Introduction and Criteria
Case Study: Hillsong
I intentionally used a more recent song for the first case study to establish the fact that I am not a newer music homer. Although I am under-40 (my arbitrary metric for defining what is new and hip), I do not exclusively privilege the newer worship songs against the older worship songs or hymns (As some of my young Christian friends do). In fact, I routinely prefer songs written before 1900 over against songs written after 1900. I just find them to be better vehicles for praise and worship. Just one man’s opinion.
That being said, I do prefer a particular musical style that is informed by 90’s Seattle grunge rock, alternative rock, Brit-rock, and general rock and roll. Additionally, I believe that there was an era, in my opinion, when the best musical stylings and theologically rich lyrics came together to form a golden era of contemporary worship songs. The years between 1995 and 2002 produced most of my all time favorite songs. For today’s case study, I selected a tune from that time period.
Case Study #2: Darrell Evans, Trading My Sorrows.
Puritanboard.com, whatever that site is, listed our test case song as one of the worst worship songs of all time. This statement is an important one because this kind of vitriol is common among many younger (read “cynical”) Christians, who tend to poo poo certain worship songs that make the rounds on Christian radio stations and CCM worship albums. But does all this negative energy befit Mr. Evans’ tune?
I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord
I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen
I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength
Though sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes in the morning.
The Bible Test:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV).
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV).
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV).
Wow. This entire song (verse and chorus) come directly from scripture. Why are people hating this song?
The Hymnody Test:
This song is an encouragement song, intended to help spur people onward in following Jesus. Though it does not necessarily cover new ground or organize Biblical thought into a larger theme, it does bring Biblical themes together for a wham-pop of application. Furthermore, because the lyrics are written in action verbs, the song functionally equips the singers with the attitude of “joy,” to which James and Paul call believers. You can almost feel the sense of confidence in God that this song inspires with each chorus of “Yes, Lord.”
The Internal Consistency Test:
The song stays consistent. In fact, the genius of this song is it’s simplicity and ability to focus on the heart of the issue: trials are difficult for everyone. But for believers in Christ, trials are a chance for Joy in the Lord.
The Hook Test:
Admittedly, the uptempo momentum and driving bass line are the thing that hooks me about the song. Similarly, I find the chorus to be catchy and easily stuck in my head. Listening to this song once will keep the rhythmic “Yes, Lord” in my head all day long. Touché, Darrell Evans.
The DMB Test:
Yep. Even Dave would be proud.
- Covered here.
- Covered here too.
- Covered here in big band.
- Covered by John Tesh.
- And on the Ukulele.
- And importantly, especially for the global church, it can be covered in Spanish quite easily.
The Recognition Test:
Based on the DMB Test, we see that this song is easily recognizable to the point of sticking in your head. One time through and your congregation will be singing along. I am guessing that the over/under on the time it takes a congregation to embrace this song and begin being edified in worship is 10 minutes.
I am not sure why someone would speak against this song. It is Biblical, helpful, practical, worshipful, simple, catchy, transferable, global, and cover-able. There is a reason why this song was and still is a staple among Bible-believing, Gospel-centered churches worldwide.