Your Guide to Contemporary Christian Music


By Dale Peterson

Thank you for choosing to worship with us today. If you are from a church that uses traditional hymns, you may be confused. Please take a moment to read through this guide to contemporary Christian music.

In our church you will not hear "How Great Thou Art," "Wonderful Grace of Jesus," or "Like a River Glorious." (Generally, hymns that have words like “Thou” are not used. They are too archaic and are normally replaced by words like “awesome” and “miry clay”). Yes, okay, we may do "Amazing Grace" or "Peace Like a River" at some point, but as a general rule we avoid songs with too many different verses or those that can't be played easily on guitar and drums.

If you are new to worship here, you may wish to know the reasons for this. One is that deep theological concepts do not belong in contemporary Christian worship. We frown on songs that change more than one or two words for each verse. For example, our version of "Holy is the Lord" consists of repeating that phrase six times per verse and then changing "Holy" to "Worthy," "Mighty," "Jesus" and finally changing "the" to "my." Isn’t that much simpler to sing and easier to remember? The twin goals here are a) repetition and b) chanting quality. We don’t focus on what we’re singing, but how we’re singing it. The main thing is to get that kind of tingly, "olive oily" feeling. Don't worry if you don't get this right away. It will come as you learn to disengage your intellect. Just free yourself. Immerse yourself. Relax.

Christian music guide

Nevertheless, a traditional hymn may sometimes be used. For example, we’re not averse to "Holy, Holy, Holy." You may be tempted to sing this as you would have in your former church, but please note that it is sung here with changes, mainly the fact that we repeat it several times and try to sing as slowly as possible, thereby emphasizing the funereal nature of the verse.

Repetition is very important in contemporary Christian music. We repeat: Repetition is very important in contemporary Christian music. Just because a song may have one verse and one chorus does not mean that you only sing it through once. Old hymns have several verses, each of which introduces a new theological concept, and are meant to be sung once followed by "Amen." This is no longer how it’s done. The correct procedure is to sing the identical verse and chorus at least three times. Often it is preferable to repeat the verse two times initially before moving on to the chorus.

Also the worship leader may want to repeat a verse or chorus found in the middle of the song. This is signaled by “calling an audible." When this occurs, the worship leader will say the first few words of the verse or chorus he will be singing next. Sometimes, due to the similarity of the verses, this may be confusing and the overhead projector may flash several pages of text until the correct one is arrived at. Don't panic, this is normal. Just continue singing as though you know the words and soon either the correct slide will appear or a new chorus will begin.

After the verse and chorus are sung at least three times, it is permissible for the song to end. However, the chorus must first be repeated in its entirety, then the last paragraph, then the last line. When singing the last line it is important to slow down a little and look upward. Raising a hand is permissible and often done at this time. This may take a little getting used to but don't worry, if you just join in, in a short time you won't even notice and soon you will forget that you ever did it any other way.

We are just really glad you chose to share the worship experience with us today. Thank you and we hope to see you again soon.

Thank you and we hope to see you again soon. Thank you. Thank.


jb | 08:55 pm on 10/15/2009

Hey guys and gals,
dling some religous satire at check it out, submit stuff, comment, etc.

Anonymous | 06:39 am on 10/17/2009

I do agree that praise is to be given to the One that died for us. But it is not up to us to determine how that praise is to be given to Him. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in each individual heart. That is the secret of true praise. If that is in traditional hymns and songs and etc.......then for that individual that is true praise. If that is in contemporary christian music and etc.......then for that individual that is true praise. We must be careful throwing out what we deem as proper praise to be given to God it is not for us to determine. I for one choose not to make that choice for others. I only want what His will is and nothing else.

Diwali | 12:51 pm on 10/18/2009

Hey check out MC Yogi. He rocks over any of these guys.


Jim B | 02:13 pm on 11/30/2009

I realize that expert opinion and fact will not carry much weight in this cesspool of idiocy, but anyone who has studied education will tell you that repetition is extremely effective in helping people remember things. And if part of the purpose of worship music is to teach theology (as the article seems to indicate, criticizing contemporary songs for not having deep concepts in them), then why SHOULDN'T they be repetitive? If it helps a person remember the song, and therefore remember the scriptural truth within the song, a certain amount of repetition should be regarded as a good thing.

Dan | 09:51 am on 12/05/2009

Hey Paterson ... WTF? you sound like my great-uncle who'd whinge about this stuff along with the price of milk. Y'know not EVERYTHING the church needs to be ripped on is this ham-fisted, indiscriminate way. Honestly, would you rather today's kids be praising like it's 1699? Gimme a break!

Aimee Webb | 01:30 pm on 1/20/2010

THE part that made me LOL "and the overhead projector may flash several pages of text until the correct one is arrived at. Don't panic, this is normal. Just continue singing as though you know the words and soon either the correct slide will appear or a new chorus will begin." ITS TRUE!!!

This whole comment debate reminds brings this song to mind:

Matt Redman - The heart of worship

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

I'll bring You more than just a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

Its all about you

I am 29 and a child of the 80's (im also a U2 fan), been to Calvary related churches most of my life and EVEN I have favorite hymns (and even like old classical pieces like Handel's Messiah) and songs I wish they still sang in church...but I do think being raised around the emerging CCM, and being into Christian punk, metal, rock,alt, secular music with spiritual themes made me have an negative attitude when I come across a bible study where they only sang hymns. I think Perhaps that had more to do with most of them were written by written by Witness Lee and Watchman Nee of the LOCAL CHURCH which I was told is rather a cultish group of churches but I don't know I liked the actual READING the bible study time.....Yeeeaaa I'll stick with Calvary I cant help it I prefer drums, bass and guitar wailing or GOSPEL choir with my worship.


Aimee Webb | 01:38 pm on 1/20/2010

um ya I love this ....repeat I am a 80's baby

Aimee Webb | 01:42 pm on 1/20/2010

& I remember my Mom and Dad's old records and tape cassettes of:

Randy Stonehill
Keith Green
Second Chapter of Acts
phil keaggy
Rich Mullins

ect ect

it really just matters where your heart is when you worship got can see it its not for other people to judge even if they will....

Aimsterdork | 01:46 pm on 1/20/2010

I meant GOD not got (i need to proof read b4 i send)

Brendan Byrne | 07:19 am on 3/04/2010

AMEN!! While the music in "Contemporary Christian Music" is frequently toe-tappingly good, the lyrics (when you're lucky) are puerile and inane, reminiscent of a love-sick teenager singing to the teacher on whom he has a wet-dream inducing crush. And, yes, I know lots of the "hoary old hymns" are replete with non-inclusive lyrics and redolent with retribution theology, but they are at least capable of adaption that retains their theological power. At any rate, give me the hymn any day - I'd rather know about the majesty of God (that is, a God who is God) than the awesome, possessed-by-me "Jesus is my boyfriend" of CCM...

CDB | 07:41 pm on 3/05/2010

Wow! A musical interpretation of the trinity!

Charlie | 07:11 pm on 4/12/2010

Read William Sargant's 1957 book 'Battle for the mind: a physiology of conversion and brainwashing'. Repetition is all about mind control.

YourBrother-inJesus | 12:19 am on 4/19/2010

"Man looks at the outward appearance, but GOD looks at the HEART".
1 Samuel 16:7
Dear author and all brother and sister posters:
Please look inward, pray, and ask God to search your heart...
THEN read Romans 14:4

Anonymous | 09:01 am on 4/25/2010

my rule of thumb would be if I become convicted by the Holy Spirit through the worship/music/hymn/song does it bring in the Word of God to a point to have Truth realized, or is it so void of Christ and emotes warm, gushy feeling, which will not sustain but a moment after it is sung. If we find ourselves singing about who we are, rather than who He is, we are but merely in the world, in the flesh, as spoiled children who probably have little or nothing to do with sacrificial love for any one but ourselves. makes growing in to Lord focused on "what have you done for me lately?"

Troubled Believer | 11:11 am on 4/29/2010

I wish someone would debate these points: Is it possible that CCM has moved from worship through the music to worship OF the music? Is it possible we are confusing a mystical experience (which can be generated even in pagan ceremonies) with worship?

Anonymous | 09:59 pm on 5/10/2010

There are plenty of reasons to criticize CCM. None of them are in this article.

Alien | 09:48 am on 5/11/2010

Yes, strive for excellence in all you (I) do! I am totally with you on that. And as you have said, it matters not whether it's music, film, or cleaning your kitchen. Do whatever you are doing as if you are doing it for God. God deserves our best.

I am responding to the article written towards a "style" of music. I wouldn't care if it was reggae, jazz, classical, rock, or "Contemporary Christian Music". Whatever genre is chosen should be played with excellence. And the accompanying words should be truthful.

I suppose the point I was trying to make was we (I) shouldn't let pride slip into our thought process when it comes to the arts. Some people may prefer water colors over acrylic. One isn't right and the other one wrong. I wouldn't even say that one is better than the other. I may not like calypso music, or salsa, but that doesn't make my preference better than someone else's'(that pride issue). So, I am not about to cast a stone at someones style of art, as long as it is done with excellence and the proper motivation (praising God).

Not to get off track from the underlying theme, but just this week our pastor made the point that we don't sacrifice Truth for the sake of unity. We are obligated to speak the truth, and there is a specific way to do that (in love, with a good heart,...) At times, the truth hurts.
So if CCM is wrong, then the truth needs to come out about that.

I just get the sense that the article was written in a manner that was belittling a group because they didn't chose hymns; or maybe they didn't chose the correct hymns (ones that the author feels are somehow superior to others). We do need to be tolerant to some degree and not let pride have us believe everything has to be done our way, or it is wrong. I'll just throw this out there and you can respond if you'd like; do you feel the article was written with a spirit of love? Do you feel I am writing with a spirit of love? I don't want to be a resounding gong. I think the bottom line is one of pride.

There are books written about how one group of people (Or "Thars") want to feel better about themselves so they resort to putting someone else down in an effort to make themselves look better. I hope that isn't it intent of the article.

Anonymous | 11:09 pm on 5/25/2010


John H. Lowe | 09:01 pm on 6/02/2010

Wonderful article. I agree and can only add the following:
I am a drummer and, sadly I have listened to this genre of music. Even more sadly I had a go at playing it with these Fundies I met to keep in practice. The trouble is THE TEMPO FOR ALL THESE SONGS IS IDENTICAL! It is a medium pace 4/4 about the speed of the Rolling Stones "Sway" without the swing or the feel. It was impossible to play it without A) Getting bored or B) Overplaying and putting in unnecessary fills in to keep awake and have something to do. It was rather likre working in a place where you had to look busy when there was nothing to do.
Furthermore listening to the drums on CCM DVDs is no joke. You either have a horrid 80s electronic drum sound which sounds like New Romantic synthesizer bands or a big fat bloated stadiuum sound where the drums sound as echoing and vacuous as possible.
Suffice to say I will not repeat this experience.
Also this music has a racist pedegree. When rock'n'roll started these churches had "sin burnings" when they burned records of this "evil black mans music" as they thought the primal rythms would cause the flower of america's maidenhood would lose their virtue, start taking drugs and having fun. (Still do.)Songs by guys such as Little Richard were replaced with insipid versions by Pat Boone etc. as these were considered safe for white youth. After realising that making Church "hip" and "cool" and "contemporary" put bums on seats (and $ in pockets) the bullet was bitten and CCM emerged. Only trouble is that it is Bronze age idealogies tarted up with modern technology.

WorshipPastor | 08:20 am on 6/03/2010

It is for this very reason, all the back and forth, "we are right and you are wrong," that many ministers and worship leaders find it difficult to stay in ministry. I mean, who really wants to spend their days and nights defending every note, verse, song chosen, etc... when their heart is inclined to worship Almighty God?

Besides, as Christians, we are supposed to strive for UNITY, but continue to divide and subdivide ourselves through petty and, quite frankly, unimportant arguments. Many of the same people who spend their days on earth defending their worship opinion never move a foot or hand towards actually doing the stuff of the Christian faith. Kind of makes one wonder what kind of real faith they have.

I, for one, get so tired of the "vain repetition" of the Worship Wars argument, that I just want to give up and make a living doing ANYTHING but church ministry. Luckily, once in awhile, one can find a church to serve in that grows past this stuff.

Anonymous | 07:39 pm on 6/08/2010

Harsh and uncharacteristic of most modern worship.

pittplasticsurgery | 04:40 pm on 7/11/2010

Thanks for sharing =)

Bill | 01:16 am on 7/27/2010

David wrote, "Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord." I have always taken this in its larger sense of inclusivieness of artistic (hence musical) materials, etc. Many of us have found that the blended worship style works best. A large number of modern hymnals now include CCM. There may be those who are happy using only German chorales or American folk music in worship. I prefer blending what is appropriate to expressw the theme of a worship experience from all the sources available. "Give of your best to the Master." If it's Wesley, so be it. If's Gaither, so be it. Etc. Here's my experience (as a church musician and worshiper), when I attend a completely CCM service, how do I know what to sing? Only the words are projected, never the music. Eventually one learns some of these new songs as they are repeated often enough. But until a CCM repertory is learned, CCM worship is just as alien to spiritual experience as so-called traditional worship. Years ago, while visitng San Francisco, I went my first Sunday to Glide Memorial Church. They were packed to the doors. They sang only CCM. There was an emotional feeling. And God was mentioned several times. The overall impression was that we were there to focus on ourselves rather than anything divine. The second Sunday I attended Grace Cathedral (Episcopal). The worship was exquisite and very well done. The overall worship experience was enhanced by having ALL the music that the congregationa sang printed in the margins of the oversize service bulletin. And the church was packed. And the Trinity was not only mentioned often but was the focus of the exercise. There is an entire worship genre called Davidic Worship. There are some good books on the subject. Even for the more traditional oriented worshiper (and worship planner), gradually introducing Davidic Worship elements seems to be adviseable. Whether it is "Silent Night" or "Lift up yourt hands in the sanctuary," there is a place for many aproaches to worship materials, styles, and expressions. We can all afford to expand our horizons.

Omniscientish | 04:36 pm on 8/31/2010

Please don't criticize people for no longer using songs that are from the 1800s. I am certainly glad we have gotten rid of some of the theology from that time. Good thought has grown. Slavery should be gone. And the thoughts and art of Christians should grow.
The purpose of those hymns was to teach theology to illiterate people. That makes them good. Much of the music came from songs that were sung in bars, that's right bars. But, I agree with the article's focus much of christian music is just taking the words from the bible, and calling it more spiritual than writing their own art. That is not growing. The bible is public domain and all but why are we creating a bunch of Michael Bolton worship, "I didn't write it but I made it famous". Since when did the church (Big C church)stop caring about giving our best as a sacrifice to God. Learn to write well, then lead God's people well. Or use great art, for example, there are few songs as well written as The Old Rugged Cross, so we should still use it. Or the song "The Love of God" redone by Mercy Me, we should go do great songs like this. But don't take three sentences you stole from scripture and call it a song you wrote.

Anonymous | 01:34 am on 9/03/2010

It's satire. Let's all just calm down.

ziner | 06:32 pm on 11/20/2010

I wont don't judge their music,And they explain it well..Lets just hope that they are not anti-christ.
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Anonymous | 12:21 pm on 1/26/2011

I'm a worship pastor, and to read this article and (some) of the comments definitely saddens me. Worship music, or music sung in church, is for the purpose of giving back, responding, to our Lord. The misconception I am seeing here is that we think the worship music is about's not. When we worship we may be filled with the Spirit, and that is a blessing from God, but we should worship God through the good times and bad, through the hymns and contemporary songs, in response to what he has done for us and continues to do. If you find yourself judging the music while it's playing, whether it by hymn or praise song, perhaps it's not the song you should be looking at, but your heart. I lead all kinds of songs, including hymns, praise songs, repetitious songs and those with four or five verses. I get people coming up to me often saying they prefer one over the other, and I can say you will never please everyone. And that is okay. As long as I am teaching people in my church why we worship, and hopefully how to worship, it is okay if they don't like how many times we go through a chorus, because if their hearts are those of worship, it won't matter.

Please don't let music divide you, or the argument of worship be the thing you war against, because as long as the devil has the church arguing against flesh and blood, and the meter and rhythm and repetition of songs, our eyes will be off the true battle, and we will not be worshiping.

attic ladders | 09:43 pm on 3/16/2011

I found your article interesting and summarizes the situation perfectly. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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Nick Jonas | 04:28 am on 4/04/2011

Thanks for supplying such an informative post.

منتديات الرياض | 06:17 am on 4/16/2011

I remember about 25 years ago, even before the "praise and worship" choruses got so popular, being in a Christian bookstore, looking for background tapes for traditional hymns

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Maybe a Waffle House. Better yet Joe's Bar..

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