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The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons

T. David Gordon gives eight reasons he thinks contemporary worship music will die away very soon. Not that it should die away (even though yes, it should), but that it will die away by virtue of its very nature.

Here are his reasons:

1. CWM hymns not only were/are comparatively poor; they had to be.

2. Early on in the CWM movement, many groups began setting traditional hymn-lyrics to contemporary melodies and/or instrumentation. 

3. As a result, the better contemporary hymns (e.g. “How Deep the Father’s Love,” “In Christ Alone”) have been over-used to the point that we have become weary of them. 

4. It is no longer a competitive advantage to have part or all of a service in a contemporary idiom; probably well over half the churches now do so, so we have reached what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “Tipping Point.” 

5. As with all novelties, once the novelty wears off, what is left often seems somewhat empty.

6. Thankfully, my own generation is beginning to die. While ostensibly created “for the young people,” the driving force behind CWM was always my own Sixties generation of anti-adult, anti-establishment, rebellious Woodstockers and Jesus freaks.

7. CWM is ordinarily accompanied by Praise Teams, and these have frequently (but by no means always) been problematic

8. We cannot evade or avoid the “holy catholic church” of the Apostles’ Creed forever.

Read the full explanation of his reasons here:

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

7 Responses to The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons

  1. Can it not be said that “CWM” (Contemporary Worship Music) has flourished? Nay, not just flourished, but perhaps ordained and favored by God Almighty? May I submit to you that if there is criticism against “CWM”, that we should consider Proverbs 15:22.

    Proverbs 15:22 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
    But with many counselors they succeed [or are established].

    I submit to you this: Can we not acknowledge that “CWM” has flourished and because of the counsel of the many counselors? Is there a pointing of fingers towards “CWM”, even in the consensus of so many growing, thriving, prospering, popular Christian Churches? Don’t those churches enjoy accountability of top men and women of God? Whether groups overseeing a Church’s music are made up of Godly men (as well as Godly women, e.g. in women’s worship groups), why are fingers pointed at them even in the midst of their strong accountability? Again, Proverbs 15:22.

  2. Todd,

    Can we not acknowledge that, under the kings of Israel and their many counselors, syncretism with Baal worship in high places grew, thrived, and prospered?

    You appeal to the authority of “top men and women of God” as a justification of the status quo. That’s interesting.

    I think the average Israelite whose king was telling him to worship Yahweh by means of the calf at Bethel was functioning with a “top men” authority structure as well.

  3. Ungodly acts of a king? The king was only one person, and didn’t have the authority of a prophet. When King Solomon didn’t didn’t follow the advice (counsel) of a godly prophet, his plans failed.

    Principles of Conscience: NASB: Romans 14

    14 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
    2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
    3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.
    4 Who are you to judge the [a]servant of another? To his own [b]master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    5 One person [c]regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
    6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, [d]does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
    7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself;
    8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
    9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

    10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
    11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall [e]give praise to God.”
    12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
    13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
    14 I know and am convinced [f]in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
    15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
    16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be [g]spoken of as evil;
    17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then [h]we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats [i]and gives offense.
    21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
    22 The faith which you have, have [j]as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
    23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

  4. I mentioned the kings of Israel and you hemorrhaged Paul, as though waving your Christian Liberty license makes the rest of the Bible go away.

    I understand that the history of Israel might not speak to your heart, but they are part of the Christian framework. It would do you good to interact with it.

  5. Thanks for your posts. I apologize. I don’t know much Old Testament history. And you’re right, I may have misinterpreted the above verses, including Proverbs 15:22. Todd

  6. Thanks for your posts. I apologize. I don’t know much Old Testament history. And you’re right, I may have misinterpreted the above verses, including Proverbs 15:22. – Todd.

  7. Todd,

    No hard feelings. I was saved in the charismatic movement, so there was definitely a time when I would have been really upset at Dr. Gordon’s article. It’s been a long journey for me, and very painful at times to admit that I was blind to my own idolatry.

    That’s why I find Israel during the days of the Kings to be such a compelling parallel: I don’t think that the average Israelite thought he was being a traitor when he went up to the high places and offered sacrifices to Baal, Yahweh, and whoever else may have been listening. It’s not quite the same thing today, but a whole lot of American Dream has weaseled its way into the worship of the church, and that’s flat out idolatrous.

    I am encouraged that you’re stopping by to read and interact with these articles.

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