Worship Music Has Gotten Better, Yes
So I’ve been leading worship in the Evangelical Church world for 13 years now, and during that span I’ve seen quite the growth in the world of “worship music.”
In the days of youth group worship, we regularly parodied old rock songs and made them about Jesus, such as:
(Sweet home up in Heaven / where the skies are so blue / sweet home up in heaven / Lord, I’m coming home to you) -Sweet Home Alabama
(I feel like praisin’ you… / I feel like praisin’ you… / I feel like giving praise to you!) -I Feel Like Making Love #wtf
(And then I saw God’s grace / now I’m a believer / without a trace / of doubt in my mind / I’ve been loved / oooooo.. I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave him, if I tried) -I’m a Believer
Then, thankfully, the Vineyard movement hit and that gave us some simple choruses that we could easily repeat over and over and over for eight minutes straight, and really whip people up in to the spirit.
Chris Tomlin hit the scene and started to write accesible pop music tunes that were easy to sing, easy to play, and spread like wildfire.
Then the “rock” scene within Christendom got wind of how much money could be made, ahem, sorry, excuse me, er, um, how much WORSHIP of GOD could be facilitated by giving and “edge” to the worship music. Thanks to bands like Sonicflood, Delirious, Skillet, Hillsong United and Kutless, we discovered that Jesus loves a good distortion pedal.
More recently, like in the past 3-5 years, I think we have FINALLY begun to see some really GOOD music being made for corporate worship. Music that is not just attempts to recreate what the “secular” world is doing. Music that is interesting, engaging, and challenging. I’m thinking of artists like Gungor, Jesus Culture, John Mark McMillan, Mike Crawford and All Sons and Daughters. Maybe to a lesser extant, but still in this category, you could add David Crowder Band and Leeland.
(sidenote: wow, after typing all that out, I notice an EXTREME lack of female artists. Is that just ME and my lack of exposure? Are we not hearing from our female musicians? Ugh… I need to figure that out. Waaaay to much masculinity going on here.)
So all this to say, “worship music” has come a long way, and I for one am grateful.
But What About Us Progressive Peeps?
But here’s my question: Where is the music being written for corporate worship that has a more progressive theological bent?
I, and many others like me, are moving away from a type of conservative, evangelical, western Christianity. But it is within that framework that virtually ALL of our worship music has been written. All the themes, language, and theology of the songs are, for the most part, indicative of a very narrow brand of Christianity. And I, and others like me, have been forced to sort of sing some of these songs with a bit of cringe. A sort of, “okay, well, I’ll SING this, but I won’t really like it.”
Sometimes I end up changing a word here, a line there.
Other times I just won’t do a song that every other church in the country is doing, because I just don’t want my people singing THAT. Getting THAT idea stuck in their head all week.
And it’s frustrating.
It’s hard enough to find music that is qualitatively GOOD and artistic and interesting, but now to also try and find ones that have the type of theological thrust to it that fits more within our faith community? Pfsh… good luck.
And furthermore, consider how LONG it took for the music scene to get from “crappy cover songs where we put in the word JESUS,” to “wow, that’s actually some really good music.” Probably like 40 years!
So if we are JUST now starting to move in a New Kind of Christianity type of direction, following Christ in to newly discovered (read: always been there, just not been realized) ways of being in the Kingdom, then do we have to wait another 40 years for really good church music, too?
I did a Google search yesterday on “progressive Christian worship music,” and sure, there is stuff out there. There are people writing songs with great lyrics and theology, but, um, it’s really not very good music. Just being honest. They sound like the campy folk songs of the 70’s and 80’s.
For instance, here’s a website dedicated to gathering resources for progressive christian artists. Really? PCAN is what you want to be called? #underwhelming
Check out this video of one artist who’s name shows up a lot in lists of “progressive worship music” people. #sigh
See what I mean?
Speaking of ‘mean,’ I’m not trying to be. Really. I genuinely want people to use their gifts, to make art, to DO the hard work of writing music.
And I’m sure the above people/resources are exactly what many people want and need. I’m just looking for something more. Something different.
Something like a Gungor, or Jesus Culture, or Civil Wars, or even Crowder, but with theology and lyrics that I can sing with full conviction and honesty and truth.
If you’re reading this and you’re similar to me (more bent towards a progressive type of theology) and you’ve stumbled across some artists that are making really good music with really good lyrics, can you please direct me?