I occasionally have people at church ask about singing some of their older favorite songs. I used to get this more at a former church where we didn’t offer a traditional service. My reply usually involved something about the kind of music our leadership wanted. Sometimes if they pressed me, I would tell them that there are hundreds of songs I’ve used in worship over the years, and quite a few of them I’d still like to use.
I pulled two worship music books off my shelf, ones I hadn’t looked through in many years. The books are Integrity’s Praise & Worship Songbooks 2 and 3: More New Songs from America’s Best Selling Praise & Worship Series. Each features the songs from six of their worship recordings, a couple of which I remember wearing out. (Remember when you could wear out tape?)
My church in the ’80s used a lot of Integrity’s songs. Back then, and they still do this today, Integrity’s had a subscription service, where you paid for and received worship tapes about every other month or so. These were live recordings from various churches across America, typically featuring different worship leaders, though their style and instrumentation was rather similar. This music was very piano driven. Guitarists were welcome, as long as they left their distortion pedals at home.
Play Me a Medley
One of my absolute favorite recordings was Forever Grateful, led by Martin Nystrom, who penned “As the Deer.” A feature of this, and many of the Integrity’s tapes, was the medley. A few upbeat tunes would be merged together to create one medley. Similar keys and tempos made this possible. Medleys were quite popular in the church for the better part of a decade. The downside was that the individual songs, without beginning or end, tended to blur into one long monotonous song.
Forever Grateful‘s title track is a beautiful song of thanksgiving for Christ’s death on our behalf, and one I might use in our early service this Easter. “Prince of Peace” is wonderful, as is “Shepherd of My Soul,” which preceded one of the first hymns I’d ever heard and one of my favorites, “Savior Like a Shepherd.” “Faithful and Just” featured minor chords and modulations uncommon in the music that would follow in the ’90s and even the first part of this century.
Don Moen would become a mainstay of Integrity’s recordings and would, in fact, become involved in the leadership of the recording and publishing company. Though his voice is rather weak and nasally — characteristic of the singer/songwriter, I suppose — he had a way of leading worship that ushered in God’s presence. (I’ve seen him once at a concert and once at a worship seminar.) And for 10 to 15 years he was the premier worship songwriter, especially when he teamed with others like Lynn DeShazo.
Many of the songs in Songbooks 2 and 3, I would use in my early years of leading worship at a small church plant in Yuma, my hometown. Even as I played through some of them the other day, I was taken back nearly twenty years when I led them, six or seven years after they were originally published and recorded. These were definitely piano songs, and I feel bad for what I subjected my guitarist to (sorry, Ken), myself a guitarist now. Most of the upbeat songs I would never use again, but plenty of the ballads would surely engage my congregation today.
I’m grateful I attended the church I did in the ’80s, how their worship style was progressive for the day. It left a lasting impression on me, and, if not for the songs we sang, I wouldn’t be a worship pastor today. I’d probably be an architect or something. Sure, I might have more money in the bank, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much as leading worship.