Top 100 Hymns Against Top 100 Contemporary Praise Songs

Sea Songs

Image credit: Freakland

A. W. Tozer said something in his The Knowledge of the Holy that struck me:

Some old hymn books may yet be found in which the hymns have no names; a line in italics above each one indicates its theme, and the worshipping heart cannot but rejoice in what it finds: ‘God’s glorious perfections celebrated.’ ‘Wisdom, majesty and goodness.’ ‘Omniscience.’ ‘Omnipotence and immutability.’ ‘Glory, mercy and grace.’ These are a few examples take from a hymnbook published in 1849, but everyone familiar with Christian hymnody that the stream of sacred song takes its rise far back in the early years of the Church’s existence. From the beginning of belief in the perfection of God brought sweet assurance to believing men and taught the ages to sing.

I had hunch he was on to something, namely that contemporary worship has lost focus on the character of God. So I wanted to compare the top 100 hymns of old with contemporary praise songs.

But just by the titles alone.

While any list is subjective, I grabbed the hymns from Popular Hymns site. They conducted 18 months of research behind the list. The contemporary list comes from Praise Charts and is based upon Song Select reports.

Keep in mind, at this stage of the game the purpose of this exercise is to see if there is anything to Tozer’s statement based on titles alone. The list is in alphabetical order, and I removed the artist’s names from the list. Some of the contemporary songs will be remakes of old hymns.

The 100 Most Popular Christian HymnsA Mighty Fortress Is Our GodAbide With Me

Alas And Did My Savior Bleed?

All Creatures of our God and King

All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Amazing Grace

Are You Washed in the Blood?

At Calvary

 

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Be Thou My Vision

Before The Throne of God Above

Blessed Assurance

Blest Be The Tie That Binds

 

Child of the King

Christ The Lord Is Risen Today

Cleanse Me

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Count Your Blessings

Crown Him With Many Crowns

 

Day By Day

Doxology

 

Eternal Father, Strong To Save

Face To Face

Fairest Lord Jesus

Faith is the Victory

Faith of our Fathers

Fight the Good Fight

 

God Leads His Dear Children Along

God Will Take Care Of You

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

He Hideth My Soul

He Is Coming Again

He Lives

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

Holy, Holy, Holy

How Firm A Foundation

How Great Thou Art

 

I Am Thine, O Lord

I Love To Tell The Story

I Need Thee Ev’ry Hour

I Surrender All

I’d Rather Have Jesus

I’ll Fly Away

In the Garden

In The Hour of Trial

In The Sweet By and By

It is Well

 

Jesus, Lover Of My Soul

Jesus Loves Me

Jesus Paid It All

Just As I Am

 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Lord I’m Coming Home

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Love Lifted Me

 

Moment By Moment

More Love To Thee

Morning Has Broken

My Faith Looks Up To Thee

 

Nearer My God, To Thee

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus

Now We Thank All Our God

 

O Come All Ye Faithful

O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

O Holy Night

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Worship The King

Old Time Religion

 

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior

Peace, Perfect Peace

Praise Him! Praise Him!

Precious Lord Take My Hand

 

Rescue The Perishing

Revive Us Again

Rock of Ages

 

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

Standing on the Promises

 

Take My Life and Let It Be

Take Time To Be Holy

The Old Rugged Cross

There Is A Fountain

There Is Power In The Blood

Till The Storm Passes By

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Trust And Obey

 

Victory In Jesus

 

What A Day That Will Be

What A Friend We Have in Jesus

What Child Is This?

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder

When We All Get To Heaven

Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go

Yesterday, Today, Forever

 

Top 100 CCLI Songs This PeriodAbove AllAgnus Dei

All Because Of Jesus

All Who Are Thirsty

Amazed

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

As The Deer

Awesome God

Awesome Is The Lord Most High

 

Beautiful One

Better Is One Day

Blessed Be Your Name

Breathe

 

Came To My Rescue

Come Now Is The Time To Worship

 

Days Of Elijah

Desert Song

Draw Me Close

 

Enough

Everlasting God

 

Forever Open The Eyes Of My Heart

Forever Reign

Friend Of God

From The Inside Out

 

Give Thanks

Give Us Clean Hands

Glory To God Forever

God Of This City

God Of Wonders

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

 

Hallelujah

Happy Day

He Is Exalted

He Knows My Name

Healer

Here I Am To Worship

Holy Is The Lord

Hosanna

Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)

How Can I Keep From Singing

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

How Great Is Our God

How Great Thou Art

How He Loves

Hungry

 

I Am Free

I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

I Give You My Heart

I Love You Lord

I Will Follow

I Will Rise

In Christ Alone

Indescribable

 

Jesus Messiah

Jesus Paid It All

Joy To The World (Unspeakable Joy)

 

Lead Me To The Cross

Let God Arise

Let It Rise

Lord I Lift Your Name On High

Lord Reign In Me

Love The Lord

 

Majestic

Majesty

Marvelous Light

Mighty To Save

My Redeemer Lives

My Savior My God

 

Not To Us

 

O Praise Him

Offering

Our God

Our God Saves

 

Revelation Song

 

Sanctuary

Shine Jesus Shine

Shout To The Lord

Sing Sing Sing

Sing To The King

Stronger

 

The Heart Of Worship

The Stand

Today Is The Day

Trading My Sorrows

 

Victory In Jesus

We Fall Down

 

Wonderful Merciful Savior

Worthy Is The Lamb

 

You Are God Alone (Not A God)

You Are Good

You Are Holy (Prince Of Peace)

You Are My All In All

You Are My King

You Never Let Go

Your Grace Is Enough

Your Love Never Fails

Your Name

You’re Worthy Of My Praise

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much difference between the two lists. There seems to be a far amount of consistency in themes. But BOTH popular lists are lacking strong themes that focus on the character of God.

The simple truth is probably that the songs like ‘Wisdom, majesty and goodness,’ ‘Omniscience’ and ‘Omnipotence and immutability’ are not very good.

What this list doesn’t show us is the complexity and substance of those songs. That’s for another post and another time, although I took a swing at this awhile back with my post Death Match: Mindbending Hymns vs. Mindless Anthems.

It’s an uneven match in my mind. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. says

    Demian,
    I think that in many ways, modern songs are like popcorn compared to the steak of the old hymns. Much the same could be said about much of today’s preaching in general. I have not ran across many preachers who even try to touch on the common themes preached by Edwards, Spurgeon, Mather, etc. Paul Washer is one of the modern exceptions I have found.

    Having said all that, there are some good modern worship songs. “Agnus Dei” as performed by “Third Day” is really good- but the lyrics are very simple and directly biblical.

    I cannot stand “Jesus is my boyfriend” or “Jesus is my homey” type music performed by singers who consciously seek to be blatantly sensual or world-imitating, with some oh-by-the-way nominally “Christian” lyrics as cover. My kids listen to “K-Love” at times, but I shut it off at times when that type of music comes across, which is more often than one would think.

    Anyway, you asked. ;-) There ya go!

    Justin

    • DemianFarnworth says

      While not strictly praise/worship we listen to a lot of lecrae, Trip Lee and Timothy Brindle–reformed, Christ centered hip hop, if you can imagine that. :)

    • says

      I can handle some of the newage songs,but many are not about Who God is in me and I in Him ,many are more for the unsaved young to sing yet reaching out to God and waiting for Him to save them and give them spiritual eyes and ears and a heart of understanding if they are saved they have those gifts already. .
      Its hard for a Christian to sing a song as though they are not yet saved or asking God to give them something He already gave them when they were Saved .
      Some new songs do have a good message and can sing praises to the Lord ,However none of the old Hymns are lacking a message and you are praising Him in song because you are not still waiting for Him in your life.
      I like the Old Hymns much more than the new ones .
      Most are like listening to and singing rock , maybe its sounds much like what Moses heard when he came down from the Mount with the Ten Commandments which he threw down in anger because the singing and music was not like any he had heard before, the people were pagan worshiping .
      I guess it was the first WOODSTOCK except for the drugs

    • Jonty says

      With regards to the popcorn vs steak, I suppose you can ask whether the purpose of the songs/sermons is for Christians or for people yet in relationship with God. I would rather that sermons were for people who didn’t yet know Jesus, ie: spoken in a language and a topic that connects with people who don’t yet know Jesus, and for me to feed myself the “steak” in Bible study with friends etc.

      After all, we are here to make disciples, right?

      If all we do is feed Christians the “steak”, and there is no exercise (reaching people, influencing culture, building future) then I suppose we as Christians will end up unhealthy and spiritually obese. We then are in danger of not bringing life and light into situations that desperately need it.

  2. says

    “These are the hallmarks of GOOD WORSHIP SONGS, whether they’re hymns or choruses: biblical accuracy, God-centeredness, theological and/or historical progression, absence of first-person singular pronouns, and music that complements the tone of the lyrics.” ~ Mark Dever

    “Songs composed merely to tickle the ear are unbecoming to the majesty of the Church and cannot but be most displeasing to God.” ~ John Calvin

    • says

      Don – I could not agree more with the Mark Dever quote EXCEPT the absence of first-person singular pronouns part. I feel like a lot of people use this as a knock on contemporary Christian music (CCM), however I feel it is one of the great strengths…within the correct context. The thing that is amazing about our God is that He wants to have a relationship with us. Do we ever forget that He is the omnipotent Creator, the pure and holy Redeemer, etc. ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! We must approach each time we worship with reverence and awe. However, what a wonderful expression to sing very personal praise to our very personal God. There are “meaty” and sound theological hymns and CCM just as there are lukewarm and “milky” hymns and CCM. I think the church’s responsibility is to sift out the tares and keep the wheat which is perhaps why hymns seem more substantial as a whole…because they have withstood the test of time. In a hundred years, songs like “How Great Is Our God”, “Revelation Song”, etc. should and will be viewed as hymns are today. Always remember, every hymn was at one time contemporary to the time.

  3. Matt says

    I appreciate the list! I was raised on contemporary worship music. When I went back and discovered the hymns, I was astonished by their depth and beauty. There are some good modern songs, but you have to dig for them, and the best ones usually reflect the language of hymns anyway.
    I think the biggest reason there are so many worship wars is because the American church has mostly abandoned Psalm-singing. From the dawn of the Reformation, the Reformers thought it absolutely necessary and vital to translate the Psalms into verse and meter. Churches sang Psalms for a couple hundred years, but since then we have abandoned them. Why? I can’t figure it out! There are some good Psalters out there with modernized language (Psalms for Worship, 2009). No one will have any reason to argue if the church starts reintroducing these! It is hard to argue that the theology is bad, or that the words aren’t meaningful. The Psalms have stolen my heart.

  4. Carolyn says

    Couldn’t agree more about modern worship, but I think the reason we have abandoned the old songs is not because they are irrelevant, but because aging Churches have begun to present them as if we all had one foot in the grave. Some of the most soul stirring of hymns are today sung as utter dirges with no power or joy behind them. I am 62 and I don’t like this, so I’m sure energetic young people can’t relate to them.

    Young people don’t want old age, they are not ready for it. They want the power and the joy that should come with praising such an awesome God. We should be encouraged to lift our hands and make a joyful LOUD noise to the Lord. But we don’t hear that from many Churches, and I suspect a lot of young people are looking for God in the prosperity doctrine church because that is where the music is . I think the pendulum has swung the other way – the ME generation is looking for answers in hype rather than in a sound faith, and we have taught them to do this by default. Wesley’s hymns can be mind blowing, but are mostly sung as if they were funeral fodder. My Church is now changing the beat and tempo of these hymns, modernising the lyrics slightly to replace Thees and Thous, presenting these alongside the modern songs, and the result has been great! Our Church is growing younger. Perhaps this is what we need?

    Your article was inspiring. Thanks :)

  5. Dr. Mark A. Judd says

    Your article takes a very interesting approach. When you compare modern worship music to the hymns of the past, the first think that I notice is that the hymns of the past tend to be more focused on theological teachings (generally speaking) while modern worship music tends to be more relational: A more personal expression of my relationship to God. Neither approach is “right” or “wrong”; they are just different. The more relational approach is an outgrowth of who we are as people, today, and how we express ourselves.

    I think two points need to be brought out when comparing modern worship music to Hymns.

    The first is that Christian music down through the ages has gone through cycles. There have been cycles in the past during which worship music was more simplistic in style and in message and other cycles during which worship music becomes more of a theological teaching tool. There are other cycles, as well. Those aren’t (obviously) the only two approaches. Each generation creates worship music that speaks to that generation. Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer, is said to have told his father when he was a teenager that the hymns of the church are outdated and that they don’t speak to the “modern” generation. His father told him that if he could do better, he should. And so he did, writing over 600 hymns in his lifetime.

    Today, the hymns of Watts sound much like all of the other “Old Hymns” of the church. But to the knowledgeable musician, the Hymns can be separated by the “era” they were written in and distinctive styles and themes become apparent.

    When you look at a list of hymns written by Isaac Watts, the titles and themes of them look very similar to modern worship music. He wrote many songs that are very “relational” like todays Praise and Worship music. Many of them, we don’t sing any more for two reasons: 1. After Watts death, the Church went through a period in which less relational and more theological music was preferred and so Watts’ more “theological-oriented” Hymns became “Standards” while his more relational hymns were “lost”. And 2. There is only limited room in any Hymnal and the people that compile hymnals like to put in hymns from a variety of eras and writers.

    The Second point I want to make is that when we compare a list of modern music with a list of the “great hymns” of the Church, we are comparing the popular music of one slice in time (today) with music that has been “weeded out” through the last couple of hundred years. If the Lord doesn’t return, it is doubtful that many of the songs on the CCLI top 100 list will replace many of the “great Hymns” of all time. But a few may.

    In short, my response to this comparison is this: I have heard a number of people try to minimize the value of today’s praise and worship music by comparing it to the Hymns of the past. I’m not sure that’s what you are doing here. But it is important to keep in mind that songwriters of today are trying to express themselves in a way that is both contemporary and creates a worship experience for the Church. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fall short. In any case, it is important that the “style” of Worship in the church remain relevant to today’s Churchgoers as well as those whom we wish to reach; while not compromising the message contained within the music.

    • Carolyn says

      I agree with what you say but feel you miss my point. It isn’t the message contained in the song or the era of the songwriters that concern me, simply that the way the music is sung is often irrelevant to young people. Music comes and goes and the good stuff lasts, but we can still ruin it with the wrong approach. Having said that, I also feel that some songwriters today deliberately complicate things by introducing such things as “pre-choruses,” multiple choruses and bridges etc, which is really just an effort to show off their talents rather than assist worshippers to involve themselves fully in praise. I do not like this at all. Church music should scan and flow predictably, and praise should be easy to join.

  6. P Mike says

    I was raised Southern Baptist, current church is independent. I was brought up with ancient (sacred) hymns – vs contemporary music – in church, with some praise chorus & contemporary special music mixed in church services.

    My wife & I provided “Because He Lives” as special music last Sunday at evening services; it’s actually in the hymnal, but my wife has a pretty natural country flair & I thought it might shake up the way people (I.e., I) tend to sing-through without looking at or thinking about the words. Generally I don’t sing without saying something first, and in preparing an intro I came to realize
    (1) this is a pretty new song (copyright 1971),
    (2) the author (Bill Gaither, still alive) has a large set of songs in the hymnal we are using, and
    (3) there is a backstory rooted in the time it was written (much like there is a backstory to Amazing Grace).

    Intro:

    “Praise songs are like prayers, hymns are like sermons. Mercifully short, but still sermons. Some sermons are complicated, formal, and old fashioned. I don’t think I’ve ever used the words “hother” or “ebeneezer” in casual conversation, but there is truth and power in “Amazing Grace.” It’s just that sometimes church language seems a little remote from daily life. Amazing Grace was written in a tie of slavery, and daily life changes.

    In the early 70′s the drug culture was peaking, a hit song had the “The New York Times says God is Dead,” the country was being torn apart over the war in Viet Nam, and Gloria Gaither got pregnant. Bill Gaither remembers being discouraged by the general state of the world, and they thought about what a really poor time it was to bring a child into the world.

    But Bill and Gloria Gaither have a personal philosophy that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is relevant to daily life, and the birth of their son hammered home the truth: we can face the future because Christ Jesus lives. And they are masters at writing plain English sermons into songs.”

    – Until this, I hadn’t realized “Because He Lives” was not at least 100 years old. I’m a BIG fan of contemporary, particularly the edgy stuff, but this exercise made me realize that all music is rooted in it’s own time to some degree but it will survive if it’s good music AND it has a theme that transcends the time it was written. It’s arrogant to pretend that can know what will still be around 100 years from now.

    Praise God.

  7. Tracy Esther says

    I love this list. Thanks. I love both the hymns and the new songs. I love Hillsongs. Although Hosanna Intergrity’s Praise and Worship was excellent. I enjoy all genres. I love 4Him. Gateway music is also good. His Blessings to everyone.

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