song lyrics

Do Lyric Statistics Indicate a Shift in Worship?

Duke scholar Lester Ruth tweets interesting figures about CCLI songs.

Duke scholar Lester Ruth (someone whose work every worship leader should pay attention to) tweeted this interesting stat:

Continuing hymn/CCLI song comparison. Most frequent human verbs in hymns? “sin” and “see”; in CCLI songs? “sing” and “praise”

His sources for study involve, first, a look at the 70 most republished evangelical hymns up to 1860…so, material that many evangelical historians would classify as more “classic” hymns (as opposed to the “gospel hymn” era of post 1860 through the mid twentieth century). He is comparing these hymns to the lyrics of the 108 songs which ever appear on a CCLI top-25 list.

It is extremely hard to assess global data in a way that allows one to make accurate generalizations about shifts in the worship climate of evangelicalism, but I do believe that the kind of work Dr. Ruth is doing is getting closer toward something that allows for objectivity.

Let’s flesh this out. First, we’re talking about human verbs in worship songs, so this doesn’t include or observe divine action. This is from the vantage point of our action. Secondly, we are talking about the top songs in general rather than the entire sung corpus of any local church. Still, I think these stats give us some hooks to hang our thoughts on when it comes to what might appear to be some shifting theological emphases in evangelical worship.

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