Praise & Worship music has been with us now for some time. As a church musician, I applaud the broad appeal these songs hold. The lyrics are simple, the tunes are contemporary, and they're often useful for reaching people who aren't familiar with the church. The music also evokes emotion that is also appealing to many people.
As a pastor, I applaud another strength of these songs—their return to biblical texts. However, in some cases, the text is also the greatest weakness of these songs. Worship leaders need to be highly discerning in their selections.
Leaders also need to take care in introducing these songs to a congregation. Praise & Worship music presents the dangerous illusion of being relatively easy to incorporate into worship. The reality is that a team of excellent musicians are needed to make the music flow smoothly and with a minimum of distractions. Each member of such a team must examine his or her own motivations for involvement in this ministry. Because of the potential for these musicians to be "on center stage," it is critical that they be willing to place their own egos on a back burner.
Worship leaders also need to be careful to observe copyright laws when incorporating Praise & Worship music into their worship. Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc. (CCLI) is a useful source in this regard (call 1-800-234-2446 for a brochure). For an annual fee based on the size of the worshiping congregation, churches can purchase a license that gives them permission to copy music from over seven hundred publishers for their own church use.
Amy Van Gunst is minister of music for Fifth Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Following are several annotated examples of the Top 25 Praise & Worship songs requested from CCLI from October 1992 to March 1993 (see the complete list in box). In the space of three years, five songs have been replaced on this list. The following annotations represent newcomers to this list. These songs can be found in one or more of the three collections reviewed at the end of this article.
Words and music by Rich Mullins
[PCB 166, SPW 11]
This chorus holds a strong appeal for both children and adults. The biblical references can be enhanced by the use of sign language for the text (available in Religious Signing: The New Comprehensive Guide for All Faiths [Costello, Elaine; Toronto: Bantam Books, © 19861 See p. 27 for excerpts from another book on signing.).
Words and music by Geron Davis
[PCB 225, SPW 86]
This song is an example of one of the pitfalls of Praise & Worship music: the high use of the pronoun "I." In placing the emphasis too strongly on ourselves, we lose sight of the corporate nature of worship.
Another pitfall common to this genre is the preponderance of masculine language used both for God and humankind. None of the songs discussed here use masculine language for humankind. However, the images used for God are predominantly male.
We Will Glorify
Words and music by Twila Paris
[PCB 117, SPW 68, WC 118]
Repetition is the key to this chorus— as it is for many Praise & Worship songs. The same harmonic structure is used three times for each verse. If a congregation is singing all four verses, that brings the total number of repetitions to twelve, which becomes somewhat tiresome.
I do, however, appreciate the extensive use of imagery in this text, reflecting the variety of images for God found in Scripture.
Lord, Be Glorified
Words and music by Bob Kilpatrick
[PCB 22, WC 537]
Again, repetition is the pitfall of this chorus. Because of the repetition, the song lacks interest and does little to challenge the singers. The text is contemplative in nature, perhaps seeking to bring people into worship. However, it gives us little by which to sustain our faith. This song is easy for children to learn and can be used in worship services where children are involved.
Father, I Adore You
Words and music by Terrye Coelho
[PsH 284, SPW 194, PCB 770]
The new appearance of this 1972 song on the list indicates that this very short and simple chorus may be one of the most enduring of the twentieth century Praise & Worship choruses. The trinitari-an text and the round structure of the melody offer many good liturgical possibilities for its use as a response in worship.
While the genre of Praise & Worship music can be commended for helping congregations return to some singing of Scripture songs and to more participation, it may also be criticized for leaving parishioners unchallenged musically and often theologically. Worship planners must be careful and diligent in their selection and use of this music—as with all music—when planning to incorporate it into worship.
TOP 25 SONGS
(October 1992-March 1993)
Numbers in parentheses indicate their placement on the list three years ago (October '89-March '90).
1. "I Love the Lord"—Laurie Klein (2)
2. "He Has Made Me Glad" —Leona VonBrethorst (14)
3. "Majesty"—Jack Hayford (1)
4. "Give Thanks"—Henry Smith (12)
5. "Jesus, Name Above All Names"—Naida Hearn (7)
6. "Glorify Thy Name"—Donna Adkins (9)
7. 'As the Deer"—Martin Nystrom (18)
8. "I Will Call Upon the Lord"—Michael O'Shields (6)
9. 'All Hail King Jesus"—David Moody (3)
10. "We Bring the Sacrifice"—Kirk Dearman (5)
11. "Open Our Eyes, Lord"—Bob Cull (16)
12. "I Exalt Thee"—Pete Sanchez (11)
13. "Praise the Name of Jesus"—Roy Hicks, Jr. (4)
14. "This Is the Day"—Les Garrett (8)
15. "Seek Ye First"—Karen Lafferty (19)
16. "Awesome God"—Rich Mullins
17. "Our God Reigns"—Leonard Smith (10)
18. "Emmanuel"—Bob McGee (24)
19. "His Name Is Wonderful"—Audrey Mieir (21)
20. "How Majestic Is Your Name"—Michael W Smith (20)
21. "O How He Loves You and Me"—Kurt Kaiser (25)
22."Holy Ground"—Geron Davis
23. "We Will Glorify"—Twila Paris
24. "Lord Be Glorified"—Bob Kilpatrick
25. "Father, I Adore You"—Terrye Coelho
Gone from October '89-March '90 list:
13. "Thou Art Worthy"
15. "Bless His Holy Name"
17. "We Have Come into His House"
22. "Bind Us Together, Lord"
23. "Oh, Lord God"
SOURCES OF CONTEMPORARY CHORUSES
Mamnatha! Music Praise Chorus Book. Expanded 2nd edition. Compiled by Carl Seal et al. Nashville, TN: The Benson Company, Inc. distributor, 1990. Words and Music Edition, spiral-bound, $12.95; also available in a Words Only Edition.
By the time this review is published, the expanded 3rd edition of this collection will also be available. Such is the nature of the fast-paced Christian music industry.
This chorus book includes 277 praise choruses, mainly from the 1980s. Only ten songs date from before 1970, and six of those were rearranged in the 80s. About half of the songs in the collection could be considered Scripture songs; their titles are followed by Scripture references.
Most of the arrangements in this chorus book assume unison singing; only a few include descants. Most assume piano accompaniments, which are well-crafted; guitar chords are given for all songs. The indexes include a Key Scripture Reference, Topical, and first line and title Song Index.
This collection, and presumably its sequel, provides users with a good selection of the current repertoire of popular praise choruses. The many recordings Maranatha! Music makes available assures their quick penetration into the market, and the rapid successive collections of new material is an admission that most of these songs will be short-lived.
Songs for Praise & Worship. Ken Barker, senior editor. Waco, TX: Word Music, 1992. Numerous editions.
This collection of 253 songs has been prepared in numerous editions: Pew Editions (melody only—hard-bound in nine color choices or soft-bound); Singers Edition (for use by a worship team or choir); Worship Planner Edition (for the pastor or worship leader); Sing-Along Edition (spiral-bound); Transparency Masters or Slides (words only). Also available are a Conductor's Score and seventeen irLStrumental editions: every group of band/orchestral instruments, percussion, synthesizer, "master rhythm," guitar, and finally, the keyboard edition, which provides the foundational accompaniment.
Sorcgs for Praise & Worship has been prepared so that congregations of any size will have handy access to instrumental arrangements tailored to their own setting. Purchasing the different editions is a considerable investment, but the great advantage of an integrated set of resources makes this collection the most convenient on the market. The arrangements are skillfully and musically done.
The Worshiping Church, Donald P. Hustad, editor. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1990.
The title provides the clue to the difference between this collection and the other two. This is a true hymnal, not just a book of choruses. Hustads Foreword states: "By bringing together a generous amount of [traditional hymns, psalms and canticles, and Praise & Worship music] in one volume, we offer congregations a broad spectrum of musical expression that is comparable to that of the first-century church, which sang 'psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."' The 845 entries include son^, but also additional "spoken worship materials," mduding "Scripture Readings, Prayers, and Acts of Worship."
The Worship Leader's Edition of this collection is a treasure. It includes four essays and provides background comments on text and tune in an extra column directly alongside each song. Three additional collections of some of the songs are available for keyboard, brass, and handbell accompaniments.
Hope Publishing Company has been at the forefront of encouraging and publishing new hymns in the "Hymn Explosion" of the last twenty years, which has seen the "most bountiful outpouring of English language hymnody in the twentieth-century."
For those congregations not using a denominational hymnal, I highly recommend this one. All pastors and church musicians would do well to have a copy of this hymnal on hand for a most discrirnmating collection of contemporary hymnody and Praise & Worship music. —ERB