Don’t Eat the Chocolate: Why Contemporary Worship Music is Dead, Dying, and Decaying

1It’s become clear to me that contemporary worship music is dead, dying, and decaying. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. Here’s my proof (read it and weep. Really. Please weep):

1. The new songs aren’t nearly as old as the older songs
“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was written in 1779! “Ten Thousand Reasons” was written in 2011. These new songs aren’t even close to being as old as the old songs. The old songs have been around for several hundred years! These new ones? Not nearly that long!

2. Some of the new songs are trying to pretend they’re old hymns
Have you read some of the new songs? They’re trying to act like they’re hymns, with their deep theology and everything. It’s ridiculous.

3. Whatever happened to singing Isaac Watts?
Hasn’t he written anything new lately? Why aren’t we singing his new stuff? Even more ridiculous. We’re missing out on new material from the old hymn writers.

4. Bad stuff
Some of the new stuff coming out is really bad and unsingable. You think the old hymn writers ever wrote bad hymns and ended up throwing them away? I doubt it. How do you spell infallible? S-P-A-F-F-O-R-D, that’s how.

5. Look in the old hymnals…
See any of these new songs in the old hymnals? Nope. They’re not good enough to be in there.

6. Repetition is never appealing
These new song writers have never studied great compositions like the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Psalm 107” to see how you don’t need to repeat phrases to emphasize something.

7. No time for filtering
We need to wait another hundred years (at least!) before we event think about singing these new songs being written, so we can make sure they’re safe for us to sing. Once these new songs are 100 years old, if they’re still around, then maybe we can sing them. Maybe.

8. There aren’t as many new songs as there are old songs
We have more material from the last 2,000 years (not to mention all the years BC) than all of the songs written after 1970 combined! I think that says something.

9. Our forefathers didn’t sing these new songs
If these new songs weren’t good enough for our forefathers to sing several hundred years ago, then they’re not good enough for me. My great-grandfather had never heard of Chris Tomlin when he was alive.

10. We’re done being creative
There’s nothing more to be said that hasn’t been said, there are no new melodies that need to be written that haven’t already been written, and there’s no need to be creative anymore because we reached our creative quota in about 1913. Except for “In Christ Alone”. That one earns an exception. It slipped through just in time. Barely. But don’t tell anyone. We’re done. Really. Stop it.

In closing, contemporary worship music (hereafter referred to as CWM) is like a box of chocolates that you got for Christmas, and then forgot about, and stuffed it away with all the Christmas wrap, and found it the next year, still shrink-wrapped, and wondered to yourself “will I die if I eat this?” The answer is “yes”. Yes, you will die, and the last thing you’ll ever have run through your mind is “I didn’t know this one had the disgusting strawberry liqueur filling”. Yes, you did know, because I’m telling you. Stay away from CWM and eat the older chocolate instead. Oh no my analogy just broke down…

13 thoughts on “Don’t Eat the Chocolate: Why Contemporary Worship Music is Dead, Dying, and Decaying

  1. Lily Fields November 20, 2014 / 4:35 pm

    Thanks. I have been waiting for a effective spoof of that unfounded post (with a similar title) that has been appearing on the news-feeds of the collective smug…

  2. Dave November 20, 2014 / 4:44 pm

    Oh, boy. There’s gonna be way too many people that think this is serious. I forget who said the quote, “Never use humor with someone who has no sense of humor. They will use it as evidence against you.”

  3. Michael Druckenmiller Sr. November 20, 2014 / 5:53 pm

    Jamie… I am so glad your post was ‘Tongue in Check’. You point, though, is well taken and appreciated. Though perhaps, when it comes to CWM, there can be too much of a good thing?

  4. paschott November 20, 2014 / 7:29 pm

    I appreciate the sentiment, but there seem to be far too many new songs that just really aren’t worth as much time as they get. (Much like there are far more hymns that have fallen by the wayside than those we consider great.) Repetition has a place, but when a phrase is repeated in the Hallelujah Chorus at least there’s something else that makes it interesting. Contrast that with “Say So” where if you drop the phrase “Let the redeemed of the Lord ….”, you immediately lose 2/3 of the song – and the melody doesn’t vary for that phrase. I don’t necessarily mind repetition, but repetition like that drops me out of the worship moment pretty quickly. 😦

    As you noted, there are some great contemporary worship songs/hymns. There are also some great hymns/songs that we consider classics. Too often, those are just thrown out and ignored in favor of something that just doesn’t compare with its message or singability. I like quite a few of the Sovereign Grace songs – solid words, usually singable melodies, and well written.

    It is also interesting to note how many of the hymns we used to sing didn’t have their melody added until far after the words were written. We consider them as a package, but some melodies work and some don’t even if the lyrics are great.

    I can see your point, but also think that those who throw out hymns just because they’re old are missing something just as much as those who say “all new songs are bad”.

  5. suburbanradical November 21, 2014 / 4:27 am

    Jamie – this made me laugh out loud this morning. It just proves that the British sense of irony travels! I think I may have heard most of these over the years in various forms – you’ve a good way of putting them tough – thanks!

  6. bonsaiscratcher November 21, 2014 / 12:56 pm

    very good! I’m a worship leader on ‘sabbatical’ at the moment and have been appreciating your posts. Thanks!

  7. Christ Anglican Church November 21, 2014 / 1:52 pm

    Holy crap. Thank you, Jamie…just…thank you for that breath of fresh, sarcastic air in a suffocating blogosphere of high-and-mighty worship leaders.

    Peace be with you,

    Jeremy Mayfield unsunglife.com

  8. misterjoshuaray November 21, 2014 / 10:04 pm

    Reblogged this on misterjoshuaray and commented:
    Tongue firmly in cheek, here’s a repost of a blog on 10 reasons Contemporary music is DEAD! Here’s a sneak peek:
    “6. Repetition is never appealing
    These new song writers have never studied great compositions like the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ or ‘Psalm 107’ to see how you don’t need to repeat phrases to emphasize something.”

  9. Jim November 21, 2014 / 10:26 pm

    Now this is funny!

    Not for any of those reasons you mentioned, but I do believe that the North American concept of “Worship is a song, come on everybody sing along” is dying a slow death. The church at large may be doubling down on it, but I don’t think it is going to be as big of a deal in our church gatherings in 25 years.

    Not that we won’t be singing the older and newer songs, but our “worship” will involve less and less of the big show where music is the predominant force behind corporate worship. In church after church that I have visited, I have witnessed the vast majority of people not engaged in the singing aspect of the service. It is one of those things they can do without.

    Leaders will eventually have to realize that singing is not that big of a deal for most of the people who attend their services. That reality, in my opinion, will force leaders to re-think worship.

    • Michael Druckenmiller Sr. November 22, 2014 / 5:48 am

      I am not from one of the quiet denominations, granted. I agree with your last graph with the following proviso… If we went from merely singing to worshiping then it would be a bid deal.

      During the Jesus Movement I was part of a revival where we had many healings during times of Worship. Once or twice the Presence of God was so overpowering that the platform was cleared as God Himself ministered to His people.

      Today, even among Pentecostal and Charismatics these experiences are all but non-existent. Sadly… As Jamie has related we have become more interested in the Performance than Worship, and singing a song rather than singing to Jesus…

      • Jim November 22, 2014 / 12:41 pm

        I was at the tail end of that movement, and I remember those things as well.

  10. Helen December 1, 2014 / 9:52 am

    Sort of a snarky piece, don’t you think?

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