Church Music Musings

I am tired of being Swept Away and Madly In Love. Maybe you are, too, if you worship at a church which uses mostly songs written post-1990. There has been a gazillion blog posts written on how awful modern church music has become, so I will spare you the re-hashed critique. I will share with you some discussions my husband and I have had recently regarding the cotton-candy fluff called sacred music. Jeff plays the guitar and has a good tenor singing voice. He used those talents to lead modern worship for a ministry not-too-long ago. These are his ideas [with which I heartily agree!]

  • Music and lyrics are written to illicit an emotional response from the congregation. Not that becoming emotional from a song is bad, but singing as to feel an emotion as the goal is bad. Jesus is My Boyfriend type of songs.
  • Little quality theological content, which leads to little educational value through music.
  • Modern songs also pull to perspective away from “We” to “Me”. “We” could mean the congregation or the Christian body all-told. Again, its okay to sing to God out of the first person, but if every chorus has “I” in it, why show up at church to sing it?
  • Complex, full-band melodies. What if all we got is an old piano? Or just our voices? How would this song sound?
  • Almost no connection to the Church year or holy days or even times of the day. Notice that most of our non-pagan Christmas songs are over 100 years old.

We were left to the conclusion that, a.) we desperately need modern music writers who are grounded in theology and solid musical ability, and b.) we should learn some hymns from the past to fill in the gap.

We want recommendations for quality hymn recordings, either a cappella or instrumental (with/out voices) so we can learn to sing hymns together. I can play piano, but have no instrument at my regular disposal. Cyber Hymnal is an excellent resource, I’ve discovered.  We would like some other accompaniment besides a midi.


14 Responses to “Church Music Musings”

  1. 1 Paula May 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Amen! We have the same thoughts. We also would like to see people learn to read music again, so they can sing harmony.
    I visited a German Baptist church one time, and was blown away by the 4 part harmony.

  2. 2 Paula May 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Check with GVS in MO. THey have many recordings done by Mennonites, that are 4 part harmony hymns. has an excellent music selection.
    For some reason, I seem to recall that Christian Light Publications has a music light unit. Might want to check them out.
    Hope this helps :o)

  3. 3 karen May 19, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I am a Hymn girl myself. My church does a mix of modern and Hymns (mostly Hymns) but I still find songs that I haven’t sung in awhile. Fortunately, the modern songs that we sing aren’t the ones that you repeat the chorus six million times until you “feel” something. I call those songs and those attitudes “emotionalism.” They don’t say anything.
    I visited a church once that sang the same song (same chorus really) for at least 15 minutes and I came in mid-song. my feet were killing me that was my 1st signal that something wasn’t right there.
    Try Hymns Triumphant – by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I also like Hymns: A Portrait of Christ by Steve Green – both are available on iTunes.
    Who I feel sorry for are the children (some young adults by now) raised on pap songs instead of songs with meat.
    that and you can’t beat a church full singing the great old hymns.
    Oh here’s link to an online hymnbook.

  4. 4 Amber Lee May 19, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    The music of the church is to bring the heart closer to Christ. If people are being brough closer to Christ, then what’s it to you if they sing out of key? I sing in a cathedral choir with high english cathedral style and an organ. Occasionally when people are getting in a tizzy about this note not sounding right or that word not being said correctly, I have to remind them that Jesus doesn’t give a damn. A simple piano? How about the fact that the Church of Christ stated that a piano was of the devil because it was used in saloons? I sing David Crowder and Matt Redman in my car and to myself when I’m cleaning house. Their words are intense in my heart. Also, you must not be up on the Passion Movement which is desire to bring the liturgical worship music together with modern instruments. I suppose though that the devil transfered his evil from the piano to the drums.

    This is a sore point for me.

  5. 5 karen May 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    OK, I am sure Anna doesn’t need defending, but I am going to go ahead and do it anyway.
    One she didn’t talk about being out of Key – she wanted to be able to sing/hear harmony is all. I like that myself even tho I make a joyful noise, emphasis on the noise.
    Also, I believe the comment about a simple piano had to do with what do you do if a piano is all you have (the church I grew up with still only has that), if it requires a band then how can people enjoy it and sing along?
    Also, there is also the point that alot of people don’t get the chance to sing hymns whether acappela, with a band, orchestra or a piano.
    stepping off my soapbox.

  6. 6 cara michele May 19, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I have to smile at the irony. I’m reading this post and the comments while listening to what some might call “Jesus Is My Boyfriend”-type songs on my iPod — Casting Crowns, Matt Redman, Third Day, Chris Tomlin, etc. I’ve had it on for hours while I’ve been cleaning the house and doing laundry and playing fetch with my dog in the backyard. Today has been one of those days when “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) The enemy has been after me, but when I put those headphones on, I heard Jesus quieting me with His love and rejoicing over me with singing. At my church, we sing both traditional hymns and “Swept Away” songs. I can harmonize on either and I love both. I’m so glad that Jesus is my Savior. But on days like today, I am especially thankful that He’s also the lover of my soul, and that He inspired the musicians who made the music that He is using right now to draw me to His side and heal my wounds. There is a balm in Gilead… Amen.

    Love & peace, always,

  7. 7 MInTheGap May 20, 2008 at 6:45 am

    You should check out Majesty Music. They have songs that were written in contemporary times that is not CCM (Contemporary Christian Music).

  8. 8 cbrunette May 20, 2008 at 7:53 am

    :::Peering over Bloggy wall:::
    A debate…how exciting!


    Karen~ Thanks for the defense…you were right on in the explanations/expansions of my ideas and for the recommendations.

    CM ~ Sing and be healed. Jesus is with thee! 🙂

    Amber ~ Background note: I grew up in Vineyard churches (music label and such). I went to a worship music conference for my high school graduation present. I danced (full-out ballet) in church. I have also worshiped in high Anglican and Lutheran churches as an adult. What I am musing over is the general lack of variety. Either the church services I attend must be completely modern/full band or all hymns and choirs. Occasionally I have met worship leaders who can deftly weave together the best of both. It can happen.

  9. 9 mamajuliana May 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I went from being raised in the post Vatican II Roman Catholic Church to Evangelical Protestantism in my 30’s I now attend a church 2ith 4 part (Byzantine) harmonies and no instruments-Eastern Orthodox.

    I went from Jesus-Rainbow-Hippie tunes at guitar folk Masses in the RC, to Hymns based on music tunes of the secular culture of the 1890’s. (Gospel songs.)

    I find the music of the Orthodox Church such a relief! We sing Psalms and Scripture…accapella.

    I am familiar with the Jesus-Lover-Boyfriend CCM genre of music that is sung by praise bands in some churches. Hubby and I visited one once…Oh my! change a few of those pronouns and ‘deity’ words sister and what you are singin’ sure doesn’t sound Christian…more like Evanescence.

  10. 10 ladyscott May 21, 2008 at 7:32 am

    I love the older hymns. My church goes by the Bible in that we sing “Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual songs,” but some more modern ones do get in. However, my pastor (who’s also my oldest brother) has been cracking down on some of them. There were two he found to be unbiblical. He also makes sure worship time doesn’t become a concert or an emotional ride with no real worship.

  11. 11 cbrunette May 21, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Lady Scott,

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂 We hardly ever hear any conversation about the Biblical quality of songs. Your big brother is watching out for you!


  12. 12 Lacy May 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    We like to listen to a cappella Scripture songs, that’s the best kind we’ve found yet. 🙂

  13. 13 Amber Lee May 22, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Has your pastor explained the meaning of that passage in it’s original language?

    Psalms, ψαλμοις a set piece of music, i.e. a sacred ode (accompanied with the voice, harp or other instrument; a psalm)
    Hymns, υμνοις a less restrictive religious ode
    Spiritual songs, ωδαις πνευματικαις, which were a capella (I know I’m getting myself into trouble with this!) ethreal sounding songs.
    The verse then goes on to use a verb, ψαλλοντες, which was specifically for singing with instruments that “twitch” or “twang.” Stringed things.
    Paul exhorts use to use everything we have to worship. We know that the angles are often depicted with trumpets (when it’s actually an ancient version of a trombone being described!) and drums are so often avaliable and encouraged in chanting.

    I really suggest looking at the video I posted last night/this morning. It was a worship experience I really needed. I also suggest you look up the Psalters. If I have to have some favorite “worship” music, it’s the Psalters.

    I get frustrated and angry on Sunday mornings when I’m singing in the choir. Everyone, the entire congregation looks dead. They don’t know what they are singing and don’t care. The priests don’t like the hymns. The choirmaster gets angry when the priests suggest more vernacular based music opposed to Wagner or something not in the 1982. I’m busy trying to find my part and don’t pay attention to the words and the words are outdated. Language, voice, and music evolve.

  14. 14 JunkMale May 23, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Here are a couple of places where you can get MP3 downloads of a cappella 4-part hymns:

    Kleinwood Church of Christ

    Some church in South Carolina

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"I can't say I don't believe in your God, but I don't believe He meant the world to be as it is." ~Nicholas Higgins. North and South.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you are licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." No idea where that last quote came from, but I like it!

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