This is an installment in the periodic Monday Worship Music series which looks at hymns and other topics related to worship music of the church. Here, I’m offering another of my published reviews of worship music—music that was then being released and is still “contemporary” in broad perspective. Here is the last post of this specific type, in case you want to see another. There will be one more.
This review treats three separate albums that attempted to focus on young people. At the time, I was working regularly with teenagers and enjoyed a close relationship with several of them. I don’t know that I had a good finger on the pulse of their tastes even then, and whatever I had then is mostly lost now, but I still think it’s worthwhile to aim for “Real and Natural.”
by Brian Casey
WorshipTogether’s Revival Generation
Matt Redman’s Intimacy
Hillsongs Australia’s The Plan
I was recently surprised when three spiritually minded teenagers, in unison, disparaged Rebecca St. James’s “God” album. “I just don’t like that kind of music,” one said, neglecting to define “type.”
What makes a young person gravitate toward a certain type of music? The instrumentation? The beat? What attracts a teenager to an artist? Popularity? Something even less tangible?
Many are drawn to the ministry of connecting teenagers with God:
- A shepherd becomes emotional when the topic of conversation turns to the number of teenagers that just aren’t “connecting” at church.
- When churches consider hiring a second staff minister, they often seek someone to work closely with youth.
- Nearly as many adults as teenagers turn out for an annual youth retreat at our church. They are impelled by the love of teenage hearts and are thrilled to be used by God in bringing high-impact worship experiences to the young.
Teens are predisposed to accept practically anything if it’s written and/or performed by someone near their age. Capitalizing on this phenomenon, Hillsongs Australia’s The Plan (Integrity) comprises songs “by young people for young people,” so its appeal is virtually guaranteed though some of the lyrical/musical material is immature. This album is a somewhat forced amalgam of styles and represents more of an evangelistic plea than a worship thrust. However, “Anything (for You),” “U.R.Y.” and “Fill My Heart” indeed are brimming with impassioned devotion. While I could tap into the youngish, rap energy of “Serve the Man” and the grunge praise of “God Made the World,” some of the techno-dabble found here left me wondering if a preteen was manning the effects board without guidance. But will this music attract teenagers? At least on one level, yes. But let’s go deeper….
Matt Redman, a patently gifted British worship leader in his early twenties, is a wellspring of songs that are real, well crafted, and undeniably God-focused. His latest album, Intimacy, is a worthy successor to The Friendship and the Fear. Singular pronouns—indicating intensely personal, relational worship—abound in Redman’s lyrics; “What I Have Vowed,” “Hear the Music of My Heart,” “I Am Yours,” and others are eminently believable expressions of surrendered worship … giving it all up for God. Stylistically, Intimacy incorporates everything from retro rock organ to unplugged, contemplative love song, but Redman does it all more convincingly. Frankly, I would much prefer that teens spend time with anything of Redman’s than with Hillsongs’ The Plan.
WorshipTogether’s Revival Generation, featuring large-group worship content, is a compilation of works of Redman, Deliriou5?, and others whose songs play roles in the current worship revival in England. Here is a wealth of indirect praise; leader-congregation interplay and responsorial structures are plentiful. Redman’s “There is a Louder Shout to Come” provides an anticipatory glimpse into the praise of eternity, and the Beatle-esque “Oh Our Lord and King” centers on God because of who He is. Southern rock surfaces in Stuart Townend’s“There’s a Place.” Revival Generation has almost as many high points as Redman’s Intimacy. It is even more packed with church-friendly tunes and will also appeal to both teens and young adults.
Musical style does matter—perhaps more for teens than for other age groups. But more significant in connecting with the younger generation is the R&N (Real & Natural) Quotient. If the expressions of worship are heard as “real” and are poured out in spontaneous overflow of the heart—as so many of these songs are—they are destined to connect with entire congregations as well as with youth.
– Brian Casey, November 1998