This morning the preacher was talking a bit about worship and one of the things put forward was that maybe these days worship songs seem to be overcomplicated, too may words etc...whereas a few years ago songs seemed to be much simpler. I was thinking about this and wondered if we are too complicated in our thinking these days, should our songs be simpler or are we not so good at expressing our thoughts in a simple way. Or...have we just moved on and are confident in our writing...choosing to say several things in several verses instead of repeating one simple truth?


What do others think?





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Ok, my two cents for what it's worth... and besides the obvious knowing what kind of worship works for what setting, speaking from my personal experience, God's given me songs that run the gamut from very simple and soaking on just a refrain, to songs were each verse is very "wordy" and intricate. Like with the seasons of our lives, our writing should evolve and ebb and flow as we grow. During fiery times where I feel like I'm totally being refined and reshaped and just plain under duress with life, my songwriting tends to lean more toward a David or Job - a "Oh God, I need to see Your face... "... and those are about the only sentiments I can eek out in my writing. There's nothing wrong with that, or being more complex when I'm in another season or God's showing me a different revelation. You never know what is going to reach someone. You never know what song will bring someone in to the throne room and be life-changing for them... or yourself. I think when you try to force too much out of a song, it turns away from being a powerful vessel of ministry, and you might miss the timing altogether - as in the Father's timing to use that song. That transfers into being challenged to enter in to worship because the tension of delivering the song is tangible. Overall, I actually don't think we're being too overly complicated, but I do think that perhaps striving to write something out of our own flesh, or trying to write something with the mindset of being clever and commercial is just setting yourself up for frustration. That's why the older I get, the more I appreciate and grow fond of the old hymns that nobody seems to do anymore. To me they are just pure manna from the Word in their message. Most are very simple, and also pretty easy to update in a more contemporary musical style. The older generations love the familiarity of the hymns, and the younger generations get to perhaps hear them for the first time. So in a nutshell - just "be" ... just "rest"... and just write from a flow of the breath of the Holy Spirit. Then you can't go wrong. ;-)
Kev...I look at many of the hymns and many are certainly pretty complicated and certainly have alot of words. One of the complaints from the earlier years of contemporary music was that it was shallow with too much repetition, the 7-11 approach. I think many of today's song have much more substance and are certainly no more complex that the old hymns. Revelation Song is a complex song...that happens to be our congregations favorite song and that has been used by God in a mighty, mighty way within our services. Just my take...
I think you make a good point. Hymns are only complex lyrically, but are rarely a challenge musically. So you can usually sing them once you know the melody.

What has begun to happen with some modern songs is that they have a lot of tags and breaks and pre-choruses and repeated sections and so on. Sometimes, that's difficult for a congregation to follow.

It's all in what you congregation can do. The thing that throws my congregation off the most is rhythm. If they can't find the beat, they have a hard time with it. Asymmetrical rhythms, syncopation and loose fundamentals throw them off every time. I've event taken modern stuff and made it more straight on just so the congregation can follow it.
Right on, Stevo. Simplifying things can do wonders. Some people hate doing this for, usually, what I think are selfish reasons. We as leaders should be making it as easy for our particular congregation to worship thru song as we can.
My experience is that it all depends on the song and the situation. With our congregation we've had older, simple, songs work and others fall flat. We've had the same experience with more complex and wordy songs. A few things I have noticed is that a trend in more recent songs is to keep pushing the key higher and higher. More often we have to adjust these songs to a more singable key for our congregation to really buy into them. It's not just us. I took a few sound samples on my cell phone at some recent Christian concerts and people like Chris Tomlin drop the key of most of their songs when singing them live. Something I've noticed that I've had to deal with in our praise team is the desire to want to overly complicate the vocal parts of songs we want the congregation to sing with us. Odd syncopation, too many vocal harmonies too soon at the start of the song, and them wanting to swap off soloing verses. When someone starts soloing vocally our congregation stops singing 99% of the time. Songs can be wordy and musically interesting but they do need to be singable by a congregation without us confusing them on what, how, and when to sing.
Oh, and some songs can be simplified if need be. Check out the song "God Of This City". Listen to the original Bluetree version and then listen to the Chris Tomlin cover. Chris cuts most of the complexity out of the song along with most of the meat of the lyrics. But the Tomlin version is very good for certain situations where that repetitive message is needed. We sometimes do the simple Tomlin version and sometimes add back in the second verse and other parts when that is needed. Out congregation handles both version well.
One thing that may have changed over the past few years is that there are now radio stations (on the internet, if not in your car) that play a lot of the current worship music... so the people in the congregation who listen to Christian Radio are familiar with these songs, and don't have to "learn" them from just a projected lyric and hearing them once a week in church. Which in turn means you can do more musically complicated songs than you used to... of course, that also drives the mentality that "the songs we do in worship have to be the 'hits' that they play on the radio," which I dislike, but... I'm not in charge of such things :-)

Something similar I've noticed... back before we had a projection service at our church, the pastor used to feel like she could do some song in the traditional service that nobody knew, since there was printed music in the hymnal and usually a trained pianist/organist who could sight-read the song if they didn't know about it 'til Sunday morning. The thing I've noticed - now that we have the projection system and all the congregation are seeing is words, she still seems to feel like she can spring this stuff on the congregation - find some totally obscure song that happened to have words that matched the sermon, and just pull it out and expect the congregation to be able to figure it out on the fly...

One would hope that after more than 40 years of contemporary worship songwriting that there would be some signs of musical, intellectual, and theological progress in the field...


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