me to Christianity in the first place. The kind of worship where lives really were changed and miracles happened, and which was an attractive alternative culture into which you could proudly bring non Christians. I would go so far as to say that it could be the one major factor in the decline of Christianity today, both for the declining number of new Christians and the falling away of those who already are born again.

    • Doug Wright

      I agree with you totally. Thank you

  • Doug Wright

    I am in full agreement with you about the NEW music. I do not fake it, I just read the words, even over and over and over and over, etc. But I am from the school of signing with music and words that follow music pattern, not the NEW repeat and show you waht I can do music. I have always been moved closer to God with my music, but THEIR music gives me just a bad taste. I go for the words fom the pastor and tororate the music they give me. But I surly would like to find what I need, if another church. Doug in Broken Arrow Okla.

    • Doug, I think we would both agree that repetition has its place, but only a place. It should not be the centerpiece of a dumbed down worship.


    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      You are voicing the feelings of many, many christians of today.

  • Mikki

    My eyes are opened in the right way of music and song to worship God through the Jack Van Impe Ministries.
    Pastor Jack Van Impe emphasized many times in this TV programme that modern/rock music should not be use in praising God because it pleases the only the people not God. Besides its too noisy & destructive with all those loud music & shouting you cannot make intimacy worship with rock music to God. I think rock music is a form of demonic worship because it gives no meaning to real worship to our Almighty God, it’s a disrespect & act of rebellion.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Mikki, you are right about the disrespect and act of rebellion. It is there big time.

      • Empire Red

        I just don’t understand Eileen. How is a style of worship music disrespectful and rebellious? Or are you saying that those who play, lead, and participate in singing modern/rock worship songs are being disrespectful and rebellious towards God? Either way, I suspect that the root cause of your statement is that you simply don’t like that style of music. And that’s fine! But please don’t attempt to judge the hearts and motivations of those of us who earnestly worship our Lord and Savior with these songs.

    • Empire Red

      My understanding from the Bible has been that the Lord is pleased whenever His name is praised. So if modern/rock worship music is causing the name of the Lord to be praised, why would that not be pleasing to Him? Sure, that style of music is not without it’s issues (it can be distractingly loud, sometimes there is too much focus on the band, some are not good congregational songs, lack of depth, etc.), but demonic?! Absolutely not! My wife, church friends, and I are engaging in the worship and praise of Jesus Christ, the son of God, crucified as atonement for our sins and resurrected from the grave. Real meaning can be found in any style of worship music, modern or traditional, praise song or hymn. You and Pastor Van Impe may not like modern/rock worship music, but that does not make it demonic (ref Luke 9:49-50).

  • Donna

    Maybe you guys should just stop complaining and find your own way to worship God.. It’s not about YOU! It’s about God. He don’t care about how simplistic it is, He cares about the heart. So next time you don’t agree with the worship, worship in your own way and your own words. In the end it is about you and God and your relationship with God. Maybe there is a deeper problem needing some desperate attention.

    • Donna, You may be right. But it was Jesus Himself who said that we must worship God both in spirit and in truth. Clearly we cannot merely choose our own way in which to worship Him, sort of a relativistic “anything goes” approach.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Donna, you are missing it. I do not think that you have read the comments with your heart or maybe like so many, you just do not care.

  • Thanks for this article Bill. I appreciated your honesty and directness. I’m a 19 year old Christian in a reasonably stolid contemporary type worship service and to be honest, I don’t really “get” worship very well; I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to do. The closest I ever get to understanding it is when I sing “Be Thou My Vision”. I find it really powerful.

    I can’t understand how the “it’s not about music, it’s about worship” logic can lead us to any conclusion other than “cater the music to help us worship.” Be that old or new.

    It’s about worship, so if the style is obstructing our worship, work with your preferences, instead of struggling against them, and do what helps you worship.

    My (doubtless ignored and unnecessary) two cents.

    • Thanks for the two cents, Joshua. Good thinking. If it’s not about the music, why have music at all? Why not go bowling as worship? Of course, they usually have music there, too, so we’d be back to the same discussion, I suppose.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      The younger generations, sad to say, have not had much opportunity to be in real worship so are missing it. They are in concerts, so to speak.

  • DogsMum

    Yes! I hate it. I refuse to sing any verse or refrain more than twice. Most of the music I hear in church is about me. It’s not about God. It’s all what God does for me, how he makes me feel, etc. and I hate it. Got into a discussion with a pastor about this, and I said how great it would be to have an organ and sing hymns. He said, “no body knows music like that anymore, it’s not part of their everyday life”…. Right! That’s the point! Oh, it was his argument against. It was my argument FOR. I stay home a lot.

    • Sorry to hear you stay home a lot. I can’t convince myself that forsaking the assembling of ourselves together will solve the problem. Did you read my later posts on the subject? Maybe some encouragement and light to move forward?

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      DogsMum. I just found this forum and am having so much fun reading all the posts. Your is one of the ones I get a kick from. It tells it like it is and points out the reasons a lot of people are beginning to stay home. Rather, you can go when the worship team is done. I sometimes do that or go outside when they become obnoxious to my ears.

    • Marie B Corn

      You are right. Modern church worship music is most often “me” centered – the verey opposite of worship of God.

    • Hannah

      Hi DogsMum,

      I appreciate your frustration with the self-centeredness of some of today’s “worship” music. I can empathize with that, to an extent. But I would like to point out that “I hate it…I stay home a lot,” is essentially self-centered as well. I don’t always agree with every action that my church takes, but the Body is incomplete without all of its members.

      Thanks for listening! I hope I’m not coming off as rude or disrespectful.

      In Him,

    • Jak

      Hi DogsMum! Your honesty and authenticity in commenting is fantastic but I have one hindrance with what you have said: “It’s all what God does for me…” et cetera. I would ask that you consider all the doxology and psalms of the Bible. They are just that. Psalm 23 is about God leading ME and helping ME. Psalm 68 is about ME drowning and needing God. Psalm 73 is about MY sinfulness and God’s love in it. And the honest truth is, God is about ME and YOU and US. He has no other thought, desire, passion, song, love than for US. He doesn’t ‘love’ the angels or animals; only US! We are His children; we are kings; we are ministers and we are royalty. We are His so why not sing as if we are His in confidence and certainty! Visit ancientink.wordpress.com/my-hymnal for more examples of modern day psalms if you wish. Thanks again though for your honesty!

      • CynthiaL

        Jak: I was agreeing with you wholeheartedly until you decided to speak directly for God about who He loves & doesn’t love! God = Love! Your attempt to limit Gods love is alarming, to say the least.

    • ceh

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sings hymns with the organ every sunday. They sing hymns about God, it’s respectful and peaceful. A lot of effort is really put into the music to help make it reverent so others can feel the spirit and love of God.

  • Pastor Pete

    It’s worth noting how much less of a problem the “music menu” is with the church I pastor in Northern Maine). In fact, it’s not a problem at all. The talent pool in our church is so shallow, given our smaller numbers, we are delighted to have a 7 member choir, and are thrilled when even the moderately gifted play the guitar, piano or sing a solo. Whatever the people of God bring in heartfelt worship is greatly appreciated, be it an old hymn or modern chorus. Being in a small church really causes you to focus on “what” worship really is. I sure hope acceptable worship is not dependent on raising the decibal level up to a certain level, because if that’s the case, we haven’t worshiped in 20 years!

    • Terrific reminder Pastor Pete! Keep up the faithful work.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Pastor Pete, Lol. Nice to know there are churches like yours still around.

  • Really appreciate this article. My husband and 11-year-old daughter and I don’t like these “praise” songs either. My biggest complaint (besides how mind numbingly repetitve they are) is they often don’t proclaim the name of Jesus or the majesty of God – they sing to “you” which can be a person, chair, or animal. When my daughter was a baby I sang “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” to her every night. She never had a nightmare or a rough night like I hear so many babies do. The Bible tells us at the name of Jesus demons flee. We should proclaim it loudly and boldly – why don’t these “praise” songs that so many churches have embraced? If we can’t even say the name Jesus in church, what’s going to help us on the sidewalks, in the grocery stores, or libraries where we encounter the world???? These modern songs don’t have enough depth to get me through the week. Another thing we’ve noticed is how LOUD this “music” is! It is ridiculous. Really miss singing in church, really miss songs that mean something, and really miss not having a headache on Sunday afternoons.

    • Good reminder about the name of Jesus. Seems we’ve grown accustomed to adjusting secular songs to the Christian radio scene that can be sung to the generic, if all all-powerful, “you.”

  • Vic

    So who won this debate/discussion?

    Was anyone’s heart changed concerning worship after reading or posting in this article?

    Was anyone saved?

    Did it inspire anyone to go out and share the message of Christ to a lost world after posting or reading?
    Yes? No? If not, I would encourage the author to write an article next time on “Why I have stopped sharing Christ with Others” (“I” being christians, not author personally). Something tells me, there would not be as much activity/opinions/beliefs/debate, if that one was open for discussion.

    To share the good news of Christ with lost souls that cross our paths each day/week, is the ultimate form of worship, …and it requires no guitars, no organs, no hymns, and not even a worship leader. As a worship leader in a small church, I face these same discussions, but for me, a style/culture of music will always lose priority when it comes to “style” verses “Sharing Jesus”. May God bless all of you, …..and tell somebody about Christ today (if necessary, use words) 🙂 …now open your hymnal to page 997 and please join with me as we sing Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” …..1 – 2 – 3 – 4 (grin)

    • Good reminders all, Vick. Did you check out the subsequent posts? I think we did grow a bit through the discussion. I know I did.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      THAT topic is covered in another section.

  • june smith

    guess what? Worship Him in spirit and in truth ! This cultish way we stand and stand and sing songs. What is that about worship? worship is the way i live my life every day. We are the most erotic sensual group of Christians who love to sway, where our cool clothes and our sensuality is evident in a lot of our worship. I grant that there are some beautiful songs (The days of Elijah). Our young people love to swing and sway and our mid-life crisis love to do the same. In skimpy imodest skin tight jeans this seems more about sex then worship. Jews do it, Muslims do it, africans do it, people in all religions and pagan ceremonies do it. Look at what worship is. God can be saying I am tired of your endless songs . Obediance is worship. Sorry, when did we get so deluded? Where did the discernment go?

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Ha, ha, ha. I like your post, June. Every time I see a pastor’s wife or daughter with cleavage pushing up to the top of her low-cut blouse I say “Lord, help them” I know that they will face troubles in that church. The showing of flesh and the emotion created by the loud volume in churches of today is very ungodly but it is hard to give exhortation without being sliced to bits, depending on how far the people have become steeped in those practices. The last Pentecostal church I was in had a church leader whose wife wore tight blouses that wrapped around her breasts and showed cleavage. As she sang and bounced around the breasts bounced, which of course was an encouragement to everyone to look at them.

      • Darryl Willis

        I fear that this is an ad hominem attack.

        The question of the article is the music, not the dress (or lack thereof) of those singing.

        I remember the girls and ladies wearing mini-skirts and some pretty skimpy clothing in the 70s while singing hymns. Did their dress discredit the hymns?

        Let’s not try to discredit the music because some worshipers may dress in ways you don’t approve. They have nothing to do with each other.

        And I would add “immodest” in the Bible speaks a lot about how much women were wearing as opposed to how little (over dressing and wearing jewelry and thereby drawing attention to their clothing and style as opposed to being simple in dress).

        Those are two different issues altogether.

  • I have been depressed about it..trying to force myself and each time its mechanics all 0ver again..real sad so much so I want to stop going to worship because it feels fake and we look at the BIG screens all acting like we are suppose to be “getting it”….well I am 55 and feel very lost and detached from the praise team..30+ years I have played 4 instruments and played with many people but right now I feel like GOD does not like me…oh well guess I don’t “GET IT”

    • Jeff,

      Thanks for your honest admissions. As many issues as I may have with many modern approaches to worship, we must be careful not to let them become excuses for our behavior/attitudes. I’d encourage you to be sincere about your predicament before God — and mine through the rest of the posts that follow this one in the Worship Week series. May be some further help in there.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Jeff, you sound like you really care. I pray that God blesses what you do and you get encouraged to use those instruments to Bless Him and Praise Him in the right volume and way that He orchestrates you to do. You will be blessed as you use your talents for His purpose and not yours or the churches.

  • Jewelia

    I think our churches have become so commercial and we make “people” into idols. One genertion follows the next generation.

    God created song, singing, harmony, we’ve turned our worship into being bands and into worshipping people.

    There are people capable of singing and playing instruments so it’s okay to let them do their thing. But not with the whole rest of us sitting there being entertained.

    We should come already on fire, in the Spirit. The musicians need to be humble and make room for Jesus from beginning til end, always having an antenna up for what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal about Jesus that morning. He wants control and he allows us to be part of that process.

    But us getting there, getting ready to sing songs is just the appetizer to what God wants to do when his family comes together. If we all stay on the same page, stand next to each other as children, as equals before God, there is alot of fun ahead. If we sit there and focus on collecting money, walking around with our nose up in the air because we have a “position” in a building..then we are in trouble.

    The first chord can turn into a heavenly joureney that can last for hours and we will never get bored. It’s okay if we start the song like a song..but wait on God to do his thing, only God can be God. He allows us to partake in the process of glorifying Jesus.

    Community is a family party..and the guest of honor is “Jesus” somewhere he gets pushed aside with all the agenda’s out there. God in his mercy is patient and kind for those who may be stuck in tradition, he is so nice.

    But he desires for us to be free..truely free, to be all we were meant to be. Individually and as a family. If Jesus remains the star if this party then guaranteed this party will rock heaven and earth. Jesus is not boring. It will take a death to old to make room for God to move. Waiting on him and not worrying if we look or sound good.

    I have hope and I want to be part of that freedom..I pray God to use me just to be a kid at a party with a party hat and a blower.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Jewellia, yes, you have said it like it is.

  • Joshua Brown

    I don’t have the time to read thru all the many comments posted here so I apologize if I am “repetitive”. I think you are wrong and judgmental. You may not like a particular type of song but just because it’s DUMB enough for a 5th grader or repetitive or written within the last 10 years (or any of the other ridiculous reasons you mentioned) doesn’t mean it can’t lead people to God. I for one enjoy a few of the old hymns but if I was forced to listen to that every Sunday I wouldn’t go anymore. Each to their own…find a different church that caters more to your liking and it won’t be an issue. Here’s the thing though…what if God told that worship leader to play those songs to reach the greatest number of people? Then you are not only condemning the worship leader an worship team or choir but you are also telling God you know better than him. As a long time member of my church’s worship team and a musician myself I can tell you that I’ve seen many many more people come to know God thru our stupid repetitive fifth grade worship chorus than from any hymn…ever. Why is this? Because that’s what the majority of people in Church under the age of 50 want to hear. It’s what they identify with. Open your mind and maybe I won’t have to waste my time reading and responding to such closed minded rhetoric.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Complaints like this are argumentative and very wrong.

  • Pedro

    Amen brother.

    I’m a youngish member of an Anglican church in Sydney Australia. I much prefer Hymns and older style sung elements like the Gloria etc.

    I can worship God through playing slap bass or many other ways but I feel when you come to Church and worship it should be about being able to do it together, as musicians to support the congregation, to make it easy for them to connect through voice.

    I don’t begrudge those who want things to be done in a hillsong fashion, I just think it’s a quite specific style and to be honest if you brought in non-Christian musicians and the breathy singing and dramatic arrangements come across a bit try hard.

    I also don’t particularly like leading singers (unless there is a really good reason like teaching a new song or it’s a choir). Church means the people and I believe that people need a real connection with Jesus and not to be awed by amazing musicianship. You don’t want clumsy and ill prepared, but neither should it encroach on the truth of salvation and the humility and sincerity of those that have come to worship.

  • Ann

    Right on! I praise God every Sunday when we sing at least three hymns and an occasional Gaither piece at our CMA church in Shell Point Retirement Community filled with retired missionaries, pastors, professionals from all over the world and people like me who love to be encouraged by the word of God taught with vigor and purpose and to worship our blessed Savior with music that does the same.
    During the week I attend a Methodist church that’s doing a good job of ministering the Celebrate Recovery program for those of us with hurts, habits and hangups that follows the Twelve Steps to Recovery and the accompanying Eight Christian Principles. However, the music is exactly as you describe and as others have commented. I can hardly bear it graciously, but most people there are a generation or two younger than I am at the tender age of 74 and seem to love it. But lest you think this is an age thing, my son, who is 53 and who listens to current Christian music on Way FM, feels the same way I do about that church’s music and attends the Shell Point church with me and his family every week as his preference.
    All that to say, Bill, to thine own self be true and keep sounding the call to more meaningful worship as long as you have breath. Thank you for doing it for us and for Jesus.

  • Freida

    Oh my gosh!!! I would put your post up on the ‘big screen’ and read it at the top of my lungs if I could!!! The only truly worshipful service I’ve attended, not fake, was in a nursing home!! Oddly, I heard one chorus from Christian radio, the other three were true hymns. And only sung ONCE!! leaving more than 15 minutes for a token good word!!! I long for a real worship and message each week. And if I say anything I’m a really negative person!!! I would just rather stay home and let the TV preacher yell at me….

    • Well, just be sure to repeat my post at several different volume levels and you should be good. And I too have experienced some terrific singing and services in nursing homes. Thanks!

      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk


    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Freida, you are so cute. I love your little post here.

  • It seems your church may not be familiar with much of the better worship music available these days. I’m aware of a lot of music that would fit your three preferences. It’s challenging these days to have a good worship team – given the withering “volunteerism” and the slop that it tends to breed. But it rarely changes, given that most of the church considers worship music “fluff” – somewhat of a warmup for what’s really important – the sermon (which is rarely held to any standard of quality…). Maybe you should write some songs that fit your list – or look for some good stuff and suggest it to your worship team. On another note – as a musician and pastor myself, it always amazes me how the church likes to windmill off the top rope and pummel people who believe they are called to worship God with a guitar solo (or God forbid – a lighting rig!!!). Or any display of “cunning on their instrument” – a description of the 9% of musicians that made it on the worship team in David’s day. Musicians in the church are treated so poorly these days (and historically) that it’s a wonder that any of them show up. Anyway – God bless you on your quest to engage worship.

    • Thanks, Mark. My current church actually does a pretty good job worshipping in both spirit and in truth. You make some good points. Thanks again.

  • Kim

    I have to say I have not read all the comments, so if I am behind times, I apologize, but after reading your post I have to tell you. I came to Christ before my husband did and I have always been one to have the radio on…all the time. We listen to our local Christian Rock station and I couldn’t imagine my life without music. I did not grow up in the church, so I don’t know a lot of hymns, but the reason why I’m commentsing is my husband came to Christ becuase of that Christian Rock radio station. We listen to Wally on Switch FM and one day when I got in his truck and the station was turned to that…I was thanking Jesus all the way to the grocery store. He was soon baptized after that. My younger son doesn’t listen to anything BUT Switch and doesn’t like all the other music on secular stations, so I am very thankful for them.
    Have a great week!

    • Absolutely. Not saying all types of music don’t have a place, just that a steady diet of shallow stuff leaves us feeling undernourished and not fully worshipping.

  • Greetings Bill,

    Thanks for your post “Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church”. I’m somewhat reluctant to reply, because I am a songwriter and it often seems that I can’t share my views on Contemporary Christian Music without being accused of jealousy, back sliding, wolf in sheep’s clothing, false believer or some such.

    I too find contemporary worship music choruses simplistic, repetitive and the CCM industry control over the Sunday morning repertoire more than a little offensive as an accomplished musician. It’s to the point that I can’t even listen to it without cringing – it literally upsets my spirit and I can’t turn it off fast enough.

    But there is something that bothers me even more about modern worship music than all that.

    In a word, modern worship music is selfish.

    Have you ever noticed how often the lyrics use the word “I” or “me”? Or the songs are about the “church”, which by definition is the people who are in Christ and therefore means we are singing about ourselves whenever we sing about the church! Even the wonderful old song Amazing Grace is somewhat self-focused “I once was lost, but now I’m found; (I) was blind, but now I see” … it’s like the song of the 9 lepers who having been healed by Christ, run off with nary a thankyou to boast of their healing to their friends, family and priest(s). Only one actually returns to thank and worship the Lord and he was a foreigner! Just today I turned on the radio, long enough to hear the lyrics of the being played, which were “I want … I need … I want … I need.” I turned it off.

    A number of years ago, my wife and I were invited to sing at the annual town-wide worship and praise service. Musicians from the 2 dozen churches in town were invited and asked to sing just one song each. The coordinator lined us up and we took turns singing the song we’d selected. Since we were about 2/3rds through the schedule, we watched the audience while the other groups sang. One song in particular was performed by several bands and at one point, was even performed back to back by 2 different bands! EACH time the song was performed, there was a cluster of people in the audience who reacted with great excitement. Watching the audience was like watching an instant replay. As memory serves, the song was “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” which is another song heavy on the “I’s”.

    And then it was our turn. My wife Karen and I chose to sing an original song called “Lord, You Are” http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=763223&songID=5887400

    The cluster of people who had literally jumped to their feet every time “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” was sung, sat there like wooden indians and stared at us, gape-mouthed. In the sanctuary with perhaps 150 people in attendance, we saw just 2 or 3 people, who had been motionless up to that point, turn their faces upward and raise their hands to shoulder height. There was no sound until we finished the song and then scattered polite applause.

    The image of that audience as we sang is forever etched in my memory and has often been the basis for meditation about the state of worship in the modern church. Yes, I know the song was new to them, but the scriptures say, after all “Sing a NEW SONG to the Lord” and Paul admonishes the Ephesians to sing “spiritual songs”. It has been my observation that very few churches sing new songs, and even fewer sing spiritual (spontaneous) songs.

    Instead, modern worship is formulaic, habitual, comfortable and therefore, selfish. There is nothing comfortable about washing the Lord’s feet with our tears and drying them with our hair. Nor breaking a jar of expensive perfume and pouring it over His head. Worship is exposing, vulnerable, sacrificial, humble, contrite … or what seems to me, the polar opposite of that which passes for modern worship today.

    When Paul said “offer your bodies a living sacrifice … this is your true and proper worship”, why then do we try to make worship about singing? Singing is about confession – it is no different than the congregation doing a spontaneous / responsive reading.

    The cacophony that is modern worship and praise music is not worship. It’s audience appeasement and entertainment.

    Please. Stop. Now. Indeed.


    • Jack, I too have seen the emphasis on I and me in modern music. But I’ve also seen it in hymnody, as well, especially those that followed the Second Great Awakening. The revered hymn writer Fanny Crosby, for example, employed a good deal of these self-focused lyrics. It’s not that such language has no place — the psalms are full of them. But the emphasis on them to the exclusion of God-centered songs is what irks me at times. By the way, the church I’m presently involved with does a great job of mixing them.

      Christianity IS about God first, but it’s also about how I /we relate to that God. In that order.

      Thanks for taking the time to reach out and to e-mail.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Jack, all so true and so well said. I enjoyed reading your post.

  • emc_nyc

    This morning I woke up with the uneasy sense that I no longer want to sing special music in church. I am the special music director and choir director. I am a trained vocalist. I have come to the realization that special music and performing in the church is not relevant. Worship (and music is merely one form) is what’s important.

    I love my church and my pastor. We have a strong Biblical foundation that runs throughout the ministries in our church with an exception being the worship music. I’ve come to the conclusion that church music in America follows primarily cultural guidelines. It has become music rather than worship. We’ve invited people who’ve attended once to “guest” onstage with us. Others who enjoy playing a guitar are qualified to “lead” us. I have witnessed this firsthand and been on the inside. While most of the church leadership in theory wants doctrinal songs to sing, most of our musicians aren’t familiar with them. They are looking for topical songs instead that are moving.

    And, by the way, I am embarrassed to add that our church has the loudest worship team that I’ve encountered. It is a wall of sound that barrels from the stage and drowns out the congregation. (And then the pulpit gives a big thumbs up before the sermon in thanks of the band and every now and then chastises the members for not singing. It is misdirected and more than a little sad.)

    Just as I wouldn’t enjoy artwork that paints everything a shade of red, I also don’t enjoy listening to or singing songs that are painted the same color rhythmically and style-wise. The heavy hand and frenetic beat gets boring and mundane after awhile. I do understand that we are all of us volunteers and none of us professionals and that we work with what we have, but can we at least make the content better and try a little harder to adjust the levels of volume and musicianship in accordance with reverence from time to time?

    And does it matter? Well, does WORSHIP matter? If it does, then does the manner in which we worship matter? I recommend to anyone who has these questions to read “Worship, the Ultimate Priority,” by John MacArthur. I could provide answers and information, but I would advise reading the book rather than a simple Google of your question looking for a quick answer.

    I no longer want to sing or lead special music in my church. I think music in the church should be focused on worship and think we’ve gotten it wrong. We are filling in valuable morning service time that would be better served with 15 or 20 minutes for prayer rather than a mediocre christian concert.

    • “Just as I wouldn’t enjoy artwork that paints everything a shade of red, I also don’t enjoy listening to or singing songs that are painted the same color rhythmically and style-wise.” And that, I think is the key for me. I’ll be posting soon about introverts in worship. The body of Christ is diverse, our worship should reflect it. Biblical worship does employ a numebr of methods that speak to different personality types.

      Thanks for the comments.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      I love your post. It speaks the truth and this is going on all over Canada and the US. I am not sure about other countries. There was a day when I first became a Christian that as I entered the church and heard the songs, it did not matter what the song was. Always, the song was beautiful because the whole church sang together and sounded like a giant choir. Not so anymore because the concert up front drowns you out and does not ever teach you the song or help you to learn it. They just very loudly belt it out over your head.

  • jan

    I get what your saying in some ways. There are some songs out there that are just plain bad…poorly written, poorly sung, tripe. And I don’t get the trend of why a marginal singer, who obviously has not studied their “craft” is recorded in the first place.
    But, that said, I’ve been encouraged to see a trend in the past few years of contemporary Christian artists reengaging, reworking, exploring and presenting some truly wonderful hymns. As of today, a new recording by contemporary artists with an album of reworked hymns just came out that I was thrilled to find. So, I don’t totally agree with you. I believe it comes down to the worship leaders, not the church or even the people. The music they are choosing is trivial, not the selection available. There are good worship choices. But in my opinion there is a worship leadership vacuum. Worship has become about performance rather than drawing God’s people into His presence for the specific purpose of worshipping Him.

  • Tim

    I’m going to write an article called “Why I stopped reading blogs from people complaining about worship music”. Sir, just become a worship leader and see how hard it is to please everyone. Then you can sit back and blog about how you have it all figured out. 🙂 Thank You. I’m out. lol

    • So if I’m understanding you correctly,if something is difficult, we should not point out when someone is doing it wrong? After all, as long as they are trying really hard…. No offense, but we must be diligent to ensure worship is what God wants and not what we, hard-working though we may be, may want.

      • Robert

        I believe the confusion exists because people believe their own personal feelings and sincere opinions are as valid as the next guys. Let’s look at the meaning of the word “worship” and see if these are really worship songs or not. The Hebrew word for “worship” is “Shachah” and it means, “to bow down, depress, to prostrate oneself” True worship songs should cause the congregation to humble themselves before a holy God. “You are Holy and we are not.” This humble and contrite spirit is the first step into coming into God’s presence. It is not an emotional focus that pleases my Self and transports me into an emotional high. That may come, but ONLY after dying to self. So are these worship songs at all?

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      When people speak out the truth they are criticized and judged as complainers. When they get headaches from the extremely loud volume of the church music they are told to take an aspirin before coming to church or I guess the music leaders just hope they will leave, when they get earaches they are told to wear ear plugs. Naturally if they say that they cannot sing it does not matter because the music band want to be heard and do not care if the people are able to sing or not. The only way it will stop is when the people of God begin to humble themselves and pray and never be swayed by the judgemental attitudes of those who are misled by the enemy of our spirit, soul and body.

  • Sarah

    As long as there is sin in this world, there will be disagreement in the “appropriate” way to worship. At my church we do sing all the traditional hymns with organ and piano. Complete liturgical responses as well as multiple hymns from hundreds of years ago. It became more about how we are singing it and sounding good (from a classical vocal style) than what it is we are singing about. Very methodical, very rote, very unconnected. Blending different styles of music shouldn’t be such a big deal. Worship is a beautiful exchange of what we give to God as well as what God gives to us. Because it doesn’t directly spell out exactly HOW we are to worship in WHAT STYLE, then this is left up to free will. It’s all about the intention and purpose of praising the ONE TRUE GOD. I personally have stopped singing because we are too focused on the rituals of tradition and sounding “perfect”. I have lost the joy and there is NO contemporary music, which I feel would enhance worship if the correct songs were chosen – not just to sing them because they are “cool” now. For heaven’s sake, Silent Night was once considered a contemporary piece. The heart of worship is where the focus needs to be – whatever style and song that takes to do that (contemporary, traditional, ancient) then so be it. I just miss singing…

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Real, sincere, heartfelt solitary worship between us and the Lord will bring back the songs in our heart and then they will come out of our mouth. There are times when I feel bored by a song that is being used. I close my eyes and pray until it is done and then join in when I can sing along and enjoy it.

  • Heather

    Dear God! (I mean that with all sincerity) I thought I was alone! I hate the music at my church! Hate it–worse than bad 80’s pop music! And I agree whole heartedly! No more hideous music! We’re not at camp! Thank you for this, think I’m going to copy it and anonymously give it to the music director at our church by slipping it in his mail box.

    • Come now, be braver than that! Share it with him/her — but then ask for a sit down to share your heart-felt concerns. I’d encourgae you to be part of the solution.

      Many thanks!

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Ha, ha, ha. Heather I like your input because I know of many, many who feel like you and have tried to find a church that has kept the songs that were written by the Spirit’s leading but to no avail.

  • Dan in Oregon

    Wow! This topic has really been amazing to read thru. Very controversial. As an MK, (missionary kid) time abroad in worship services taught me to be sensitive to other cultural forms of worship. It’s not always something I can really worship too, but you can see the locals are sincere in their adoration of the Creator. This sensitivity has helped me to have the grace towards our own church culture here in the states especially as worship is concerned.
    There is no doubt that modern worship methods will sometimes use emotional manipulation to create a potentially false sense of spiritual adoration and it’s in these moments that I struggle with my own personal involvement. I believe this discernment requires me to encourage, and maybe instruct worship team members in authentic worship. Iron sharpens iron as another commenter noted.
    I also believe there is some serious responsibility among worship team members to be Christ centered, unified, and skilled. What a beautiful thing when a team comes together and sincerely leads the congregation to the throne in worship.
    It seems to me, the leadership in the church should have the responsibility and the sensitivity to encourage worship team members to be walking strong in the Lord, to become skilled in their form of worship, and to strive for excellence. In this country we don’t have any excuse, we have so many resources to improve and so many great worship songs that are multigenerational.

  • Great post Bill, I’ve also noted many simplistic and determental fads in “modern worship.” (http://ask.yuriyandinna.com/2011/12/05/is-modern-worship-biblical/)

    Fortunately the church I attend, MarsHill.com, blends modern musical styles with old solid hymn lyrics.

  • Aleks Lukyanov

    Amen brother, AMEN! It’s like you have been reading my mind all these years.

  • Keira

    I understand that this is the Evangelical page, but, perhaps y’all should try out a Catholic church sometime 😉 You want 2,000 years of history in its most authentic form? Well, you definitely aren’t going to find that at *any* evangelical church! When you actually know what Catholics believe, without bias, it is pretty darn interesting.

    • I have great respect for the Catholic church in many ways. In fact, unlike many evangelicals, I see that we were all once part of the same visible church and long for us to be reunited. Unfortunately, much of evangelicalism has been simply a reaction to the Catholic church. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the response, “But isn’t that Catholic?” Hilarious if it were not so true. But we do have some key doctrinal differences that make it tough to fellowship without significant disagreement. You may recall the Reformation? That being said, the Evangelical world could learn a lot from our Catholic friends. And I from you, no doubt.


      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

        Even in the Catholic churches where the people are baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues there is a lot of misconception of Truth.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      I was there and know. We left when the priest told us we would go to Hell if we read the Bible. He gave us a prayer book instead which taught us how to pray to St. Mary. We began to be rebellious Catholics because we refused to kneel and kiss the ring on the Bishop’s finger and decided to buy and read a Bible.

  • Carol Lang

    It appears some “worship leaders”—NO, they are not worship leaders, they are music leaders—were raised on karaoke. One recently admitted that he had never heard “Just As I Am.” I am not just for the old hymns, I am for music that points to God and not me. Worship is our response to God’s reaching out to us. In church it is a chanting of the popular worship songs from the radio. Sigh…

    • I agree that the phenomenon of Christian pop radio seems to drive a lot of our musical selections. Unfortunately, I don’t listen to Christian pop so I am often left not knowing the songs and feeling like the parish pariah. Thanks!

  • Terry

    My hubby is a worship leader at *gasp* an evangelical baptist church. He and his assistant were asked by our staff and elders to develop a “Theology of Worship” last year. It was an incredibly productive process that enabled our entire church to consider what corporate and personal worship should look like. I think they came up with a terrific statement. (http://purbap.org/theologyofworship) Truly, it comes down the the heart of the worshipper which is only encouraged and directed by any worship leader/choir/band. I have worshipped in a choir rehearsal, in a rocking praise band, and in a tiny Baptist church singing “When We All Get To Heaven”. I have also failed to worship, when all the songs, tempos, and number of verses was just right – enjoying the music, rather than praising my God. Though my hubby works hard to maintain a balance of styles, it’s not always skewed to my preferences. But I don’t hold him responsible to meet my preferences, any more than I hold him responsible for meeting the preferences of any individual worshipper. I believe that when the worshipper’s heart is focused on the goodness of God, worship will happen in spite of even an awful song or worship leader. Find the church that inspires and challenges you to worship in spite of you! Commit to worship your God with a community of believers in spite of whatever happens up front. He will be praised – which, after all, is the point of your worship.

    • Terry,
      Good thoughts all. And I mostly agree. Yet I can’t think that the solution is always just to find another church. Shouldn’t we be trying to move the body of Christ we are in towards more biblical worship?

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      When the Holy Spirit is in the worship it does not matter what the style of music or if it is a slow or fast beat. We had a camp meeting once where a leader made all worship stop as he said that the Lord told him that we had grieved the Holy Spirit by our worship. It was a mockery of worship and no one realized that. One or two girls had brought in a dance spirit which was a false spirit and had started dancing around. Others imitated. If the person leading had not been able to discern the truth in this the worship would have all been wrong. As it was when we were done with the time of repentance we all got up and started worshipping again. There was a mighty falling of the spirit upon the whole group. Many spoke in tongues, many were healed of different things and everyone came out renewed. The only ones who did not were those who went to the back and refused to repent.

  • Bill,
    I can identify with everything you wrote about. I was a previous Worship Leader in the A of G. I learned long ago, that worship is something we give back to God; it is not something He gives to us. I think people in “today’s” churches are there for entertainment. They do not want to be pressured to respond to God’s touch in anyway, they just want to be entertained and thrilled by his servants—or a better word, the “performers” of God’s word. Never in all my years of being a Christian, which is 41 this year, have I seen so much performing in the church verses actual worship. Worship leaders today are not leading people into worship; they are prodding them into acts of performing without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This to me is blaspheming to the Lord!! I have seen this in SO many churches over the years. Musicians trying to out play one another. Vocalists competing on stage to see who can see the highest or dance the best, it is truly an insult to the Lord from my point of view.
    I was raised in a Pentecostal church that believed God can and will do all that is written in His Book. But unfortunately those who are supposed to believe in this and instruct the flocks toward this belief, have wondered from the truth, and thus praise and worship AND the word has lost its power. This shame of non-belief is one of the reasons that worship today is no longer effective. Yes, I very much believe in the songs of yesterday, those that inspire true worship and were penned for that reason, but unfortunately today’s generation as lost the desire or even the will to pass these songs along.
    It saddens me to here so many brothers and sisters believing the way you do, I hope it will change. How is that going to happen? Getting back to your first love and truly believing Gods’ Word. He is a God to be praised. He even said, “the rocks will praise ME if you don’t want too” (paraphrased). That is really sad, for HIs creation to not only believe, but act that way!!! To truly believe is allowing the Holy Spirit to convict you and to lead you into Praise. Just coming and showing up at church will not do it. Those that lead are really doing an injustice to the people, they will be held accountable according to the Word. Love to hear your response. Blessings, Bilyle

    • Well, I think I agree with you on most of it. I think one of the issues is that we have embraced an approach to worship built on catering to extroverts in a reaction to the previous approach for many decades that catered to introverts.

      We can agree that it is ultimately about the heart.


    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Bilyle, you have written the truth here but that truth is shunned by so many. I cannot understand what is happening except that Lucifer has found a way to bring great division and harm to the church.

  • SheriLee

    Reading this makes me realize that while you have your opinion on music directors & their team, hopefully not everyone feels so negative towards the church music of today. Yes, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 20 years ago the music was different. We are in an ever-changing world; but, God is still the same.
    Truth is … No one wants to be in ministry hardly anymore because of people that constantly complain No matter what the song is or the beat. Who wants to deal with all that?? Blah…..
    It’s about Your connection to God, not the Praise & Worship team. My thought for you and anyone else who feels the way you do is, you need to find a church to go to where you’re not sitting down (and worshiping) & fuming the whole service about what’s being sung instead of getting a hold of God like you need to be doing. I’d hate to think I would be “Performing” for you after all the hard work, time & prayer I have put into my team.
    Disclaimer: I’m not a paid Music Director for my church…I’m just a willing vessel to be used of God.

    • Sheri: “I’d hate to think I would be ‘Perfomring’ for you after all the hard work, time & prayer I have put into my team.”

      Church service is not about you. It’s not even about an individual “getting a hold of God”. It’s about God serving his people his word, his body and blood. It’s about GOD getting a hold of US.

      When the praise and ‘worship’ team is front-and-center at the altar, consider where the focus lies. It certainly isn’t with God.

      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk


    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      I have noticed that every time someone attempts to speak of their difficulties with ear-aches, headaches, nausea, etc. due to the loud volume of the music they are criticized as complainers. As Christians we are to love and care for one another but I see the harm that is being done in the church relationships because of the desire of some to have the very loud music in spite of how damaging and hurtful it is to the people in a number of ways.

  • A friend of mine refers to modern ‘Christian’ music as “God is my boyfriend” songs. Really. The lyrics are hardly about Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. The focus is more often focused on how WE feel, how much WE love an object which can easily be applied to a lover rather than to God.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      That is something we need to be wary of. We had a lady speak at our church once who spoke about God being her lover. She was quite religious but ran into some real problems. We later found out that she had an evil spirit that was her lover. She did not realize that it was an evil spirit but should have known as God would not do the things the spirit did.

  • There is a clear difference between what is right or wrong or a matter of your own perception.

    Growing up and attending a few churches with different styles of worship, I have encountered many forms of music.

    The only forms of music that definitely doesn’t fit the bill of worship is metal, because it is tainted with the emotion of anger or techno, just because its techno.

    The songs that I have learned to find greatest meaning in are the simplest ones>
    Remember that sunday school song?

    “Jesus Loves me this I know,
    For the bible tells me so.”

    I don’t know about you. but as “simple” as that song is, it struck something profound in me. Faith is simple and was never meant to be complex.

    Besides, I think worship should come out from your soul. I have went to churches where the music was not my preference, but I am very well aware that when the heart is right, music is just an accompaniment, it is not the main stage show.

    Just my two cents.It is not the glorious tunes, neither is it the sophisticated words. Its just the heart of giving thanks.

    • Thanks for the comment. But I think faith is both simple and complex, just like God. Why shouldn’t our worship music be the same as we try to capture a glimpse of his majesty?

      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

        When I listen to “Days of Elijah” in my house and songs like it I dance with the music volume turned up. Even as loud as I have it, my husband can hear my answer when he ask a question and I can hear him ask it.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      I like your comments, James, and agree with what you are saying here.

    • Sherry

      I am completely over the rock concert style music or worship. Lift our voices to God in worship? I cannot hear a single voice, not even my own, so I doubt God can hear anything but the very, very loud musicans either. God is timeless but there are alot of mere humans out there who think He has to change with the times and He has to be updated to fit the current society. Wrong. That’s just the problem and it’s twisted logic. God doesn’t have to be made to fit society! Those who seek the Truth should be willing to conform to a timeless worship that is unique to worshipping God,the Almighty, Lord of All.

  • Sarah Kivell

    I do no have time to read all 767 comments (ha!) but I will say this is a great article. I personally would add that churches should start writing their own worship songs out of their journey towards living life with God as a community. Also, have you read Brian McLaren’s letter to song writers/worship leaders? It’s excellent and builds a lot on what you’ve written here. 🙂

    • I love your thought abut churches writing their own music. Why not given the technology available? Why do we all have to sing the same songs? diversity in the body in local music would be a very good thing to encourage. Thanks!

      • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

        Good thoughts, Bill.

      • Puchinpappy

        But then the songs are franchised and everyone is suddenly and repeatedly singing Vineyard.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      This is good and I would add that they need to be led of the Spirit as the many song-writers of the past were. A song that says something is good and helps in worship.

  • JReed

    You are not alone. I just read this article and I can tell you have been in my evangelical church. I need to wear earplugs every week. The decibel level is over the top. It is almost numbing to the senses. I am ready to go to a church that sings acapello.

    • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

      Good luck. We feel the same but have tried a few churches and they are all the same. We are praying for the last one we are in and hope to see a change.

  • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

    Bill, Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church is perfect, exactly what millions of seniors are feeling but cannot get a word out as they are attacked by the ones who want what it coming down now. Your voice on this matter was exactly to the point and said it exactly like it is__exactly. I am shocked that you conceded to the media who shouted you down, so to speak.

  • Eileen Sabatier Matichuk

    Bill, I left a Pentecostal church recently because the music was loud, the cymbals crashed and banged and sounded brassy. I would get ear aches within a short time so walked out of the service to get my bearings. Nothing in it made me feel like we were worshipping. There was so much repetition of the same line or words that it reminded me of my younger days in the catholic church when the nuns sang up in a balcony above us and we had to repeat “Holy Mary Mother of God” at least 20 times or more.
    We went to another Pentecostal Church because they started a worship time in another room for people like us who cannot take the music in the main sanctuary. Right from the first day there people kept coming and telling me about the loud volume of the music. They said that when one of the seniors spoke to the church board they were told they could leave if they did not like it. They did not leave so are offended by it every Sunday morning and no one cares. There are a few who go to the other service but the rest stay in the main sanctuary but none of them ever sing because they cannot hear themselves. They cannot even say a word to their partner beside them as he or she would not hear it unless they shouted very loudly into their ear.
    The first day there I got a sick feeling, then nausea and that was followed by a headache that lasted all day. I have talked to many people in that church who all feel the same as i do but no one has been able to get a change to happen. I attempted to taik to a young man who sat and controlled the music from the back of the church. His attitude was rude and disrespectful towards me and all the seniors who were unable to take the loud music. My reason is that I have a damaged ear from a fall where I became deaf for a while as the ear-drum was busted. It healed with scar tissue. I find that even if I put ear plugs the sound of the clanging drums gives me a headache. I do not ever get headaches anywhere else at any time. That does not mean anything to them and neither does the unhappiness of the other people by the music. They do not care and will continue to play it the way they want whether is bothers anyone or not. A rebellious attitude was shown by the young person I talked to. I cannot understand why the Pastors who know this is wrong are not able to take authority in the churches of today. Lucifer has found a way.

  • Amber

    Here is my only issue with your article, and this is coming from one who is a worship leader that covers all genres of worship music as the Spirit leads me….just because the music isn’t for you….doesn’t make it wrong. Just because it is simple or repetitive doesn’t mean it isn’t properly honoring God. After all, man looks at the outward appearance, God does not. It is about our motive. If you go into a worship service and CHOOSE not to give God praise, just because you don’t like the music, the problem does not lie in the type of worship music…it lies within you. I don’t say that from a standpoint of condemnation, but experience. I used to be the same way…but from the opposite end…I was sick of the “old stuff”. You are entirely right to have your own opinion, I would just caution you to see it as just that. As far as the “guitar solo” you mentioned, not everyone worships with the talent of their voice. God gave those musicians a gift and if they choose to use it to worship Him, who are you to judge their heart and motive just because you don’t like their soloing. King David got naked in worship to God. The angels in Revelation repeat over and over “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come”. Worship leaders and musician aren’t there to please you or anyone else (at least they shouldn’t be). They are there to pour their hearts and souls out to the One True God in worship, love and adoration for who He is. He deserves our best…no matter what form our best takes. “Make a joyful noise!”

    • Stan Connolly

      WELL SAID 🙂

    • BlackyWolf

      Our motives are not what determine whether a song or not is acceptable towards God. What determine whether or not any form of worship is acceptable to God is whether God accepts it or bot.

      • Andrea

        Do you think that God, based on what he’s said about himself, won’t accept the worship of someone who loves him and seeks to honor him? Do you think the Holy Spirit isn’t guiding the worship of a Christian whose motive is to give God glory?

        • Deborah

          Well when Able and Cain brought there sacrifices to God in there own way did He except what ever they brought because they thought it was Best? NO and CAin was offended that GOD did not except it.

          • Stephen Bogan

            I think you mean accept, not except. Except implies an alternative to something, such as an exception.

      • Hingle McCringleberry


    • ejeehi umobuarie

      I couldn’t agree with you more. This is the day and the hour in which God is searching for those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. It is a matter of the heart and what is acceptable to God. If that were not the case, then tone deaf people would be banned by God from uttering a song of worship to him! It would be unacceptable! Furthermore, while the hymns were great, I believe God is bringing us to a place where we realize that he is our FATHER and thus address him as such. If I truly have a relationship with my father, I would not thou, thee, thy. I would speak to him plainly, simplistically, ordinarily. My daughters and son address me in such a manner and I have never tired of hearing them say I love you repeatedly even if there is no poetry or rhyme. God absolutely accepts this from a PURE heart and we must take this message to this generation or risk losing them in an attempt to be sanctimonious.

      • judy

        I agree totally with your post

    • Zach W. Lorton

      Knowledge dropped. Well said, Amber.

      Even the title of the article says it’s all about you and your perception. Which is understandable; nobody can refute your personal opinion. But if you claim to hate what can be found on current Worship Top 40, then cite a Christian pop mogul whose chart peaking time was the early 1990s as a good example of repetition, that only means one thing to me — you got older, and your tastes stayed with the stuff you liked. It didn’t change to include newer styles or methods of communication.

      This is how some churches become irrelevant. It starts with the debate of “what I like” versus “what I don’t like” instead of focusing on what churches should be doing — feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick and the needy, and bringing new people into the church to be ministered to.

      • Darryl Willis

        True Zac, I have to ask how does one or two hours during an assembly each week make a church relevant or irrelevant? If a traditional church or high church (Episcopal, Orthodox, Catholic) feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, cares for the sick and needy are they not relevant even if they use ancient forms of worship? I dare say the non-Christian doesn’t give two cents of care about how we “do” church assemblies.

        Who are we trying to be relevant that hour or two each week for? If it is all about God and not about me, then why debate style at all?

        I’ve attended contemplative services which were very meaningful, contemporary services that were very exhilarating, and traditional churches that brought a sense of mystery. I’m not certain that staying contemporary really matters one way or the other.

        Even so, there are merits to some of the complaints. For me, when I enter an assembly where few are singing but instead they’re visiting because it has begun to feel like a concert rather than a service where everyone participates together to worship) then something is missing.

        If we have come together to encourage one another (as I understand the primary emphasis of the assembly is) then how is this encouraging.

        Of course, I’m a bit of a radical on this and a lot of folks wouldn’t agree. I’d rather do away with the stage all together (whether traditional or contemporary), have someone begin our singing from among the congregants (no obvious worship minister), and even the sermon text be presented with people offering their own discussion rather than some entertaining speech. My tradition has always featured weekly communion–so I’d add that we focus most on that time together as a community–not inward and “just between you and me God” but looking to each other and giving each other a word of encouragement–again everyone participating.

        But…that’s just me…

    • Guest

      1. When all you can say about your choice of worship music is that is isn’t necessarily wrong for worship, there must be something wrong. The original hymn writers didn’t just pick music out for worship services; they designed it themselves for the specific intention of calling people to worship. Yes, some of the tunes were taken from popular folk songs, but that doesn’t take away from he fact that serious thought was put into what they did. A writer should be able to point to the choices he made in his work and say about it that this IS what the church needs and that it absolutely glorifies God, not simply that it is meant to and maybe does depending on the listener.

      I don’t think we can vouch for many of our modern artists, that they can come out and say this about their work with absolute certainty. Most Christian artists would probably confess that their music wasn’t written with worship services in mind. They just want to make money singing about their personal experiences in their walks with Christ. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with this music, but there is a time and a place for it, and modern worship leaders are appropriating it for worship simply on the fly because it’s popular and makes the church look more modern.

      2. You mention the trihagion as a source of lyrical repetition in Scripture, as a defense for the repetition in modern worship. This doesn’t work. “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty” is repeated for a reason. When the hosts repeat this, they are making a clear statement about the power of God. They CHANT this, as a kind of warning signal, “You are standing before the Great and Terrible Living God. Choose wisely what you say or do.”

      If only we did have the guts do repeat something like this in a worship service, because it would probably serve to remind us who we’re about to sing to, but modern church goers would probably get bored too easily. Where’s the pop music, the pounding rhythm, the ostentatious talent work of drum and guitar? Sure, it’s repetitious, but it doesn’t sound as rock concert-like as yelling “I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive” over and over again. I don’t think our idea of repetition is the same as heaven’s idea.

      3. “God gave those musicians a gift and if they choose to use it to worship Him, who are you to judge their heart and motive just because you don’t like their soloing.”

      Being given a gift doesn’t mean we have to put it on stage for everyone to see. It was through our society itself that these gifts were formed, and society originally decided what they’re good for. If a guitarist had the talent to develop a solo, then why doesn’t he play in concerts, for the glory of God, but if he wants to play worship music, then why can’t he just learn to play worship music? Who says we have to open the doors to let anyone perform on stage the way he wants to?

      You underestimate the need for church leaders to show judgment with the elements in their services.

      4. “Worship leaders and musician aren’t there to please you or anyone else.” And yet that’s all they ever talk about. When a church gathers together to talk about the worship, that’s the first topic on the list: how to please people. It’s the reason we all chose to switch to rock ensemble in the first place, because we’re tired of not being liked by newcomers.

      For some of us it was a gradual shift, and quite a number of churches have in fact managed to keep their music worshipful even with the changes, but some others have simply gone off the deep end. In order to feel like a modern church, they feel the need to rake in as many child-minded adults as they can, playing all the most popular Christian rock music with nursery-rhyme lyrics.

      5. “…no matter what form our best takes.” Believe it or not, there are forms of music that do not glorify God. You can’t say for all of the musical forms that exist that you can adapt them to a worship service. Some of those forms were invented with an intended emotional purpose: to illicit anger, frustration, disappointment with life and the way things are going, sexual arousal, rage against institutions…. If you were to try to appropriate such a form of music, I think it’s safe to assume you would have to put a lot of thought into how you would go about doing it. It isn’t as simple as changing the lyrics up.

      6. “I used to be the same way…but from the opposite end…I was sick of the ‘old stuff’.”

      Look up “For a Thousand Tongues.” It is a very different thing to be sick of hearing this hymn than to be sick of singing “God of Wonders.” I find it a bane that Christians have gotten sick of having a vocabulary.

    • Guest

      1. When all you can say about your choice of worship music is that is isn’t necessarily wrong for worship, there must be something wrong. The original hymn writers didn’t just pick music out for worship services; they designed it themselves for the specific intention of calling people to worship. Yes, some of the tunes were taken from popular folk songs, but that doesn’t take away from he fact that serious thought was put into what they did. A writer should be able to point to the choices he made in his work and say about it that this IS what the church needs and that it absolutely glorifies God, not simply that it is meant to and maybe does depending on the listener.

      I don’t think we can vouch for many of our modern artists, that they can come out and say this about their work with absolute certainty. Most Christian artists would probably confess that their music wasn’t written with worship services in mind. They just want to make money singing about their personal experiences in their walks with Christ. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with this music, but there is a time and a place for it, and modern worship leaders are appropriating it for worship simply on the fly because it’s popular and makes the church look more modern.

      2. You mention the trihagion as a source of lyrical repetition in Scripture, as a defense for the repetition in modern worship. This doesn’t work. “Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty” is repeated for a reason. When the hosts repeat this, they are making a clear statement about the power of God. They CHANT this, as a kind of warning signal, “You are standing before the Great and Terrible Living God. Choose wisely what you say or do.”

      If only we did have the guts do repeat something like this in a worship service, because it would probably serve to remind us who we’re about to sing to, but modern church goers would probably get bored too easily. Where’s the pop music, the pounding rhythm, the ostentatious talent work of drum and guitar? Sure, it’s repetitious, but it doesn’t sound as rock concert-like as yelling “I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive” over and over again. I don’t think our idea of repetition is the same as heaven’s idea.

      3. “God gave those musicians a gift and if they choose to use it to worship Him, who are you to judge their heart and motive just because you don’t like their soloing.”

      Being given a gift doesn’t mean we have to put it on stage for everyone to see. It was through our society itself that these gifts were formed, and society originally decided what they’re good for. If a guitarist had the talent to develop a solo, then why doesn’t he play in concerts, for the glory of God, but if he wants to play worship music, then why can’t he just learn to play worship music? Who says we have to open the doors to let anyone perform on stage the way he wants to?

      You underestimate the need for church leaders to show judgment with the elements in their services.

      4. “Worship leaders and musician aren’t there to please you or anyone else.” And yet that’s all they ever talk about. When a church gathers together to talk about the worship, that’s the first topic on the list: how to please people. It’s the reason we all chose to switch to rock ensemble in the first place, because we’re tired of not being liked by newcomers.

      For some of us it was a gradual shift, and quite a number of churches have in fact managed to keep their music worshipful even with the changes, but some others have simply gone off the deep end. In order to feel like a modern church, they feel the need to rake in as many child-minded adults as they can, playing all the most popular Christian rock music with nursery-rhyme lyrics.

      5. “…no matter what form our best takes.” Believe it or not, there are forms of music that do not glorify God. You can’t say for all of the musical forms that exist that you can adapt them to a worship service. Some of those forms were invented with an intended emotional purpose: to illicit anger, frustration, disappointment with life and the way things are going, sexual arousal, rage against institutions…. If you were to try to appropriate such a form of music, I think it’s safe to assume you would have to put a lot of thought into how you would go about doing it. It isn’t as simple as changing the lyrics up.

      6. “I used to be the same way…but from the opposite end…I was sick of the ‘old stuff’.”

      Look up “For a Thousand Tongues.” It is a very different thing to be sick of hearing this hymn than to be sick of singing “God of Wonders.” I find it a bane for Christians to get sick of having a vocabulary.

    • Chris Van Allsburg

      “…as the Spirit leads me,” says every Conversation Stopper. “Who are you to argue with God,” they might as well say. Are there no standards for what constitutes proper worship, other than one’s subjective “prompts of the Spirit?” The bane of our age: subjectivism!

  • Donald Hueneman

    Please consider joining the Catholic Church. I have attended Christian churches in the past and they all gave me an impression that people were worshipping the music rather than God. My Catholic parish uses music from the “Gather” book. Most of the song lyrics are based from scripture. The songs are great and most parishes have contemporary musicians for Sunday mass. I appreciate the Christian church members’ enthusiasm, but the Catholic Church was the only one that felt “right” because of the structure of the mass and gift of the sacraments.

  • WorshipLeader

    Hi! I know this article hasn’t gotten any comments in a while but here goes…
    I’m interested in your perspective, but I wanted to offer a counter perspective on a few of your problems with most modern worship services.

    1. simplicity – I grew up singing hymns and still love them. But I also love the simple choruses written in the last 20 years or so. When my heart is still and knows God, as I sing to Him in worship (at church or on my own), my most truthful heart response is often a simple phrase like “I love you” or “all I want is you” or “I can feel Your heart as You reach for mine”. These simple sentiments express a deep truth in my heart. You have to admit the best lines in some hymns are the simple sentiments, “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust you.”

    So it is possible to speak great and deep truth in simple phrases. And the gospel the whole word of God while expressing manifold mysteries, is at it most central theme a simple gospel of love.

    2. The reason I think we see this trend of newer worship songs is that people such as myself grew up watching the adults in our churches sing the hymns or praise songs without feeling, without joy, but as a wrote exercise that preceded the speaking.

    If we worship God from our hearts we’ll catch the heartbeat of Scripture (assuming we read it). The Bible is filled with worshippers and worship songs. David not only sung the songs of the fathers of Israel but his own songs that he wrote to the Lord. And even old hymn were at one time new songs, though now they seem traditional. So as this new generation grows up we sing to the Lord a new song. And part of that new song is cutting out a lot of flowery words and heading for the heart and for truth. Many newer songs are written primarily based out of the language of Scripture, and that is as it should be! We want to sing straight to the heart of God and receive from Him in worship! Though timeless hymns hold valuable doctrinal truths it takes some mental gymnastics to connect to it at times through the thou arts and such. One of my favorite hymns is Be Thou My Vision. But some of the best lines are disguise in linguistic camouflage. When i sing it in worship when alone, I replace lines like “Thou and thou only first in my heart” with their updated pronouns, and all of the sudden its like oh yes I’m singing to You God, “You and You only first in my heart!” Surely this is no different than many updated Bible translations such as NKJV for the KJV.

    The point is that being new doesn’t mean they lack the same Scriptural basis as their former counterparts, but it does mean they reflect a new less ornate prose perhaps. But new songs will be the reflection of their composers. And each new generation will do as commanded by their Creator and unto Him a new song.

    3. Repetition. I understand the misunderstanding here. Now, I will firstly admit. I’m not one who is bothered by it anyway. But I have hopefully a new way to look at it. Though you may never like repetition. I don’t think we repeat so God can hear. We repeat for the same reason you mentioned about catechism or monastic chants or memorizing Scripture. We repeat because though we sing many things we “know” mentally or logically about God, how many do we “know” at a heart level? I mean believing them, having faith in them, for true faith produces works. Meaning we sing to produce the truth we sing in our hearts, something only the Holy Spirit alighting upon our hearts will do. But the opportunity of encounter is there. I personally have experienced God move upon my heart often in worship and to repeat a phrase such as “I am Yours” and have it become truer is, well, miraculous.

    • Bruce Alan Wilson

      “I” “I” “I”. The Christian life isn’t “me & Jesus”. It is lived in community with our fellow Christians—you know, the Church, the Body of Christ. And not just those in our particular local congregation, or those who are alive now–the whole long line of believers over the past two-thousand-odd (some very odd indeed!) years of Christian history. When we sing the good old hymns of the Faith—“A Mighty Fortress”, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”, “O Gracious Light”, etc.–we are joining our voices with all the multitudes of Christians–those famous, those known but to God–who glorified Christ in their own day.

      In the Incarnation, God entered into history and blessed it; those who would deny the historical continuity of the Christian Life are denying the Incarnation. Which is heresy.

    • judy

      I agree totally with you.

  • Brandon Jamison

    I think the real problem here is that you simply don’t “get” worship in this way. That’s fine. Everyone connects with God differently. I personally have trouble connecting with God while singing centuries old melodies to an organ. regardless of how much great theology is in the lyrics. It’s not how I’m wired. Though I agree…I wish more thought and creativity was put in to our current worship music. And there is a lot of good stuff if you go looking for it. But I personally love repetition. If you just said something great…say it over and over and let the depth of that sink in. It can be VERY powerful. And guitar solos? why can’t a guitarist express his worship through his instrument? Is worship singing only? I can worship along with any musician who is pouring His heart out through his instrument. problems come when it’s fake, or all about the ego…but that’s a different story. Just my initial thoughts here.

  • William Shipley

    I was waiting for someone to actually write down what I’ve been thinking for a long time. The author is right on the money. The songs in “contemporary” services are indeed the “vain repetition” mentioned in Matthew 6:7. I call them 7-11 songs: 7 words repeated 11 times! Keep in mind that I’m not ̶