My View On Today’s Worship Music

Worship Leading – good?  Not so good?  Do we want to go back to something else, and if so, how far back?

This week my wife tagged me on what has to be one of the most awkward worship videos ever. My response? This has to be the best argument in favor of putting every worship team in gray cowl robes and having them chant in Latin.


Seriously, would that be so awful?  Yeah, I know. This is the 21st century, and Latin is a dead language.

But when things are taken to the extreme, when things get really, really lame, one can be excused for being a bit reactionary.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I think this is about 7 years old, and may have been part of a talent contest and not necessarily from a Church service.  If you want to see the guy moon-walk, go to Youtube.)

A Little History…

I came up in the Assemblies of God (originally baptized a Roman Catholic, but that’s another story) in the days where we still had hymnals in the pews (remember “pews?”).

Allow me to insert here that I appreciate our worship team at Pleasant Valley Assembly (Brodheadsville, PA). Nadine and her husband Derek are amazing. And I don’t mean that in the usual way. I know, the girls you met in your freshman year in college were “amazing” and were going to “change the world.” (They weren’t and they didn’t). Nadine and Derek however, are amazing in the real sense of the word and I speak from years of experience as a manager, leader, and consultant.

Nadine has the voice of an angel, and possesses an organizational acumen that comes from years managing and teaching school orchestras and ensembles.

And Derek… what can I say about Derek? Musician, composer, arranger, and sound engineer, Derek brings it every Sunday for the Glory of God. The metric I use for Derek is Lois’ opinion. She has played the piano in church since she was a teenager, and I tend to defer to her subject matter expertise.

Derek is one those enormously talented prodigies that hears and plays. On of these days I’m going to pay a visit to his music studio where the creativity happens.

Clearly Late To The Party… And A Little More History…

Lois and I were attending Church in Columbus, Georgia in 1988. We were married for a year and I was attending the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning. I do not remember the subject of the sermon nor the scripture text.  What I do recall is seeing – for the first time – a bunch of people with microphones up on the platform apparently singing along with rest of the congregation during the “song service.” Yes, that’s what we called it back then.

It was common then, as it is now, for the more talented members of the congregation to present a song – in the form of a solo, duet, or even an ensemble often between the offering and the sermon.

But this was different, and I was a bit perplexed. You only needed one person up there to direct the congregation, and these other folks seemed superfluous to say the least

Later that day, Lois spoke to her Mom and got the answer. This was a new thing called ‘Worship Leaders.’ OK. Things change. I get it.

Change – The Universal Constant…

The transition was inevitable, like dominoes falling.  One church after another got rid of their “Song Service” and transitioned into “Worship.” And here I am thinking I was already “worshiping.” This was not a bad change necessarily. But good intentions are often taken too far. I’m not a big fan of Sunday Morning Nightclub.

I’m going back aways, but I can still remember Mike Rodolicco waving his handkerchief and leading the congregation in “I’ll Fly Away” like it was yesterday. Bethlehem Assembly in Richmond Hill, Queens where Lois’ dad pastored for decades held out until he retired. Hey, the Reverend William J. Behr started with 50 attendees on a Sunday Morning and closed with over 500. I think the man knew what he was doing.

So Now, What?

So nearly 30 years later, where does this leave us, in this new Church of congregational staring? Where does it leave us in Churches filled with supremely talented people who want nothing more than to minister to the rest of us?

I honestly don’t know. The answer is certainly not gray cowls and Latin. Do we go back to the hymnal? Maybe. Once in a while wouldn’t hurt, especially for old man like me.

That being said, there is a rich texture to the old ways and revisiting them may also be in order.

Sancti Dei (Holy God) is a product of the eleventh century A.D. A time when Western Civilization was on the ropes and my own Viking ancestors were ravaging Europe and the Islamic armies were making their presence felt.

Tell me that wasn’t serene.

Here is a sampling of the lyrics in Latin and translated into English.

Gloria et honor Deo
Glory and honor to God

Qui te flore roseo
Who with flowers of rosy dye

Coronavit et locavit
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee

In throno sidereo:
In the starry throne on high

Salvet reos, solvens eos
He directs us, He protects us,

A mortis aculeo. Amen.
From death’s sting eternally.

Note the calm rendering and cadence, the peaceful contemplation. The reverence. Note the worship.  You are in the Sanctuary of God.

Be still, and know that I am God… Psalm 46:10.


About Phil Christensen

The trail behind me is littered with failure. The trail before me remains to be seen.
This entry was posted in Hearth and Altar, Music, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to My View On Today’s Worship Music

  1. Nancy says:

    Oh how I agree with you! But it seems we of the older generation lose out. I read music so if I was presented with the actual music to learn some of these songs I would like some of them better. Young people don’t seem to know a thing about or how to harmonize. That is really too bad. Our answer (my husband and me), is just not to attend very often. Some new ideas work in our favor. Our pastor’s sermons are podcast.

  2. Crystal says:

    I attend a very small (22 – 25 average attendees for service). We have pews and hymnals. We sing 4 hymns, and 1 closing chorus on most Sundays. Our problem is, we have older ladies ‘screeching’ out the hymns, and younger people do not appreciate, nor WANT to come to hear that. I don’t agree not attending is the answer. We are called to gather together, and I feel we lose out without meeting together. We have to learn that change is not bad. If you don’t like something it doesn’t mean you don’t go. What if they painted the bathroom a ‘bad’ choice… stop going? No, we are worshipers.

  3. Nina says:

    Hi Phil – popping over from the #HomeMattersParty where I found the link back here to your blog. I appreciate your observations . . . having invested several years as a “non traditional” student and earning a graduate degree in Medieval Studies – Theology and Philosophy, I am really interested in music through the ages. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic and for posting over at the link up so I could find you. I’ll be back to see what you’re thinking about later. Nina @ Vintage Mama’s Cottage

  4. Linda says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on music. I, too, am from an era when we would sing as a congregation and almost everyone participated. In today’s church, very few of the congregation sing along. It is uncomfortable to sing with our necks bent back reading a screen. I miss the days of a hymnal because then I could follow along with the musical notes, if the song was new to me. All of today’s songs are unfamiliar except to those who listen to popular radio. The words are not interesting and simplistic. I had to stop from outright laughing last Sunday. The only word on the screen, repeated about 9 or 10 times was, “oh”.
    I still attend because the pastor is an extremely good teacher and truly cares about his congregation.

    • Yes, Lois and I find all the “oh’s” rather funny. If you spend 5-10 years reading a hymnal and associating the words with the notes, it gives even the least musically gifted among us a rudimentary knowledge of music. I miss that as well.

  5. Wolfie says:


    Before I got my current teaching assignment, I tried to find a position as a Minister of Music (I have a background in music, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago). People generally were enthusiastic, until they found out two things about me:

    1. (and foremost) My age. I was in my early 60’s when I attempted to get a position as Minister of Music. “How will the young people react, when they see an older man leading the music?” That’s basically it, in a nutshell.

    2. (and just as bad) My philosophy of Church Music includes a “blended style” … modern, traditional hymns, and even some of the music typical of the RCC. That was also a “no-no”. The churches wanted contemporary Gospel, and by a large margin, wanted Hillsong music. There was no room for an old man leading “Rock of Ages”.

    In case you don’t know, the Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, is one of the fastest growing “associations” of churches in the world, and their “worship” consists of of a full-blown rock concert, with pyrotechnics and dancing “chippies”. There’s no room on the platform of a church, associated with Hillsong, for anyone over 30 years of age.

    The worst thing about Hillsong music is that if you merely speak the lyrics aloud, without the music, where’s the content? Consider, for contrast, Rock of Ages:

    “Rock of ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee.
    Let the water and the Blood, from thy precious side which flowed,
    Be of sin the double cure:
    Save from wrath, and make me pure.”

    Phil, I am feeling my age …

    • Some of the lyrics are just awkward, to say the least.

      • Wolfie says:


        Just speak some of the lyrics to their songs, without any music, and the lack of any sort of theological content is astounding.

    • Trevor says:

      To be fair, many of the Hillsong leaders are well over 30 at this point.

      I see your point though. We do not sing many Hillsong songs, simply because of their affiliations and preaching, but their lyrics are more often than not really solid theologically.

      “For contrast”
      Man of sorrows Lamb of God
      By His own betrayed
      The sin of man and wrath of God
      Has been on Jesus laid

      Silent as He stood accused
      Beaten mocked and scorned
      Bowing to the Father’s will
      He took a crown of thorns

      Oh that rugged cross
      My salvation
      Where Your love poured out over me
      Now my soul cries out
      Praise and honour unto Thee

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