So we’re almost in April, the clocks change this weekend, and summer is almost upon us. Hurrah! This means I have the enviable responsibility of creating new rotas for the Summer term, and also the opportunity to revise our song lists for another four months.
Now this is something I have talked about before here as well as our song list, which is generally quite small but revised often. When I come to revise the list, I look at what we’ve done over the previous term, and I also collate ideas from others about songs they have heard, songs which will suit our church and songs which may be speaking to us as a congregation. I generally listen to a lot of music, and when there is a new release from Hillsong or Passion, I tend to get hold of it, partly for my own personal worship, but also for inspiration for new songs for our church.
I also read a lot of blogs, and scan the CCLI charts to see what is popular in case there is anything I’ve missed. So I had a look at the US CLLI list, and the top 10 included 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman, This is amazing grace by Phil Wickham and Jeremy Riddle, and Oceans from Hillsong. In fact, from the top 25 there were only four songs we didn’t have on our list.
Let’s do the Timewarp
What really surprised me was looking at the UK CCLI list. Sure enough, 10,000 Reasons was on there, as was Mighty to Save and How Great is our God. But generally it was all stuck in a bit of an 80’s timewarp. Sure, there were some great songs on there (which we still use also), such as Faithful One, Blessed Be Your Name and How Deep the Father’s Love. But there were also still such classics as Shine Jesus Shine, Be Still and Lord I Lift Your Name on High.
Now I’m not saying these are bad songs, I acknowledge we probably run a fairly progressive church in terms of our music and media, and I don’t have any issue with hymns and older songs if they are right for the service and/or context…we have both on our list and always will. And I know everyone has favourites…I am still the biggest Level 42 fan, and just this week have been revelling in the latest release from 70’s AOR rockers Toto! But what troubles me is that these lists seem to stay so static (I check them every term, and I worked with Kingsway UK on a project some years back)…when there is so much great music out there. I don’t advocate throwing everything out and starting from fresh, but I also don’t agree that we just stick with what we’ve always done. A change will do you good…
Church and Culture
I was at a conference last week on Church and Culture hosted by Mecklenburg Church, and something (among the many things) they did as a church was take their congregational songs and rework them into a more contemporary arrangement…yes, we were introduced to breakbeat worship. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t convinced…but then it probably isn’t supposed to appeal to me and my culture. And they didn’t do it every week, or for every song. The point is, they were doing something different to reach out to a completely new demographic. And we do the same in our own way, we use contemporary secular songs, we use media from today’s TV and films, we have a worship team…this blog is here to share all of those ideas with a wider audience.
If we haven’t updated the songs we use on a Sunday for 30, 40, 150 years…are we serving others, or are we just serving ourselves? Do we use Shine Jesus Shine because it’s the best song to worship to, or to illustrate a point…or is it just the leader’s favourite? If we as churches are never looking to change our music, our culture, our outreach, then we will continue to shrink and decline as we are seen as more and more irrelevant in today’s culture. And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to knock Graham Kendrick or dismiss the effect which one song can have on a person…
I spent most of January looking at “new“, and at the end of April we will have our new songlist for the summer. It will include some songs from the new Passion album, it will include the new old song I talked about here, it will also have hymns, old songs and classics. I just hope the next time the CCLI UK report is updated, it will see some of the same changes.