DiM | Expanding the Concept for 2016

trebleclefIn reviewing the blog stats, feedback we’ve received throughout 2015, and the limited polling we did over the Christmas break, it was abundantly clear that we need to focus more on expanding our Discernment in Music (DiM) coverage. The problem of poor theology in music is far bigger than what we can cover in our small blog, but we can try to do more by God’s Grace. We will be expanding in two directions, first we will be looking to address Evangelical Worship Songs… songs that are being heavily marketed to church worship leaders for inclusion in their services. We’ll also be shifting our attention over to what is being purchased on iTunes, since this has become the predominant metric for music popularity and penetration.

Evangelical Worship Songs

For now, we’ll be dedicating our Thursday posts to DiM work reviewing the most popular/promoted Evangelical Worship Songs. Our primary source for song selection will be WorshipTogether.com. They have been in the business for a very long time… since I was a keyboardist in the praise and worship band of an NAR church. They are partnered with CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International), Hillsong, Passion, and Jesus Culture. What a winning collection of questionable theology we have driving the evangelical music-for-contemporary-church-worship train, eh? If you search through the page, you’ll find that this is likely a go-to site for every “contemporary worship service” leader in the country… regardless of denomination.

In doing some preliminary research for today’s post, I was worried that I would be starting completely fresh. I’m not sure why, but the fear was there. I found a top new songs for 2015 list on the website, and to my surprise, we have already covered one of the songs on the list, and at least two others I saw pop up on the top 20 charts last month. I didn’t realize churches were playing so many CCM Radio songs in their church services. Let’s look at the list from 2015:

Touch The Sky (DiM Post)
Good Good Father (DiM Post)
O Praise The Name (Anastasis) (DiM Post)
He Shall Reign Forevermore (DiM Post)
This Is Living (DiM worship edition) (DiM CCM edition)
It Is Well With My Soul (DiM Post)
One Thing (DiM Post)
Unbroken Praise (DiM Post)
Heart Like Heaven (DiM Post)
Shout Hosanna (DiM Post)

What this means for our DiM posts is that for the most part very little will change in our format for covering these songs. I will need to be more explicit in the evaluation of these songs within the context of corporate worship, so I’ll have to work out how we go about that. We will work through chart over the next week in an attempt to play a bit of “catch-up” on the new year and to work out how we might distinguish the corporate worship context to that of individual listening that has been our paradigm.

iTunes Top 100 Gospel & Christian Songs

The other area in which we’d like to expand is that of the top iTunes songs being purchased and downloaded. This is the metric that drives the industry because this connects the questionable theology to real dollars for the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) Industry. There will undoubtedly be some overlap between what is the most popular music on the radio and the most played music in “contemporary worship services”, but keeping an eye on these charts is important for understanding not only what “those who should know better” are pushing onto the public, but for seeing what the public has bought into, both literally and figuratively. This approach will also expose us to cross-musical-genre metrics that we don’t get when we track pop station lists alone. We won’t be going to iTunes directly, we’ll be using a site called popvortex for their Top 100 Gospel & Christian Songs chart. Let’s take a look at the top 40 songs on the list to see how much of it we’ve covered thus far:

1. Good Good Father – Chris Tomlin (DiM Post)
Release Date: October 2, 2015

2. The River – Jordan Feliz (DiM Post)
Release Date: October 2, 2015

3. Just Be Held – Casting Crowns (DiM Post)
Release Date: January 24, 2014

4. How Can It Be – Lauren Daigle (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 14, 2015

5. First – Lauren Daigle (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 14, 2015

6. This Is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickham
Release Date: September 24, 2013

7. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong UNITED (DiM Post)
Release Date: February 26, 2013

8. Holy Spirit – Francesca Battistelli (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 22, 2014

9. Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
Release Date: April 14, 2015

10. Same Power – Jeremy Camp (DiM Post)
Release Date: February 3, 2015

11. My Story – Big Daddy Weave (DiM Post)
Release Date: September 18, 2015

12. Alone (feat. TRU) – Hollyn (DiM Post)
Release Date: October 16, 2015

13. Flawless – MercyMe (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 8, 2014

14. Touch the Sky – Hillsong UNITED (DiM Post)
Release Date: May 26, 2015

15. Come As You Are – Crowder (DiM Post)
Release Date: May 27, 2014

16. Tell Your Heart to Beat Again – Danny Gokey
Release Date: June 23, 2014

17. Fix My Eyes – for KING & COUNTRY (DiM Post)
Release Date: September 16, 2014

18. Wanna Be Happy? – Kirk Franklin (DiM Post)
Release Date: November 13, 2015

19. He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 22, 2014

20. We Believe – Newsboys (DiM Post)
Release Date: May 27, 2014

21. Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains) – Crowder (DiM Post)
Release Date: May 27, 2014

22. Feel It (feat. Mr. Talkbox) – tobyMac (DiM Post)
Release Date: August 7, 2015

23. No Longer Slaves (Live) – Bethel Music, Jonathan David & Melissa Helser
Release Date: January 26, 2015

24. I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe
Release Date: December 31, 2000

25. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong UNITED (DiM Post)
Release Date: September 10, 2013

26. Salvation’s Tide (feat. Kristian Stanfill) – Passion
Release Date: January 1, 2016

27. Soul On Fire (feat. All Sons & Daughters) – Third Day (DiM Post)
Release Date: February 27, 2015

28. 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) [Live] – Matt Redman
Release Date: December 31, 2010

29. Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave
Release Date: April 17, 2012

30. Guilty – Newsboys
Release Date: September 25, 2015

31. Grace Wins – Matthew West (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 28, 2015

32. Live On Forever – The Afters
Release Date: August 28, 2015

33. At the Cross (Love Ran Red) – Chris Tomlin (DiM Post)
Release Date: October 27, 2014

34. Even So Come (feat. Kristian Stanfill) [Radio Version/Live] – Passion (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 28, 2015

35. Call It Grace – Unspoken
Release Date: April 1, 2014

36. It’s Not Over Yet – for KING & COUNTRY
Release Date: September 16, 2014

37. Worth (Full Version) – Anthony Brown & group therAPy (DiM Post)
Genre: Gospel

38. God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion) – Newsboys
Release Date: November 11, 2011

39. Greater – MercyMe (DiM Post)
Release Date: April 8, 2014

40. Broken Together – Casting Crowns (DiM Post)
Release Date: January 24, 2014

Conclusion

Looking back, we’ve covered a lot of ground… but as I look ahead I see there is a lot more work left to be done. It is my sincere prayer that this work will be a blessing to the Body of Christ, not in simply following our recommendations here, but in employing the methodologies demonstrated. Practicing biblical discernment in reviewing a song you already love is probably the most difficult thing to do fairly. I don’t recommend starting there. It is best to start with an unfamiliar song by an unfamiliar artist. Listen to the song, then read the words, then listen while reading the words and then open up your bible to see if what the song says falls inline with what is written in Scripture. Pray for us as we look to focus our efforts more on the DiM work here at FaithfulStewardship. As I indicated before, we’ll be posting updates as they are completed, and we’ll probably need to update the DiM Archive page and Resources page as well.

Romans 15:8-13 (ESV) | Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
    and sing to your name.”

10 And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge