The 10 Best and Worst Worship Songs from the Late 90s and Early 2000s

worship title

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.

The Worst

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.


29 thoughts on “The 10 Best and Worst Worship Songs from the Late 90s and Early 2000s

  1. Hey Chris as a “budding pastor” in a church as large as you posted – can you please give me a precis sermon? – The Gospel in 10 words? Forget your hermeneutics et al – just”the Gospel” to a Sinner in 10 words – Please?

  2. I came across this while searching “90’s Worship Songs” and completely understand your feelings of nostalgia. I miss these songs so much. They speak to your spirit. I would be great to have these revisited in church.

    • I said at the beginning of the post that I have extreme nostalgia for all of these songs, and that’s true. The fact that you read this, commented on it, and shared it is kinda making me fanguy out right now! Thanks!

      • Dude, I busted out laughing and couldn’t wait to share it. You are on my top ten worst/best guys name Chris list.

      • You might be a tool.

        Marc, Great Work. The Lord used and probably still uses your song all over the globe.

        Chris, there is no right way to bash the ones who paved the way for you… Worship Leader. I don’t care if it’s nostalgic, calling something the worst… is well… the worst. Good luck. 👍🏻

      • Marc and I are old friends. I remember when he and Tammi wrote this song. Its a great story about how it came to be by the way. I was actually with him the night he debuted it for a large group. They all got it right away. Its been a long time favorite of mine for sure. I’m glad he got a good laugh from your list as did I.

    • I can’t belive this list. Your song once learned is the best I have heard. The duel between women and men in the chorus is both brilliant and uplifting!

    • I LOVE this song!!! My baptist church in Texas did really well with it. Maybe more people could sing?

      🎶 You’re my Prince of Peace, and I will live my life for yooooou🎶

    • I absolutely love this song. I am a song leader at my local tiny church. I can’t lead this song and have it sound like anything other than a poorly made omelet looks. But when lead correctly, it. is. beautiful. Great job! I can’t help but think of how God is glorified (when it’s done correctly).

  3. Trying to figure out who made you God and authority on these songs. Lol
    You’ve got to remember culture, context and preference (or lack there of) when making posts like this.
    Try basing a list like this on biblical and theological truths.

  4. This author isn’t the be-all-end-all he thinks he is. What makes a song ‘bad’? That’s entirely subjective. There’s no basis on facts whatsoever. I want to see bands like Waterdeep and Third Day get some attention as being the best artists on there.

    I can show two examples of Christian music that are worse than any on this list. These two religious songs are sure to make anyone cringe.
    1. Christian Side Hug

    2. I Have a Friend In Jesus

    It doesn’t get much worse than this, folks.

    • Respectfully sir, you are so sadly mistaken. YOU ARE HOLY is one of my all time favorite songs. Now I understand that my humble opinion counts for little, but when an arena full of fans begs for an encore from Michael W. Smith, and he returns with YOU ARE HOLY, well… that speaks for itself.

      • Pam! What a great comment! My uncle Marc (who commented above) wrote “You are Holy” and as you can tell from his comments is a super awesome and hilarious, godly man. My husband ran sound for Michael W. Smith until this year, so it came full circle for our family. A special song for sure.

    • Hey Titansniper1, this is a great version of this song. It appears they are very good musicians. By the way, I saw LZ in St. Louis back around ’73. Yes, I am that old and much more…. I still play guitar and sing for Jesus but not so much electric as a solo performer with a guitar… I must admit I still like many (not all) of the old hymns…

      • Thanks for the reply, Jim. I discovered Waterdeep way back in 1995 at Cornerstone Music Festival. They originate out of Kansas and now moved to Nashville, TN. The lead singer is Don Chaffer and he is now producing music for up and coming Christian artists. I was given permission by the band to record many of their live shows. I have hours and hours of boot leg Waterdeep live shows where they cover Jimi Hendrix, Woodie Guthrie and Emma Lou Harris and add a little “Christian spin” to each cover to keep it relevant. Let me know if you would like some of these bootleg albums. I have permission to share them as long as I do it for free.

      • I”d love some extra music. I played in a progressive band in Wichita from 1976-1980 and moved to Florida… Let me know how we can hook up and make it work out. Thanks… Jim

  5. Hey Chris, I see a very wide variety of comments to your evaluation of what is a good vs a bad worship song (having been rated by you). I’d be very interested to know what methodology you used for your evaluation. I could think of several criteria to use but I wonder about your set. How did you come to evaluate one over another? How diversified are your set of criteria, do they provide a “Proskuneo” God? How did you compile them? And on and on… You see, I’m in the computer business and I consult executives from fortune 500 companies (using software) on how to prioritize, rank, visualize and chart products, programs, projects, resources etc. against any number of criteria they choose. The human mind can’t evaluate much more than two criteria at a time but software can. Therefore, if you have say 10 criteria and 20 songs, the human mind can’t effectively evaluate 200 data points to find the highest to the lowest ranking. Therefore, (in the business world) one could not know where to spend a few million dollars within a company and expect a return on investment that the stockholders would approve. Now, let’s settle it up front that God is the stakeholder (stockholder if you prefer) for your business and evaluation. He and Jesus hold all the cards (so to speak). Please help me understand your thinking and process so I can apply the same system to your 20 songs. It would be fun to see your set of criteria in my software (along with the values for each, high/medium/low, 1-10 or whatever) and see how the rankings stack up. Just curious as you received quite a wide range of agreement/disagreement with your numbers… Who knows, maybe you are on to something a song writer or a worship leader would like to understand (assuming they don’t now). Let me know, thanks…

    • So I told my husband that Marc Imboden’s ‘You Are Holy’ made the Top Ten ‘worst’ list…he looks at me confused and says “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” He then said “what songs has this Guy written”?

      Anyway, “You are Holy” has gotten me & my husband home many times on long trips when we have been exhausted. It’s a great song to sing on a road trip. It is one of those songs that has deeply touched our lives & a ‘go to’ song when I have been discouraged, grieving from the death of my brother and a song that came to me when I woke up after my first surgery after being diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Worship music & hymns are very personal and you do not know how songs affect people. To make a ‘worst’ list of hymns is like posting 10 worst scriptures. I am so thankful Marc Imboden wrote ‘You are Holy’. Marc is a really cool Dude & an amazing worship leader. Do you know the story about how the song was written & how it became a dueling song? You should meet Marc – he is a gifted Musician and a fun person to hang out with. I am thankful for your list as it made me realize that I need to reach out to Marc abd let him know how his music has blessed our lives – especially ‘You are Holy’. I have not seen Marc in years and he may not even remember me but his music has impacted our lives in a great way.

  6. I may be considered an old fogey at the ripe old age of 38, but I’m one of those who prefers the old hymns to contemporary worship music – in church at least. It makes me uncomfortable to sing something that was popular on the radio in church, because even if it’s a Christian radio hit such as “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” (which I love), I can’t seem to shake the notion that what I sang e. (My aunt has told me she wants me to sing “Let It Be” by The Beatles at her funeral, and I’m agonizing over it because not only does it feel “wrong” for church despite the positive message, but I can’t hit that high note at the end of the chorus! LOL)

    I’ve been raised in the Catholic tradition, and while most modern Catholic hymns tend to be either milquetoast folk pop or imitations of Broadway show music, they still seem “special” to me because of their relative “uniqueness” compared to other forms of music both religious and secular, if that makes any sense. I’ve also been exposed to enough of the old hymns to develop a very strong appreciation for them. For me, few modern worship songs are as stirring and worshipful as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” “How Great Thou Art,” or “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.”

    However, one contemporary worship song I do really like is “In Christ Alone.” While contemporary, the Irish influence in the melody gives it a timeless quality that in my opinion ranks it up there with the best classic hymns.

    With one thing I am definitely in agreement, no questions asked: “Trading My Sorrows” is a stinker. My adult church choir got saddled with this one for Confirmation one year. Yeesh… that “chorus” (if you want to call it that)! And that completely unsingable, incoherent excuse of a bridge! Our music director at the time wasn’t too crazy about it either, but we did it because the kids loved it. (Which they did – they did the hand motions and everything. So… if the kids were happy and if it was a worshipful experience for them… I guess that’s what counts.)

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