What is “Traditional Worship Music?”


A recipe for frustration is when a church puts a young worship leader in charge of their “traditional service.”  The traditionalist worshippers get frustrated with the song selection and the worship leader gets frustrated because even when they pick 50 year old hymns the people still aren’t happy. The young worship leader feels like they are playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey randomly picking “old songs” and constantly sticking their donkey’s tail on the wall missing the secret list the traditional worshippers keep in the back of their memories.


Maybe sll this frustration is because each of our lists of “traditional” music is different?  Perhaps we developed our “favorites” list based on varied experiences in different denominations, different parts of the nation. Isn’t “traditional music” different for a someone in their 70’s from someone in their 60’s… or fro a Baptist from Maine and a Wesleyan from Iowa? Maybe there can be no such thing as a “traditional service?” 


Or are these lists strikingly similar? What if you made a “play list” of the 30 worship songs that mean the most to you? What would you include? Sharon and I recently took a day and did exactly that.  We  30 songs that we consider our own personal “traditional music” list. 


We were surprised at some of the songs we included and others we left off. For instance we included almost no gospel songs from our teen and college years. We remember these songs clearly and can sing every verse—but we don’t cherish them. Many of the songs came from the worship of our late 20’s through 40’s. However we also listed a few more “recent” songs like “We have come into His house.”  In making our list we noticed that many were adoration songs which was interesting to us. We also noted that we recalled particular solos or even choir numbers associated with some songs—particularly a song sung were we felt “God move” in the service and we still associated that experience with that particular song.  IN some cases we just didn’t know why we cherished the song—we just did.


What I’m wondering this week: is it even possible to have a “traditional worship service?”  How does a younger worship leader even find out what “traditional worship music” of a congregation is?  If everyone in a church made lists like we did, how many of the songs would even overlap?  Would they be similar or would they be totally different?  Would any of the “Traditional songs” on my list be on the list of someone in their 40’s or 20’s? We can easily agree on what is “contemporary music”—it is the latest music nobody knows yet. But, what is “Traditional worship music?”  Whose list of songs would we use?


Sharon and Keith’s personal list of “Traditional worship music”

  1. A mighty fortress is our God
  2. All hail the power of Jesus name
  3. Amazing grace
  4. Be exalted
  5. Be Thou my vision
  6. Because He lives
  7. Blessed assurance
  8. Change my heart O God
  9. Come Thou fount of every blessing
  10. Fairest Lord Jesus
  11. Father I adore You
  12. Great is Thy faithfulness
  13. He lives
  14. Holy, Holy, Holy
  15. How great Thou art
  16. I surrender all
  17. In moments like these
  18. It is well with my soul
  19. Joyful, joyful we adore Thee
  20. Just as I am
  21. O for a thousand tongues
  22. O God our help in ages past
  23. Rock of ages
  24. Take my life and let it be
  25. The church’s one foundation
  26. The solid rock
  27. To God be the glory
  28. Turn your eyes upon Jesus
  29. We have come into His house
  30. When I survey the wondrous cross



So, what do you think?

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Keith Drury   September 28, 2010