The Ten Most Worn Out Songs in the Church

June 27, 2004
VOL. 16

Hello, beloved musicians.  This list came to me when I was driving home from Pottsville a couple weekends ago.  Right after I got the list, I wrote a new song, and since then Iíve been researching the songs and the musicians and waiting for the opportunity to send this message.  As time goes by I meet more and more men and women and kids that are writing songs, of whom perhaps one or two in a hundred has ample opportunity to share their songs in church. The vast majority however are doomed to play at least five of these worn out songs at least ten times each, if they are part of the churchís worship team, before their next opportunity to share one of their own tunes on Sunday.  Some have home groups where they have a lot more freedom to share their own gifts.  That last statement seems sad to me.  How about you?  Now for the musicians who donít belong to the worship team, church offers to throw you a bone every two to six months.  You can play one of your own songs during the offertory.

Yeah, I know the bible says over and over again to sing a new song to the Lord, but with all these songs copyrighted somewhere between 1760 and 1999, the good book doesnít explain when youíre supposed to do that.  I know I Corinthians 14:26 says when we come together everyone has a new song, among other things, and that all things should be done to edify.  Why do we have the same 5% sharing the same "gifts" week after week with the 95% who comprise "the congregation"??????   It isnít what God had in mind.

Before I share this list, you may want to take a refreshment break, and write down the songs that you think the church has played into the ground, the ones that make your eyes roll every time you hear them.  The ones you canít sing without your mind wandering all over the room. 

Back in 1997 (this is my last delay) Jo and I visited a church in Schuylkill County when I was midway thourgh a year in which God gave me over fifty songs.  The pastor had asked me to lead worship and I had seven songs, all original, with overheads for each, as well as a keyboard player and drummer who had practiced the songs with me.  (The music cooked, baby!!!)  After arriving about an hour early for prayer, the pastor asked me which songs I Ďd be sharing, and when I showed him he said, "You need to do some songs the people know.  Play that many songs they donít know, and youíll lose them."  (Did he put a curse on me?)  Being the obedient, submitted, subservient doormat that I thought God wanted me to be, I asked him what songs he wanted me to play.  He said I should first play "I Went to the Enemyís Camp" followed by "Can You Believe What the Lord Has Done for Me?" and then "Look What the Lord Has Done," and then I could do two of my own songs.  This was a Foursquare Church, and back in Ď97, the Brownsville Revival was very hot, and lots of churches were doing the songs that Lindell Cooley, the Brownsville Assembly of God worship leader, played night after night.  Only a year and a half removed from Sunday morning worship teams, I knew all the songs, and so did my mates, so we did those songs, and the people got up and started clapping and stomping their feet and everyone seemed to be "into it."  Then we taught the people a couple of my songs, and to my point of view God showed up at that point.  My wife shared a message of encouragement and many people came forward to have her and the pastor pray for them.  Joe on the keyboards and Kenny on the drums and I played a few of our other original tunes while the prayer ministry went on, and it was a good meeting.

However, playing other peopleís music into the ground wasnít really necessary.  Iíve been playing original songs almost exclusively for the last five years, and I havenít "lost the people" yet.  Of course, theyíre not mine to lose.

Are you ready for the countdown?  One of my musical friends who is awesomely gifted both as a songwriter and musician opened a weekend music festival with one of these songs, and when I told her it was in my top ten, she smiled and confessed to me, "I just thought I was supposed to give them something they know, sort of to get them interested."  Believe me, when she played her own tunes they were plenty interested!

10.  Come, Now Is the Time to Worship
This song has a sweet sound and is easy to play.  Sounds best when sung by women.  It was written by Brian Doerksen, who is Canadian.  He married a woman named Joyce Doerksen, no relation.  They have six children.  He went from assistant worship leader at home group to home group worship leader in two weeks, and then became Sunday worship leader so the Vineyard churchís worship leader could go to other Vineyard churches and train other worship leaders.  Many of the churchís most worn out songs come from the profusion of albums of songs by Vineyard worship leaders.  They are wonderful songs by wonderful people, but there is no doubt in my mind God wants our local churches to write their own songs.

9. Amazing Grace
The only hymn on the list.  Back in the eighties, all the churches played ĎThis Is the Dayí followed by ĎI Will Enter His Gatesí and then ĎIím So Glad, Jesus Set Me Free.í  What happened through the Vineyard churches during the nineties was of God, to bring new songs to the church, but not simply to replace the previously worn out songs, but to start a new era of songwriting.  Instead it became record selling, with the new songs having so much appeal and many pastors hoping if they sang the songs that the churches in revival sang, revival would come to their church, denying God the pleasure of giving the local churches their very own new songs.  Amazing grace was written by a slave trader named John Newton who saw the light one day.  I always thought he saw that slave trading was bad, he got saved, and he quit.  What actually happened was at age 22 he was sailing back from Africa with a cargo of slaves.  A big storm hit and almost wiped them out.  He cried out to the Lord, "Have mercy on us!" and they made it through the storm.  After that he considered himself to be saved.  He didnít give up slave trading, but did it for ten more years.  He stopped beating slaves in passage because he thought that was inhumane.  He only left the slave trade when he got very sick.  Then he went to school to be a minister, and somewhere between ages 35 and 45 he wrote ĎAmazing Graceí and over 200 other songs of which Iím sure neither you nor I know any of them.  Itís an okay song, but not really that special.  He sang that he was blind but now he sees, and stayed in the slave business for ten years.  Go figure.

8. Heart of Worship
A wonderful message and a good tune, and simple to play.  By Matt Redman.  After this song, and a few others, Matt has become one of the churchís experts on contemporary worship, writing scores of articles.
The chorus sings, "Iím coming back to the heart of worship/ And itís all about You/ Itís all about you Jesus/ Iím sorry Lord for the thing Iíve made it/ When itís all about You/ Itís all about You"
Maybe weíre all sorry for the thing weíve made it, but what weíve made it is a few elite people singing a few elite songs week after week, while anyone who is writing new songs that might really bless the people on Sunday has to pass through a series of filters and screens in order to share one song every two to six months for the offertory.  Can you say, "With a nick knack, paddy whack, give the dog a bone!?"   

7. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever
Hereís a song by Martin Smith, the lead singer for Deliriou5!  What a great chorus!  Itís probably on a par musically with: Iím gonna trust the Lord/ Iím gonna trust the Lord/ Iím gonna trust the Lord/ Iím gonna trust the Lord/ Iím gonna trust the Lord/ I will be faithful to Him!  I wrote that one in Ď98.  Martinís song goes back to Ď94.  Nice song, but I got tired of hearing it in church about five years ago.  Itís like the worship team appoints a leader, and they get together Tuesday night at 7:00.  Everyone gets a songbook with words and chords to about fifty songs, including all the songs on this list and about forty others that make up the other forty in just about every worship leaders song book.  The worship leaders that write new songs are discouraged from playing them, so they certainly wonít champion someone else who is not on the worship team playing new songs in the church on Sunday.  Misery loves company.  Creativity seeks opportunity, and finds it outside the controlled environment of the church worship team!!!!!

6. As the Deer
I met Marty Nystrom, and he is a very nice man.  I felt all kinds of love for him when I attended a worship seminar back in 1998.  Since he was so important, I didnít think heíd be very interested in the hundred or so songs I had written in the past year and a half, so I didnít tell him about me.  Please donít get all bent out of shape, but I honestly think this song doesnít measure up to the others musically.  Hereís why.  The song suffers from a confused identity.  Psalm 42:1 says, As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee.  Well, since no one these days knows a hart is an animal (we think it has eyes that need to be opened), Olí Marty rewrote the line, As the deer panteth for the water.  And since my soul panteth after thee makes us sound like dogs, he re-wrote it, My soul longeth after thee.  Then he slipped right out of the KJV vernacular and said, You alone are my heartís desire and I long to worship You.  Oops, Iím sorry, itís and I long to worship thee.   It would have made sense with, Thou alone art mine heartís desire and I long to worship thee, but Marty gave us a mix of KJV, NIV, and NASB.  The second part goes strictly with "You" but ends with "Thee".  Singing that song so many times through the eighties and nineties made me crazy.  One day, walking out of church, I swear I heard a seven-year-old singing, "As the deer panteth for the water, so the truck runneth over it."

5.  Trading My Sorrows
I blame myself for teaching this song to the worship leader at the church I attended in the late nineties.  It was new then, and someone brought it to me because they said when they heard it, it sounded like a Dave Benrexi song.  My magnificent wife insisted I learn to play it and teach it to the worship leader, and reluctantly I did.  About a year later, Darrell Evans came to our church, and we had about twice as many people as usual, or more, mostly younger, and before long everyone was going "Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, yes, Lord/ Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, yes, Lord".  It really is a good lyric, and life is about saying yes to the Lord.  But we as a church keep saying no to I Corinthians 14:26.  You could look it up.  Iím not making this stuff up!  One other beef.  Iím seeing a lot more sickness and pain when I go to church, and not that much joy.  How are you? I ask.  Oh, not too bad, they tell me.  Another good song, even a great
song, thatís been sung into the ground, and has lost its impact completely, because itís not a new song.  Itís old and worn out.  It needs a long rest.

4.   Breathe
I think most people think this oneís called ĎIím Desperate for Youí.  The writer is the least known on this list.  Marie Barnett wrote this in 1995.  It started getting worn out around four years later.  It seems like it starts with sixteen year old girls on the youth praise team, and then moves up to Sunday morning.  The overhead goes up and the people sing, ĎIím desperate for You/ Iím lost without You,í only theyíre seldom desperate at all.  Mostly, itís more like, ĎIím comfy with You/ Ho-humfy with Youí.  Please, I would love to meet someone whoís really desperate for God.  One of my songwriter friends wrote a song called ĎDesperate for Jesusí.  His name is Paul Blackham, and he was and is true to the song.  If you send me an e-mail requesting the lyrics, Iíll forward it to Paul, and heíll send you the lyrics.  He might even send you the cd by the same name that you probably never heard of.  Paulís been writing great songs for years.  His church was one of the few churches that encouraged him to share his own songs, and Iíve seen how powerfully God moves when we let those new songs loose.  Oh, yeah, Paulís going to be at the New Kensington Inspirational Music Festival again this year, on July 24, at Memorial Park.  Heís scheduled for 3:00.

3.  Open the Eyes of My Heart
Written in 1997, by Paul Baloche.  Paulís one of the Hosanna/Integrity superstars, and this is a fairly good song, but mostly sung over and over because of the biblical concept of eyes of our heart.  The actual scripture is, eyes of your understanding (Ephesians 1:18) both in KJV and NKJV, but a note underneath gives  heart as an alternate translation.  I donít really "get" the song, since what results from having the eyes of our understanding (hearts opened) is to know the hope of His calling, and the riches of our inheritance.  Jesus says the pure in heart will see God.  (Matthew 5:8).  I suppose, we need to have our heartís eyes opened so we can see what purity is?  Naahhhhh!!!!!  Anyway, we grab onto what sounds like a bible concept and we sing it into the ground and we start to insert it in our prayers, if weíre not still praying the prayer of Jabez.  You know, like, "Dear Lord, open the eyes of Jackís understanding, because He wants to see you.  Expand His borders and donít let any harm come to him.  Amen."

2.  Lord I Lift Your Name on High
Rick Founds is a worship leader at a Calvary Chapel in California.  This denomination started by Chuck Smith around 1970 has been a good place for musicians to go and become worship leaders and eventually get their songs recorded and sold.  The Vineyard churches came later, and John Wimber who was the bass player for the Righteous Brothers before he got saved birthed a lot of musical ministries as well.  Rick wrote over 500 songs, but does anyone here know any others?  Rick is really thrilled that his song has reached so many people.  According to his web-site, between twenty and thirty million people sing his song on Sunday morning every week.  This one got worn out  almost ten years ago.  When the line is sung, "You came from heaven to earth/ to show the way/ from the earth to the cross/ My debt to pay" I hear it like this:
"You came from heaven to earth/ To show the way/ From the earth to the cross/ My dead toupee..."
A lot of my friends call it the dead toupee song, now.  Jack Helser calls it ĎLord I Lift Your Mane on Highí.  Honestly, I donít believe for one minute that these songs are preferred by God, and He wants us to do them at practically every church week after week.  I know lots of songs that God loves that never get sung at churches because the pastor thinks heíll "lose the people."  Just remember, "I once was lost (singing old worn-out songs) but now Iím found (obeying God and singing new songs) Was blind (thinking these were what God wanted to hear and He couldnít get enough of these songs), but now I see (that the songs He puts in the hearts of people that love Him have power and express His heart)."

And now the moment youíve all been waiting for except those who got mad or hungry and decided to tell me off or took a walk to the refrigerator.  The number one, most overused, worn out, tired song in the church is......

Darlene Zshech is a gorgeous woman with a strange last name.  She wrote a great song back in 1993.  She is part of a huge church with tons of money and lots of talented musicians that makes terrific records, that sell like crazy.  Especially because people donít know the songs that are right in the hearts of their own people, since the church doesnít want the people to share them, mostly.   The first time I listened to a ĎHillsongsí cd, I played it about five or six times in a couple of days.  Fortunately, that was seven years ago, and Iíve moved on.  What happens when we trot out all these old, tired songs, is that the new songs God wants to bring into the churches are waiting outside, crying, "When, when, Lord?  When will Your people give up this idolatry?  When will they really be desperate for You?  When will they let every breath and all that they are never cease to worship You? When will I be able to bring this song youíve given me to Your people?"

God hears the cries of His songs that are being despised, and they will accomplish what He sent them forth to do, as sure as Iím in love with my wife.  Donít ever be discouraged brother and sister musicians.
Sing a new song to the Lord.  Keep on drinking that living water/ Keep on drinking that new wine/ Keep on feasting/ On His goodness/ Keep on rejoicing/ Redeem the time!!!!!!

There are a lot of great new songs on the internet.  Some of my favorites you can hear on-line are:
Janet Murphy
Charlene Shoemaker
Jack Helser   www.LordYouAre

Iíll close with a song, that might well be a big hit in the churches in a parallel universe.  It is a big hit with God, and thatís what matters to me!!!

Some times when no oneís watching/ I like to slip away/ To a private table/ Where we meet every day/ We share our conversation/ Under a banner of love/ I find my consolation/ As You woo me with Your love/ You woo me with Your love/ You woo me with Your love

Sometimes I feel like dancing/ To the music You play/ It leads me into Your presence/ Where You ask me to stay/ Weíre getting so much closer/ your love is so divine/ Iíve got to shout about it/ That You are really mine/ You are really mine/ You are really mine

You are invited to listen at :

Your thoughts, comments, and peculiarities are always appreciated.  Did I miss some songs here?  Let me know which songs cause you to roll your eyes or re-write the lyrics.

Remember, God made us musicians.  Weíre not normal.  Weíre special.

The musicianís confession:

I'm a musician.
I'm God's musician.
God made me a musician.
I'm glad, God made me a musician.
I thank God for making me a musician.
I love God.
God loves me.
And I'm gonna play my music for God.

--David Benrexi

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