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January 19, 2015

Worship Leader: My Journey Away From Contemporary Worship Music

Writing at AnchorLine, Dan Cogan explains why, having been "what many would call a 'worship leader'  for close to two decades," he now "would make the case for the abandonment of most contemporary songs."

Cogan begins by detailing his early heartfelt commitment to contemporary worship music. "When I first became involved in 'worship ministry' in an Assemblies of God youth group we sang such songs as The Name of the Lord Is a Strong Tower, As the Deer, Lord I Lift Your Name on High, and others of the era of the 1980s and 90s. Ours was considered a stylistically progressive church since we used almost exclusively contemporary songs," Cogan writes.

During this period, whenever Cogan would "visit a 'traditional' church, not only would I be unfamiliar with the hymns, I would also likely cringe when they sang them and in my heart ridicule them (the people rather than the songs) as being old-fashioned."

Cogan explains how, "over the years when I would occasionally hear a hymn, the language was always strikingly foreign, with Ebenezers and bulwarks, diadems and fetters. Which only served to confirm my bias that hymns were simply out-of-date. They had served their purpose. They had run their course."

But as he matured, Cogan noticed something was missing. Around seven years ago, the "problem with my youthful logic" began to surface. "I had come to recognize that these ancient hymns accomplished something that the new songs weren’t."

Yes, the newer worship songs "seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster," but the "old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King."

When Cogan accepted his "first post as a paid member of a church staff in 2007, he "began the practice of singing one hymn each week. There were times where my peers would teasingly ask what an 'Ebenezer' was."

He would offer a "basic definition of these seemingly obsolete words we were singing, and the "response was usually something akin to, 'Oh? Cool. I never knew that!," Cogan writes. "They were being challenged to learn, not merely a new word, but how to ponder the things of God deeply when we sing His praises."

Cogan says the criteria for selecting worship music has become "more and more thorough," and "hymns have begun to take precedent in my song selection for two reasons."

The first reason is that "hymns have been sung by the giants of the faith who have gone on before us over the last two millennia." Cogan writes:

When we sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, we join with Martin Luther who wrote it, and with Calvin and Spurgeon and Edwards who invariably sang and cherished it. When we sing It Is Well With My Soul we are encouraged by the faith of Horatio Spafford who wrote the hymn in the wake of the tragic death of his four daughters. . . . The fact that we can join with generations past and be reminded that the Church is vastly larger than our local congregation, farther reaching than our town or state or country, and much, much older than the oldest saint living today. . . . This should birth in us a desire to sing the songs that our Family has sung together for two-thousand years.

The second reason is that "content of hymns is almost always vastly more theologically rich." Cogan explains:

The theology in the hymns is typically more sound or healthy than much of contemporary worship music. As I said earlier, contemporary songs engage our emotions more often, where the hymns engage our hearts by way of the mind.

To illustrate his point, Cogan contrasts One Thing Remains ("one of the top ten contemporary songs being sung in American evangelical churches right now") with Rock of Ages (the classic hymn by Augustus Toplady).

"There is nothing in the song particularly bad" in One Thing Remains," says Cogan, but it seems to him that the "purpose of the song is to work the listeners into an emotional state." He quotes the chorus: 

Your love never fails / It never gives up / Never runs out on me / Your love never fails / It never gives up / Never runs out on me / Your love never fails / It never gives up / Never runs out on me / Your love / Your love / Your love.

"With the repetition of a simple lyric like that, it isn’t a stretch to say that the composers’ goal was not to engage the listeners mind," Cogan observes.

Turning to Rock of Ages, Cogan notes that the hymn is both "doctrinally sound" and "a very moving song of our dependance upon Christ our Rock." He quotes from the hymn:

Rock of Ages cleft for me / Let me hide myself in Thee / Let the water and the blood / From Thy wounded side which flowed / Be of sin the double cure / Save from wrath and make me pure.

Cogan concludes: "So I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past. In fact, I would make the case for the abandonment of most contemporary songs."

He recommends that, "if you choose a song for congregational worship based on its content (say you have chosen a contemporary song because of it's focus on the Cross), do the hard work of finding a hymn that more than likely addresses the same topic or doctrine in a much deeper way.

"If on the other hand you have chosen a song because of the way it feels or the emotion it evokes, ask yourself whether you are depending upon the Holy Spirit or your own skills to engage our brothers and sisters in singing to our King."

Cogan's article has garnered 254 responses.

July 12, 2013

One of America’s Most Successful Rock Bands Is Under-the-Radar Christian Group

Billy Hallowell reports at The Blaze:

Christian rock bands don’t often find mainstream media outlets profiling them. But Skillet, a popular group among the faithful, was the focus of an intensive New York Times article this week.

Perhaps it was Skillet’s record sales that attracted attention. After all, as the Times notes, only three bands had albums that sold over one million last year. Black Keys and Mumford & Sons were the first two. The third? Skillet.

Here is video of Skillet on Conan last night performing "Rise," from their new album. Here is video of Skillet performing "Rise" in concert.

Related
Listen to This: Rappers Lecrae & Mali Music "Tell the World" 
Voice de Resistance: Krista Branch Releases "Remember Who We Are" 
Pink Floyd Duo Reunite for Charity With Terror Links?

October 21, 2012

Listen to This: Rappers Lecrae & Mali Music "Tell the World"

Hear and watch these very talented artists on YouTube.

And here on Twitter, Lecrae recommends an author and book you may have heard of. Something to do about total and truth.

I've already got BB King, Miles Davis, Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd on my MP3 player for laps and soccer. Looks like maybe another artist or two will be joining the fun. 

(Don't worry, my brave Brazilian buddies, I've got samba on the way too.)

More about Lecrae and his record company Reach Records here.

By the way, don't be surprised to find saxophones in Heaven (see the aforementioned tweet).

November 23, 2011

B.B. King Museum Closed Thanksgiving Day

Now that gives me the blues! Seriously, it's great they're shutting down so staff can spend time with friends and family. 

I suppose you can check out the museum Friday. Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse, RIP

Tony Bennett lamented the loss of Amy Winehouse, "stating he was 'deeply saddened to learn of her tragic passing.' He went on to describe Winehouse as 'an extraordinary musician with a rare intuition as a vocalist'."

July 24, 2010

Voice de Resistance: Krista Branch Releases "Remember Who We Are"

On Wednesday, passionate Tea Party songstress Krista Branch performed I Am America on Fox & Friends.

Here is Remember Who We Are (released yesterday) and I Am America, both for download at Amazon.

"This is just something we're very passionate about," Branch told Fox & Friends. "We're very into what's going on in our country. We love our country."

Related
Watch/Listen: Krista Branch Soars in Music Video "I Am America"
How the New Resistance Can Win the Culture War

July 12, 2010

Watch/Listen: Krista Branch Soars in Music Video "I Am America"

This tremendous and inspiring Krista Branch anthem features 2 Chron. 7:14 and challenges Americans to "Remember Who You Are!," which is central to the "New Resistance." 

Apparently, some "Mama Grizzlies" can sing. This music video captures much of the intensity, power, and content that is motivating a reawakening of the truly mainstream American spirit today.

Here she is on YouTube, and here's her website.

Hat tip: Tea Party Patriots/Facebook

August 27, 2009

Birth of the Beatles

Coming to the silver screen. As this AFP story suggests, lunch breaks have consequences.

August 13, 2009

Legendary Guitarist Les Paul Dies

"Legendary inventor, guitar player and recording artist Les Paul has died from complications from pneumonia," reports the Voice of America. "He was 94 years old." 

"Paul revolutionized the music scene with his solid-body electric guitar that he first built in the 1940s in his quest for a guitar with amplified sound. In 1952, Gibson Guitar company began production of the Les Paul guitar."

By the way, along with motorcycles, there will be guitars in Heaven.

August 01, 2009

Pope Plans Christmas Album

Singing chants in the Vatican, reports the Telegraph.

Will he do the Letterman show?

July 11, 2009

Michael's Dad Grooming Michael's Kids for Stardom

"Family patriarch Joe Jackson, who famously had a troubled relationship with his own children as he guided their careers, believes his bereaved grandchildren have the makings of showbiz domination just like his late son, Michael," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Related:
Chris Rock: Michael Jackson a *#!^!s Pedophile -- YouTube
Barack Obama and Michael Jackson: Certificates of Birth and Death

March 05, 2008

Remembering Larry Norman

I had been a Christian only a few months in summer 1971, so I knew nothing about the young man a few feet away plucking his guitar except that his name was Larry Norman.

Tall, lanky, with sweeping blond hair, Norman was in town for a concert and had dropped by the Christian commune where I was staying. No one had invited him.

Apparently he had learned via the grapevine that our little household, known as His House, was the gathering place for Jesus Freaks in Albuquerque.

Only a few of us were in that night, so we sat comfortably on the floor quietly talking, praying, and singing in the soft lamp light.

Norman played a few of his trademark songs like “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” and “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (and a Lot Less Rock and Roll).”

Larry Norman went on to be hailed as the founder of Christian Rock Music (and the owners of His House, Denis and Margie Haack, went on to found a ministry called Ransom Fellowship).

Norman defended his work as a musician by invoking a basic Christian worldview principle: “I think everybody should be a full time Christian, even if they work on cars or sell insurance” (quoted in American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon).

When Norman died last Sunday, the obits began pouring in. Here are some links:

* From Steve Turner, Guardian
* From Chris Willman, Entertainment Weekly
* From Mark Joseph, Huffington Post
* From Charles Norman, Brother, LarryNorman.com

Update: Larry Norman on Youtube. Ht: Mark Joseph