The Megachurch Music Monopoly - how hillsong bethel passion are dominating the worship landscape

Is that a click bait title? Sort of. The truth is, a recent academic study revealed that the top 35 worship songs sung in churches around the globe are directly traceable to only four church groups (Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Passion) and a handful of other artists. This means that a tiny minority of churches are shaping the worship vocabulary, theology, and liturgical methods of millions of churches around the globe. Is that a problem? It depends.

In this episode I discuss with Elias Dummer and Shannan Baker about how the Christian Music industry is directly impacting how local churches worship. If you find this episode interesting, or know someone who should hear it, please forward it on!

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Transcript

Alex |

Welcome to the worship Ministry training podcast, a monthly podcast for worship leaders who are serious about growing in their craft and calling. My name is Alex, fellow worship leader. Super stoked you’re here. If you’re a new listener, I’m going to encourage you to hit that subscribe button because every single month I’m going to give you helpful, practical guidance that you can immediately implement into your ministry. Hit that subscribe button and then go back through the past nine years of episodes and binge listen your way to a healthier ministry. If you’re someone who is really serious about growing as a worship leader, I’m going to point you to the worship Ministry training academy. What is the academy? It’s an online training platform that will give you everything you need to build a thriving worship ministry. You’ll get 10 in depth courses on topics like set building, team building, musical excellence, vocal technique, and more. You’ll get live monthly training workshops on topics that are relevant to you. You’ll get exclusive expert interviews with some of the best worship leaders in the world. You’ll get done for you ministry admin systems and audition process, onboarding documents, team training materials, and even team discipleship materials.

 

Alex |

We will take care of you so you can focus on leading your team. If that sounds like something that would be of help to you, you can try the worship Ministry training academy for just one dollar by going to worshipministry training. Com. Sign up today for your one dollar trial and I hope to see you inside of the academy. All right, let’s get into today’s episode. I’m excited to be with you guys today. I have a great conversation for you with some really smart people, Elias Dummer and… That’s ironic, isn’t it, Elias? But Elias Dummer and Shannon Baker, who are researchers from worship leader research. So I’m going to bring them on the screen and we’ll welcome them. Hello, guys. Hello. Really smart people. That’s what I said. We had a whole conversation before about our weird last names.

 

Elias Dummer |

Yeah, I spent my entire life trying to live mine down, but unsuccessful so far.

 

Alex |

Yes. And I don’t think the listeners know my last name is Enfiegedin, and it means son of the snuff maker. And snuff is tobacco that you snort up your nose to get high. So that is my legacy. But we’re breaking that in the name of Jesus. So, hello, guys. It’s good to have you. It’s great to have you on. You, Elias and Shannon, you guys led an academic research project, a pretty large scale one, studying the origin of the top worship songs that are sang in churches all over the world. And you had some interesting findings. And I want to talk about those in a second. But before we even talk about the findings, I just want to know what made you guys even want to research the origin of where our worship songs are coming from today?

 

Elias Dummer |

Yeah. Well, our project is collaborative, so I’ll share a little bit of what I know, and I’m sure Shannon will too. And there’s three other researchers who are part of this. Partly from my version of events, at least, is we’re building on some work that Mike Taper and Mark Joliker did previously, which was looking at the shelf life of worship songs, if you will. They found that worship songs had a much shorter life cycle than they did in the past in terms of their use in churches. That was a few years ago now. I was in a band called the City Harmonic and continued to work as a recording artist and got to know Mike back when he was a pastor. Mike Taper is the answer. We came together. I’m a recording artist and a worship pastor. I’ve planted a couple of churches along the way. I care a great deal about worship music and formation and what it means to the day to day life of believers. As a writer and songwriter, a lot of the people we talk about in our study are my friends. So it’s just something I care about a great deal.

 

Elias Dummer |

And I feel like we should be wanting to have important conversations about what it is versus what we might take for granted that it might be.

 

Shannan Baker |

Yeah. I mean, for me, my involvement is a little bit different. So being on the academic side, my area and topic for research is contemporary worship. That is what I research. I know some people find that interesting, like, you can research contemporary worship? Yes, I got my PhD in that topic. So I spent a lot of time looking at the songs and these contributors. I just finished my dissertation on that topic. Hopefully, we’ll have a book coming out in the next few years on the topic as well. So for me, when Mike came to me with this idea, really, he found me because of my research and then wanted to bring me on to basically help me answer, in a sense, some of these questions by being able to have conversations with like minded people. So my entry point is a little bit different, but I think all of us have the same desire to want to address and bring light to the current situation and just be a part of the conversation.

 

Alex |

Yeah, that’s great. And just to be clear, backstage, and I know my title is clickbaity, I think I wrote the megachurch monopoly of music and how a handful of churches is shaping how the rest of us worship. It’s very us in them. That’s very clickbaity, and I apologize in advance.

 

Elias Dummer |

Hey, we did it too.

 

Alex |

It’s not the heart of any of us here. The heart is not to say those big bad megachurch people… By the way, I work at a megachurch, a gigantic one. And we can just say that just because it’s big doesn’t mean it’s bad. And the people in these churches are not evil people trying to do evil things. There’s an entire history and system of how we ended up in this place that I think we need to dissect as we have this conversation. So we’re not coming at it from those people are intentionally being evil. It’s just, How did we get here? What does it mean for us? And what’s good and bad about it? And how should we be thinking, biblically and healthily about these topics? Totally. With all that said, what were the findings from this research project? You studied the top songs that we’re all singing in all of our churches. And what were your findings?

 

Shannan Baker |

Ultimately, I think it’s important to first address that we were specifically looking at the 2010’s decade. We weren’t looking at the last three years, so we were addressing the landscape of the 2010’s decade. So what we found, we created a list that ended up being 38 songs. So over 10 years, only 38 songs were on these top lists with both praise charts and CCL I song select top charts. And what we found as we were looking through it, obviously, your Big Four artists, so your Bethel Elevation, passion, and Hillsong, those four had many songs on our list. Just released on their original artist albums, they’re on the list. But as we kept going, we kept finding more and more connections from collaborations. So various songwriters from those bigger groups songwriting with some individuals, including Phil Wickham, on some of his songs and others. And that raised the number even higher. And eventually, we found that even songs that seemingly have no connection were covered or put on YouTube as a specific version by these Big Four artists. So all except two songs, Great Things and Death Was Arrested, all except those two songs have some connection to those four primary big mega churches.

 

Alex |

Okay. And so I guess I’m sorry to say it in this fashion, but someone might say, Who cares? So why is that important? Why is that finding? I’m sorry if that I didn’t mean it to sound offensive. No, it’s great. The audience listening might be saying, so what? I don’t care if the only four people are writing the top songs that we’re all singing. Not four people, but four organizations. What is the implication of those findings for either of you?

 

Elias Dummer |

So for me, I think what’s interesting is to build on what you started out with, it’s not as though I think that these four movements and organizations are some secret worship music cabal who are controlling the narrative of the church. I don’t think it’s like that. For me, I think this is true in marketing all the time. I own a marketing agency I have for 15 years. We deal with the question of decision making and social proof. I think that’s one of the main things that we worship leaders have to see about ourselves is like, hey, we’re looking to these people to some degree, and this is me talking, not our research per se, we’re looking to these groups to some degree to tell us what is and isn’t congregational on some level. Shannon talked about the fact that many of the songs that even have a different originating artist were covered meaningfully, mostly by Bethel. There’s really only one or two where it was passion. Bethel of passion, if they didn’t play your song, it wasn’t viewed as accessible enough potentially. It seems as though in every case, it happened prior to that song getting very wide acceptance.

 

Elias Dummer |

For me as a writer and as a guy whose song was in the, I don’t know, whatever it was CCLI Manifesto back in 2013, Charlie Hall played Manifesto at passion in 2013. I often wonder how much more life might that song have had if passion had included manifesto on the record. What might that have done? I think that was in my head all the way back then. To see it written out is a bit validating. It’s like, Okay, yeah, we’re seeing in black and white some of what anecdotally seemed true. But I think there’s all kinds of implications for it. Lots of questions to come. I’d love to hear what Shannon says before we dig too far into it. But what do we think about a church as a record label? What do we think about the way all of these organizations are interfacing directly with the industry in a way that is historically unique? There’s a lot of stuff happening, which I’m a participant in the industry. Again, I’m not trying to say no one should make music commercially. I don’t get to say that. But we do need to have these conversations at the very least.

 

Alex |

Shannon.

 

Shannan Baker |

The meeting is twofold. It’s purpose. As an academic, it’s really helpful to state what is happening. Nobody has really looked at contemporary worship songs in this way, particularly in the 2010s. For undergraduate students and other academics who want to write a research paper on contemporary worship, somebody has to say this in order for people to reference it and know about it. I think on the other side, for the Church and for the average congregant, I hope it makes people feel like they’re not crazy. I hope it validates some of the things that they already think. So there are a lot of people who go, yeah, there’s a lot of Bethel songs that people use. People use a lot of Elevation, passion, Hillsong gets used a lot. Man, it feels like they’re the only artists out there. Well, not the only artists, but they are the ones who are getting used the most. And to be able to have proof to support that, I hope it just allows people, if they have been feeling that way, to realize they’re not crazy. There is evidence to support that these main artists are the prominent ones that are getting used in the Church.

 

Alex |

Well, let me play devil’s advocate. I hate saying devil’s advocate on a worship podcast, but isn’t it maybe just the case that the best rises to the top, like, cream of the crop rises to the top? Is it the fact that these songs really are the most congl eationally friendly and emotionally and truthfully, hopefully truthfully engaging? It’s e as it just that that is what’s happening? Or is it that these artists just have such a big footprint that they can do whatever they want? And so therefore, there’s a big splash and everybody pays attention. And then everybody tries to copy those churches in both substance and style. For me, that’s the biggest danger is what’s happening is we look to them as the forerunners and we say, Well, we must, therefore, if we want to be as cool and successful, no one would say cool. But if we want to have as passionate worship as they do, we must copy their style. And that goes beyond just the style of the songs, but how our stages look and how honestly, this is so ridiculous. And I think every worship leader listening to this podcast would actually agree that we even copy how they dress.

 

Alex |

I’m sorry, I’m going to be a little bit hot take here, but it’s such a joke to me that everybody’s literally wearing the same clothing now. Let’s take all the vowels out of our… I’m sorry, for all the worship companies out there, you have good hearts. I’m sorry, but it’s like we’re literally just copying each other. It’s silly. Now the new thing is everybody’s wearing Beige & Khaki, and it’s a cool style. I’m just like, What is going on? But anyway, that was a rant. I’m sorry. I’m giving off myself. No, you’re great.

 

Shannan Baker |

Any thoughts here? I think it’s important to just address… You’re asking, Is it the best songs that are rising to the top? I think it’s important to acknowledge that just because a song is getting used a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good song. And not necessarily it doesn’t mean that these songs are bad by any means. Again, I’m not trying to… I don’t have an agenda. But I do think it’s important to acknowledge that these charts are just showing church use. Now, what that use means, we would need to do a survey and ask a lot of churches about that. Why are you using this song? Is it because congregants heard it on the radio and keep going, Hey, worship leader, can we do that new Phil Wick song or that new Bethel song, that new passion song. I think it’s important to acknowledge that these lists are definitely based on church use. Now, we could go into what church is it representing, but we have not looked at, are these songs good or bad?

 

Elias Dummer |

Right. Shannon has done a bunch of work on lyrical content, for example, that isn’t part of the study per se. We’re dealing with specifically the interfacing of the industry in the church. That’s our big question. In fact, that’s the funny thing about this for me is if I take a step back, I see our project as a research project about worship leaders, about local worship planners. At the end of the day, the foundation for that work required us to outline and identify who the major components to the industry are. It’s funny that it’s coming across as a report on the industry when really our first finding is an attempt to define the state of the industry so that we can then examine the worship pastor’s relationship to it. Which for me, coming from the marketing strategy and research world, and day in, day out, I’m thinking about the way that people understand their relationship to brands. In almost every vertical and every business domain, there are a few parties that are the dominant players. That’s always true. Recently, I talked about it as like, it’s always a two horse race. It’s always Coke and Pepsi and then everybody else.

 

Elias Dummer |

That’s true. I mean, it plays out that in almost every business type, people think of two brands. They can think of a maximum of 7 to 10 brands in total. Generally speaking, it makes sense that we have four that are really stand out, and then there’s a bunch of others that become more idiosyncratic. N one of that is really news. On some level, I think a lot of worship pastors are really busy and stressed and stretched thin. They have a large creative role. There’s this reality of anything which helps close the time gap and the need gap to say, There’s a thousand songs a week coming out, what do I do? Anything which helps do that, of course, worship leaders will gravitate towards. To some degree, you might take for granted that we’re using the charts that way, whether that’s Planning Center or CCL or priest charts. I think there’s a lot of good questions there. I think I come to it from the standpoint of our understanding our relationships to brands.

 

Alex |

I think I see exactly what you’re saying there. We only have so much capacity in our minds for where to search for songs. It’s like, Well, these four are always usually good and whatever good means. And so they release something, we use it. It’s funny. One of the Academy members, Elicia, wrote in light of tomorrow’s conversation about this topic we’re talking about now, What songs do you guys like in your churches that are not from these four churches? And everybody started posting in the Academy, like different artists that are not those four. And I was like, You know what? You guys should probably make a website called underratedworship songs. Com. And it’s just like, all these people that you’ve never heard of, but they’re amazing songs. Then people can have a choice. It’s easy for them to be like… So we actually did that in the academy. We created a new section where people can listen to good new worship songs, which probably half of them will be Bethel anyway.

 

Elias Dummer |

Yeah, secretly. But yeah, I think with that, too, you have to remember that, and Shannon said it, these are most used, which probably… There’s a bit of a catch 22 there. On one hand, most used probably means that people with various different, say, strains of Christian tradition might both be willing to use this song. Whereas the songs that are more specific to their theological tradition aren’t going to cross the bridge as much. It could simply be that the vast majority of these happen to cross all of the bridges safely.

 

Shannan Baker |

I would also just say, I think it’s also important when you’re thinking about why aren’t these smaller indie artists getting played, we didn’t specifically address the sound of these songs, but they do have a similar sound. When you go to multi tracks and look at all the different stems that are listed on there, there’s going to be multiple electric guitars, multiple keyboard sounds, and synthesizers, and all different kinds of loops happening for these bigger songs and from these bigger artists. So it makes me start to wonder a little bit, if your church is used to running tracks and you go from this really big elevation song that you’re playing with tracks, and then all of a sudden your church is used to that. And then you go down to a song that doesn’t have tracks. You all of a sudden are doing a Getty song or Sandra McCracken, Leslie Jordan, all these other artists that don’t have these well built out tracks. I wonder if there’s an aversion to almost creating worship with black cash.

 

Elias Dummer |

Like maintaining an esthetic.

 

Shannan Baker |

Yeah. Each church has its worship style, which if you’ve established it as sounding like elevation or passion, it’s going to seem odd, almost like a version of contemporary blended. If you go from elevation to a Getty song.

 

Elias Dummer |

Yeah, that’s good.

 

Shannan Baker |

Right. So I wonder if that’s some of the reason why some of these smaller artists aren’t getting used as much is because that esthetic has been set and established in the Church.

 

Elias Dummer |

We saw that firsthand with the city harmonic, actually. That exact thing. Because we were out of a Church unity movement, we attended different churches. We were coming out of the early 2000s, so tracks weren’t nearly as prominent. Our sound didn’t come from a worship team. Our sound came from four worship guys making a band. That meant that people often wrestled with how to implement or use our songs, even if they liked them. By then, people were starting to use tracks enough in the bigger environments that they couldn’t jump into a city harmonic song. That was a weird thing for us to deal with because it was like, Oh, we’re writing songs that are congregational, playing them like a rock band, and then people don’t know what to do. You know.

 

Alex |

What’s interesting about all this, too, as you talk about tracks, tracks being the ubiquitously adopted underpinning of every musical genre in churches. Sorry, that was a really complicated sentence. But basically, we’re all using the same tracks from the same artists, and therefore we all sound the same. And therefore, like you said, you can’t get out of that rut that you’re in because you have to maintain that style because that’s what works and that’s what your church is used to, and therefore, the tracks companies keep making more of the same tracks. No offense to the… I know, Matt, from loop community, he’s an amazing guy, but it’s just like… I don’t know. That’s where I’m asking this question, how do you get did we get here? And I don’t even know if there’s a way for us to untangle that in a one hour conversation. I feel like this is probably like another 20 years of research. I also want to say, and I do want to hear from Shannon what she thinks the potential dangers of this are. But before that, I just want to say it’s not uncommon, I would say, that in history that a couple of people are really gifted.

 

Alex |

You think about the Wesley Brothers, John Wesley, and I don’t remember his brother. I’m sorry. Charles. Charles, thank you. Good old Chuck. Yeah. Then you have Fannie Crosby, who prolific hymns writer. She wrote how many? Hundreds of thousands of hymns and we still sing them. So these guys, they would be the megachurch Monocle back then too. So it’s not necessarily that this is the first time this has happened. It’s just, I don’t know. But that’s just a sidebar comment. I’d love to ask you, though, Shannon, in terms of the dangers of having a few songwriters giving the entire worship vocabulary of the modern Church.

 

Shannan Baker |

I think that the danger is that danger. I think it’s a very strong word. I think what people miss out on are the really great songs that have been written by indie artists that maybe only a handful of churches are using that more churches don’t know about, right? That aren’t getting as much publicity. The light is not on them. They’re harder to find. I think that’s what the church misses out on by continuing to perpetuate this cycle of these four main artists that they’ve grown up with, that they’ve listened to, that they trust. But I think there are a lot of really great songwriters that are out there that are just not known. And it’s not that their songs are at the same level of publicity as these other ones. And people are going, Nope, I’m going to choose that one. It’s that these songs don’t have, often don’t have a big label behind them to get them up to that same eye level where worship leaders can really make their own decision. They’re hidden and unknown. And I think that’s the potential danger of just perpetuating the same artist.

 

Alex |

I’ll share some things that I actually think are dangerous. And then, Elias, I want you to jump in because I feel like you want to say something.

 

Elias Dummer |

I never don’t.

 

Alex |

Okay, here’s some dangers that I see. So theology, obviously, is like, if you put music in people’s minds, they carry those thoughts with them because music is a monemic device. It helps you remember things. So theology, so the Church has a certain theology and they export it to the world through their songs. That’s one potential danger. And if there’s only four voices in that export, that’s a pretty small minority of theological whatever. So another danger with having just four churches create our worship vocabulary, because worship is a training center. Corporate worship is training for private worship. What you say, what you pray, what you sing trains your congregation to take those thoughts and those concepts to their private prayer life. Okay? So if you only have four people or four organizations and not that their goal is this, I’m sure that their goal is to honor God, but their goal is also to get their songs played and picked up and all that. So then what they’re going to do is they’re going to write songs that people respond to, whether or not those are the truths that people need to be saying. So the people might want to sing about God, you’re my victory, you’re going to come through for me.

 

Alex |

They might want to sing about God, you’re doing that, but they might need to sing something else that is less popular to say. But the churches or the artists aren’t going to write those truths that the people need to sing about because that’s not what gets traction, if that makes sense. Now you have this cycle of like, we’re going to just keep popping out songs about God being our genie, and he’s going to deliver us from our enemy, whatever, fill in the blank of what enemy is. It’s my financial problem. It’s fine. It’s great. We need to cry those things out. But that seems to be the current theme that I’m seeing in every song. So what are the themes that we’re not feeding people every week because it’s not as popular to say, and it doesn’t get as big of an emotional response from the congregation. I challenge.

 

Shannan Baker |

That a little bit, though. Is it the big force fault for not providing songs, or is the burden on the worship leaders for not desiring and wanting to schedule those songs? Those songs exist out there. There’s a few even on the albums from these primary contributors. They’re just not ones in the top 25, but they’re on there. Hillsong United has a song on their empires album, I believe, literally called Even When It Hurts. Nobody has really used that song as much. It’s not even in the top 100, but it exists. I wonder how much of the burden do we place on these worship artists that at least at the songwriter level, are just trying to be faithful to their church and hoping it blesses the larger church. Is the burden on them or should the burden be on the worship leader at the local church who’s picking the songs.

 

Elias Dummer |

Building on that, I agree with Shannon. There is a bit of an attribution problem here where we want to externalize the problem. We want to say it’s them doing it to me.

 

Elias Dummer |

It might be true. I’m not That’s not to say that there aren’t people doing real business things that help consolidate their position. Of course, there are. Of course. We’re not saying that doesn’t exist. What we are saying is it’s not as though we get to say that big bad thing over there is the problem and I have no responsibility here. I think where it does get complicated for me is in what you might call the mythos of the worship industry. The reality is, and one of the findings actually in their academic work, was that since… What was it, 2016, I think? 2017, yeah. 2017. All of the songs in the top 25 since 2017 were released individually as singles, which seems on one level a little bit like a dull moment. That was my first reaction. That was our conversation because it’s like saying every hit record in the 80s was sold on tape. Big deal. But what it does speak to, and we’re starting to tease this out in some of our writing, is it does speak to the degree to which worship resourcing now takes the mechanisms of music industry for granted. The cat’s out of the bag.

 

Elias Dummer |

Even if, Alex, you want to build a very narrow playlist for your congregation, the reality is that some percentage of your congregation is listening to Kayla Liv, is listening to Spotify, and coming to you with Facebook messages and emails saying, Hey, we need to play this song by so and so because I heard it and I love it. We now live in a time where it’s a very complicated relationship between the worship pastor and the industry, which is part of what motivated our research in this. Now, in order for us to end up in something like a healthy place, I think we need to start unpacking the assumptions we bring with us. To what extent does the average American, when thinking about charts and spirituality, take for granted that the number one song is the most anointed song. We’re spiritualizing the wrong side of the problem in saying the most successful songs must be the most godly songs, as opposed to saying, A lot of people like these songs. That language of anointed gets thrown around a lot. I’ve seen it after concerts and after worship events all the time. Here’s the thing. No one ever came up to me and told me that one of my songs, which didn’t happen to be commercially successful, was anointed.

 

Alex |

Thinking of that, I want to jump in and say, just two weeks ago, the worship leader at our church came to me in between services, and he was like, You know that song, make room? They didn’t really resonate with it. I’m thinking of swapping it out for What a beautiful name. I was like, No, it’s fine. Leave it. The band’s already practiced. You got one service left or whatever. It’s not a big deal. I said, Secondly, just because they didn’t raise their hands and have this humongous epic moment, like you’re saying, most commercially successful, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to sing those truths. I will make room for you to do whatever you want to. Maybe if that’s a quiet, humble posture of reflection and they need that. Don’t just take it out of the set because they didn’t raise their hands. That’s the wrong way to gage the success of a worship song. So I completely agree with you. And I love what both of you are bringing out, which is the burden is actually on us as worship leaders to be thinking along these lines. The problem is, and this is why worship ministry training exists, most worship leaders get zero training, theological, musical leadership at all, which is why I created what I’ve created, because we just say, Here’s a guitar, you’re in charge.

 

Alex |

It’s like, what the heck? Of course, worship leaders are not equipped to think along these lines. I love that you’re putting it back on us in a loving way to say we need to do better as worship pastors, worship leaders to say, how should I be thinking about corporate worship? How should I be thinking about my church’s worship vocabulary and feeding these truths to my people and training them in a very robust, well rounded biblical worship experience?

 

Elias Dummer |

Totally. Well, I mean, Mike and Mark’s first work, which springboarded this whole project, was about the shelf life, the life cycle of worship songs. And I mean, even if you look at some of the science of learning, let’s say, we think about repetition often, but it isn’t repetition in the moment that causes us to cement concepts. It’s repetition over time. And so if we have these songs coming in and out at a rate more similar to the billboard charts, then we’re actually not repeating songs often enough and long enough that we’re learning anything at all. So the songs almost become swapped out easily for a feeling. Alex, on some level, your worship leaders reading the room correctly in that like, we are often using worship this way. Now, emotion plays a big role in learning, right? But we’re using songs to create a satisfactory feeling, and that is good. I’m not against that at all. But the content almost becomes secondary to the response and that sense of being able to manufacture that feeling. It is a tricky thing for sure. Yeah.

 

Shannan Baker |

I would also just say, and Elias, you hinted this a little bit, what our research reveals is that the Church, at least on some level, is desiring a canon. It is creating a canon of songs, a body of songs that are consistently sang over and over again. When we think about the collection that we created based on these charts that are created based on Church reporting, church use, only 38 songs. 38 songs over 10 years. Obviously, those were all released at different times throughout the decade. But if you divide 38 by 10, you’re just under four songs a year that are getting added to this list. It just speaks to the fact that the church is gravitating towards a set category of certain canon of songs that will be repeated again, again, and again. Now, it’s not to say, again, that these songs are great or not great. It’s just the songs are being perpetuated in the church and creating this Canon. At the same time, that canon does not stand for the theology of all worship done in every Church. Unless their worship leader, which I hope they’re not doing this, goes to the top 25 and just goes number 6, number 10, number 1, and number 17.

 

Shannan Baker |

I hope they’re not doing that. But for the ones who are planning a worship service and pulling from a lot of different places, the songs even that we’re looking at are often one of these songs in a mix of a bunch of other songs that have their own message and content and theology. I think it’s important that while we’re looking at this canon that’s been created, that’s helpful to see who are the major players, how are they getting there, and creates a bunch of questions there. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that those songs are often not used as a collective. Those 38 songs aren’t played together as a concert. They are selected and planned into a church service with other elements.

 

Elias Dummer |

Some of it is just math. Those which have the most critical mass are probably those with the broadest appeal. It’s also likely the case, this isn’t related to research, just thinking out loud a little bit, it’s also likely the case that when you start to get into more complex theological concepts, so say, how exactly might we approach repentance? How exactly might we approach suffering? How exactly might we approach satiriology and that thing? Well, those are going to be more idiosyncratic. Different theological traditions are going to have different approaches to that. By default, the more complex theological concepts are going to have a harder time gaining the same critical mass because different people answer those questions differently.

 

Shannan Baker |

I just also want to bring up a good point as a reminder, the 38 songs that we came up with are only the ones that were written post 2010. The top 25 songs in the 2010’s decade include songs written before 2010. We are focusing on what was the new developments is what our research is looking at. But you think about good theology or even just deep theology, songs that address theological themes and truths. In Christ alone, was.

 

Elias Dummer |

Still there. Was still on.

 

Shannan Baker |

The list. There are Getty songs that are on those lists. There are other songs that do have a lot of words because people associate theology with a lot of words. But there are a lot of those songs on there. They just weren’t a part of our study because we were looking at the new developments since 2010.

 

Alex |

And we’re coming up on about 40 minutes of conversation. I know this has been a bit for the audience. It’s been a bit more like academic in topic than some of my more practical stuff. But what I’d love to do, first of all, thank you both for your research. And second of all, I’d love for each of you to share what is the practical application of what we’ve talked about that you think worship leaders can take and apply to their ministry as they move forward with some of this knowledge in their minds. So either of you can start, and I’d love to hear from both of you, and then we’ll wrap it up and go into our Academy Q&A.

 

Shannan Baker |

Yeah, I’ll go first. I think my best piece of advice, and I think it relates in some ways almost directly to our research, I think whatever songs that you pick, be intentional. Don’t just pick a song because you saw it advertised to you on CCL I Song Select. Don’t become complacent in the call that God’s put on your life. Be intentional in the songs that you pick. If a song fits and it’s by elevation, maybe look for a song that really fits, that’s by a smaller artist that maybe you just haven’t heard that song yet. So don’t become complacent, be intentional and be faithful to where God called you. That’s great.

 

Elias Dummer |

That’s great. Yeah. I think my advice for worship leaders in general is first broadly and secondly, more specific. First broadly, remember that you and the people on the other side of that line in the sand, the congregants are human beings with bodies and brains and hearts and complex experiences. I think we too rarely approach worship with that in mind. I think we have expectations that are based on assumptions very often. I think this is no exception. I would say if the temptation is to go the easy way, in other words, they already know these songs. And look, I understand that. They already know these songs. It’s going to be easier to teach them. They’re hearing them on the radio. Two things I would say to that. One, at least in the States, only one in five Christians in the Pew listens to Christian music other than on a Sunday morning. One in five. And so the vast majority of people, the only experience they have of worship music are the songs you play for them. Play those songs on purpose, think about them a lot, and be willing. Now, I’ll say this, the tension between worship pastor and senior pastor is very real sometimes on this topic.

 

Elias Dummer |

The idea of boredom, the idea of so called complacency, the role of repetition of songs, getting like, oh, that song stale now, we need a new song. The reality is that’s a tough thing to work out because my practical advice would be play fewer songs more often, help your people really get to know what you’re playing. I mean, you look at the thing in Asbury earlier this year, they played many of these songs. They played songs people could sing without projection. So if we’re not playing our songs until we don’t need the screen, then we’re not teaching people much of anything.

 

Shannan Baker |

So we.

 

Elias Dummer |

Should be playing these songs until they really, really know them. That’s great.

 

Alex |

Yeah, thank you guys. My advice is somebody needs to start underrated worship songs. Com and put all of the great songs we’ve never heard of group by theme, and I’ll promote your website for you. Thank you so much. So for the listeners who are interested in what you’re doing, worship leader research. Com is one place. And then is it elias dumber music.

 

Elias Dummer |

Com? Eliasdumber. Com. And I’m always sharing stuff on Instagram as well.

 

Alex |

Great. So I’ll put links in the show notes for all of that. Thank you guys so much for your time and for the listeners who are listening or watching After the fact, thanks for tuning in. And if you’d like to join us inside of the academy, we would love to have you. You can try it for just $1 at worshipministry training. Com. For the Academy members, we’re going to jump into our live Q&A, so just hold tight for one second. God bless the rest of you. See you next month. Thanks for tuning in today. I hope this episode encouraged you, helped you, and pushed you forward in your ministry. If it helped you, can you take a second and help us by sending it to just one person that you think needs to hear this? And if you’re feeling extra nice, leave us a nice, shiny, five star review on Apple podcast or like this video if you’re watching it on YouTube. If you want to discuss this episode or ask questions, we do have a free section in our academy where you can post comments and questions and chat with other worship leaders just like you, and also sample some of our courses.

 

Alex |

And you can go to worshipministrytraining. Com free to join us inside the free portion of the academy. If you’re looking for more, check out the Full Access Academy. You can get 15 days for just one dollar to start and try things out. Again, you can try all of it for 15 days for just one dollar by going to worshipministry training. Com. Hope to see you inside the academy, or else I’ll see you next month for another helpful episode.