rebelling against low expectations

We Must Be Constant Worshipers


We should be honest. Nowadays, when someone mentions worship, most people think of music. You know, that time in the church service when everyone sings. Lots of Christian recording artists make “worship projects” with hit singles on them.

However, if we search God’s Word faithfully and look to mature Christians who possess wise insight, we will quickly see that worship is much more than songs. Worship is what we were created for, it’s what we’ll spend eternity doing, and it encompasses our hearts as well as our actions.

“Worship – whether an inner act of the heart, or an outward act of the body, or of the congregation collectively – is a magnifying of God. That is, it is an act that shows how magnificent He is. It is an act that reveals or expresses how great and glorious He is. Worship is all about consciously reflecting the worth or value of God.” – John Piper, Desiring God Ministries

From the beginning, worship has been an important aspect of the Rebelution. In the broadest sense, since everything we do as Christians is worship, all the hard things, both big and small, should be attempted for God’s glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

But in the more narrow sense, Rebelutionaries, including the Harris family, have always been passionate about singing God’s praise. We love worship as it’s defined by the Psalmist, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)

Before The Rebelution, There Was Worship

In the summer of 2000, long before blogs, books and conference tours, Alex and Brett played keyboard and congas for a worship band that I formed in high school. They’ve been active members of the worship team at our church, and now as they head off to college on the East Coast, younger sister Sarah and younger brothers Isaac and James are stepping up to take their place.

Worship has always played a key role at the Rebelution conferences. From our very first conference in 2006, in Sacramento, CA, I‘ve led worship on my own or with a band accompanying me. We don’t include worship because teens like music. We don’t make room for it merely to bring variety to the day. We do it because it just wouldn’t seem right without it.

The reason Alex and Brett write blog posts and books, the reason our family travels across the country holding conferences, the reason the Rebelution even exists, is for the praise and glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But here’s the problem… because we are all prideful, sinful human beings, it’s very easy to lose sight of that.

We are far too quick to become focused on ourselves, focused on our accomplishments, focused on the task at hand, but forgetting the very reason for it all. That’s why it’s so important to open the day, and each session throughout the day, with singing. And that’s why it’s important for Rebelutionaries to be constant worshipers. It helps us keep the focus where it belongs.

Low Expectations in Worship

It also matters what we sing. It’s been established that our ungodly culture has low expectations for young people. But when it comes to worship, even the Christian community has low expectations for us. Worship songs targeted for kids, tweens, teens and young adults, have dumbed down the lyrical content because they think we’re too dumb to understand anything harder.

Sadly, in far too many cases this assumption is correct. Young people who don’t study their Bibles faithfully, who don’t read hard books, and who can’t sit through “grown-up” sermons, probably can’t comprehend the profound truths found in timeless hymns like And Can It Be That I Should Gain, or Rock of Ages.

Rebelutionaries, on the other hand, must not allow their worship to be dictated by low expectations, even if those expectations come from within the church. We should embrace songs that unpack rich doctrines like justification, atonement, sanctification, and assurance. We should love the old hymns, not for their cutting edge musical style, but for the wisdom and insight of godly Christians who penned those words centuries ago but were sinners who loved their Savior, just like us.

Why Not Just, Jesus Loves Me?

I realize this can seem counterintuitive. Wouldn’t the easiest and most efficient approach be to use simple songs which express love for God, or celebrate His love for us? Remember our motto, “do hard things”? It applies to this area as well.

When we exert ourselves, when we do the hard work of wrapping our mind around the glorious, profound, life-transforming truths of the Gospel, then the things we comprehend with our minds can spark deep affections in our hearts. We can tap into a joy in God, an amazement at sovereign grace, and a passion for His glory that would never have been possible under a diet of “worship lite”.

In the book Worship Matters, Bob Kauflin writes that “each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most — God or something else.” He’s right. Worship is crucial, because every day there is a battle raging for our hearts. The enemy wants us to find our joy in the pleasures of sin and the distractions of this world. It’s vital that we fight back, for God makes it clear in His Word that if He doesn’t have our hearts, our outward service is wasted energy (Matthew 15:8-9).

We must fight for joy in God using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. One way we do that is through songs which drive biblical truth deep into our hearts, so we can draw upon it in the midst of the fray. If the words are faithful and God-centered, they will provide fuel for our faith. And if the music is skillfully crafted, it will move our souls and ignite new passion for the cause.

Worship Challenges for Rebelutionaries

So, here are a few challenges for you Rebelutionary worshipers:

1. Sing. Start each day out with a song. Don’t be so dependent on CDs or data projectors. Learn the lyrics of songs by heart so you can sing as you get dressed, sing in the shower, sing in the car.

2. Expand your music-listening horizons. Most of you are probably familiar with artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, and Passion. They have put out a lot of great stuff, but I encourage you to branch out. A lot of songwriters are writing theologically sound, doctrinally rich modern-day hymns, or giving old forgotten hymns another lease on life by composing new music.

3. Engage in your local church. If you don’t play an instrument, learn to play guitar, piano or something else useful. If you can carry a tune, volunteer to sing. Be a positive influence in the place God has you right now. Get a copy of Bob Kauflin’s outstanding book, Worship Matters, and after you’ve finished reading it, loan it to your pastor or worship leader (or both)!

4. Do the hard work of writing excellent worship songs. We need more of what my dad calls “poet-theologians” — like Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, and Charles Wesley. If you need help, consult Paul Baloche’s comprehensive worship songwriting handbook, God Songs. If you can’t come up with any ideas, use the lyrics to some old public domain hymn. Don’t have access to a hymnal? Check out Cyber Hymnal.

. . . do all to the glory of God.

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About the author

Joel Harris

is Alex and Brett's older brother and worship leader for the Rebelution Tour from 2006-2011. He is also a songwriter and recording artist, with music available at He currently is a worship leader at Hinson Baptist Church, and is a graduate of Multnomah University. He lives in Portland with his wife Kimi and their two daughters.


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  • Thanks so much for this! It was so helpful for me, and since I too love music, encouraged me again to be willing to sing aloud at all times!

  • Amen, amen, amen!!!! It’s so good to hear others calling us back to worship challenges. Hymns truly are timeless and have so much to offer our generation, especially in the area of doctrinal truth. Keep sending out the message!

  • What a timely article! It’s definitely a God thing that this was posted today. Just last night, a group of young people and myself were talking about this exact topic. I like how you pointed out that all of life is worship. It really is interesting to think that as humans, we are created worshiping. It’s not a question of do we or do we not worship. We’re unceasing worshipers, but the question is, do we worship God? It’s so amazing how worship comes from the inside out. When God works in us, He enables us more and more to live our whole lives as worship to Him instead of worship to the idols in our lives, and singing in church becomes just an extention of that God-centered worship.

    Thanks also for the music links! In Christ Alone has got to be one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard, but I’ve never had an audio link for it, so thanks!

  • Thanks for this post. I think this is a challenge that the church needs to take seriously. We have too much watered down “Jesus is my boyfriend” type music, or songs written more for style than substance. I love what God is doing musically in some areas of the younger reformed generation. However, I pray that we could also see a musical awakening that crosses different cultures within the West and even the world. We are already starting to see this in Hip-Hop with Cross Movement and Reach Records. What a glorious day it would be to see theologicaly rich, Christ-exalting songs being sung in abundance by black, hispanic, asian, and whites in poor, rich, urban, suburban, and country places all over the U.S. and even the world, with the music taking on the unique flavors of the different cultures and contexts!

  • Wow! Thanks for writing this, Joel. I totally agree – worship lyrics today are often dumbed-down far too much. I do think, however, that ultimately the aim of worship is to focus on God – not just theological truths. So I think it’s ok to have some songs with simple lyrics; sometimes less is best. But nonetheless, it’s great to have songs with more complex lyrics, more complicated concepts to wrap one’s mind around. These sort of songs/hymns are great not just for congregational worship, but also for private worship when you’re listening to a CD by yourself.

  • Amen.

    Another thing I’ve been pondering lately about worshipping God through music is that if I’m not careful my heart can be swayed to worship the song instead of the Lord of all, or to worship the emotion the song creates rather than my precious Savior. It was not something I had been aware of until a few months ago and I still tremble to think at the idolotry in my spirit that went unnoticed for so long. But we serve a gracious God. Thank you for the edifying post.

  • Thanks for writing this, Joel!

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I listened to Bob Kauflin’s message on worship from New Attitude 2006. I had never thought of worship the way that he presents it.

    I was brought up under many kinds of music, but I think that my favorite is Handel’s Messiah. If you have never heard it, I highly, highly recommend listening to it. I thought today, listening to “Worthy is the Lamb…Amen” that that piece of music is the closest I’ll get to heaven on this earth. It’s the kind of music that inspires awe. (By the way, the best recording of the Messiah that I’ve heard is by the Toronto Symphony, directed by Andrew Davis.)

    “What a glorious day it would be to see theologicaly rich, Christ-exalting songs being sung in abundance by black, hispanic, asian, and whites”…That’s what Heaven will be! 😀

  • AMEN!

    We were just talking about this at a youth meeting… it was about 4 of us from the worship team, 1 from the sound crew, and 3 of the leaders at our youth group. We got to talking about what real worship was and how we could better encourage that. After a while we started talking about songwriting. 🙂

  • Definitely agree with you about the childrens’ worship songs… I found them very cringey in my Children’s Church when I was that age.
    I usually sing in the worship band at my church.. but today I’ve got a bad cold so I’ve had to arrange someone else to take my place. It was good to read this article to remind me what worship is really about.
    I also agree with you heidi m xox

  • Wow, thanks so much for this post! (and the links, I’ll look them up later)

    While our church is more of “hymn-based,” we’re starting to explore new kinds of songs (especially among the youth). And since we tend to be a bit too traditional sometimes, we have a rather hard time introducing new songs to the church – something that both the young and the old (:)) will enjoy.

    What would you recommend?

  • God put a burden on my mother’s and my heart tonight, and after praying together, we felt led to post this story that God gave us as we were praying.

    Before I share it, though, I have a quick question. I don’t mean to be annoying, but I wrote an email to report an error in the contact information on the site and it hasn’t been fixed yet — so I was wondering if my email did not go through. I thought it may be too soon to ask as you all are obviously very busy (not to mention traveling), but as it was an issue pertaining to the site, I thought I’d ask just in case. =)

    For A Young Soldier:

    A small boy left his cottage to walk by the sea
    The sun was setting,
    but still, it was blazing hot
    He wiped the sweat from his forehead
    and prayed for a sweet breeze to cool him on his walk

    He met villagers along the way and they greeted the young boy with respect
    This was a good, kind village where he lived
    He wished all people could grow up
    surrounded with such peace and kindness
    But that was not to be
    Rumors of war circulated about town
    and young Josiah knew that men in his village
    would have to leave and fight

    He, at 10, was too young to go to war,
    but he felt the war within his heart
    with great dismay

    Why does there have to be such hatred?
    Is it so hard to respect others?

    Daybreak came the next day and young Josiah
    could see the ships going off toward war

    The village’s finest young men were on these ships
    ‘Our town gave their very best…’ was what they would say
    And yet, he could not pray — all he could do was weep

    He knew they wouldn’t be coming back
    He knew they were leaving as a sacrifice
    He knew that he now had to become a man
    and with that thought, he prayed…

    “God, grant me the courage, the heart, the will, the passion
    to live as they cannot
    to shoulder this burden of freedom they fight that I might have
    to honor the gift
    bought with blood and mingled tears
    these brave men who endeavor to reap victory
    from fields of agony
    have now entrusted to me”

  • I liked this bit:
    “In the broadest sense, since everything we do as Christians is worship, all the hard things, both big and small, should be attempted for God’s glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)”

  • I would like to challenge you to sing the biblical psalms, which should be the irreplaceable heart of our worship. Check out this website:, including the resources on the links page: Christians have been singing the psalms for nearly 2,000 years, but they were gradually squeezed out of worship over the past two centuries or so. It’s time to recover them.

  • Amen! Thank you for posting this!
    I help with leading the music every other Sunday night for our church, and it’s so easy to distract myself from really worshipping the Lord and instead focusing on me, and what I am doing.

    Your quote:
    “We are far too quick to become focused on ourselves, focused on our accomplishments, focused on the task at hand, but forgetting the very reason for it all.”
    Is so true!
    Thank you for helping me put my focus back on the One who deserves all praise, glory and attention!

    “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”-Philippians 4:20

  • Jess,
    ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ means “Only to God be the glory”. Soli- only, Deo- God, Gloria- glory.

    Thank you for this post—and for all the helpful links. Since finding the Sovereign Grace website a few months ago, I’ve been pouring over their collection of rich, meaningful songs. They are so refreshing!

    Let’s “Do Hard Things” in worship…to the glory of God!

  • Great Post!!!!! Thanks so much for this!!! Worship is one of my favorite things and most of the time, you can find me listening to music so this was very helpful…have you heard of “Worth Dying For” they are a new band that just came out in 2008 and their lyrics are amazing and some almost seem like the theme of the Rebelution. worth checking them out!

  • This is one of my favorite rebelutionary posts! The daily, moment-by-moment action of worship is my first and greatest passion. My sisters and I greatly appreciate your post because we are young songwriters preparing to record our first cd.

    Thank you for your encouragement to us – helping us to love the hymns of the past, as well as the spiritual songs of today. We very much hope that what our culture sees in the music world of the future is exactly what you described.

    God bless!

  • I picked up Songs for the Cross Centered Life when I visited an S.G. Church in Phoenix. It is a very worthwhile CD. I love it when one of the songs comes up on my Ipod when I’m running.

    Also, I highly recommend a Generation Unleashed CD from City Bible Church in Portland entitled, Gods Not Dead. I have had it in the CD player in my car for weeks, and love having the songs in my head and in my heart. One of my favorites is called Shout It Out…by Jeremy Scott, a song that reinforces for me daily what Christ has done for me, that I will never be the same again, and that I can Shout It Out to a world that needs to know.

    Actually, I am not much of a shouter, except at Boise State football games, but it has encouraged me to be faithful to share the gospel fearlessly, something I have always wanted to do.

    There is something about great worship music that makes me feel plugged into the life changing all powerful God that I serve.

    Thanks for the post!

  • “When we exert ourselves, when we do the hard work of wrapping our mind around the glorious, profound, life-transforming truths of the Gospel, then the things we comprehend with our minds can spark deep affections in our hearts.”

    Wow. I had never really thought of singing like that. I love singing, am on the worship team at our church, burst into song at random times, and they’re always praise songs. But my motive in singing them is really just gratification for me because I enjoy doing it. God just turned me around using your post. It is all for Him. It doesn’t matter really if it sounds better because I can add harmony, what does matter is that the Lord of all Creation is glorified. It is His due. Praise His Name!

    On the matter of singing the Psalms, I whole-heartedly agree! Our family recently found an Australian group/band who sing psalms. They are called the Sons of Korah. Their music is very diverse, but nearly always compliments the actual psalm that they are singing. Their website is .

    Thanks for the post, and also all the resources for more music!

  • Joel,

    Thanks for encouraging us with that post! I co-lead worship at my church and this is very helpful input. I take your words to heart, and will share them with my fellow-leaders.

    On the topic of music-worship, I was reading a fascinating article on, where John Piper was writing about the power of worship-song in spiritual warfare. Here is the link: Check it out!

    Your Brother in Christ,


  • Great post, also ya’ll should check out. Red Mountain Church and Indelible Grace. They sing Hymns.


  • Thanks for this great article,I agree with you 100%. Your always worshipping something we need to make sure it`s Jesus Christ.

  • Thank you so much for this post on worship! It was a delight to read and ponder. I love to worship my Savior through song, but there’s so much to it than that! I was just at the Rebelution Conference in Des Moines and the songs were very worshipful and i was glad. Thanks again!
    ~Ellie Joy

  • I actually am so glad you posted this. I really have been writing and loving to make God’s scripture into songs lately and it reminded me how much joy I get from doing it and how much it please him. I love to write and sing. But its not just about that, its about worshipping God through our lives and its hard to do sometimes, but I am glad you all posted this as a reminder that we can worship God through everday things and not just music.

  • Thank you so much for this post! I truly love worship and agree with everything that you said. Worship is an essential part of our lives, not only when we sing, but also, we worship and glorify God by living according to His Word and making His Name great. Our family LOVES the Sovereign Grace music and our church uses a lot of their songs–the words are so true and so meaningful–not the “dumbded-down” version. 🙂

    Thanks again!
    Psalm 86:11-12

  • Excellent article… Our pastor has been preaching a similar message on worship: how our petty preferences skew God’s intent for worship. It’s all about Him, not about us. It has never been about us. There are so many possible distractions in a worship service: the singers, friends, the lunch afterwards, even the songs themselves. If we focused less on these things and more on expressing love for the Savior of our souls, what could be accomplished? What would change in that time of worship? …

  • Now I have a little time to write on-topic. =)

    Hi Joel,

    I was especially encouraged by the portion of this post about being constant worshipers — that is exactly where my heart is right now! I so want to worship God with all that I do and I have been fervently praying and striving towards that goal. Thank you for your conviction and encouragement along the way. =)

    I also love many of the old hymns for their depth and passion in presenting the Truth of His Sacrifice on the Cross, and other important aspects of our faith and His Grace.

    I was actually wondering if I could encourage you to make this into a series on the subject of praise and worship? I’d definitely like to hear your thoughts on some of the issues you presented, and aspects of them which were not yet explored, such as:

    >> How you would describe the meaning of worshiping “in spirit and in truth,” as Jesus said that we must. You wrote a lot about the part the mind may have in worship, the effect of one’s thoughts on their heart, and the sparked emotions in people’s souls from good music; but I didn’t notice you mention the role of the spirit in our worship.

    >> I am also a songwriter and I seem to have opposite tendencies in focus. Rather than thinking that many songs do not have deep enough lyrics, I’ve actually been more disappointed that more songs are not to God, simply; but are instead about Him. Honestly, it’s tough for me to write songs about God as I feel like I am writing an essay to be read in school about my favorite person, rather than a love letter to them — I feel like I gear it towards the people and what they will think rather than towards God with the goal of touching His Heart.
    It may sound elementary to write to win God’s Heart, as one would a future spouse, and as that would oftentimes bring forth simple love songs; but I still see it as how one would/should not stop wooing their spouse once they are married, old, and gray and how they should not stop constantly returning to the simple words, ‘I love you” — in other words, I was wooed towards God with simple things and simple love poetry and, although I have matured since then, I love that He never stops wooing me and constantly returns to those first expressions of affection when speaking to me through His Word and otherwise.
    Also, your mention of the song ‘Jesus Loves me’ reminded me of how Jesus tells us that we must become like little children if we will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
    So, although it may sound like I am disagreeing with you, I am more intrigued to know whether you believe there is a time and a place for BOTH forms of worship.

    >> Which brings me to my third point of interest: I am interested to know what you believe the importance is of, 1) praising God to glorify Him and express who He is and why we adore Him before the people (trying to win their hearts to Him through the words), and, 2) praising God in abandonment of those around us and what they think, simply to tell Him, personally, how much we love Him and why (trying to “win” His Heart as His Bride, with our eyes on no other prize).
    Does that make sense?

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts, questions, etc.

    God bless you!


  • I as an individual have the hardest time worshipping God in a church or public setting….and the songs chosen to be sung are very unmeaningfull for me…and i attend a extremely conservative church too. Maybe this is because i’m a horrid singer i don’t know…but for me, when it comes to worshipfull music, i feel like i am worshipping God when i’m in the dark with my player, and i play something like “Let Your Love Be Strong” with only a not-so-great melody and an extremely raspy voice singing it…those are times of worship for me. And then there are times when i will be outside and its a nice day and i just start singing songs like “Beautiful Day” by U2, no it doens’t mention God in anyway, but you can still give him the praise for a beautiful day!…and yes i think its possible to worship God with songs done by even U2!

    comments….worship in the sense of music should not be limited to labels.
    So what i’m trying to say is that you don’t have to only shop the “worship” section in the music store to find worshipfull music…you don’t have to limit yourself to Chris Tomlin and MercyMe, for example..some of the best worshipfull songs that i have found are done by Christians that are rockers in the mainstream circles (Switchfoot for example). So if you limit yourself you will most likely miss out on some wonderfully inspiring songs. And i think that Joel pretty much said that too.

    “praise” music should not just be like “Jesus i love you, for you first loved me” it also could be like “I’m fighting with every breath to keep my life in your hands..and to be honest i’m scared and i don’t feel your love”. In my opinion that is some of the highest praise, when you cry out to God, telling him that you can’t live without him…and its not just like sitting in a semi-comfortable pew on Sunday morning singing “i give my life to you” with a happy clappy smile on your face. I see it also like sitting in closet in the dark whispering the words with all your soul, knowing that it is only God that is keeping you from cutting your wrists, it is only God who is getting you through everything that is in your life… worship is also when you scream with all conviction words like “Let your love be strong, and i don’t care what goes down!”. i think a lot of people nowdays assume that worship music has to be “happy”, i think that is an extremely bad mistake. Are we as Christians called to walk every single day of our lives with an ear to ear grin on our faces? i personally don’t think so…and i see worship the same way.

  • Enjoyed reading this!
    When I was a teenager – that makes me sound old, but I’m not really that old 😉 – I didn’t like hymns because I guess they were “old sounding” to me, and I liked more of the contemporary-style music. Now I am starting to like them again for the rich lyrics. There was a point where I realized, “Hey, the words in these hymns are REALLY good!” I like some of the remakes that some artists are doing of hymns as well.

  • Thank you so much for this post… I can really receive it and work on / towards the “challenges” you gave.

    I’m a worship pastors daughter and am definitely passionate about / feel called to this area of ministry!

    One song that my dad recently came across has been a tremendous blessing to our family and church body. It’s a hymn written by a young man named Matt Guiles and one that I believe embodies so much of what you were saying about embracing “songs that unpack rich doctrines like justification, atonement, sanctification, and assurance”.

    “The Grace of my God” (
    is a treasure and will undoubtedly be sung by generations to come 😀

    Be blessed!

  • As a lead singer in a youth praise band at my church, & a lifelong lover of music & singing, this is a great reminder about everyday worship. Wonderful message in this post.

  • Thank you for finally putting in print what i have been saying for a long time. I think to often we think we have to standing in the pews of our church with our hands held up to God, singing our hearts out for God. As was stated in this article anything that is done for the glory of God is worship. And in my opinion, I think that these other kinds of worship (helping others, being kind, talking to someone your normally ignore) are just as good and important to God as singing is. Because, to be honest, it doesn’t matter what our culture or other people around us say, what really matters is what God says and thinks about our actions.

    Thanks and keep up the great work for christ

  • I grew up on hymns in my church and although i love praise and worship songs there are a BUNCH of the old classics that to this day touch my soul! One i trully love is “Come thou fount” our youth group sings it alllll the time! That and “Be thou my vision” . Honestly I love those a lot more then some of my favorite praise and worship songs!

  • I liked the John Piper article that Andrew Z posted a link to. I have never thought of music that way before.

  • I just wanted to point out that worship is not so much what you do (eg how many songs you sing or write each week) but your attitude towards God. Songs are a way to outwardly express that attitude, but the attitude is the key thing that God loves. When we have an attitude of giving glory to Him, then He is glorified! Simple as that.

    I did think that Joel made that point in the post, but after reading the challenges, I would tend to forget it, so I just wrote this comment in case anyone else was like me. 🙂

  • I heard Joel’s song “Yours Alone” at the conference, but haven’t been able to find or really remember the lyrics. Are those available somewhere?

    I’m not exactly gifted with music, but I worship (and serve my church and musicians) with sound and tech. There’s usually a need in some capacity for qualified (ie, responsible and easy to train) people who are willing to help out.

    Red Mountain Music is another group that puts new music with old, lesser known but powerful hymns. At you can download about ten free complete songs and buy the five albums they have done.

  • Basically I agree with Iris.

    I think that the beauty of hymns is many times overlooked in our culture. When they told us to get out the hymnal in church I used to think okay borrring and not really try to even sing. But, more recently hymns have been one of my more favorite forms of worship. They are just amazing and have so much to say. They give us a LOT to reflect on and give beautiful insight to the amazing Lord we are worshiping!

  • Yes! It’s important to recognize that worship is not just music, although that’s a very big part of it. Worship is just simply praising God for what He’s doing and remembering what He has done for us.

  • To “wake up singing” sounds strangely familiar. ( :

    Really, I know it’s easier for some than others, but I have definitely enjoyed incorporating musical worship into my day! I sing everywhere! It has also become an important part of my quiet time with God, as I think of songs that express the attitude of my heart so perfectly, and sing them to my Savior.

    Thanks Joel for the post!


  • Great post! I have been noticing how watered down Christian music is (not necessarily worship music) just recently. It’s something that annoys me.

    But I have found some music that alleviated that a bit. It is available here, at the IHOP MP3 Store- While a majority of the songs are not hymns, the lyrics are often taken straight from the Bible, and not usually the familiar verses, or at least the ones you would expect in a song. (Ever heard of broken cisterns?) It certainly has a prophetic touch to it, so it may not be for everyone, but it is certainly a refreshing break from the “traditional”.

  • This is too amazing! I just talked about this in church yesterday! I’ve been writing songs and so have my friends. I am thinking about doing a recording as soon as I’ve compiled enough songs. God is really trying to make a point here. Thx!

  • I forget who said this, but this person said that we are worshipers, it’s built into our hard drive. It just matters who we’re going to serve. Christ or other things.

  • Thank you Joel for your post!
    I really liked how you talked about how deep hymns are, and how full they are of spiritual truth. Maybe they aren’t as upbeat or as fun to sing sometimes, but the real point is to worship God, and it’s good to be reminded of that.

  • Elise M:
    The aim of worship is definitely to focus on God. But I think if we consider that the definition of theology is the study of God, then theological truths help us to focus on Him! I am not at all against simple lyrics, and I wasn’t intending to knock a song like Jesus Loves Me. What concerns me is when all the songs are simple, and we aren’t willing to go deeper with songs that might be hard at first, but once we understand them, can be incredibly powerful!

    Alyssa C:
    It’s impossible for me to know what your church would like, but I would start with some of the songs from Sovereign Grace or Keith & Kristyn Getty. Many of the songs they’ve written – In Christ Alone, O Church Arise (from the Gettys), and Before the Throne of God Above, I Will Glory In My Redeemer, and Grace Unmeasured (from Sovereign Grace) – are like modern day hymns. Lots of rich, profound truth, but more contemporary melodies. Once people have adjusted to songs like that, it might be easier to transition into some worship choruses.

    Thanks for the encouragement to write more on the topic of worship. Hopefully there will be other posts in the future, and I will definitely take your questions into consideration.

    I think we can certainly glorify God with songs that remind us of the wonder of His creation, or even songs that deal with the struggles and trials we are going through. I know I have certainly had profound experiences with God while listening to songs which would not be labeled “worship songs”.

    On the other hand, I think there is a difference when we are dealing with corporate worship in the context of the local church. In that setting, our songs should be clearly focused on God, and solidly based on Scripture. I agree with you that worship should not consist of singing trite lyrics with a “happy clappy smile on your face”, but I don’t think worship services have to be that way. Many of those hymns I talked about in my post deal with walking through despair, darkness, trials and temptations. The Sovereign Grace album, Come Weary Saints, is all about trusting in God in the midst of suffering. Bob Kauflin also wrote music to a poem by William Cowper, entitled, God Moves In A Mysterious Way. Those are some amazing, deep lyrics about God’s sovereignty in the midst of our pain (William Cowper was an 18th century poet and hymnodist who struggled with severe depression). That song is on Sovereign Grace’s WorshipGod Live album.

    By the way, have you listened to any of Jon Foreman’s solo EPs? He has several tracks on there which are nothing but beautiful renditions of Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer (White As Snow, House of God Forever, Your Love Is Strong).

  • This is so true. Today so many of the churches in our nation will apply labels like “Worship leaders” to people who lead Churches or youth groups in song. Yes, they do help lead worship, but Worship should be something that every christian does daily from waking up to drinking orange juice. (John Piper quote there) Also as christian teenagers we need to change the mentality that pervades evn our own churches: That Christian teens need more simplistic songs to sing because we can’t understand anything else. We need to change this by not only thinking about whatever words we’re singing, but we need to be able to apply the truths that we’re singing about into our lives. I absolutely love Joel’s suggestion to start each day in song, I will try to make it a regular habit!

  • Hi Joel,

    Thank you! After reading your responses to some of the other comments, I was reminded of a point Hudson Taylor illustrated well through a personal story — that I believe may be relevant to what we’re discussing on worship. Would you mind if I share it, along with my thoughts?

    Hudson Taylor believed that the only way we can truly get to know God is by experiencing the things He experienced and by walking in His Footsteps — in other words, by fellowshipping with Him in His sufferings and by serving as He served we begin to understand how He felt and what it cost Him and thus even more how much He truly Loved us to give all He gave and to walk as He walked and to serve our Father in many of the ways He served. He described how by going into the world and sharing the Gospel he learned much in this way. And, also, how in our lives, when we come across people who are very different from ourselves because they have had different experiences, often we feel that they cannot sympathize with us or truly know and understand us; but on the other hand, when we come across people who have been through an incredibly trying experience like our own, we immediately feel an empathy with them and that they are like us somehow. He explained that that is how we get close to Christ — through cross-bearing and self-denial and serving the Father regardless of the cost, unto becoming like Him.

    He shared two stories to illustrate the point. This one especially impressed it on my heart:

    “Thirty-one years ago I was leaving the shores of England for China. My beloved and honored and now sainted mother went down to Liverpool with me. I shall never forget that day when I sailed for China — how that loved mother went with me into the little cabin that was to be my home for nearly six months. With a mother’s loving hand she smoothed the little bed. She sat down by my side, and joined me in singing the last hymn we sang together before we separated. We knelt down, and she prayed — the last mother’s prayer I was to hear before I went to China. Then the notice was given that we must part, and I had to say goodbye to that loving mother, never expecting to see her again. (I did see her again, several times; but I had no expectation of it then.) Mainly for my sake, she restrained her feelings as much as she could. We parted; and she went on shore, giving me her blessing. I stood on deck, and she followed the ship as we moved toward the dock gates. As we passed the gates, and the separation was commencing, I shall never forget the cry of anguish that was wrung from that mother’s heart as she felt that I was gone. It went to my heart like a knife. I never knew so fully as then what “God so Loved the world” meant; and I am quite sure that my precious mother learned more of the Love of God for the world in that hour than in all her life before.”

    Hudson Taylor is one of my favorite authors because he writes so much about knowing God and abiding in His Love — and it’s incredibly genuine. The way he got to know God, many times, was through dying daily for the Cause, but also, through excruciating losses. The way this connects to the topic of worship is that I believe that the reason many of the old hymns are so enduring, and so powerful, is because they were written through, and because of, great sorrow, trials, and pain — in other words, because they express the fellowship only had by sharing with Him in His Sufferings and cross-bearing unto serving the Father and reaching out to the world in witness of His Love.

    One might think that only cries of anguish, or cries for help, would result from knowing Him in this way; but quite on the contrary, in my own life, I have learned that after getting to know Him in this way songs of joy, songs about His Sovereignty, songs that describe His great blessings and Love for those who love Him, are often the result as not only do we get a deeper sense of His feelings of Pain through the experience, but also a deeper realization of, and capacity for, joy in times that are good. We learn of His Sovereignty and how good and perfect His Will is in every kind of situation and we begin to treasure Him, and what He treasures (such as innocence, beauty, life, love, faith, the lost who He has called), in new ways.

    I do think that there is a gap — and a rather wide gap — in this kind of song-writing in modern times. Too often the church calls us to comfort, ease, honor-seeking, and right-maintaining; rather than abandonment, daily dying, cross-bearing, and self-denial. Beautiful buildings, elaborate sermons, and the selling of merchandise replaces the true Wealth of the Gospel — just look in the eyes of a persecuted Christian after they have been flogged, betrayed by loved ones, and lost all they owned for the Cause; and you will see their joy and the riches they possess which we have not yet known, and you will know what I mean. But I do have hope.

    I have hope because we, the true Rebelutionaries, are asking and crying out with passion to embrace the cross — to “Do Hard Things.” I have hope that we will prove ourselves to be true sons and daughters, transformed in His likeness — not only by our words and actions, but by holy lives offered as living sacrifices. And I have hope that we will write songs in such manner of spirit. I wholeheartedly believe that His Bride will respond to Him in these coming days with the kind of devoted, sacrificial, heart-and-soul-filled love He first gave to her and which she is filled with as she seeks Him, walks with Him, and stands with Him for Truth.

    Thank you once again for your time, Joel! It’s been a great blessing for me to discuss worship with you.

    Rest in Him,


  • I totally agree! I love to worship and worship takes me to such a beautiful place with my Savior! Its sooo amazing to be in the presence in the Lord! But i was just wondering what you guys think about listening only to christian music?? Its a question i have been thinking a lot about! So yeah i was just wondering about that! Thanx for this post! It was amazing!

  • Lauren,
    You can listen to the song “Yours Alone” on iLike:

    There is also a live video of the song on the Reblution Tour 2008 DVD:

    Here are the lyrics to the song:

    Yours Alone
    CHORUS: Jesus, spotless Lamb of God
    You’ve bought me with Your blood
    Your precious cleansing blood
    Now I would value none beside
    Jesus crucified
    May you be glorified in me

    VERSE 1: I am Yours, and Yours alone
    This I gladly, fully own
    And in all my works and ways,
    Help me only seek Your praise

    VERSE 2: Help me to confess Your name,
    Bear with joy Your cross and shame
    Always seek to follow You,
    For your grace will see me through

    VERSE 3: When my King in glory comes,
    And brings me to my heavenly home,
    Louder still my lips shall own
    “I am Yours, and Yours alone!”

    Words by James George Deck, additional words and music by Joel Harris © 2007

  • Joel,
    Thanks so much for this article. It is truly a blessing to see young worship leaders as yourself putting so much importance of the quality of worship.

    Alex and Brett,
    Again…you all did a wonderful job Saturday!! Sorry, we couldn’t make the fellowship…we would have loved to spent more time with you, but, sore throats, coughs and headaches would not allow.

    You boys keep up the good work you are doing! God will bless you and we are praying for you and your family!

  • Thanks! This article hits home in our low expectation infused culture.

    Touching on the music aspect, I was recently at a Christian leadership camp, and one of the songs they sang during worship time was “How Great is our God” combined with “How Great Thou Art.” It was really neat to see the combination of old and new, the theological thoughts in both songs put together. While I was thinking, “That’s really cool!”, two of the people I was sitting with were saying, “How stupid! Why did they do that? It completely ruined it!” I was surprised by this, knowing both of the people, but it got me thinking. Thanks for writing this article that is challenging other people to think too!

  • Yeah that is one thing i do agree with,,songs we sing in Church i kniw half of them and som im like uhhh. I go to a Southern Baptist Church and there are songs that i didnt know that was a hymm like “Mu Jesus I Love thee” a local band has re-did the song and i kow that song more than ever now. and I dont listen to the old southern gospel. I like some songs but your right we like todays aritst like Chris Tomlin and the big time artist, but we also can listein to these small town bands that what to do what God has called them to do or they just love to sing and worship. and one thing is that we need to change things around.. I use to go to a small church we didnt have what a big or a normal church would have we had no choir.. the pastor had music tapes and that and that was it you canlift you habd up high and no one would care you could clap.. and they wouldnt care. to me churches should be like that with out being stared at

  • Hey guys, thanks for this article! Great to see an exhortation to think carefully about worship from the younger generation!

  • Some of the Jon Foreman Ep’s are wierd, there are some really good ones like two that you mentioned, “White as Snow” and “Your love is Strong”. I would also suggest anyone listen to “Equally skilled” and “The Cure for the Pain”. Both are very good and they both have a lot of meaning.

  • Alyssa C.
    Which link doesn’t work? Sorry about that! It may be with iLike that you need to have the correct plug-in, or possibly create an account (although I don’t think so).

    That is too bad when people don’t like the combination old and new songs. I think it’s really neat when we do that, and it brings glory to God, because it reminds us that we aren’t the first people to stand here praising the Lord, that there were people who lived centuries ago who sang about the same Cross. At the Rebelution conference, I pair up the song All Because of Jesus, by Steve Fee, with the hymn, Jesus Paid It All (with the new bridge by Kristian Stanfill). Both songs talk about receiving new life through Jesus.

    You have a really good point there. I think of a hymn like It Is Well, written by Horatio Spafford, who had lost all of his children, just like Job in the Bible.

  • I think that worship isn’t only in music. I think every aspect of our lives is an act of worship…granted we aren’t always worshiping the right things. What we need to be focusing on is worshiping God in our school, in our jobs, in our relationships, and at church.

    A good thing to think about is going to church worshipping, not to worship.

  • AMEN AMEN!! Great great post!!!

    For anyone who is searching for great worship music outside the mainstream stuff I definitely recommend Zemer Lavav: A Messianic family worship group that sing the Scriptures!!

    I also recommend Robin Mark (who is known for Revival and Days of Elijah). He has great, amazing Celtic-irish inspired worship.

  • Hi Joel,

    Thanks! And that’s exactly the hymn I was thinking of when I wrote the recent comment (in fact, I wrote a little about it, but then edited it out before submitting to make it a little shorter). I initially came across the story in the Selah “Be Still My Soul” CD lyric booklet, but I also more recently found this book entitled “Songs in the Night,” by Henry Gariepy, which tells the stories behind 100 hymns. I haven’t gotten the chance read very much of it yet, but it was very interesting to see how many of the best hymns came from very trying experiences — much like my own poetry/song lyrics. I’d always wondered, “God, why do I have to go through this?” and sometimes I didn’t think I’d ever feel whole again. But over this last year or so, He’s taught me that that is how I get to know Him; how I understand His Heart; how reliance on Him for strength is born; how joy that is not temporary is found; how writings which turn people’s hearts are formed; how I learn that He is in control and that His Will is always and truly good; and contrary to how I feel, how I become whole (in Him, as I am transformed in His likeness) — and later, how I help make others whole. Ah… I just realized — to put it simply, I’m learning that the only way to experience the Resurrected life of a Christian — a life of holiness, beauty, power, and constant abiding in God — is to have first experienced the cross (as in, to take up our cross and follow in His Footsteps of denying self’s will and the will of the world, laying all on the altar, and submitting to the Will of the Father). And they say that “to write well, you have you write what you know.” May God raise up a new generation of hymn writers who bear the cross in their lives as do His true disciples; who know His Heart, His Ways; and who can tell, from experience, of His great Love, His Sovereignty, and how worthy He is of all our praise.

    Regarding Job (in the Bible) — his writings — and what I was writing about; I sent something to Alex and Brett through email to pass on to you.

    Thanks again,


  • Joel,
    Thank you very much for writing this post — it is an issue that has been on my heart a lot lately. As I am realizing that Worship is so much more than Sunday mornings, and as I am beginning to be involed with music in our church I would really appreciate more posts from you on this topic!
    Also, is there any place where I could get the music to the song “Yours Alone” that you played at the Rebelution conference? My youth Worship band would like to play it.

    ” Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name be the glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.”
    — Psalm 115:1

    I pray that every moment of my life would be Worship to my King!
    In Christ,

  • This was awesome! I love my heavenly Father and want to praise Him whole heartedly! This gave me some more ideas! Thanks again! 🙂

  • Lucy:
    You can contact me through my website, and I would be glad to email you the chord chart for “Yours Alone”. Also, I posted a link to audio of the song, in a previous comment.

  • Joel:
    Sorry. I forgot to say which link. 😛 The “In Christ Alone” link in the post. But I checked it again, and it’s working now. Thanks. Sorry for the disturbance. 😛

  • I agree, Joel, with everything that you just said. The church has watered down worship, almost to the point where it doesn’t mean anything. Yet I know for some, and like me, song and worship is one of the best ways we glorify God and pour out our hearts to Him. A song of praise should never be far from oiur lips.

    Though I have to ask. I play the piano and I am trying to write a song of my own. The words are there, but getting the melody on staff paper is so hard. Do you have any suggestions?

  • Ella:
    The book God Songs, which I mentioned at the end of the post, is an excellent resource for worship songwriter’s. But here are a couple of simple approaches that I’ve found helpful:
    1. Focus less on writing out a melody on staff paper, and more on singing different melody ideas over a simple chord progression. Sometimes you can even take a chord progression from a popular song, and create your own unique melody.
    2. Another exercise that sometimes helps with “melody-writer’s block”, is to begin with part of a well-known melody (even something like Mary Had a Little Lamb). At the end of the phrase, take the melody into a different direction, so that most people wouldn’t notice the resemblance (you can also change the tempo and/or meter). Then repeat the phrase again, but make the ending different this time. Voila! Now you have a new melodic idea plus a variation.

  • hi i am baerly a teen but i justt started reading Do Hard Things it is amazing so is this blog , even though i am young i am capable of understanding big things .

  • Exellent post!
    I agree wholeheartedly with what was communicated. This topic has been a soap box of mine, and I’m glad to find others who speak the truth about this issue. Joel, how disciplined or lenient to you think we need to be in the area of music? Is it the same as any other form of media?

    P.S. I wrote a post on this topic, and would love for others to give feedback on what they think. My blog address is If that doesn’t work, just type in my name on Google; something should come up.

    Soli Deo Gloria, Ahlaischa 🙂

  • Great post!!! I guess i have a few questions about a lot of the newer praise and worship songs. I am part of a new house church. There are very few youth and mostly older people. This has been really hard for me because we used to go to a church where there was a youth group. Anyway, because most of the people are older, there tends to be a strong resistance to anything new.( Don’t get me wrong, I love these people, but older people generally have found what they like and would rather keep it that way) These older people do NOT appreciate modern praise and worship songs. I hear a lot of negative things about praise and worship songs, but when I listen to them alone, I can really have a meaningful worship time with God. I guess I’m kinda confused about the whole issue. What’s with the anti-praise and worship? I know that some of those songs are very shallow, but there are also shallow hymns. I know this was somewhat discussed earlier, but i guess my question would be, are these older people against these songs because there’s really something wrong with them, or because they don’t like change?
    I’d like to hear some other people’s thoughts on this. thanx:)

  • Those are all great albums you suggested! Another great album with excellent lyrics is West Coast Revival (by a band with the same name). These guys are from Abundant Life Church (a Sovereign Grace church) in California. They have one EP (which is pretty good) and a full-length album which is possibly my all-time favorite.

    Thanks for posting this stuff on music!

  • Amen, i love what you guys do, and i deffinetely realize that there are many ways to worship, i myself am working on a comic book to describe the different books of the bible. like the book of daniel as a comic book. and i want you guys to know that your book “Do Hard things” is actually making me think to do hard things more often! wierd huh?

  • Michelle,
    Alot of modern day muisic (not all) tends to be louder and have alot of bass, and older people don’t always seem to enjoy that. So that could posibly be a reason.

  • Ella:

    You said: “The church has watered down worship, almost to the point where it doesn’t mean anything. Yet I know for some, and like me, song and worship is one of the best ways we glorify God and pour out our hearts to Him. A song of praise should never be far from oiur lips.”

    Here, here! I totally agree with you — and I also believe the same has happened in too many places with fellowship, Bible study, prayer, and general spuring each other on to good works. A “song” of praise should be in our hearts and our eyes on God as we do all of those things, but too often we’ve began to see them as things we do as a group of friends rather than things we do as the Bride of Christ made One with the Bridegroom in desire, action, and joy. May God make us pleasing to Him in this! How I pray that we would be constant worshipers. I long to be that way.


    If you enjoy hymns, and also the idea of pairing songs together as you mentioned, you should totally check out the CD’s the group “Selah” has put out. For example, on their CD, “Be Still My Soul,” they paired “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” with “Just A Closer Walk With Three” and it turned out incredible. They also do amazing arrangements of many other hymns, as well.

  • I’d recommend And now let’s move into a time of nonsense: why worship songs are failing the church. The author raises all the points mentioned so far, but he also explains the main difference between hymns and ‘worship songs’ (the former are inspired by poems and the latter by pop/rock songs). He also exposes another problem with new ‘worship songs’: they’re still using ancient imagery (how many people really know what a refiner’s fire is, for instance…) It’s a very thought provoking book, if you’re going to be writing songs for Christians to sing or to listen to, please, please read this book. It’s also fairly short and funny.

  • A rich article that served as great encouragement and a reminder for me. True worship indeed lasts far beyond music and into our lives. Yet musical worship is also something in which we can “Do Hard Things.” Thanks for sharing it all! To God be the glory 🙂

  • Thank you so much. That is so true. Worship is too often watered down lyrics with a tune that everyone will “like”. All that you wrote reminded me of what Piper said in his book “Let the Nations Be Glad”…”Missions is not the goal of the church. Worship is”.
    There are so many things that are labeled more “important” than worship, but worship should truly be the most important part of our walk with the Lord. This was such an encouragement. Thank you.

  • I love music. I love singing, playing, and praising God through music. But I think that it doesn’t always matter how high of a level of music you perform in worship, what matters is that you do. we should strive to understand more difficult texts, but any worship is still worship, I think, no matter what. I helped with VBS at my church this week, and we sang a lot of “stupid” or “easy” songs for the little kids, but you could tell how much even those songs meant to them. They were worshipping, even though the songs were simple, and they were excited!

  • Joel,
    Sorry to be a bother, but what is your website?? I googled you and couldn’t come up with it.

  • Ahlaischa:
    I think music is the same as any other form of media, in the sense that Phil. 4:8 still applies: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” But I think most of us would read classic and/or contemporary literature which is secular, in order to learn from other great writers. I think the same thing can take place for musicians, as long as biblical discernment is practiced.
    It’s true, there are shallow hymns as well as choruses. I certainly don’t intend to make an issue out of hymns vs. choruses. There are excellent choruses (including simple ones), and hymns with bad theology. I would generally use the term shallow when I want to put something in a negative light. I don’t want to use shallow songs. Simple songs, on the other hand, are not a problem; many of the Psalms are simple, but not shallow – there is a difference. But Mgan M. is right, many people are resistant to contemporary songs because of the musical style, and they find it hard to accept what seems like rock music, and to adjust to such an unfamiliar style.
    David Daniel:
    I have read the book, “And Now Let’s Move Into a Time of Nonsense…” I don’t agree with everything in the book, but the author has a lot of great points, and the chapter intros, poking fun at nonsensical songs, were hilarious!
    It’s true that God looks at the heart, and His focus is not on the level of skill we bring. However, I think skill is important because it is more effective in serving others for God’s glory. If I was sorely lacking in skill when I led worship at the Gaithersburg Rebelution conference with over 3000 people in attendance, I would not have been serving those people as effectively. If I was distracted by trying to play difficult chords, I wouldn’t have been focused on singing with passion, or I might have appeared flustered and made people uncomfortable. Check out 1 Chronicles 25:6-8, and Psalm 33:3.
    You said, “any worship is still worship.” As long as the worship is offered to the only true God, made acceptable through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then it is true worship. But if a song is unclear, then it’s up to the person singing, whether or not their worship is actually in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
    And as I have said previously, it was not at all my intention to portray “Jesus Loves Me” as a “stupid” song. But if you came to a conference for singles, and they sang that song and others like it, you would probably think that these people ought to be capable of a song with a little more depth. It’s kind of like the milk that the author of Hebrews talks about in Heb. 5:12-14.
    My website is
    It’s for my music studio in the Northwest, where I teach music lessons. I don’t have a personal website, other than Facebook.

  • Michael,

    I know from wherest thou come. I grew up in a church with a youth group of 5, and a “Silver Saints” group of, well, half the church. It’s taken a long time to get anything labeled “contemporary” through our church doors–even now, we’re just singing songs from the 90s.

    I don’t think that you can put all the elderly into a group of loving doctrine or just hating change. I know people who fall into both categories. Concerning the second, just remember that their dislike of your music is just as valid as your dislike of theirs. It’s the same conflict as rap vs. country. Just in this case, your “opponent” is older, wiser, and is going to be dead in another twenty years. So respect them, and let them have their hymns for now. In fifty years, when we’re all moments away from kicking the bucket, and whippersnappers are pushing whatever bizarreness they’ve come up with, you’ll be happy you did.

    In defense of hymns:

    I used to bemoan the fact our perpetual singing of “Blessed Assurance.” Oh what a foretaste? Please. But two years into my Christian college experience–attending a contemporary church and “with it” chapel services–I’ve realized that I miss the old people music!

    Yes, there are lots of contemporary choruses I absolutely love (“Day’s of Elijah” or “Indescribable”), but a lot of them are spiritually shallow. I’ve heard it said a bazillion times that prayer is most powerful when we speak God’s words back to Him, but we don’t do that in our music anymore. We sing the basics of God’s love, like that’s all He is: just someone who loves us. God is love, but He’s also our almighty king, our guiding shepherd, and the judge of every man to walk the earth. He gives more than emotional freedom; He rescued us from eternity in hell, and He deserves the most well-studied lyrics and beautifully sung music we can possibly give Him.

  • Glad I found this post – good stuff and good contributions too.

    Disappointed to note, though, that in all the discussions about “new” hymns/hymnwriters, nobody has mentioned Stuart Townend? OK, he’s from this side of the pond (England!); but he actually wrote the words for “In Christ Alone”, and many other praise-inducing songs and hymns. If you can get it over in the US, have a listen to his 2007 double CD album “Best of Stuart Townend Live”, or his 2008 album “There is a hope”.

    I have found his material immensely helpful and theologically rich – as well as being hard not to sing along to at the top of your voice!

  • Father:

    Did you ever see the faces of the children
    They get so excited.
    Waking up on christmas morning
    Hours before the winter suns ignited.
    They believe in dreams and all they mean
    Including heavens generosity.
    Peeping round the door
    to see what parcels are for free
    In curiosity.

    And Tommy doesn’t know what day it is.
    He doesn’t know who Jesus was or what praying is.
    How can he be saved?
    From the eternal grave.

    Surrounded by his friends he sits so silently,
    And unaware of everything.
    Playing poxy pin ball
    picks his nose and smiles and
    Pokes his tongue at everything.
    I believe in love
    but how can men who’ve never seen
    Light be enlightened.
    Only if he’s cured
    will his spirits future level ever heighten.

    And Tommy doesn’t know what day it is.
    He doesn’t know who Jesus was or what praying is.
    How can he be saved?
    From the eternal grave.

    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Can you hear me?
    How can he be saved?


    See me, feel me
    Touch me, heal me.
    See me, feel me
    Touch me, heal me!


    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Tommy can you hear me?
    Can you–Can you–Can you hear me?
    How can he be saved?

    Did you ever see the faces of the children
    They get so excited.
    Waking up on christmas morning
    Hours before the winter suns ignited.
    They believe in dreams and all they mean
    Including heavens generosity.
    Peeping round the door
    to see what parcels are for free
    In curiosity.

    And Tommy doesn’t know what day it is.
    He doesn’t know who Jesus was or what praying is.
    How can he be saved?
    From the eternal grave.

  • David:
    Stuart Townend is a great modern day hymn-writer. I really am excited about one of his newer hymns, “There Is A Hope”. The reason I listed Keith & Kristyn Getty’s album, In Christ Alone, is that it compiles all of my favorite Townend/Getty collaborations, and Kristyn Getty has a great voice. But another great album is the Apostle’s Creed, which has more modern arrangements of their hymns. It has the best recording of “O Church Arise”. It was hard to find for awhile, but now you can get it through iTunes:

  • Thanks for the link Joel! How did we ever manage manage without itunes?

    Interesting to listen to different versions …. but I guess I have just got used to the Townend versions! (if you can’t get the two cds I mentioned over there, I’ll happily mail them to you!)

    I think it is also (in part at least) due to the fact that there is a difference between a “studio” sound and “live” sound, especially when there are many more voices raised in worship.

    And thanks again for the original post – very well-put, and I heartily agree with you. May the Lord bless your service for Him.

  • Not to say one anyone is wrong or right, that’s not our job to decide, simply stating that people need to explore all forms of music and listen to all forms of opinions. If your faith is strong and firm, you have no reason to fear being tempted. Learn from the Who. As Tommy only realizes after the fact, no matter how good his intentions were and how desperately he wanted others to see what he now saw, dominating the lives of the weak-minded with only one interpretation of spirituality will only result in chaos and rebellion against all religion. It wasn’t Tommy’s fault that the people couldn’t handle his methods, the people were mindless sheep to begin with. We mustn’t fear listening to every kind of music, being able to appreciate any form of art, being able to understand any opinion, we must embrace many different points of view before we can say that our own is complete.

  • Obviously I would recommend “Tommy” to any sane person willing to try something entirely new, as well as “Quadrophenia”.

    The “White Album”, “Sgt. Peppers”, and “Revolver” are truly unique experiences that everyone should have at some point, written by the greatest songwriters we’ll likely ever know.

    “Pet Sounds” would be an album some of your parents probably own and cherish, and definitely something you can enjoy, as well.

    “Are You Experienced” is certainly out there, but if you want a new outlook on spirituality, you’ve never heard anything like it.

    If you can appreciate rap with character and meaning, unlike everything on the airwaves today, “It takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is not something you want a child or “young” adult listening to, but there is great depth behind what appears to be a very contentious and hilarious set of songs.

    Just talking about quality songwriting and performance, “Velvet Underground and Nico” is one of the most brilliant albums ever conceived, though it never reached mainstream due to its many deviant themes and won’t be for most of you.

    You don’t have to believe the personal politics of the songwriter to appreciate the music, and you don’t have to agree or even sympathize with the music itself. But as long as we’re talking about raising expectations for ourselves and finding things that truly touch us, you should be looking for new inspirations all the time. I don’t mean to say that what I’ve listed is for everyone – most of it will not be for most people here – but I would feel like I had left something unsaid if I didn’t share what inspired me with the people here.

  • I really needed that post…recently God has showed me how important it is to worship with other believers.

    I am also a hymn lover, I love how a song has been sung by countless believers over many years, to me that is a great illustration of the Body of Christ.

  • I was okay with your article until I read this:
    “Worship songs targeted for kids, tweens, teens and young adults, have dumbed down the lyrical content because they think we’re too dumb to understand anything harder.”

    First of all I just want to ask, how do you know that is what these bands want? How do you know what these bands think about us? I’m a teenager and I don’t find christian bands to be dumbing down teenagers with simpler lyrics. Bands like As I Lay Dying and August Burns Red sing more deep and theological songs than some hymns. Even if some bands lyrics are more simple than older songs it doesn’t mean that they are trying to dumb us down, they are just singing songs that worship God even if the songs aren’t pulled from a book on doctrine. There are some good christian rock/hard rock bands out there, and please read their lyrics before stereotyping the christian market as people who are just like MTV and PBS, and think we’re stupid.

  • If any of you like christian Rock/Rap/Hip-Hop, then you should try, Toby Mac, D.C Talk, 4th Avenue Jones, and Emanuel Jaal. All of them are very talented artists.

  • Hold on, Emanuel Jaal may not be such a good idea, He is sometimes to blunt. Like, he sings a song called ‘Skirt to Short’, and he is just a little blunt on what he “sees”.

  • […] Constant Worshippers Posted September 5, 2008 Filed under: Parenting, Teens | Tags: Alex Harris, Brett Harris, Joel Harris, John Piper, The Rebelution | The following is an excerpt from Joel Harris at the Rebelution Site. The article is very helpful, but my other motive in posting the article is to introduce to you, if you haven’t found it yet, a very good website for your teens to check out. Enjoy! […]

  • PRAY!! Dear brothers and sisters pray for revival! Prayer is so powerful it can make a diffrence. I’m not talking about five minutes a day. I am talking about praying whenever the Holy Spirit moves and tells us to pray! Because God is working and He comanded us to PRAY without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17.Then it says in verse 19 quench not the Spirit!!!! So when the says pray you and I BETTER PRAY!!!! When we pray God can work freely! We are under attack by satan as christaians we need to fight with prayer and the word of God! I learnd yesterday as I prayed for an hour and God told me to hand out gospel cds. I left one on a coffee table on a woman’s front porch I prayed that God would bless it and left.I thought my efforts where worthless and returned home praying. Later that night that woman called the contact number on the cd and got a hold of me. She told me that she was dabling in witchcraft! and that she was thinking about going to a chant meeting.I told her not to and that she should listen to the cd and accept Jesus Christ as her personal savior. So please PRAY God is listening!!!!!!!!

  • I love praise and worship music and i thought it was the only way to worchip! i guess i was wrong!

    So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

  • when our pastor was canidating someone asked him if he leans towards more contemparary music of hymns, and he replied that if you say you can’t worship with hymns than how much do you realy worship with conteparary mussic.

    I thought that was a great answer

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →