Worshiping God is not confined to any one thing, but is instead expressed in everything that the Christian does. The Christian is called to live a life of worship through faith and obedience in Christ. Worship through song has always been an element of the Christian life and is not a new concept or enigma. Though through the years it has been expressed differently and evolved into what we see today.
What is Christian Worship? Communion with and worship of God was established in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve walked with the Creator. And worship through song has always been a way to express our overflowing joy and thankfulness for God and all His wonderful deeds. Today, Christian worship music has expanded far beyond the traditional understanding most Christians have always known. Christian/Gospel music is considered one of the fastest-growing areas in recorded music history. And while no style is approved above or deemed better than another style, the most popular in today’s church is the genre of Contemporary Christian.
The History of Christian Worship
Worship from the time of Moses to the present age is almost the equivalent of comparing apples and oranges. The evolution of music and instruments through the centuries has been extensive, and today’s music looks nothing like it did in the past.
New instruments equaled new expressions of music and worship. For Moses, we find no mention of an instrument, for King David, his instrument of choice was the lyre, and today most people are not even sure what a lyre is.
So let’s go through a little bit of history and learn how we came to where we are today.
Worship Songs in the Bible
The first instance of worshiping the Lord through song is in Exodus 15; in this passage, we see Moses and the people of Israel praising the Lord for splitting the Red Sea and delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians.
Next, the longest book of the Bible–Psalms, is a book of songs and poems written to the Lord. We also see in Psalm 33:2-3 instruments and music actually being incorporated into worship songs.
King David says this, “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:2-3
Worship through song in heaven is mentioned many times in Revelation–angels are depicted as holding harps and singing new songs to God, John says he heard the sound of harps filling the heavens, and that those who overcame were given harps by God himself, and were singing the song of Moses.
These are just a few instances of worship in the Bible, but it wouldn’t take long for you to stumble upon other passages mentioning believers worshiping together in song.
Further along in history, we come to the age of hymns and in 1707, one of the greatest influences of Church music was born––Charles Wesley.
Charles Wesley wrote nearly 7,000 hymns, including the Christmas song: Hark! The Herald Angel Sings! Also at this time, John Newton in 1772 wrote one of the most famous songs in all of Western Church history: Amazing Grace.
Although hymns were being written rapidly at this time, it was a long process of change from speaking out words, or the recitation of only Psalms without music, to actually combining words, praise, and music as an act of worship. And the main advocate for this revolution was Charles Wesley and his brother, John Wesley.
In 1820, however, after many differences in opinion and going back and forth between church leaders, they finally came to an agreement and approved hymns in the church.
This brought a huge shift in church worship although the Church was still a long way off from what it has evolved into today.
So what ushered in the next worship age?
The Jesus People Movement
In the 1960s, amid the Hippy Movement, a new movement broke out in response to the hopelessness that was running rampant in America. It was called “The Jesus Movement.”
It began with Chuck Smith, an American pastor, who began preaching and evangelizing on the sunny beaches of California. A few young people converted to Christianity as a result of His preaching, but then it exploded not long after and a staggering 250,000 people came to Christ and became The Jesus Movement.
This movement brought change not only to those who were lost in the hippie age but also transformed the world of Christian music, and ushered in what we know as Contemporary Christian Music.
The Jesus People Movement did more than bring revival to the 60s and 70s, it also made a far-reaching, long-lasting, evangelistic tool to both reach the lost and to minister to believers for generations to come.
Before this revival took place, the body of Christ worshiped through hymns, organs, and what we now consider to be traditional instruments and methods. After, music outside of hymns and worship began being produced.
New instruments were introduced, and contemporary Christian music began playing on the radio.
From Harps and Organs to Electric Guitars
Even after the Hippie movement, there was some pushback from believers who thought that anyone who listened to Christian music on the radio, or music with electric guitar incorporated was sinning. But with time, people came around and began to embrace the new styles and approach to Christianity and worship.
Time continued and from the 70s to the 90s and early 2000s, there have been major differences in styles and expressions of worship and contemporary Christian music.
Christian music now ranges from pop, or rap, to punk, and the same for worship. Organs are rarely used on a Sunday morning if at all and there is much more emphasis on electric sounds.
Today, worship bands have exploded verging on the edge of pop culture. The level of excellence in production and in leading is seen in the majority of modern churches. And though churches vary in style, the element of artistic expression is evident.
The Sacred Secular Divide is Ending
The Sacred-Secular Divide is being brought to an end.
In Genesis God gave humans dominion over the earth, therefore we are called to rule over it and steward it well, this means that Christians are called to do all things well. We, however, sometimes think that remaining pure and separate from the world literally means to have nothing to do with it, and do church things only.
This is not the truth.
We have been given the whole earth, which means we are not to shy away from any area that God has called good. This means that music is and always has been ours for the taking.
The secular world has owned music for a long time, but today, the Christian world is rising up in excellence and crossing the sacred-secular divide. We are not confined to Sunday mornings anymore, but rather, every day of the week has been given to us to express worship and love for our King.
We live in an age of artistic expression and day after day believers are lifting Jesus’ name high through this era of music and media.
Here are a few examples of famous and currently popular worship bands:
- Hillson Worship/United
- Bethel Worship/Jesus Culture
- Elevation Worship
- Mosaic MSC
- Kari Jobe
- United Pursuit
Each one of these worship bands has influenced the body of Christ as well as the rest of the world.
Worship through song has always always always, been a means of transforming lives, and today, we get to watch it unfold in a massive way.
The Facts and Stats of Worship
Today, we have countless Christian and worship band tours including WinterJam, which in 2010 ranked as no. 2 worldwide in ticket sales for tours. On top of this stat, I have compiled a short list of facts and stats regarding worship/Christian music:
- Christian/Gospel music is considered one of the fastest-growing areas in recorded music history.
- Women 25-44 define the core Gospel/Christian music consumer
- Major mainstream brands such as Pepsi MidAmerica, Cracker Barrel, Allstate, NASCAR and McDonald’s, among others, have aligned with Gospel/Christian artists, releases and festivals and events to promote their brands
Worship music has progressed in intricacy and excellence, and it is exciting to be able to live in such an era as this, where people all over the world are able to share their gifts and talents in honor of God. And in turn, the body of Christ is encouraged and can press a single button and begin praising God in song.