Where is Worship Music Going?

One of my favorite subjects to study is music history, and in my study of music history I have made a fascinating observation; music is always changing. If a new style is not created, the younger generation will revamp an old trend. I believe that this is happening today. “Trends change too quickly to give a balanced or complete overview of recent music. But it seems clear that there is a continuing tension in all types of music between finding a niche of committed listeners whose support will endure and finding a broad audience.” This is the struggle contemporary worship leaders find themselves in. I love contemporary worship music, but for it to endure, it must change and grow with the culture.

My generation is searching for a sound that they can use to make their mark on history. And with the secular world of music reverting to the trends of the sixties, young Christians will either return to a liturgical pattern of worship or create something new that they can identify with. I see this happening among my friends in rapid fashion. There is a flood of young people moving towards liturgical worship. Some have started experimenting with a more atmospheric approach to worship, while others are attempting odd fusions of both styles.

The most recent worship music, contemporary worship, is not changing very much. For that reason, I believe it will not last as the popular worship style for more than twenty years. In an article in Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer describes a third style of worship that is emerging in the church today, “Some of these churches are intentional about not being predictable or appearing to come from a traditional mold. Their band may have an electric guitar, but it might have a cello and clavichord, too . . . The music may include a mix of modern worship songs. Many older hymns will have been updated. Theological depth is expected in the songs.” There is a newer group of young people that are trying to find a sound beyond contemporary worship patterns. It is not a developed and established style yet, so this movement is often disregarded, while it grows under the radar.

Overall, there is a trend in the church towards informality that has been developing over the last couple of decades, and will likely not change. While there is a growing number of young churches that are using more hymns, this movement is fueled by a desire of authenticity, so the formality that liturgical churches have often been identified with prevents these young people from attending denominationally liturgical churches.

When Matt Papa visited our Worship Leader as Team Builder class, he mentioned the underground movement towards liturgical worship styles. He predicted that the movement would continue to grow as the millennial generation became more prominent among church leadership.

There are so many trends, and there is no telling how long each will last, but music is powerful, and it is what we have to express our hearts to God in this season in history. It is important for the worship leader and the songwriter to ponder these things, whether there is a conclusion or not, it is too important to ignore.

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