Stop Listening for New Worship Songs on the Radio


Many worship leaders look to their car-stereo presets for new worship songs. If you’re listening to Christian radio in search of new congregational music, we think you should look elsewhere. Here are three reasons why:

1. Radio rewards new over good

24/7 programming has an insatiable appetite. It must be fed continually with new content or it quickly gets tired and worn. “10,000 Reasons” might be the most loved worship song of the last 10 years, but it’s been played out on Christian radio. Great music gets pushed aside by new music, and church worship needs what’s great.

2. Radio demands positivity

Since the vast majority of radio listeners tune in during their commute, DJs play all the most cheerful songs. Nobody wants to hear a dramatic ballad on the way to work in the morning, and certainly not as they return home at the end of the day. The tagline of one popular national radio station remains, “positive, encouraging.” There’s nothing wrong with positive music unless it creates a reality vacuum. Not all of life is rainbows and unicorns. Many people look to the church for validation of the pain they feel. Worship sets loaded exclusively with positive songs do not mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Our worship needs to acknowledge injustice and offer hope. It must never paint over reality.

3. Radio loves a big lift

A recent article in Worship Leader Magazine points out that a successful radio single follows a predictable formula—catchy, up-tempo hook swelling at the bridge often through a key change. It’s uplifting, even transcendent when executed well.

The result? Worship leaders with better-than-average singing voices select songs that everybody knows from the radio, but only they can sing well, making the rest of us spectators to someone else’s worship experience. Worship is not meant to be observed. It’s meant to be practiced.

Other than the radio, where do you discover new worship music? Tell us in comments.


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  1. James Bush Jr says

    Awesome! As a songwriter you have touch my very core with these comments. It's time for "real songs" for real folks!

  2. Mike Binks says

    Now I have turned the radio off it is awfully quiet. Can't wait for the followup telling me where to go to listen!

  3. says

    I'm constantly asking my worship leader friends what's working well in the context of their congregations, and purchase a smattering of music each month to check out their suggestions along with the latest albums from Hillsong, Bethel/Jesus Culture, Elevation, Gateway, Deluge, Planetshakers, Israel Houghton, Passion, Kari Jobe, and Generation Unleashed as they are released (via iTunes & eMusic).

    Since I'm in an international setting, we use songs in multiple languages, and rely on the members of our worship community to bring songs they've written or heard that fit our emphasis in worship.

    Overall, I'm not as concerned with how popular a song already is with our congregation as much as whether the song fits doctrinally, fills a gap either in theme, tempo, or style, and whether our diverse congregation will have it playing on their hearts as they walk/drive home.

  4. Mary Nash says

    Not ALL Christian radio stations do just upbeat songs. K-LOVE in particular does a lot of "when you fear that all is lost – here's what to hold on to" songs. I do agree with the fact that some songs can't be done well by the assembly – but that's what a good music driector is for – to recognize what music is workable and what isn't. I say – listen to those stations for inspiration and then do a reality check. Also many of those "hard to sing" songs have a simple refrain that can become the assembly's song – long after the Mass is over. Consider them too.

  5. says

    As a Producer for a Christian show that airs worldwide – I have the opportunity to hear songs first…and more importantly, the heart of the artists who do them. I am also heavily involved in worship at my local church. There is room for both. Lest we forget…"10,000 Reasons" was a HUGE radio hit first, and will probably be top song for 2013 and it is equally as huge in worship settings too. There are a lot of worship leaders who have songs charting the last few years. This year in particular is a big year. Yes radio moves faster, it has to – but honestly, have you looked at the top CCLI chart lately? Not much change at all. IMO – churches should be on the hunt for new music too (maybe not at the same rate as radio, but at least some forward motion). The point being – new songs are written all the time…are we looking for them? Nothing in the play book says our teams have to sound like the record either. Find what works for the congregation – follow those artists closely – and if you have it in you to write your own songs, by all means take the time to write. You might have the next song that will have huge impact.

  6. Mike Lee says

    True, but sometimes there are too many new songs for a congregation to avoid feeling the music is predominantly unfamiliar.

  7. says

    Mike Lee – So true. As I mentioned…not at the same pace as radio. Introduce no more than one new song at a time, and really assess whether or not it's a fit. Don't want to imply the same method that radio uses is appropriate for church…my bigger point was forward movement toward new things.

  8. says

    Mike Lee – to add to your point (and those who know radio), majority wants to sing songs they know. How many times do we need to sing a new song when we only go to church on a weekly/twice weekly basis? Sing the hits!

  9. says

    The only thing I'd add here, is assessing whether the music meets the needs of the congregation. Asking the worship leaders (are the other leaders in the services not also worship leaders?) HOW they know what's working with their congregations is important. Do they ask what is speaking into the lives and real needs of that community? or is working well defined by what people enjoy singing? Do they discuss the needs with the pastoral care team, preachers, for example?

    And I absolutely agree about needing to fit doctrinally filling a gap, etc.

  10. Greg Rice says

    As a pastor, I'm always looking to improve our worship. One way I find new songs is to visit other churches. Obviously this is difficult to do on Sunday morning, but other churches have services at other times, other days; and then there are special meetings and conventions. There are a billion hearts worshipping God worldwide everyday; you just need to step out of your routine and go visit some other brothers and sisters in Christ.

  11. says

    Say what you want, but we usually avoid the CCM and Luther worship chart toppers. Those are at just about every other church. We feel compelled to offer a fresh experience, aimed to UN-churched and de-churched people.

  12. Valerie Dowell says

    how about the Hymnal. "Old" does not equate to irrelevant. You are right Mike…idols come in many forms.

  13. Johanna Antes says

    There is room for both. I have been to churches where the worship leader will only do "original" music that is also un-singable by the average congregant. It is often a struggle for me (as I have opportunity to visit a lot of churches) to feel connected and press in during worship when I don't know either the melody or the lyrics. On the other hand, leading worship and including songs your church has heard and knows from the radio makes it easier to focus on the worship than on learning the song. It has an added benefit of re-connecting people with that Sunday worshipful experience during their Mon-Sat lives.

  14. says

    I use Songselect top lists as one source. Sometimes I hear a good worship song on the radio. I play old, new, happy, blue. What ever might help the congregants make room for the spirit.

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