Its 2003, somewhere between Texas and New Mexico, my mom unwraps a new cd she bought for the road. It’s new, it’s cool. The cousins and my brother and I get quiet as the first Green WOW disk slips into the CD player.
I wish I could say I experienced some life changing worship moment. That as a child I felt the spirit of God in the third row of an SUV. But what happened that day was special. As simple as it sounds, that CD helped set the soundtrack for the next few years of our life as a family.
This was in the time before Spotify, streaming, or even accessibility to CCM outside of what our Family Christian store carried. Our city didn’t have the options for CCM that most larger cities had. WOW Worship also had the appeal of multiple styles and artists on one CD. It was a no brainer considering the value and the amount of music.
Through the next few years, life came and went. Births, deaths, sickness, joy, laughter, life. All the while, the green WOW CD spun in the background. In car trips, Saturday house cleanings, family prayer nights, and afternoons playing Legos this was the soundtrack. While the songs certainly were of a spiritual value (could we call ourselves good Christians if the lyrics didn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test?), the lessons about worship music we just as valuable.
The Green WOW CD showed that many artists who’s songs were sung in churches were embracing new styles. Darlene Zschech is featured on this album while she was the worship pastor for Hillsong. If you listen to “All Things Are Possible” you wouldn’t think that it was the same church, let alone the same person who helped write, sing, and collaborate on many more Hillsong albums until as recently as 2017.
One of my favorite artists from this album is Paul Baloche. If you aren’t familiar with him, that’s okay, you’ve probably sung a few of his songs, as he is one of the most performed artists during church services according to CCLI. But aside from his talent as a writer, musician and worship leader, Paul’s heart is one of the few in the worship world that has been consistent over years. One of my favorite resources to this day is his YouTube Worship series. Some of the talent off this album has come and gone, but true servant hearts like Paul remain and still impact to this day.
For all the possible issues we can find with churches large and small, I will say that generally churches are filled with broken people trying their best. I would say this is true for the churches I grew up in. But sometimes it is fun to take a step back to see the vision of Jesus our parents were meeting in worship every Sunday. Here’s a glimpse of Jesus from the Green WOW CD. “He Knows My Name” – shows a desire for and recognition of a God who is near. Songs like “All Things are Possible” speak to the declaration of a living, powerful God who defeated death. Echoed on this album is the desire to bring worship, but to leave prepared to share the love of Christ. For me, being aware of this view of God, made me more aware of my “modern” view of God and how our churches (programs, goals, prayers, etc.) are strongly effected by their view of god.
If you grew up in a Christian house like mine, there’s no doubt you learned that lyrics matter. We had a great time growing up talking about if the Newsboys song “Breakfast” had anything spiritual in it (I contend it has more theology in it than most worship music today and I’ll die on that hill. #BreakfastClubber). But even on this “worship” album, songs that relied on emotion or popular phrases didn’t age well in my opinion. Songs that were direct in their theology, honest in their approach, and not purposely vague ( the “could you sing this worship song to your wife/husband test” was always a hit at our house), seem to hold up the best even today.
This music is a product of the late 90’s worship sound. Listen to the first “upbeat” tracks and if you remove the lyrics, it could be the intro music for a gameshow. It’s so different, I’m not sure if it could ever make a comeback. Local Sound made a great effort, but it’s important to remember that this music served a purpose for that time and when it was time to move on, it was better to let it go gracefully.
As someone who still loves all kinds of music, the new sounds in church are inevitable. Do I think everything old should be thrown out? Never. But we should be careful not to give value simply to things that are old. But something that has always stuck with me is the tie to the past some of this music has. When I hear some of these songs, they are campy, maybe a little silly sounding, or have aged poorly, but despite all of that this music can help me remember a time when God was near to me and my family. A touchstone, an “Ebenezer” if you will, to remember the faithfulness of God then as a reminder that he is near and faithful now.