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Intersection of Life and Faith

Worship Feature - Parker

  • 1999 8 Aug
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Worship Feature - Parker
"Worship is not a trend. It is a way of life for believers and followers of Jesus. It is not just the primary activity of believers; it is the only activity. Everything we do in response to God's great love for us is an act of worship."
--Holland Davis, Maranatha! Music




Anyone with an ear for contemporary Christian music has, no doubt, recognized the rising tide of praise and worship music that is spilling over the airwaves. Bona fide radio hits like {{Delirious}}' "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever", {{SonicFlood}}'s "I Want to Know You (In The Secret Place)", and even {{dc talk}}'s post-modern hymn of adoration, "Consume Me" reveal a hunger among Christians for music that is directed vertically, allowing them to express their worship of the Creator in increasingly more creative ways.

{{Michael W. Smith}}, one of contemporary Christian music's most popular artists, has noticed the shift and is delighted. "I'm doing stuff in concerts that I am not sure would have been well received a few years back," he says. "These kids are hungry. They want to learn how to worship. So I just use the platform and say, 'Man, I'm going to feed this.' Why not take the opportunity to lead these people in praise and worship? We start to lead them in "Step by Step" by {{Rich Mullins}} and then do "Awesome God" and thirty minutes later we're still having worship, because that's what they want to do. It's wonderful. We need to nurture it."

{{Smith}}'s love for praise and worship manifested itself in the release of ==The Exodus Project== on his own Rocketown Records label. Featuring such heavyweights as {{Jars of Clay}}, {{Third Day}}, {{dc talk}}, and {{Crystal Lewis}}, ==Exodus== quickly became a hit and led label president Don Donahue to remark that three of Rocketown's first four releases were really praise and worship albums.

While the re-birth of praise and worship music in Britain, led by worship leaders like {{Matt Redman}} and {{Dave Fellingham}}, is making headlines across the Atlantic, a new generation of "lead worshippers" like {{Darrell Evans}} and {{Lincoln Brewster}} have prompted venerable labels like Integrity to create whole new labels to support them. {{Bill Gaither}}'s "Praise Gatherings for Believers" regularly sell out arenas years in advance. And new worship gatherings both stateside and overseas, such as {{Passion}} in Texas, Stoneleigh Bible Week in England, {{Hillsongs}} in Australia, and the {{Parachute}} Extreme Festival in New Zealand draw tens of thousands of worshippers.

But praise and worship music is not a contemporary phenomenon. Before there was {{Darrell Evans}} and {{Darlene Zschech}}, there was Fanny Crosby, and John Newton, and Martin Luther, and King David, and Miriam, the sister of Moses.

"Worship is not a trend," explains Holland Davis, Director of A&R/Marketing for Maranatha! Music. "It is a way of life for believers and followers of Jesus. From a commercial music standpoint, we are seeing a great deal of worship projects emerging from performing artists, worship leaders, churches and organizations. I think the increase in products is really due to the fact that God is drawing near to His people. Whenever God draws near, new songs emerge. This is historically proven through all the great revivals of history. In fact, most of the enduring songs of the faith used by churches today were birthed out of similar times of awakening."

And Davis should know. Maranatha! Music single-handedly created the genre known as contemporary praise music more than a quarter-century ago with the release of its simple, acoustic, folk album, appropriately titled The Praise Album. As the Jesus Movement of the early seventies spread across the country, and new expressions of worship rose to the surface, new companies were birthed to give voice to a variety of styles. On millennium's eve, the three companies that dominate the genre, Maranatha! Music, Integrity Music, and Vineyard Music, have joined hands to release a series of albums under the popular "WoW" moniker.

==WoW Worship==: Today's 30 Most Powerful Worship Songs, the first in the series that plans additional releases in the years 2000 and 2001, is already on the shelves and has jumped to the top of the sales chart. The project's popularity was not unexpected. According to Scott Hughes, VP of Strategic Marketing for EMI Christian Music Group, "Every WoW release beginning with the WoW albums from 1996 through 1999, and including WoW Gospel, has achieved platinum status in less than three months following their release."

==WoW Worship== has its future in heaven," Alex MacDougall, General Manager for Vineyard Music Group, said. "We'll all be worshipping together there, so why not start down here? It is an incredible honor for all of us to work and worship together on this project."

"There is one thing that we do on earth that we will continue to do in Heaven," Michael Coleman, Integrity's president concurs. "That is to praise and worship God. That is why we view life on earth, for those who love Jesus, as choir practice for Heaven. To say that praise and worship is the most important category of music today is an understatement. In light of that, there is no more important activity of the human heart than to praise and worship God. This is the reason we exist."

Drawn from the "Top 100" list from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing Inc, an organization that licenses and tracks songs being sung and performed in more than 112,000 North American churches), and then further refined to the thirty most popular songs being used by the church, ==WoW Worship== features classic Jesus Music like "Father, I Adore You," and "Open Our Eyes," along with more contemporary gems like "Shout To The Lord" and "Refiner's Fire."

All three labels express their desire that ==WoW Worship== would primarily help bring unity to the body of Christ. But they are also excited about its potential opportunity to impact the non-Christian world.

"The WoW brand has been very effective in communicating the message that this is the best in its genre," Davis says. "We've been able to bring worship into the mainstream marketplace and create a title that retailers can really support and promote - while providing a focal point for all praise and worship titles."

Maranatha, Integrity, and Vineyard also recognize that their customers are fiercely brand-loyal. A Vineyard customer may never pick up a Maranatha release. The labels hope that as these loyal customers sample ==WoW Worship==, they will be introduced to music they may have never considered, thereby expanding the customer base of all three labels.

"It introduces the great songs of the church to a wider audience," Davis says simply.

In an age of increasing sophistication, amidst the myriad influences clamoring for our attention, there is something comforting about simple songs that reach out to someone greater than ourselves.

"I think music is one of the languages of the spirit," explains Wayne Berry, worship pastor of Nashville's Smyrna Assembly. "The first verse in the Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. He is the God of creativity, and that is the first of His attributes of which we are told. If He is the God of all creativity, then He birthed melody, and rhythm, and lyric. And He sanctioned it by his divine Spirit, and He inhabits the very praises of His people."

"Why worship?" Holland Davis asks. "It's like asking 'why breathe?' The Westminster Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Jesus said the entire teaching of the scriptures could be summed up in one sentence - Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Worship is not just the primary activity of believers; it is the only activity. Everything we do in response to God's great love for us is an act of worship. The songs that we as publishers present to the church, empower people in their love for God by giving them a language to express the deep devotion that is in their hearts. When you are deeply in love, you want to say it creatively and as often as you can. Our hope is that this project will help deepen people's relationship with God."