My Ten Favorite Contemporary Worship Songs

post date: December 31, 2006
A few months ago I wrote about my ten favorite hymns. Later I added another entry on my top ten gospel songs. At the time, I promised that I would eventually write about my favorite contemporary worship songs. I intended to get around to it earlier but kept putting it off until Steve Boisse reminded me a few days ago. So on this final day of 2006, here is the list of my ten favorite contemporary worship songs.
Now that I have put my list together, I realize that I postponed doing it in part because by definition anything that is "contemporary" changes all the time. I decided to take a loose definition and include any music written in the last thirty years, thus excluding "He’s Everything to Me," "They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love" and "Pass It On," which most of the young people don’t know, but I can remember when those songs were cutting edge. For that matter, I can remember when "Heaven Came Down" was considered edgy, but that’s another story.
1) In Christ Alone
A powerful statement of who Christ is, what he has done for us, and why our hope must be in Christ alone.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
2) Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
Though it has been around for a few years, this remains one of the most popular contemporary choruses. Lots of churches that don’t consider themselves contemporary sing this song–and do the motions–thus giving testimony to a good marriage of lyrics and music. Very singable, simple, and it contains a short course in Christology:
You came from heaven to earth
To show the way
From the earth to the cross
My debt to pay
From the cross to the grave
From the grave to the sky
Lord I lift Your name on high
3) Shine, Jesus Shine
Again, an older song that retains its vitality, primarily because of its outward focus buttressed by strong theology. People who criticize contemporary songs as being shallow should take a look at "Shine, Jesus Shine."
4) There is a Redeemer
This beautiful song by Keith and Melody Green will stand the test of time.
5) Days of Elijah
I never paid attention to this song until we sang it at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids in November. When sung with a choir and orchestra and with a praise band and a large congregation, it draws out an explosion of praise, building until you get to the repeated line, "There is no God like Jehovah."
6) I Will Call Upon the Lord
Not too deep and not sung much anymore. Included because Kevin McCullough used it as the background of the video of our trip to Haiti in 1993. When I hear the music, I can see the video of our team of 17 crowding into the minibus for the bumpy ride from Cap-Haitien to Pignon.
7) Before the Throne of God Above
Originally written by Charitie Bancroft in 1863, this song became popular several years ago when it was joined with a haunting Celtic melody. I love it because it is saturated with the gospel. There is enough truth in the second verse to save the whole world:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
I want to stand and cheer when I come to those last two lines because that is my whole hope of heaven: "For God the just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me."
8) Blessed Be Your Name
Powerful lyrics that call us to praise the Lord in all situations, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, when things go our way and when life seems to fall apart. Highly biblical and very singable. The chorus emphasizes a truth I have come to embrace in recent years, that faith is not a feeling but a conscious choice to believe God in spite of our circumstances:
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
9) Who Am I
I am always deeply moved by these words, which seem very appropriate on the last day of the year:
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I’m calling,
Lord you catch me when I’m falling,
And you told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.
10) He Reigns
I never knew this song until Josh used it on his China video. Since then, and even now, with all three of our sons having served in China and Mark there now, I cannot hear "He Reigns" without tears coming to my eyes. When I am discouraged about the power of darkness in the world, the closing words remind me that in every corner of the world, from every tribe and tongue and nation and every people group, a day is coming …
When all God’s children sing out
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
All God’s people singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
If that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will.
Use the Comments section to add your own favorite contemporary worship songs.

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