Thursday, September 26, 2013

What modern worship songs will withstand the test of time?


I have many of the new "worship" songs on on my Itunes play list.  I'm not a curmudgeon when it comes to contemporary music.  I admit despising the making of a genre called "Praise and Worship" music, but that's for another post.

I think it is demonstrable that a given generation's hymnody or worship music sheds considerable light on the theological condition of the Church in that era.  I think it is also true that certain songs withstand the test of time because of their dynamic quality.  To become a true treasure for the ages, a song must combine sound biblical theology (yes, I realize this feature alone should be the stuff of a hundred posts), a tune that is singable for a congregation (have you ever seen a modern congregation try to actually sing some of the songs the worship team sings?), a Godward focus (even when it's a prayer for personal growth or blessing), and a timeless sense of relevance.

Thinking about these things, allow me to wonder aloud-

I wonder which of the following "worship" songs will be around in 100 years?

Since the first song, by Charles Wesley, has been sung by congregations for 250 years, I'm guessing it will still be sung 100 years from now. I wonder if the second song, by David Crowder, will likewise withstand the test of time?

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past; Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last. 

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing. (there are two more profound verses) 

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree...bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me 

And oh, how He loves us, oh oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all (repeated 46 times)

I know this will draw fire, but I just can't imagine Christians singing the second song 100 years from now.  If I can't figure out what the first sentence is meant to convey, I doubt someone in 2113 will.  Seriously and objectively- compare the lyrical depth and profundity of these two songs and you can see why one will be sung by Christians until Jesus returns and the other, very likely, for just a few more years.

Spare me all the "this song really makes me worship" responses.  Also, there's no need to get all hot and bothered because I may have seemed to diss modern "praise" music.  I'm just saying the Crowder song here will not last long because it doesn't have the qualities of a song that will endure.  I am not arguing that the song doesn't give some Christians the warm fuzzies and make them want to raise their hands.  It's perfectly within the Christian liberty of pastors and "worship leaders" to utilize most of these modern songs (some, however, are so poor theologically, they shouldn't be used...see my earlier comment about hymnody revealing the state of a given church's theology).  I further understand the need for each generation to contribute it's voice to the body of worship music building since Christ's First Advent.  I am not suggesting that my way is the only way. Charles Wesley's hymn is far better than Crowder's, but Chuck wrote many bombs also. We don't sing hundreds of Wesley's hymns, because they didn't withstand the test of time.  I doubt highly that Crowder's song here and the majority of Christian Radio's play list will be playing in 20 years let alone a century from now.  Interestingly, K-Love's play list looks like the Sunday morning repertoire of many modern worship teams.

Using this one example, I only mean to point out, if the Lord tarries, the Church of a hundred years from now will likely wonder what we were thinking.


Hough said...

It's easy to say Crowder isn't good for corporate worship, it's not singable as such. It's disappointing that churches try to use it in worship. Honestly, the only place I've sang the David Crowder song above in a worship setting is the Chapel at HCA.

But Crowder and similar type music is great for listening to in everyday life, in car, on jog, in house, etc. My question why is crowder held up against Wesley and found unfit? Why don't you hold him up to Megadeath or Counting Crows and other everyday life music that is listened to?

Wesley also wrote songs that the church sang in his time that are not still being sung by the church today. Should they have condemned them at that time? Or for that matter why was Wesley writing songs at all, shouldn't they have been singing things 250 years old instead, things that passed the test of time?

Is your real question what songs will still be sung 250 years from now or is it just to complain about David Crowder being used in worship? I ask because you didn't mention a single song you think may be sung 250 years from now.

But if your real question is what songs will be used in corporate worship in 250 years let's actually name some examples.

In Christ Alone is a likely candidate.
I don't love it, but Our God is an Awesome God I expect will still be sung.
How Great is Our God by Tomlin (not real impressed with him as a person, but the song is fantastic)
“Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble” is likely to stick around.
Unfortunately, Like the Rose trampled on the ground will be, though I wish it wouldn't be.

So what songs written in last 50 years do YOU think will still be sung?

Reepicheep said...

I'll try to address what you say in the order you say it. 1. I am positive Crowder's particular song is a relatively popular song/chorus used in many modern evangelical churches today. 2. I agree, I like music of this sort for personal listening. My itunes play list shows great diversity and I think there are many wonderful expressions of personal faith and understanding in modern music. 3. I am not saying, nor did I say, that Crowder's music is unfit. 4. I am not condemning Crowder. Asking questions about worship practices and even suggesting a particular song is not the best choice for a corporate worship setting is NOT condemning. 5. No, old songs are not the only songs that should be song. Make a new song unto the Lord, absolutely. 6. My real question is exactly what I asked. I am not complaining. Again, questioning a modern practice is not complaining. 7. I didn't mention songs I think might be around in 250 years because it was a short blog post, not an exhaustive study. There's LOTS of things I didn't mention, there are lots of layers to this valuable discussion. 8. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure what songs will last that long. For better or worse, it's much easier to tell which won't likely last. The challenge we have today, and this is part of the point of my post-to help us think about such things- is songs are marketed by mass media and even by unbelieving record companies selling the records of artists and marketing their personalities using millions of dollars and incredible PR machines. Churches are often quick to play whatever the next thing is from the going and blowing artist/worship leader, etc. Wesley's stuff that didn't stick didn't circulate very far, because there was no mechanism to help it do so. Today, music gets proliferated instantaneously and becomes staples in corporate worship setting in no time at all. Because of this phenomenon, a unique challenge for the modern church is to analyze such things and have such discussions. I don't hear many discussions, just one side or the other. As I said, and I urge you to pay attention to- it is a matter of Christian liberty what pastors and worship leaders put before the people of God to sing and utilize in worship. My way is not the only way. But we are accountable as ministers,elders, and worship leaders to have well thought through reasons for what we lead the Sheep of God to do. Finally- it's "Megadeth", not "Megadeath". I would be devastated to learn "Symphony of Destruction" wouldn't last 250 years, but last I checked, it wasn't intended for corporate worship.

Woody Woodward said...

I remember way back in 1972 when I first embraced Christ as Savior, contemporary Christian music was just on the horizon. Loved “Andre Crouch and the Disciples” but really believe Bill and Gloria Gather were icons in creating great hymns of Biblical praise. Then there was the strange but creative Larry Norman and his famous “Wished we’d all been ready.” He was about as weird as they come, but the Lord used him and many others. I so love the old time Gospel music and some of those great family groups. Even with the overdone hairdo’s for the men and the Nazarene looks for the women, this was great songs to sing along. When we celebrated Lance’s Home-going and Nathan put together that great montoze of songs and pictures, in the background was playing Lance and Carol’s favorite song, the great Gaither classic, “He Touched me!” I had to sing along. I agree some of the junk that sung in the “Emerging Church” today is pure garbage. But I think some of those early “Contemporary” songs of praise lifts high His Name and give glory through His sung Word will be around until the Lord comes again.

Debbie Hinks said...

Just a comment on traditional hymns - what a treasure they are as well as their stories behind them.

About a month ago I found a book at a garage sale - One Hundred and One Hymn Stories - by Carl F Price, publ by Abingdon Press, c 1923. Unsure if it has been reprinted or not. But, have been going through these as part of my daily Bible/prayer time. Today's was "The God of Abraham Praise" written by Thomas Olivers. Olivers had heard the tune at a Jewish synagogue and went from there to write this hymn. The original tune was an ancient Hebrew melody.

So, combine the words with the tune and what a vastness of wealth from throughout the ages. And the theology so well expressed.

Chalk one up for traditional hymns!

But, during the day as varied activities go on -- modern songs take us through with that same reminder of God's awesomeness.

How rich we are to have both types of songs to praise God and to strengthen our walk with Him. We can definitely benefit by both music forms - and need to be well acquainted by both as we go through life's journey.

Always appreciated the traditional hymns while we were able to worship at Redeemer. Hard to find that type of service these days.

Thanks for the blog -- enjoy it much!