Epochal Song 2: Give Thanks (Henry Smith,1978)

Give Thanks remains one of the most enduring songs of the praise and worship movement and is still regularly sung today in church services all over the world.

The song would also introduce the church to a young worship leader by the name of Don Moen, who would later become one of the fathers and shaping influences of the worship movement.

For those of us who have been around for a while, it’s hard to talk about worship without mentioning Don Moen.  I think that our worship style has moved on significantly from those days, but songs which Moen subsequently penned, like “God Will Make a Way” still hold a special place in our hearts.

Every time in church when the worship leader calls “God is good” and the congregation answers “all the time”, we are reminded of Moen’s lasting influence.

But the song “Give Thanks” remains in the worship canon because of the simplicity of its reminder:  “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17).

At church today, the preacher said that the key to unlocking God’s favour in our lives is to give thanks.  I wondered how those two things actually connected.  Tthe same way that we receive Christ, that is, by faith, is the same way that we receive his unmerited favour in our lives every day:  by believing and trusting God.  Giving thanks, I believe, helps us to lift our eyes above our present circumstances and fix them on Jesus.

Just last Friday, I thought I had messed something up at work.  When faced with such a situation, our first reaction is to panic.  I sat there frozen at my desk for a good 5 minutes.  When the whole situation was over, the outcome was better than I could ever  haveexpected.  I took a few minutes to breathe a sigh of relief and to thank God for his favour.  In that moment, I knew that there was no way that situation could have resolved itself but for the grace of God.

When I was a  young lawyer, my principal always said (whenever we picked up the mistake of another lawyer) “There but for the grace of God, go I”.  The older I get, the more I understand this truth.  It’s true of legal practice, and it’s true of life.  Where would we be if not for His grace?

So it makes me want to sing:  “And now, let the weak say I am strong; let the poor say I am rich”.  For when I am weak, then He is strong.

Epochal Songs of the Praise and Worship Movement

I have been leading worship for the last 19 years within the Charismatic Renewal and I have seen the style (and to some extent) the content of our worship evolve. Rewind 20 years back and it would have been unimaginable for the church back then that we would sing the types of songs we sing today.

The instrumentation has changed. From keyboard-driven and big band orchestral music, the forerunner music of today’s worship is guitar-driven grunge and electronic techno.

We have also moved on from traditional hymnology to a much more prophetic, apostolic lyric but at the same time, injecting elements of heartfelt personal poetry and imagery. Worship music is beginning to bridge the cultural divide between sacred and secular.

The praise and worship movement had its origins in the 1960’s. Two streams were particularly influential: presentation blue-grass gospel songs (popularised by the Gaithers) and the Jesus People movement (which brought rock-and-roll music and musicians into the church). (It is interesting to see even then how the generations converged in Charismatic worship).

Since then, those on the cutting edge have continued to revolutionise worship music, bringing to it strong artistic merit without comprising biblical content.

An epoch means an era or season. And so when I refer to “epochal songs”, I am referring to songs that are significant to an era or season of the church in one of two ways: either it defines the season (i.e. it captures and articulates the heartcry of the church at a moment in time, usually an emotion or perspective which was felt but not yet expressed) or it is defining of the season (i.e. it catapults the church into a new prophetic direction).

Here, I want to list what I believe are the epochal songs of the praise and worship movement. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this but my opinion is based on extensive reading, listening and thinking about praise and worship and also experiencing it first hand for the last 22 years of my Christian walk.

So here they are – my list of the 15 epochal songs of the praise and worship movement in chronological order:

  1. All Hail King Jesus (Dave Moody, 1977)
  2. Give Thanks (Henry Smith, 1978)
  3. I Love You, Lord (Laurie Klein, 1978)
  4. As the Deer (Martin Nystrom, 1984)
  5. Ancient of Days (Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler, 1992)
  6. Power of Your Love (Geoff Bullock, 1992)
  7. Shout to the Lord (Darlene Zschech, 1993)
  8. Everything That Has Breath (Michelle Hira/Parachute Band, 1994)
  9. I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1994)
  10. Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1994)
  11. Breathe (Marie Barnett, 1995)
  12. History Maker (Martin Smith/Delirious, 1996)
  13. The Heart of Worship (Matt Redman, 1997)
  14. How Great is Our God (Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Jesse Reeves, 2004)
  15. How He Loves Us (John Mark McMillan, 2005)

In my next several posts, I will explain why I have picked these songs and their significance to the worship life of the church. You may not agree with my list or you may think other songs should be included. What would be interesting for me (as a bit of social research) is to hear your thoughts on my list. What songs do you think should be here? Why do you think they are significant? I look forward to reading your comments!