In Defense Of Simple Contemporary Worship Songs

by Bobby Gilles

in Songwriting/Hymn Workshop

Kristen and I have written often about the need for theologically sound, gospel-centered lyrics in our worship songs. It’s important that our songs enable us to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16) as we praise the only true God. But we shouldn’t be dismissive of contemporary songs that are simpler than famous, old hymns. From John Frame, Worship In Spirit And Truth:

“New movements in hymnody tend toward simplification at first, and as they develop further, they produce more complex poetry and music. (This is also true to some extent of the history of music in general). Thus, at any point in history, the older style of hymnody will appear richer than the newer style. However, there is a legitimate place in worship for both complex and simple hymns: compare Psalms 68, 69, and 119, on the one hand, with Psalms 23, 117, 131, and 133, on the other.”

Matt Redman also brings up a good point, in an article called “Truth” for the Nov/Dec 2013 Worship Leader:

“One criticism that we’ve all heard is that this generation of worship songwriters might need to do a little better on the description side of things. Now, it’s not a fair comparison to take the very best of what was written many years ago and has survived throughout the centuries — and then compare it to everything that’s been written in the last 15 years or so. That kind of criticism seems a little unjust, even loaded.”

Redman goes on to admit that many songs of yesteryear are more scripturally-sound (and “poetically-presented”). Neither his point, nor mine, is to deny history or to deny the biblical imperative to tell the truth in our worship songs. But remember Frame’s words, and extend grace to the young songwriters in your congregation who write passionate love songs to Jesus but don’t have the theological chops that Wesley and Watts developed over the course of their lives.


{ 1 comment }

Seth January 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

I dare say there’s something to be said for simplicity as well. It’s seems that in many cases, our Reformed brethren (or those with some Reformed leanings) seem to think that the more theology (words) in a song the better. Typically Wesley and Watts are their models. But let’s be honest, some of what those guys wrote is plain awful. Awkward word choices, forced rhymes, trying to say too much in one hymn. But on the other hand, there’s something very moving about the simplicity of the refrain of Redmann’s ‘10,000 Reasons.’ Simple is not just a stepping stone while a genre matures, sometimes it’s preferable.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: