As I enter a point in my life where I am closer to 30 than I am to 20, I’m starting to experience something for the first time…nostalgia. Go to buzzfeed, and you are guaranteed to find countless lists of “things every 90s kid remembers.” Shows that I grew up with are getting re-boots. Movies made 20 years ago are getting sequels. Drinks, cereals, and toys are being re-released. I am realizing now that nostalgia is less about how good or bad something is, and more about the times in your life it brings you back to. As I became aware of this, I started to understand something I never understood before with the “older people” in the Church. I used to roll my eyes or make condescending remarks when I heard someone say “I don’t get why we can’t just go back to singing hymns.” But now, I find myself saying “they will never make cartoons as good as they did when I was a kid.” “When I was a kid we didn’t have all this technology stuff, we played outside.” “If I wanted to make a phone call, I could only walk as far as the phone cord would reach.” When I experience nostalgia, it brings me back to the care-free and formative days of my childhood. The times when I discovered who I was. The times before full time jobs, mortgages, and big responsibilities.
This is also true with worship music. I was a kid in the church from 1991-2009. Obviously I don’t remember much from the first several years, but the late 90s and the 2000s were some of the most crucial years in my faith journey. This is the time I learned to play drums and guitar and fell in love with music as a way to worship God. This is where I learned who Jesus is, got baptized, made my faith my own, and decided to go into ministry. The songs we sang during this period were part of that process. I have a special connection with them. When I hear them, I am brought back to those days. I can only assume it is same with the “seniors” and the hymns. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the worship music of the 2010s. I think we are in a period of creative music writing and theologically rich lyrics, but there will always be a special place in my heart for the songs I grew up with. So here are the 10 best songs I think came out of that time period, and the 10 worst songs that I would advocate disappearing forever. If you grew up in the time period, let me know what I’m missing.
DISCLAIMER: Obviously I could have done way more than 10 in each list. Also, there are entire Hillsong United albums that could go on this list, but I had to pick 10 and I had to diversify. Maybe I can make a list of just UNITED songs another time.
10. Open the Eyes of my Heart (2000)
This is just a great song with great lyrics that nails the early 2000s feel.
9. Holy is the Lord (2004)
Chris Tomlin’s Arriving album blitzed the field of worship music. Just look at the track listing and see how many iconic songs are on it. This one was possibly my favorite and made an almost weekly appearance in our student ministry for some time.
8. Amazing Love (2003)
Pulling some from a very old hymn, the lyrics to this song are rich and deep.
7. The Heart of Worship (1998)
The story behind this song is really quite incredible. This song is still a powerful reminder of who worship is really all about.
6. Here is our King (2005)
After Chris Tomlin, and before Hillsong United, Crowder is the one who changed the game for Worship Music. In my opinion, this is the best song on his A Collision album, and the second best song he ever released. The music was really creative for its time, and the lyrics paint beautiful imagery to share a powerful message. Through Jesus, God had come to bring us back to himself.
5. Jesus Paid it all (2006)
Ok, so this is cheating a little bit because this is actually a very old song. However, Kristian Stanfill gave it a new feel and added the iconic bridge to the end. We sang this song in youth ministry more times than I can count, and it never got old. More than 10 years later, I still hear this song once in awhile in churches.
4. Always Forever (2006)
This song is most likely lesser known, but nevertheless awesome. It was sung at the summer conference I went to growing up, and in our student ministry. First off, Phil Wickham has the voice of an angel. Second, when this song octaves up after the bridge and the band drops out…CHILLS! Finally, this is great music writing and fantastic lyrics.
3. Shout to the Lord (1996)
This song just brings back so many memories for me. It hits an 11 on the 1-10 nostalgia meter, but it also is a great worship song. This video is more recent, and I know they don’t do it, but in the original song there is a key change at the end. If the key change doesn’t give you some goosebumps, you aren’t human.
2. From the Inside Out (2006)
If there was one song that defined my youth ministry experience, it’s this one. If you really want to be blown away, just look up the Hillsong United album United We Stand and see how many songs from that one album deserve to be on this list. I really could have made number 2 that entire album. The pace of this song is outstanding. It builds and rescinds in all the right places. Also, it was a major part of the time in my life where I was learning what it actually means to embrace following Jesus and have him completely change me from the inside out.
1. O Praise Him (2003)
This song is almost 15 years old at the time of writing this post, yet, if it was released today it could hang with modern music. Crowder was THAT ahead of his time. I also feel like this song is timeless. The lyrics are simple yet profound. Of all the songs on this list, I am most sad that this one doesn’t still make an appearance, even as a tag on the end of a song.
10. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (1998)
God’s love is amazing and I get the metaphor of being able to sing of that love forever, but Delirious took that a little too literally. Don’t lie! You know during this song you thought, How many more times are we going to say ‘”I could sing of you love forever”?
9. Trading my Sorrows (1998)
Let’s compare. The chorus of one of my favorite worship songs today says: By your spirit I will rise, from the ashes of defeat. The resurrected king, is resurrecting me. In your name I come alive, to declare your victory. The resurrected king, is resurrecting me. The chorus of this song says, “Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord. Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord. Yes Lord, Yes Lord, yes yes Lord, Amen.”
8. Every Move I Make (2004)
I am glad we moved from the Nah’s and La’s the Woah’s and Oh’s.
7. Love the Lord (2005)
I can’t really knock the words, because they are straight from scripture, but man this song is annoying.
6. Better is one Day (1995)
How many times can we say “Better is one Day” in one song? Matt Redman went on a journey to find out.
5. You are Holy (2002)
Here’s the thing…people in church can’t even clap on beat. Imagine the chaos that ensued when two separate sets of lyrics were being sung at the same time. What you just imagined is exactly how it sounded whenever this song made a Sunday morning appearance.
EDIT: The guy who wrote this song commented on the post below! As a person with extreme nostalgia for all songs on this list, my life is now made!!!
4. Undignified (2004)
Not everything Crowder did was gold. Also, this song gave student ministry worship leaders a chance to bring people up on stage to do something “undignified.” As you can imagine, that never ended well.
3. All Day (2004)
It’s hard to believe that the same group that was nominated for a grammy wrote the lyrics “I will read my Bible and pray, I will follow you all day”, but it happened.
2. Friend of God (2004)
Just listen to the song. You’ll understand why it’s number 2.
1. Days of Elijah (1997)
I don’t know what it is about this song, but bring it up to any worship leader, and they will giggle. I don’t know that I could tell you exactly why, but I don’t think I will ever hear this song in a Church again, and I’m pretty ok with that.