Listening to a popular Christian radio station, I heard Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s “You Are God Alone.”  Actually the song was written by Billy James Foote, who also wrote “You Are My King (Amazing Love).” I know that because my first reaction to the song was, “Did Phillips, Craig, and Dean write that song?”  I had known the song from several years of leading worship.

No, their version of “You Are God Alone” falls in that growing tradition of Christian musicians covering worship songs made popular by youth groups, college fellowships, and contemporary churches.

The early 2000s were inundated with commercially successful worship albums.  Third Day’s Offerings (2000) and Michael W. Smith’s Worship (2001) both sold over 1,000,000 copies.  Smith went on to release Worship Again (2002), which sold an additional 500,000 copies.

What’s interesting about Smith’s worship albums is that, although he is an acclaimed songwriter, he wrote so few of the tracks.  Christian radio was peddling “new” Michael W. Smith material that youth groups and contemporary-oriented churches had been singing for years.

After the commercial success of OfferingsWorship, and Worship Again, the commercial worship music movement soon followed.  Popular artists like Rebecca St. James (2002) and Newsboys (2003) entered the foray.  And soon, we had exclusively-worship artists and bands.

And, quite often, the worship music produced by these artists was written by someone else.  Here are some notable examples.

In 1999, Sonicflood had two chart toppers:  “I Want to Know You” was written by Andy Park and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” was written by Martin Smith.  Neither of whom were musicians in Sonicflood.

Third Day’s “You Are So Good to Me” was written by the band Waterdeep.  I loved Waterdeep’s Enter the Worship Circle and several of their subsequent releases.  Third Day’s cover of “You Are So Good to Me” reached number 1 on Christian charts in 2003 and spent 8 weeks there.

Newsboys’ “You Are My King (Amazing Love)” was written by the aforementioned Billy James Foote.  I remember singing this song in high school, late 90s, early 2000s.  The Newsboys’ version spent 7 weeks at number 1 in 2003-2004.

We could add hands-full of songs made popular by the Passion movement, that in one form or another reached the airways.

I’m just curious why we need so many covers of worship songs.  Do artists cover these songs because they admire them or maybe because they want a wider audience to access these songs?

I suspect the answer to this question will make cents sense, but an even more perplexing question for me is, “Do people really want to hear these covers?”  For me, they are utterly jejune, and they don’t contribute much to the worship of the church.  Am I the only one that feels this way?

Contemporary Christian musicians could try something a little more ambitious.  Try writing something doctrinally rich like Matt Maher’s “Christ Is Risen.”  Or, try taking an old hymn and set it to a contemporary tune, like Sojourn Music or Sandra McCracken

Maybe, that’s not your skill set.  If you’re gifted at singing songs that others have written and that people already know well, you should sing for the worship team at your church or sing “special music” during the offertory.  That would be no less significant of a service to the body of Christ.

Advertisements