I love worship music. If I analyse myself carefully, I can say that the one ‘style’- if you will- of music that I am always consistently pleased about and enjoy on a regular basis is music that is of a worshipful atmosphere. That’s not to say that CCM, pop and rock music aren’t great, but if I were to pick one music style to listen to from here on, I’d pick worship. With so many artists providing us with great songs for the church and songs for personal reflection and praise, from Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Crowder, All Sons and Daughters, and Gungor, to John Mark McMillan, Phil Wickham, Jesus Culture, Tim Hughes and Hillsong; worship, the genre of worship, and the whole atmosphere of worship music and the marketability of it towards younger generations, is always changing, forever reminding us of the wide variety of views and attitudes to worship music, and what it considered to be good, bad, unique or even terrible worship music to begin with.
To tell you the truth, we as a body of Christians who sing worship songs at church, are always on the lookout for new worship songs to sing, and once they are sung for a period of time, they are tucked away into a corner and we search for new songs to sing again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that notion- God tells us all to sing a new song unto Him- but let me pose this question- when was the last time you took out the dusty old book full of 1990s and early 2000s worship melodies and sung them from start to finish? When did we listen to songs because they were great and worshipful, regardless of the years behind it, compared to always wanting to introduce new songs into the Sunday worship set list?
While I may be unknowingly a culprit of always wanting to listen to new forms of worship music, I have often started to wonder- are we consuming music- in this case, worship music, just like how we consume other products (like food, entertainment, clothing and the like)? Listen to a worship song (or to an extreme, listen to a worship artist) and then when something new or seemingly ‘better’ comes along, we move right along- and the cycle continues? Is this what the future of worship music is going to be- always listening to new forms of music, never realising that we’re consuming songs faster than we could ever consume anything in our lives?
Sure, I love “Our God” by Chris Tomlin as the next guy, and I continue to admire and respect Hillsong and Jesus Culture for their continued influence on worship and society in general- but do we as churches and individuals need to really follow the trend and sing these songs to death because others are doing it as well? I’ve noticed that during different phases, decades, years and times in church and worship history, there are emphasis on certain songs and artists according to the time period. We either have two groups- songs and artists that we sing to death- like “Our God”, and other songs and artists that we sing at churches for a time, but move onto the next track from the same band the next Sunday (like Bethel and Jesus Culture).
Currently, it seems to be a focus on Bethel, Jesus Culture and Passion, with a little bit of All Sons and Daughters, Gungor and Crowder added in for a bit of diversity. What I don’t want the future of worship to look like is one where we focus only on these songs and artists for an extended period of time, nor do I want these artists and songs to be quickly brushed away by the time something else comes along that is considered in popular worship culture to be the next ‘in’ thing. There is always a fine line and a balance for worship leaders, song writers and even churches to walk along so that songs become a joy to listen to- not a bore because they’ve been sung again and again, or not given the licence and room to be enjoyed and expressed within a congregation- either because there’s another song that ‘could’ be better, or the song they’re trying to do may feel a little different than what the congregation is used to.
Before I finish off and leave you all to ponder and think about what you reckon the future of worship music should look like (that will benefit both groups of people who love to sing songs continuously, and people who are looking for something new and fresh from their worship music); let me query this to you- how can we as Christians not succumb to the pressure of treating worship music just as another commodity to be consumed like any other product we consume on a daily basis?
Can we really listen to a lot of worship music, still enjoy all of them, and be current and in tune with the latest music as well as appreciate lyrically sound older material, all at the same time? Sound off in the comments what you think about this topic of worship. Til next time, let us all listen to a mixture of old and new worship songs, knowing that each of them, despite our natural tendency to push them away when something else comes along, still have their place in society- both now and into the future.