How To Worship When You Think The Songs Suck

September 29, 2011 — 55 Comments

[This post is part of the Revamping Christian Worship series]

Before I get started, Josiah or David, if you’re reading this, its not about you. I’ve been thinking about a post like this long before coming to CrossPointe.

Now having said that, let’s dive in.

You might gather from the title, rightly so, that there are worship songs out there, sung frequently, that I think are less than stellar. One might even say I think they suck. To be clear, when I say “suck” in this sense, I mean, according to entry #11 on dictionary.com, that they are “repellent” to me. In other words, the lameness of either the lyrics or music repels my artistic sensibilities for one reason or another.

The question then is this: How do you worship when you feel that way about one or all of the songs selected on a given Sunday?

One option you might take is to leave that particular church. My home church in Tennessee experienced a mass exodus back in the late 90’s when we moved the music in a more contemporary direction and added some pretty hardcore elements like electric drums and acoustic guitars. Many people were just a bit too conservative to tolerate this kind of liberal inclusion of instruments besides the piano.

Taking this route does help when you feel that the genre your church chooses to worship in is repellent (=sucks to you). However, the larger question I am asking concerns song choices. Certainly the people who left our church back in the 20th century would still occasionally have to endure a rendition of a hymn they didn’t particularly care for. Or heaven forbid, their new church began using “praise choruses,” which is to say that church just moved one step closer to the edge of modernity (=becoming liberal).

When this happens, one would be faced with finding a new church yet again.

Clearly then, this option doesn’t work for the long term, unless you enjoy church hopping. Whether you are moving away from a church because you dislike the genre, or moving to a new church because you like that genre of worship music better, you will eventually encounter worship sets that are not to your liking.

So what do you do when you that happens more than you would like?

For me, its not so often that I think the songs actually suck. Its usually either that I find them musically boring or lyrically vapid. Part of this is the point T. David Gordon was trying to make in Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns. The medium of modern worship music (its genre) caters to a message that is not all that deep. I would respond that while this is true of many worship songs out there, it is not necessarily true. Pop music lyrics haven’t always been vapid, they just tend to be frivolous and naively emotional in recent days and I think some of this trickles down into worship music. This is what gives rise to “Jesus is my girlfriend” worship songs, which we can, or should, all agree need to stop.

The other issue with some worship music is that it is musically boring. This is another way of saying that the music lacks aesthetic panache, which is a more complicated way of saying all the songs sound the same. Not all the songs, but most songs are primarily written in major keys, use either E or G shapes on the acoustic guitar and are capo-ed to change keys as needed. Tempo-wise they all fall within a certain range, and rhythmically, speaking as a drummer, there are probably only about 3 to 4 drum beats you need to master to play drums in a worship band (unless your band plays In Christ Alone, which is an excellent song, and a bear to play drums to).

Certainly I am speaking with some level of hyperbole. Contemporary worship music is not all that bad. I’ve mainly spoken in generalities to avoid saying something like, “Here’s a list of worship songs that I think suck” and then you see your favorite one on there and never read my blog again. Since I can’t change the songs that I think are lame, and since I do not pick the songs we sing at church, I’ll just stay mum on which ones I think go on that list. Also, if I publicly slam certain songs, the next time our worship leader picks one of them to play on Sunday and I happen to be playing, (and if he’s read this blog), he’ll be thinking in the back of his mind “Oh man, Nate hates this song.”

And that my friend, brings us to the point. “How do I worship when I think the songs suck?” you might ask. Well first off, you don’t express that you think the songs suck to anyone else. You may ruin a genuine worshipful experience for them by your complaining. While they were perfectly fine worshipping to that particular song, your comments could forever taint it for them. You are certainly free to mentally critique the artistic and theological merits of the songs you sing each Sunday. But when you decide one or more are duds, don’t rain on everyone else’s parade.

The church has enough people complaining about enough things. If you don’t possess the artistic ability to write new worship songs that don’t suck, then just keep your mouth shut. Also, if you can’t write songs, you probably are not the best judge of what sucks and what doesn’t when it comes to music.

However, if you’re like me, and you can and do write music, and are therefore qualified to critique the musical merits of worship music, I would still say, if you can’t contribute to a solution, you’re just creating another problem. If the quality of the songs bothers you that much, then write new ones. We need new songs written outside the genre box that exhibit a lyrical and musical depth that is on the whole lacking in many (but not all) worship contexts.

This still leaves the question though of “how do I worship when I think the songs suck?” The answer, in short, is that the worship set wasn’t picked for you, and part of being in community of believers gathered to worship is forfeiting your preferences in deference to others. A prime example of this is theologian John Frame. While a classically trained organist who doesn’t like contemporary worship music, Frame nonetheless argues for its legitimate place in worship services. I’m sure he might cringe as well at some of the current praise choruses that are popular out there, but out of love for his brothers and sisters in Christ, he lays down his preferences and worships alongside those who sing songs he might not particularly like.

I think this is the ultimate answer to the question. When you think the songs suck, you can still, and should still worship God as fervently and freely as you would when its your absolute favorite song being sung. You may however need to mortify your critical spirit and get over yourself first, but you should still strive to worship God through song each Sunday whether you particularly like the selections or not.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could sing your favorite songs every Sunday. He died so that you might learn to die to self as well. Part of doing that might just be singing songs you don’t like, and singing them as genuinely as the songs you do.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

55 responses to How To Worship When You Think The Songs Suck

  1. Nate, thanks for this. In my typical sarcastic manner, I made a commentary on Facebook about the repetitive phrases in modern worship songs. And this in context of broader thoughts I’ve had recently concerning ecclesiology and lack of attention to our corporate purpose and functioning. I am humbled by your thoughts and recommendation.

    • Lisa,

      Thanks for commenting, I think I’m in the same boat as you (along with my wife) and generally disdain many modern worship songs. Much of what I said here is for me to remind myself, but I’m glad it struck a chord so to speak with you as well!

      Nate

  2. Ya, many songs in the past that would immediately get my mind off Christ and I’d shut down. In the end its not about me. Worship is for the worshiped not the worshiper.

  3. Although I agree with your conclusion on the matter I disagree with the statement that unless I’m a musician I cannot have an opinion, I’m not the best judge, I should never open my mouth, etc.
    By that logic unless I’m a master chef I cannot voice an opinion on restaurant food. Nor unless I’m an amateur/professional movie critic hold out an opinion on a film. And I don’t think we can say that is good.
    Besides, at some point I think we must recognize thirst is a mechanism for water. Craving worship may at times be suppressed when it springs from a dark heart, but what about when it’s not? I think a follow up article for figuring out when it’s which would be helpful.

    • Philip,

      Thanks for dropping by to comment. I think you’re right, a follow up article is probably a good idea. I’ll put some thought into it and see what I can come up with. As for the “musicians are the only ones who can have opinions,” I should have qualified that better. Without the background knowledge a musician has, you can certainly have an opinion on whether or not the music is good or bad, and in some cases, may well be correct to judge it so. However, it would be hard to explain just exactly is wrong with the song, unless you’re a musician and can pinpoint the specifics. So, I guess what I’m saying is that non-musicians can have opinions, and even correct ones at that, but they will be a bit more subjective than a musicians analysis would be.

      Does that make sense?

      Nate

  4. Sure, the trained musician is much more capable about giving the why, no question about that.
    Blogging is one of those things that you sit down, dash it out, and then later realize that what you were intending to communicate never really came off. Happens to me plenty at any rate.

  5. Oh, how I so want to share my list. Sometimes, I distract myself by watching the musicians play their instruments (not that I should). Two things can happen. The first, I confess, involves looking upwards to God with an accusatory, judgmental glance (letting the flesh elbow its way in) and think, “Not again.” The second picks up on an infectious, edifying attitude of the worshipper and can help redeem the song. There are many songs that can take on a whole new meaning when I hear how someone else responds positively, even though some will always drive me nuts (entry #2 on dictionary.com). However, I try my best, as you admonish, to get out of my way and make a joyful (gritting my teeth) noise when one of these songs are played .

  6. “Also, if you can’t write songs, you probably are not the best judge of what sucks and what doesn’t when it comes to music.”

    I don’t really think that principle works. Think about other art forms (e.g. painting or sculpture). A person does not have to be a painter or a sculptor to recognize the difference between “Starry Night” and the Sunday funnies or Michelangelo’s “David” and a lawn gnome, right? And, being able to make lawn gnomes or draw comics would not necessarily make a person a better judge than some other person who has thought carefully about the art but cannot produce anything.

    I think you are right about a big part of the problem, though. When we are concerned chiefly with our own fancies, we are bound to have a negative effect upon the church.

    • I think the principle works fine if you keep in mind that I am not saying the person who can’t write songs is incapable of knowing what sucks and what doesn’t. I’m just pointing out that they are not the best person to make that judgment. You’re right that being able to produce doesn’t necessarily make you a better judge, but if we’re going to generalize, the person who produces knows more about the product than the person who just observes. A musicologist may know more about music than a musician, but the musician has an intuitive grasp of the craft that a musicologist lacks (if he is not a musician as well).

      We agree though on the bottom line, even if maybe I could have formulated the the principle in a clearer way.

  7. Hey Nate,
    I’m a pastor and this is a GREAT article. I plan to share it with my music minister. I wish I could share it with certain church members, but I can’t because of the title. This isn’t a criticism, I just think that it is a cultural/language barrier. “Sucks” is a commonly used word in our generation.

    The word “sucks” makes it impossible for me to direct certain people to this article that need to read it. I don’t say this to complain, but to use this fact (and it is a fact) as an appropriate illustration of this issue.

    Music is a form of language. Similarly if I want to communicate praise in a language people understand (as Paul does in I cor. 14:16-17) then how do I do that?

    Think of it this way. Just as the word “sucks” is a commonly accepted term among my generation and younger, it really isn’t for those older. So if I want to communicate to the younger generation, does that mean that I MUST use the same words they do? “contemporary” is exactly that, and what is “contemporary” in one moment, isn’t in the next. There are certain phrases, terms, and styles of speaking that fade as the fads they are, and others that turn out to be lasting, even if they were new at one time.

    For example, who says “groovy” or “far out” anymore? What about “daddy-O” or “hip cat”? (Other similarly faddish terms that have faded include but aren’t limited to: rad, bad & sick (for good), totally awesome, like wow, and “gag me with a spoon.”) However some terms from those time periods have stuck with us: terms like “rock & roll” and “cool” and even, believe it or not “dude”, though still considered informal.

    If I am speaking to a young audience, am I obligated to use their vocabulary to communicate the Gospel? I don’t think so. As long as I use universally recognized language, that is acceptable to their culture and to mine, we’re cool. 🙂 However, there are a couple cautions.
    #1 – I shouldn’t use language from my own culture that is foreign to them, without taking the time to explain it. The use of terms that are unfamiliar to my audience should be rare, and even then I should have a really good reason for using it (because no other term is as effective or accurate) and it should be explained.
    #2 – I should be cautious about using “contemporary” terms or slang of that audience. As a rule, I shouldn’t unless it is absolutely necessary. And then it should be used sparingly and maybe just to get their attention. But it is artificial to sprinkle my language with words I don’t normally use, plus the chances are good that I will use them wrong.

    So to boil it down to one sentence, if you think of the languages that I and my audience uses as two concentric circles, I should only use those terms where the two intersect. I can venture into their territory or mine, but it should be done cautiously and sparingly.

    So how does that relate to worship music? Similarly one should avoid both errors. If you try only to keep up with the times, you will go where the times go, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis. You will be using faddish, and low-quality music that even the current appreciators will be rejecting in 10 years.

    However, if you use music that is so old and traditional that the hearers don’t understand, then you fail to communicate, and will most likely alienate your audience.

    So you try to use universal music, venturing into exclusively “contemporary” music sparingly, and likewise exclusively “traditional” music sparingly. (Note my use of the word “exclusive.” There certainly are contemporary songs that are universal in appeal as well as traditional songs that are universal in appeal.)

    I am not contradicting or disagreeing with the original purpose of your post, which is directed more to participants and less to leaders. What I wrote above is more to leaders and less to participants.

    What do I do then as a participant if I hear something that is worse than just that it isn’t a favorite, but that I genuinely dislike it or it turns me off? I think something similar to how I treated the title of this post. I wasn’t totally comfortable using the words “sucks” when talking about worship. But I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you had a good reason for using the term or at least didn’t mean any harm by it and so, I overlooked it and tried to pay attention to the content and concept of the article itself. (Which is EXCELLENT!) Then I must decide later if criticism of the word “sucks” is appropriate, and if so, how should I go about it? If not, then I should keep my opinions to myself.

    This is how we should respond when we hear a song in worship that in, our opinion, is vacuum cleaner worthy.

    • Philip (or Shrode),

      Thanks for taking time to interact with my thoughts at such a lengthy level! Thanks as well for giving me the benefit of the doubt and sticking through it even though I used the word “sucks”!

      If you’d like, I can make a PDF of this that is titled different and doesn’t use the “S word.”

      I’m still trying to evaluate whether I completely agree with all that you’ve said, but I think for the most part we’re on the same page. I think what you’re touching on is an issue regarding contextualization, which conveniently enough, I’ve got a series going on as well.

      You just might want to check it out!

      Nate

  8. This is an excellent post. Can I suggest one thing? I don’t believe that you need to be able to write new songs in order to serve as a solution to the problem. I believe that suggesting songs can be almost as legitimate as writing new ones, as a solution to a perceived problem of songs in your church “sucking”.

    As a worship leader, I’m aware of the danger here: everyone comes up with their favorite song and demands that you play it. So, here are the guidelines that I use when I give people permission to suggest songs (yes, unless I’ve expressly communicated that I’m interested in someone’s suggestions, I generally politely acknowledge and thank them, but usually don’t follow-thru on their suggestion, simply because it’s not feasible to entertain all suggestions, which quite often simply amount to “requests”):
    -I need to believe that you have a good understanding of what we’re doing philosophically, in terms of both style and substance.
    -I need to believe that you have some musical sensibility and reasonable taste.
    -I need to believe that you have subordinated your own interests to the edification of the church and the glory of Jesus.
    -If you have a suggestion (and I’ve given you permission to make suggestions), I need you to send me the information electronically, including a digital audio file that is both legal and (preferably, though this is not mandatory) free (or at least a link where the audio can be streamed for free), at minimum chord charts for guitar (so I don’t have to be the one doing all the work to incorporate someone else’s suggestion), lyrics written out, and some explanation of why this song will be good for us and some thoughts as to when/how it could be used.

    Usually, when someone does all that, they are making a suggestion that they *really* believe *needs* to be used in our church. And, in that event, they’re usually right. This has the benefit of two things: filtering out a lot of songs that we shouldn’t consider, leaving me with fewer songs to invest time in, and making it easier to consider songs (because so much leg-work has been done), so I can be willing to accept suggestions in the first place.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Michael,

      I think this grid is great! I may pass this along to your worship leader, though I think he may have something similar in mind.

      Do you mind if I reblog your gird here?

      Nate

  9. Tired worshipper December 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    But what do you do when almost *all* the music choices suck? The whole service has turned into a rock concert, and there’s just nothing left for me to participate in?

    • That’s a tough one. Sometimes I feel like that, but from the other perspective (i.e. these songs don’t rock *enough*)

      I just keep pushing myself back to thinking that the genre of music is not fit to suit my tastes, and if it was, most everyone else wouldn’t like it.

      If it gets to be too much of an issue, maybe it’s worth looking into a different church, but I would only suggest that if there are other issues (like with the theology).

  10. Often if can be helpful to take a lyric you don’t like and see what is saying about the character of God. Then worship him with what you know the bible says about that particular attribute.

  11. Tired Worshipper,
    You have three choices:
    1- You can stay where you are as you are and become bitter about it.
    2- You can do what most people who feel as you, and leave and go somewhere else.
    3-You can ask God to change your heart and attitude towards the music choices. Maybe ask him to help you actually appreciate the songs. And you can follow the advice of this post by Nate. Especially read the last three paragraphs over and over.

  12. An excellent article that points us to our attitude. When we worship God we bring him a penitent and humble heart. Sure the music and lyrics may not be to our preferences, but if the music leaders/team have chosen these songs with a genuine heart then we are to accept that there is a message here for us to share with each other and the Lord. Just as some hymns are here with us centuries after they were written and many were discarded, so it will be with today’s worship songs. I am getting along in years (in my early 50’s) and I prefer more modern songs, but some of the new stuff leaves me panting to keep up. Just as some of the hymns bore me to sleep, yet there are gems that speak to my heart in both sections. Music is often a emotional trip, it may make us jump for joy, or bring us to tears for what the Lord has done for us. What speaks to my soul today may not affect me in 10 years time other than maybe nostalgia. I agree with you that we must keep most of our critiques to ourselves and if it is truly weak, then to bring it prayerfully to the music team for re-evaluation.

  13. Nate,

    An excellent article, but I too take issue with the idea that musicians are best qualified to criticize worship music. Musicians do not create music only for other musicians. The majority of people who hear a particular song will not be musically talented. It is how these people perceive the songs that is the most important, and thus their opinions are what should be chiefly considered. I love hymns and I love much modern praise music, but what I love the most is songs that I can participate in and understand. A song that is technically complex enough to only be really understood by musicians does me no good, both because I cannot grasp that it is complex and because I might not be able to participate in it as well as in a simpler song.

    Complex music has its place, of course. I enjoy hearing a talented choir render hymns and songs in ways the congregation as a whole never could, I think God enjoys that, but those songs I sing should not be beyond my ability to appreciate, even if they are beyond my ability to create.

    The same principle is true of teaching. If a teacher uses languages and concepts beyond the understanding of his congregation then he may be correct, he may preach a beautiful sermon, but he will not be teaching.

    Sigur Ros comes to mind. These are musicians who are incredibly talented, but I can not appreciate their music. To me one of their songs sounds like a long rock intro. I have musicians friends who love them, but I prefer Aha’s Take On Me because I can sing along.

    I am not saying that you are a musical elitist, or that absolutely everyone must be able to understand and participate in a song. A song is not good merely because it is popular, and it should have technical merit. However, musicians should not be primarily concerned about what other musicians think of their music, but what a person with little musical ability or knowledge thinks.

    • Patrick,

      Thanks for stopping by to comment! I think I understand where you are coming from in your concerns, but I still don’t agree. I’ve qualified it a little bit in the above comments, but objectively speaking, to quote myself “if you can’t write songs, you probably are not the best judge of what sucks and what doesn’t when it comes to music.” In other words, the person who knows who to write songs is the *best* qualified to comment on the merits of a particular song, but certainly isn’t the only person qualified to do so.

      You seem to be arguing that the subjective impressions of the people who hear a song are the way to measure the quality of a song. I think those are important to take into account, but they have very little to do with whether or not, objectively speaking, the song is good or not. It seems like you’re reacting against, not a kind of musical elitism on my part (as you said), but what seems to imply that the specialist (musician/songwriter) is the one whose opinion counts the most and the vast majority of impressions don’t matter (kind of like a priesthood of the musician when it comes to worship music that marginalizes the non-musical lay person).

      I am probably due a follow up post here, mainly because I think most people confuse a song’s objective quality and a song’s subjective appeal. Musicians and songwriters are the best qualified to comment on the former, while I think you’re right to point out that the average person may be better qualified to comment on the latter. The problem is that people use “suck” to refer to both bad quality and low appeal. I can say “This song sucks” and either mean a) “This song is poorly written and performed” or (more often than not in common usage), b) “This song doesn’t appeal to me, in fact, I almost hate it.”

      The other thing is that “good” and “complex” are not necessarily synonymous, which I think you point out above. Good teaching is clear teaching that communicates well. Complex teaching may or may not be good in that sense. Complex music doesn’t actually communicate anything, and complex lyrics make it harder to understand and even sing some songs.

      I’ll address both of these issues in an upcoming post(s) in this series, or we can continue the discussion here. I’ll look forward to it either way

      Nate

  14. I appreciate the idea and practice of putting our brothers and sisters before us so to speak in worship, not demanding only the music that we like, or moves us or speaks to us. I agree leaving a church over musical worship style should be a grave decision. I was hopeful reading the article I would get to the place where you answered what a person should do when not only some but almost all or all the music “sucks” to them each Sunday. Sometimes it is easy make light of the place of music in worship but is it not another way to learn scripture, be taught by God, and emotionally moved towards Him? Is music that lesser of importance to Him than the spoken word that we shouldn’t feel when we sing most of the time? Of all the beauties in the world that move us, those inspired or created by God, shouldn’t worship in music be one of them that often does? Its too easy to say that worship is only about God, only to Him so that the music only matters on His end – that which is pleasing to His ears or tastes. It seems to me that God wants us to worship with body, soul and mind – even in our music, if not especially in our music.

  15. Since this is a blog, I’ll just blast my thoughts out here along with the rest and hope I don’t mis-step along the way.

    Having just completed a rather intense study of church music from the temple to today, I’d like to add to this disucssion an observation that much of what we say “sucks” (I do wish you had used a different word) is driven by culture more than content, while it is content that should determine what we think “sucks” in the first place.

    If you could take out western cultural influences on worship, we might still be enjoying cantillation and every other form of singing and music but I believe the focus would be on content.

    In fact, in the context of their culture, they would have understood Act 2:42 was practiced through music. The western idea to seperate worship from public speaking is one reason we have so little content and so many different musical worship styles. Western churches have focused on the fluff and mostly pulled out teaching, speaking, and Scripture from our worship and replaced it with relational ideas, feelings, and emotions. This is not all bad, but we lack the depth that makes it so much more.

    It is easy for me to worship God in musical styles I don’t like if the content is Biblical.

  16. I found this quite insightful as to musical worship, however, the way that i read this seems to suggest that if you don’t like a song you should suck it up and get on with it. Im a youth worker for my church and there is no denying the fact that with a lot of the worship songs that are played in church are ones that the young people I work with don’t or cant engage with. I think that you have missed quite a key note on this subject. Engagement with a song isn’t just about whether or not you like it or it sounds musically good. there needs to be a connection to God for each individual and if one does not have that it can not be forced as it seems you are suggesting. there needs to be other ways to worship within church for those that don’t connect with sung worship (which isn’t always through a dislike of a song) I think your right when you say if you dont like a song there is no need to move church however, personally whilst I like many worship songs I do not engage with God through singing songs and never really have. For me I often use this time to sit and pray and spend time reading God’s word. for the young people i have contact with they love drawing or making things so i often provide a medium for them to do this within a service for them to worship and reflect. so i think its important to mark the fact that sung worship isn’t for everyone and just getting on with it doesn’t work for some people when it comes to connecting to God. That being said its also important to remember that worship isn’t about us its about praising God if we walk away on a sunday saying well i didn’t get anything from the worship today i think we need to question our own personal views of what worship is for us.

    Just a few thoughts

    • I enjoyed the article, thanks for sharing your heart. The one thing that keeps rolling around in my head, though, is this: Worship is supposed to be all about Jesus. When we start fussing about a song “sucking,” the focus shifts from Jesus to ourselves. And when the focus is on ourselves, we are no longer worshiping Jesus. I say, if you don’t like the song, get over yourself, and worship Jesus anyway. To quote Robert Webber, “Worship is a verb. It is not something done to us, or for us, but by us.” If you can’t worship the Lord with a song you think is boring or sucks, then you have a personal issue that you need to leave at the foot of the cross. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus, the King of kings. The moment we begin complaining about worship is the moment we stop worshiping. Worship is not about what we can get out of it, it’s about what we can give to the Lord out of a loving and obedient heart.

    • Chris,

      I think you do pick up on a key ingredient regarding connection with God. I like your approach to of using the time in worship to sit and pray, which is just as worshipful as singing. I find for myself I have to think about the lyrics more than sing them, since when I’m singing, which is not natural for me, I’m focused more on the act of singing than the content of the song.

      I will say that I think sung worship is for everyone in the sense that we should strive for it if it doesn’t come naturally. Scripture seems to support this idea and it’s something I am trying to move myself toward.

      You’re right as well about worship being about God, and we probably do need to question our personal views if we come away feeling “we didn’t get anything out of it”

      Nate

  17. Nate, btw I wasn’t directing my post at you, I can tell that we agree based on your article. But rather my post was more directed at some of the other comments people left. Thanks for your speedy response! God bless.

  18. I have been struggling with this so much as of late. The church we have been going to uses about 30-45 minutes of “Praise” music to start each service. As a trained singer/musician who is not really a pop music or country music fan I find that I am leaving church in a foul mood because of the music. It does not speak to me in any way, shape or form and when they repeat line after line after line I feel my blood pressure rise. Trying to find a socially conservative, non-denominational church that does not utilize this praise music is almost impossible to do where I live. I’m not “old” (47) and my iPod is filled with music from all genres but I just can’t tolerate praise worship music. I should also mention that I have been a music teacher for over 25 years. At this point I am ready to find a church that has no music what-so-ever.

    • That’s a tough spot to be in. I think the key might be abandoning the search about non-denominational churches. Though not able to comply to any doctrinal statement that would bind them to a particular denomination, they do seem to follow an unwritten rule that says “Thou shalt use praise music in worship.” Generally speaking too, evangelical churches strive to be modern and relevant, particularly in the area of music. If you were to look into other denominations though, Presbyterian ones in particular, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding a socially conservative church with sound doctrine and a lack of praise music.

      • After a year of looking I am still without a church. My wife and son are regularly attending the community church that is heavy on praise music but I just can’t get past it. I have looked but we live in a small town and my choices for houses of worship are few. To top it off, it is a University town and the majority of churches that use “traditional” music in their serves are very Liberal in their views. Most Sundays I stay home. =(

  19. Thanks for your article. I have not attended a church in a while. Someone invited me to their church, so I visited this morning. I new it was a charismatic type church, but tried it. The music and howling was so bad, I took refuge in a bathroom. I could hear the screams during the praise service, it sounded like a mass shooting was occurring. Unfortunately, when the spirit led me from the bathroom to return the the service, the music failed to improve. I didn’t make it to the preaching, if this group of nutballs ever heard of preaching.

    • Sounds like a rough experience, and if that’s been typical for you, I would understand not attending church. What type of church were you attending before you stopped?

  20. Attended a non-demonination church for a while. Fairly good teaching, praise music acceptable. Pastor permitted more and more dvds shown at service with rock guitar music, where the spirit again led me to the men’s room or to just miss the music service entirely. When discussed with the pastor about the questionable worshipmusic, he indicated he had similar reservations but grew to like it (or the female one bringing in the dvds). Eventually, pastor got in moral trouble and church split and folded. Conclusion: Carnal or subterrainean worship music is a prelude to worse things.

    • I think you could say it might be a prelude, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a prelude. In your experience that’s proven to be true, but it hardly has in mine or many others. In any case, that’s an unfortunate situation at the last church and I can see why you’d be hesitant to rejoin somewhere else.

  21. Thanks for the article, Nate. Appreciate the insights. I studied church music in college and constantly struggle with critiquing everything from song choice, musicianship, you name it. I particularly appreciated the portion concerning how important it is to keep “negative” comments to one’s self.

  22. For 18 years I had attended my local church before I moved to north america
    and I miss my church a lot
    one of the main problem is the song which is, well as you said it, sucks (it’s not really sucks, it’s just I cannot get connected to the song, something is missing)
    I amazed by the way some people in church get into euphoria state such as jumping, raising hand, or even crying while I’m standing there and feel nothing
    oh and I cannot understand why do we have to sing the refrain a million times, and in a rare occasion the same song in the next week (Oh great, I sing that song a million times last week and I need to sing a million times again this week)

    I did try to use the “just accept it” approach but well, after less than a month, it just not me
    I did try to talk to one of the elder member, of course I was not saying that the songs are sucks but suggesting some songs that can be considered (including the story behind the songs, why the writters made those songs, what was the spiritual moments that the writters experienced), but the reaction was, well you could imagine how did it goes after that
    I did try to move to other church because I thought my current church is filled with young people and that’s why the can easily connected and jumping around
    So I tried a church which is filled with adult and elderly, and guess what, the song is typically the same, I asked one of the elderly and she said the church changed the song because they want to attract more young people (duhhh)

    It’s not because I’m idolizing the “traditional” over “modern”
    As far as I’m aware, my old church’es songs are chosen according to the theme or session
    The songs are the mix of traditionals, moderns, ethnics, even the songs made by some members of the church who works as songwritters or in the music industry
    Based on this experience, I concludes that it’s not about the type of the song (traditional or modern), but about how the songs “match” the theme or the session on that day
    How come on the good friday, a church did only sing one (or two) song(s) with Jesus died theme?

    I know that this is a worship,which mean not for me, but for God
    but I cannot worship because I’m not “tune in”
    I really want to enjoy the worship time in church instead of end up in the kitchen or toilet for more than 30 minutes to avoid the songs
    I wonder how can people worship regardless of their inner disposition?
    doing something reluctantly or under compulsion is not end up well

    sorry for my bad english…

  23. So I was practicing a couple of songs for church and got pissed off. So (of course) “I typed in why do all christian songs suck” into google. Your blog was fifth on the list. Thank you for reminding me where my heart should be. I’m still annoyed. But knowing someone else goes through the same on a Sunday makes it a little easier to deal with. 🙂

  24. “Contemporary worship music is not all that bad.”

    Yes it is. Don’t try and sugar coat it.

  25. Why worship music are musically-boring these days.
    1. They are written by amateurish church musicians instead of professional songwriters.
    2. These church musicians have limited musical skills, knowledge and they are mostly untrained.
    3. These church musicians write simple melodies and uses simple progressions and probably knows only one style of music – acoustic rock/indie.
    4. They use lots of sustained notes and repetitions because they do not have much melodic-ideas and are unable to expand on what they have.
    5. They only play chords which is way simpler than melodies.
    6. They do not have formal music lessons.

    • Well Aaidyn, I’m no lover of CWS’s but yoe must know that you are going to far. Loads of great songs havu been written by amateurs, ant whilst the majrity of church musicians are amqteur, in that;they aren’t paid, they are not all amateurish. So please don’t generalise because it doesn’t help. Instead choose a song, analyse it and say what’s good and bad about it. If you can’t do that, then you really should stay out of the debate.

  26. I like your point of view.You’re right. we are there to worship Jesus and not the music. I also think it would be good to compliment worship leaders when you do like the music

  27. I find the incredible lack luster music and lyrics to be a disservice to God. Surely he deserves more than generic worship?

  28. Kaypsalms (Adekunle Oshiyemi) August 19, 2017 at 2:41 am

    Thanks nate, this piece is very necessary in the service to God especially in the worship ministry. In worship, God is our audience but I think we also need to be conscious of the set man (pastor) in the house because we are meant to be mid-wives to assist them in delivering the baby (message) they are carrying per time.
    Also we need to be conscious of the fact that a concert is different from a worship service and the disposition to both might be different.
    My opinion.

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