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.


Angus Dei | 05:02 am on 6/19/2008

I seem to remember something about, "vain repetitions" from the Bible.

The Ringo Kid | 06:59 pm on 6/25/2008

Yawn!!Have you ever noticed how dull and boring CCM is??
Kinda reminds me of the episode of King of the Hill:"Reborn to be Wild"!!
Bobby joins a youth group at the Methodist Church,however,the new Youth Pastor is tattooed and leads a Christian Rock Band!!
Hank tells him"You Haven't Christianity Better!!You've Only Made Rock and Roll Worse!!".

MessengerBoy | 07:08 pm on 12/13/2008

CCM is pretty boring, and the sad thing is that I'm hearing this type of musical nothingness begin to creep into mainstream music. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of mainstream music that is boring, but when boring becomes popular, I sit up and take notice. So, I don't know if CCM is boring or if contemporary music in general is getting more boring. What came first?

Bryan | 02:11 pm on 8/23/2009

I think you are just getting older

MessengerBoy | 09:33 pm on 2/05/2010

Perhaps you are right. I am getting older. :)

Alien | 09:17 am on 5/04/2010

There is only ONE truth. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged".
I believe we should be tolerant of people and allow them to worship by any means possible where ever they are in their relationship with God. We should encourage them in their relationship. We must ensure that we look for the speck (or plank) of sawdust in our own eyes before we go looking to "help" someone else see clearly.

Me? I don't care for rap music, if you would categorize it that way, but if it brings someone into the kingdom then how can I possibly be against it?

Michael B | 09:53 pm on 5/07/2010

You're right, we shouldn't be judging--people. But music? I think that's different. Excellence brings glory to God, and we should strive for it in all of our endeavors, especially our art. Maybe it brings someone into the kingdom, as you say, and we should praise God for it! But that doesn't mean it still isn't inferior music. And there is nothing wrong with being discerning towards music and art, unless there is something wrong with having any standards of excellence at all.

Alien | 08:42 am on 5/12/2010

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 someone’s 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.

RevLodedog | 06:40 pm on 7/09/2010

I appreciate your ONE truth. And agree that we can become too legalistic when it comes to worship styles. But what we do well to be cautious with, is the worship truly worship, or a means of entertainment, with God mentioned a few times?

Many avenues could and should be used for bringing someone into the kingdom, but when it comes to worship, we do well to do all we can to maintain a reverent and awe-some focus upon what the Lord is giving us. And as He gathers us, and blesses us with His means of grace, our response to Him naturally follows.

I don't think it's judging when we tell someone that they are drinking water, when they thought they were drinking gatorade. Encouragement is necessary!

Anonymous | 04:06 pm on 10/05/2010

Probably the most misused verse ever...

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

Paul makes it clear that we are to judge the church itself.

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Anonymous | 11:50 am on 7/08/2009

Obviously you haven't listened to the words!!! For the most part they are directly from scripture. I guess you find scripture booring too!!!

Anonymous | 07:04 pm on 7/13/2009

yup it sure is boring, when used out of context and inappropriately.

Repitito Esq. | 10:35 pm on 12/11/2009

The word and is in Scripture too. So is the word "just", but not just want to thank you. (raise arms and hands) I liked Kathyrn Coolman) Kuhlman is not in the Bible.

Seth | 07:01 pm on 7/15/2008

Why is it ok in our christian culture to use sarcasm with each other? When you want a genuine relationship with someone, acting like a dick usually doesn't promote that desired end result. Oh, but I bet the real reason is not relationship but to show how well read and smart you are. Is that really where your affections should lie?

pigseye | 03:47 pm on 7/21/2008

Dear seth,
Sarcasm and satire are not the same thing but they go together like soup and sandwich. Satire is deeper than slapstick stuff. Although
in my humble "French" opinion Jerry lewis was a comic genious...for the french who for the most part are dense. Regarding the music I like the songs where we can sing words like "tarry" even though I think the Holy spirit quit inspiring christian music in 1767, I like the new songs like the great german polka rendition of john 3:16 "leben habe". Check it out at

postalirv | 08:43 pm on 5/14/2009

Seth- nice job of summing it up for those of us who are sick to death of the Pharisees among us who think that "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" are only found in the Trinity Hymnal. The chief complaint is about the hated repetition. These same people, tho, get all giddy over works like the Hallelujah Chorus- beautiful, no doubt, but quite the repetitive little ditty. And, what about the creatures around the throne in Revelation? They sing the same thing over, and over, and over, and over....
And, "worship choruses" have come a long way in the last 20 years. Those who still make the tired jokes about "7/11 songs" and the like have obviously never listended to Crowder or Tomlin, and speak out of profound ignorance.

Pigseye- you don't think the Holy Spirit has inspired Christian music since 1767? You're a heretic.

Jason- to say of contemporary Pharisees, "I bet the real reason is not relationship but to show how well read and smart you are." is not sarcasm, but the cold, hard truth. As a recovering Orthodox Presbyterian, I can tell you that the desired objective of most communication by PEOPLE WHO WOULD DARE TO JUDGE THE VALIDITY OF SOMEONE ELSE'S WORSHIP is not to let people know how much you care, but to let them know how much you KNOW.

CS Lewis (Spirit form) | 10:32 pm on 12/11/2009

He there bud, you need to read some of my books.

Anonymous | 02:33 am on 4/03/2010

Please describe what you mean by a "recovering Orthodox Presbyterian?"

Anonymous | 02:40 am on 4/03/2010

Please clarify what you mean by saying you are a "recovering Orthodox Presbyterian."

Anonymous | 01:54 pm on 10/24/2008

Right on, Seth!

Kristin | 05:40 pm on 12/05/2008

oh please...

Jason | 07:57 pm on 4/14/2009

While I agree with your general comment,
"Oh, but I bet the real reason is not relationship but to show how well read and smart you are.", sounds pretty sarcastic. Is that a "fight fire with fire" kind of thing?

Anonymous | 11:40 am on 5/07/2009

You will find that through the ages the Christian was the well read and heavy thinker of his time. The reason Christianity has survived is because it out thinks the rest of the world. You demonstrate this in your poorly reasoned, and somewhat frightened, response to a piece which requires thought to understand.

monkeybrains | 06:09 pm on 4/26/2009

and do not forget, that is of utmost importance to deviate from the norm of sitting quitely, hands in laps, to sing, but to raise your hands into the air, in the quality and manner of fictitious zombies; to effectively join this contemporary christian music-movement.

A. Krauss (Yes it's me) | 10:30 pm on 12/11/2009

I miss country western! Especially deep songs like "Jesus, Drop Kick Me through the Goalposts of Life"

Jimmy Jadikavi | 06:53 pm on 6/20/2009

Well I had a whole post. but it got ereased so I guess it was not meant to be.

Christian | 12:05 pm on 7/08/2009

How many times can one say "Holy are you Lord God almighty...Worthy is the Lamb!" before it becomes vain repitition?

Anonymous | 02:06 pm on 8/04/2009

Three (3) exactly.

jude24nlt | 02:16 pm on 1/06/2011

how many times are we gonna repeat the same old arguments in this dialogue? :) peace to all on their journey.

Anonymous | 12:08 pm on 7/08/2009

How many times can one say "Holy are you Lord God almighty...Worthy is the Lamb!" before it becomes vain repitition?

Ipracticedalotfor50years | 10:27 pm on 12/11/2009

It is now about the reptiion in this case. It is about the profound quality of the music in settings by composers like Mozart, Bach, Faure, Beethoven, Brahms, Vivaldi, Saint-Saens, Haydn, Handel, and on and on and on. Judged by the test of time, nothing about CCM will be around in 50 years. Frtunately I'll be with the Lord long before then! I give you younger folks greetings to the above composers.

Anonymous | 02:37 am on 4/03/2010

The point, exactly!! Thank you for putting it in writing.

KenWells | 12:15 am on 9/30/2010

Hold on there friend... Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns. Some of them were actually good. We currently have only about 40 in the United Methodist Hymnal. I suppose that about 5960 of them may have been considered tribe by the musical "purists" who constantly berate modern CCM. (I only gve it a has a great beat but you can't dance to it.) Yet many of them helped bring the people of hs day to a saving faith n Christ. I agree that many of the current songs that are sung in contemporary worship will not last through the ages. But neither did MOST of the "great hymns" of the past. Fanny Crosby wrote what? about 5000 or was it 8000 hymns? Most of them never see the inside of a church today. Also many of Isaac Watts, and others. But there will be several of the current hymns that may become long lasting favorites in our churches long after the Holy Spirit inspires yet another revival in music and spirit in a later generation of congregatons looking to reach new groups of people for Christ.

I agree that some of the CCM songs today are tripe, "Sweet Jesus" sap. But there are also many of them that are very profound, heart-reaching and inspiring ways of communicating the gospel.

Let's not idolize one era of Christian worship at the expense of the current one. There was a day when the pipe organ was considered in many parts of the church as a demonic/worldly invasion to "holier" forms of music. I served a congregation that had actually split over this issue a hundred years ago and finally merged again when they realized that BOTH of the congregatons now had the dredded "devil instrument."

If the Spirit didn't expect the church to innovate and esperiment with new styles of music and worship, we would all still be singing the psalms to jewish folk tunes, or maybe we sould still be singing Gregorian Chant?

Peace in Christ,
A lover of many styles of Christian music, from Bach to Rock.

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Anonymous | 05:39 pm on 12/25/2009

so, the question is 'is the repitition vain?'

Isaiah speaks of angels that do nothing, night and day, but proclaim "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His Glory"
Obviously that is repitition, but vain? no.

anthony | 03:57 am on 5/24/2010

er, brethren:

1. the angels are not human, and they are before God Himself!
2. if we humans ever appear before God Himself, we'll be like Isaiah who was only able to say "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips"! if there is one thing that we would repeat, in the presence of the Holy God, it would not be "Holy Holy Holy" but "woe is me...."

Anonymous | 08:55 am on 9/23/2010

Well, sure, he might have mentioned these guys. But description is not necessarily the same thing as endorsement. Quite possibly, everyone up there finds them annoying. ("Think you could say something else for a change? I ask you, 'What time is it in Bangkok?' and you say, 'Holy, Holy, Holy.' I note that it is the Fall equinox on earth, and what do you say? You guessed it. Sheesh!")

Eyelash Glue | 04:24 pm on 12/12/2010

Matthew 6:7
American King James Version
But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

New Living Translation (©2007)
"When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.

Or, make it succinct.

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Nobody Important | 08:04 am on 6/19/2008

Personally, I would be concerned with those learning their theology from hymns, old or new ...

Charles Wesley | 11:14 am on 6/19/2008

I disagree.

Anonymous | 11:31 am on 6/19/2008

Time for a few hums of "Fount of every blessing", hey, Chuck?

Nobody Important | 07:00 pm on 6/19/2008


Do you think Wesley got his theology from hymns?

Process Deist | 07:46 pm on 6/19/2008

No. But, he wrote thousands that taught millions.

budda | 08:09 pm on 6/19/2008

True, true.

AR Andrews | 09:21 am on 6/25/2008

On this point: Rich Mullins speaks about his love for and dependence on traditional hymns for inspiration and instruction. See the book, An Arrow Pointing Toward Heaven (Broadman and Holman, 2000) that includes several of Mullins' comments on hymns. Yes, many of us are introduced to deep theological thinking through the poetics of hymns.

Nobody Important | 05:59 am on 6/20/2008

So he meant for people to learn from his hymns rather than actually reading the bible for themselves. Gotcha.

Process Deist | 09:25 am on 6/20/2008

When John Wesley was preaching out in the fields and to the coal miners, he was preaching to people who could not read. They knew the popular tavern songs and the Wesleys took those tunes and wrote the words of a Christian message to them.
You take Theology add a drinking song and make a Hymn.
A fantastic way to bring revival to illiterate people.

anthony | 04:01 am on 5/24/2010

er, Wesley's hymns are a mere reflection of his deep theology.

i wonder if we can say the same of composers of CCM. i even doubt if the CCM composers ever read the Bible book by book

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