By Jonathan Moore
Seasons change. People change. Maps change. Cities, countries, cultures, humor, entertainment, music… they each have something in common; they morph they all morph. Sometimes it is a slow, almost unseen change. Other times, it is a dramatic change with an obvious tipping point. Regardless of whether it is subtle or quick, our culture and the music of our culture never stop changing.
It is my passionate belief that we must continually shift our methods to meet the needs of an ever-changing world. It is of utmost importance that we preserve the message of the gospel, but we cannot allow our techniques to mold and decay because of an unwillingness to change.
The evolution of church music through the years has caused far too many people to shudder in fear. For some reason, changing music methods and styles brings terror to the hearts of many in the church. The truth is that although many say that we cannot allow nonreligious music to influence our styles within the church, it does nevertheless.
For instance, many of our churches did not have drums in times past because of the “worldly” connotation that came along with them. Now however, with the constant change of culture and church, drums are common in our places of worship. The same goes for guitars.
Let us take a quick look at the evolution of Pentecostal music. Most of our churches sing “worship songs.” In years past however, these songs were called “congregationals.” In some cases, when it was time for song service, nearly the entire audience would make their way to the platform to sing the congregationals as a group. These were songs like, “Just Over in the Glory Land,” I Would Not Be Denied,” and “Amazing Grace.” One did not necessarily need a song book, although there were usually a few lying around, because everyone knew the words.
Ultimately the church moved full bore into the hymnal dispensation. Song books were purchased and placed in the backs of pews. The two that I remember most were Pentecostal Praises and Sing Unto the Lord. Tunes like “Oh I Want To See Him,” “When We All Get To Heaven,” and “He Brought Me Out” filled our sanctuaries with song and praise.
During the Sixties, choirs became a fast moving trend. Since that time, gospel choir music has held a steadfast grip on much of the special music in Pentecostal services. Andra Crouch was one of the writers who helped mold the direction of gospel choir music in the Seventies.
In the mid to late Eighties, a phenomenon called “praise choruses” came on the scene. These were generally short songs with simple lyrics that could be learned by singing them through a couple of times. It was during this dispensation that many churches began to use their song books less and less. Instead, they opted for choruses like “He Is Lord,” “I Came to Praise His Name,” and “We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise.”
The most recent wave of contemporary worship came in the late Nineties. Although it has, itself, morphed over the past five years or so, this continues to be a major music force in American churches. Ultimately labeled “modern worship,” some of the main instigators of this movement are bands like Hillsong, Delirious, and Paul Baloche. The lyrics of these songs are generally much more vertical than many of the songs of our past. In other words, we sing upward to God in lieu of outward to each other. This brand of worship includes songs like “Shout to the Lord,” “Better Is One Day,” and “Draw Me Close to You.”
Recently, one of the most influential writers for Pentecostal circles has been Israel Houghton. He successfully blended the gospel sound that many Apostolics crave with the modern worship movement.
Modern worship songs tend to be rich in lyrics. Many of them will have two verses, a chorus, and a bridge. Consequently, many of our churches have begun to use video projection so that the lyrics can be read by the entire congregation. This again is a cultural change within the church that many never dreamed we would see.
More recently, modern worship has instigated a new type of song that has been labeled as “neo-classical.” This is a revival of some of our classic hymns in modified styles. Modern versions of “Blessed Assurance,” “How Great
Thou Art,” and “Jesus Paid It All” are among some of the traditional songs that have been brought back into play.
So to recap, we can go with the tide or we can be pulled behind the tide I say we catch up and get right in the middle of the flow. If anybody should he aware of culture shifts and willing to evolve to effectively reach this generation, it should be God’s church. We are the people He has called to reach and connect to those who are lost those He longs for so much.
Article “Music Evolution” written by Jonathan Moore is taken from Forward Magazine the 2006 September/October edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”