The Lost Worship Song


Recently, I spent a good chunk of time looking for MP3s of old worship songs. My purpose wasn’t nefarious; I’m just looking to build the repertoire of the worship team at our church.

So I went skimming through some old (read: 8-10 years) worship song listings I had from my Vineyard church in California, stuff I played to much blessing for the congregation. Good songs. Tunes that got people worshiping. Music that blessed me as I played it.

My conclusion from intensive searching online for about a dozen of those  songs? They may as well have never existed. They’re just gone.

Out-of-print albums. Missing entirely from iTunes or any other site. No, no Pandora. No streams existing anywhere. I can’t even find a snippet in any form for my team to listen to, much less the particular arrangement I’d like to mimic.

That seems to me to be an enormous loss to the Christian community.

Sure, I might be able to find a copy of an old CD on eBay for $10, but I can’t afford that kind of dough to amass a stack of old CDs when I’m only after one song here and there.

Why is it that we still can’t get access to a lot of the backcatalog of some of the Christian recording companies who have all this music locked up? I complained about this before, but I find it even more amazing when genuine worship music, the kind church worship teams would play, goes MIA. I mean, if it was great 10 years ago, why would it not be great now? What’s wrong with rediscovering a classic for a new generation?

It seems to me that we’re gutting our own heritage by letting good music vanish into the ether.

I went looking for Cindy Rethmeier’s “Processional” and Kevin Prosch’s “(Even) So Come” and struck out everywhere I looked. An old Crystal Lewis version of the Prosch tune exists in video format on YouTube, and that may be what I have to go with, though the audio quality is poor and it’s hard to make out all the instrumentation. The Rethmeier tune, a lovely and anthemic song, is vapor.

Maybe this is a stupid beef. I don’t know.  In the past, you cut a track to an LP and good luck when that LP went out of print.

Still, I would think we could do better in preserving our heritage in music, especially since it is now so easy to store music digitally.

So how about cutting us worship teams a break when it comes to access to old worship songs? If the CDs are out of print, what’s the harm in putting a lower bitrate MP3 on the composer’s site so someone can at least hear how the song goes? And don’t even get me going about the lack of availability of some of this stuff on iTunes. I know I would definitely pay $1 to download some of these songs just so the people in the pews can be drawn into a soul-stirring worship experience through old music that stirred us once and can do so again.

24 thoughts on “The Lost Worship Song

  1. David

    This is all part and parcel of the worldliness of the Christian community. Because we do things the worlds way, what we do then goes the way of the world. Ever try to find an Oden Fong recording? Or Mustard Seed Faith? It’s available because the artists make it available.

    I can appreciate that the artists need compensation for their work. But at some point, because the way we recompense our fellow believer is done as the world does it, then the art is lost in the commerce.

    Christians need to change. We need to stop doing things the worlds way.

    • Boy, David, you really are pulling up the oldies! 😉 I remember both Fong and MSF.

      As someone who writes and would want to ensure proper compensation for my work, I appreciate the artist’s dilemma. Still, if something has essentially vanished, how does it help anyone to have done so? What is the artist getting if the work is in limbo?

  2. Hook up your recording apparatus to Christian radio…the Bible Broadcasting Network, American Family Radio, whatever, even the AM stations. Record as much as you can. Cut what you like into mp3s and delete the rest. Not ideal, but you probably will find plenty of songs over the course of a broadcast day that you would like to have. You may want the old stuff, but much of the newer stuff is good, too, and you don’t want to be complaining about this five years from now when you could be recording today’s stuff today.

    You probably can find sheet music cheap (or free) online easier than finding old CDs. Collaborate with your friends to get together to make your own recordings for your own use. You probably will sound better than most CD compilations, anyway.

    • David,

      Thanks for the info.

      SongSelect is part of the whole CCLI package. While a CCLI account with licensing costs a pittance, SongSelect evidently is far more expensive—or so says the woman at our church who is responsible for our CCLI account. As a result, we have no access to SongSelect.

      Money, money, money.

      • Jeremy

        Looks like SongSelect ranges from $119-179 a year depending on the features you want. That doesn’t guarantee it would have the songs you’re looking for, but at $10-15 per month, it’s not far more expensive than CCLI by itself.

  3. Dan:

    I did find Crystal Lewis’ studio version of “(Even) So Come” on iTunes for 99 cents

    It is off her CD – Remember


    Your first comment stated “It’s available because the artists make it available.” Not necessarily true with older artists because many of them signed contracts where the Christian labels actually owned not only the song rights, but also owned all the studio tape sessions including the mastered tapes and could easily control re-releasing new copies or not if the artist did leave their label on good terms or not.

  4. Peter P

    My question is why are we so obsessed with ‘new’ music?

    I realise that singing the same timg week in week out would be boring but some churches have had to put in a rule where worship leaders are not allowed to use more than one new song a week. A WEEK? That’s limiting them to ‘only’ 52 new songs a year.

    Considering that most churches only sing 5 or 6 songs in any given service, that means every year they’re learning 40 or more new songs to never sing again.


    I just don’t get it!

    • “O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1 KJV).

      The Lord wants a new song from all of us every day. If the Church really tapped into her God-given creativity, we might not have a Christian music “industry.”

        • Nothing. Seriously. I love a lot of the old music. But this cuts both ways. I found an old hymnal one day. A lot of the old hymns were really bad. I could tell why they never are sung anymore. BBN is a very conservative network, but they are playing “new” songs my former church played a lot years ago. This means less time in the programming cycles to play the old favorites. Eventually, some of those old favorites will, out of programming necessity (since there are only 24 hours in a day), be retired from BBN’s playlist.

          My former church had, at the end, a skilled musician who wrote his own songs and played some during our worship times. Some were pretty good. Others, not so much. But when I asked him what he might do to publicize his worship music, even to just get it out there to the broader public, not so much to make money on it, he pretty much said he was not interested in that at all. So his good music may now be relegated to my now-defunct church’s history and memory.

          We can be so dedicated to the new that the old is swept away; to the old that the new never is given a chance; to nostalgia that we never listen to the new; to novelty that we refuse to acknowledge the old; and to modesty, that we will not share with others the old or the new.

          I heard recently that a lot of Bach’s music was written once, for one performance in one church service, and then tossed out. Yet a lot of people these days can’t be bothered even with what of Bach’s repetoire has been saved.

          I want both. We should not take our current catalog of songs for granted. If you have resources, knowhow, and desire, record what you can now, because much of it will not be very accessible in the years to come. If you can find the old and record it, then do so.

          Encourage all to embrace new art and remember the old.

    • Peter,

      Some gungho worship leaders are practically possessed by the need to debut new stuff all the time. That doesn’t help the people in the seats. They’re often bewildered by having to learn a new song each week, and sometimes more than one.

      Our obsession with novelty, particularly in those areas we enjoy personally, explains this.

      • Peter P

        I agree.

        There is nothing wrong with new, but not just for the sake of something new!

        We need to learn some modicum of contentment.

    • Travis,

      That whole thing made my head spin. In the end, too many people are dedicated to finding loopholes that screw others. That pretty much explains the entire financial meltdown right now, too.

  5. Laura W.

    Maybe I’m having a “Get off my lawn” moment, but I would *love* to hear something from Larry Norman, Keith Green or 2nd Chapter of Acts even just once in a while on our local Christian radio station.

  6. Dan email me if you want a list of what your looking for. I have a ton of old vineyard cd’s. I never listen to many of them anymore so if I have something you can use I’ll throw it your way. No point in it sitting here useless. 🙂

  7. Cindy Rethmeier


    Quickly read through your blog post and some of the comments and thought I would make a couple of comments, too!

    As the songwriter I have no control over the songs continuing to be released unless I buy the master and make my own cds. Usually the master is not up for sale. In the case of the children’s album, I Want To Be Like Jesus, I was as surprised as anyone else that Vineyard Music had decided to stop printing new cds. I wish I had known…I would’ve bought some! I digress 🙂 Just wanted you to know that if there was a way to get the music out there, I think some of us would be willing!

    I guess this isn’t a helpful post…sorry! Just thought maybe you’d appreciate knowing the songwriters aren’t holding out.

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