Posted by: worshipguitarguy | August 28, 2008

Question: What is the Future of Worship Music?

This week, I’m turning things around by giving you all a question to answer. 

To start this out, I want to paraphrase a definition by Louie Giglio about worship.  His (and I’m paraphrasing loosely here) thought is that worship is our whole life response to God for who He is and what He’s done (and is doing) in us.  Obviously that encompasses so much more than just music since it involves how we live life and love others.

But taking that phrase in mind, and realizing that worship through music’s a huge corporate expression for many of us, where do you see worship music going in the next few years?  And what are your thoughts to the following “issues” in the current worship dialog?

1.  How will songwriting change (for you writers out there?)  One criticism of some worship music is that  it seems very “me-centered.”  Should songwriting be more community focused and how can writers be more open to that thought?
2.  Also, another issue suggested is that songwriting has been very simplistic in its thoughts and lyrical content.  Do you see songwriters embracing much more “vivid imagery” in writing?  Can you see more complexity in lyrical content or should lyrical content remain simple?
3.  How will the role of singers and instrumentalists change?  Are there additional ways we can begin to “decrease” so that the confessions of the songs and the focus on God “increases?”
4.  Bono is quoted as saying “Gospel tells us where we’re going, but the blues tell us where we are.”  2/3rds of the Psalms deal with issues of darkness and despair (obviously) faced by the psalmist.  Is there a place for darker more introspective worship in a church setting?  Can “the blues” (not necessarily the genre, but the thoughts behind it) become a greater part of corporate confession?



  1. So far I see a couple of trends- return to classical hymnology/liturgy and a more spreading out of acceptable worship styles. There are more differing styles of music that we would never see as “worship styles” which are incorporating this style to influence this people group- such as death metal type music now.
    We have a desire to learn our past more- that which shaped our present worship. Thus the hymns. I know the simplistic idea/lyrical music will never go out of style, but I feel it will be supplemented with hymns or modern-type hymns now. After worshiping this summer with the church and having a short discussion on hymns, our greatest worship service was one where we played hymns but in a modern style. When your church has grown spiritually enough to fully understand what those words mean, they are more beautifully than anything. But it took building on simple songs (I could sing of your love forever, Holy is the Lord) to teach the principle, the the hymns fleshed out that principle.
    When you focus on what God has done for you, worship changes from YOU to HIM.
    Thats my 2 cents.

  2. Simplification. I think the pendulum is ready to swing.

  3. A local church is now advertising a “classic worship service”. I think the outright rejection of hymns by some churches will be reconsidered in the very near future.

    While many hymns are more musically complex than most people care to sing, the lyrics are much richer.

  4. I agree on the richness of hymns. Our church had shied away from using hymns during the corporate worship (although we use ONLY hymns during the breaking of bread), but we’re starting to move back toward using hymns.

    In the last two or three years, I’ve started to see mainstream worship artists incorporate more hymns, although presented in a more contemporary style, and I think this will help move hymns back into mainstream.

    I agree on the me-centeredness, and though great for listening and worshipping on your own, many of these me-centered songs feel odd when used in corporate worship.

    As for the blues – I think it’s already breaking into worship music – think “Blessed Be Your Name”, “You Never Let Go”, etc. At least that’s my interpretation of singing about the darker times. These songs celebrate the fact that God is always there, even when we’re walking through the valley, you know? But maybe that’s not what you were getting at.

  5. It’s fun to read everyone else’s responses, because I’m Catholic and thus have very little idea of what happens during “Corporate Worship” time (though I can certainly make educated guesses). Bringing contemporary worship into Catholic parishes is probably one of the most fun, most rewarding, and most challenging things I’ve ever done, because you’ve got to balance the needs and desires of the old (and some really, really like to see the energy of the teens and of the newer music) with those of the young, combined with the fact that there’s very little precedent for this kind of thing in our long, beautiful history.

    I think that I’m one of the few that wants to air on the side of complexity. I’ve watched two types of youth group: the kind that dumbs spirituality down so as to appeal to those who are just beginning their faith, and the kind that hits the ground running, explaining complex theology and church teachings without going through the trouble of putting some kind of “beginner filter” on things. I will say that the former works for a while, but the kids quickly lose interest and find other things to do. The latter challenges the kids the entire time, so if they leave, it’s not for a lack of spirituality.

    I recognize that this may not be news to anyone here, but us Catholics are pretty new on the whole “youth group” thing. But what is true for youth groups is true for worship music. We tend towards bands like Crowder and Hillsong, rather than Tomlin, because the lyrical (and, let’s face it, musical) depth is somehow more real than other, more simplified songs. Really worshiping God sometimes has more to do with thinking than just feeling, and if you find yourself thinking about the lyrics you’re singing, you’ll find yourself praying them even harder because they mean more to you.

    That being said, sometimes the simple things are better, but simple in format, not in message. Living for God in this world is anything but simple, so it’s more powerful to hear about someone’s struggle than sing something that doesn’t really mean anything.

    Quick example: Tomlin’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” vs. Hillsong’s “From the Inside Out”. Both have similar topics: worshiping God with everything we’ve got. But one has a very powerful message, while the other one is mostly just fun to sing. Some would argue that there are times and places for both, but if our faith is to mature, it has to be moving in the complex direction, rather than the fun direction.

    And, as a side note, the coolest thing about being Catholic is that we sing a different Psalm each and every Mass, giving us ample opportunity to explore all of the Psalms, especially the darker ones that you don’t usually think about or hear about. As someone who writes music for a lot of those Psalms, nothing fits the tone of some of them better than a blues progression.

  6. […] Question: What is the Future of Worship Music? « Worship Guitar Guy Great questions about the future of worship music songwriting (tags: worship songwriting music) […]

  7. great topic & very good/interesting responses so far. my opinion is that the future of worship will be the same as it would be in the business world. the consumers drive where the market should. songwriters and worship leaders can try to come up with new ideas/progressions but it is still the people that has to catch the interest of following along. i am not saying that we should not try to introduce new ideas, i am all out for that. its just hard to predict what will happen next. and that is just my thought on this.

    God bless you all!

  8. To be honest I disagree with the majority of the comments… while it is true that hymns are integral in today’s church in being a multigenerational tool… I see them dying, like the pipe organ and harpcicord they were written on….I doubt in a world where we are so “modern” centred that they can survive…also while beautiful when done properly they are doomed by they’re complexity…god bless

  9. But I LOVE the sound of the pipe organ!!

  10. I grew up on hymns, but it took a long time for me to really appreciate the depth of the theology and the beauty of *some* of the writing of them. I’m frankly glad to see so many hymns re-worked in contemporary styles–it keeps those old, but beautiful texts in front of a new generation of worshipers who might have otherwise written them off.

    I went through a period of being really turned off by hymns in our church (before we moved to more contemporary worship style), because many of the favorites of the old-timers in our congregation sounded like circus calliope music to me, played on the organ. There was no way I was ever going to invite someone I knew to my church back then, because the music was so corny and outdated. But I’d play Crowder’s “O For a Thousand Tongues” for my co-workers and neighbors in a heartbeat.

    “Anchored to the Rock, geared to the times.” The old Youth For Christ motto still rings true.

  11. One more thing…I think there is a future for worship songwriting that more authentically deals with struggle and pain–the, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” kind of thing. It is my opinion that many worship songs today don’t honestly express where our hearts really are–just where we’d like them to be. I suppose there’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but I’d love to see a few more songs that help worshipers express the struggles that cause them to cry out to God.

  12. I think it is our focus that really needs to be checked. I have no problem using organs and hymns for the reasons many here have already stated. I heard Lincoln Brewster say one time that “worship” is the only thing that God gets out of our services. The rest, we are to be hearing the word and be admonished. Its not about us. We should be asking, “What pleases You God?” Technology is great, and I believe that we can use it in our services. But, is what we are doing with the technology pleasing to God? God bless.

  13. I think the lyrical content of worship songs can improve. Your thought about the darker parts of the Psalms is part of the answer. That’s a tough nut to crack: imagine the whole congregation singing Psalm 88: “I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
    whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.”
    Talk about a buzz kill. 🙂

    The problem with *some* worship music now is that they extol salvation, without ever addressing what we are saved from. Psalm 88 is an example of the latter. So, what’s needed are songs that can address both aspects of salvation. I’ve heard many address this topic, but have seen few good songs that apply it.

  14. I’m a songwriter/guitarist/singer and have lead worship on many occasions (mostly youth).

    Personally, I’m really sick and tired of the “stock”, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend type of contemporary worship music, and would like to see a change. Life is pain, as much as we can pretend that it isn’t. Why cant we just sing about it and how we find rest in God? Oh, and by the way: thanks for reading my rambling…..

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