Have you ever noticed that a lot of worship music sounds similar? Well, it turns out there might be a reason for that. Most of the worship songs you hear in churches are actually written by just a few songwriters from a small number of churches.
Worship Leader Research recently analyzed popular worship songs released between 2010 and 2020, comparing data from the well-known CCLI lists and Praise Charts top songs lists. They found that only 38 songs made it to the Top 25 list during this decade, and most of these songs can be traced back to four main church groups: Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation, and Passion.
In fact, when considering affiliations with artists like Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman (connected to Passion) or Jesus Culture (associated with Bethel), they discovered that 35 out of those 38 top songs have direct connections to these four megachurches! The remaining few also have interesting stories involving either Bethel or Passion helping popularize them through YouTube performances or live-streamed services.
Why does this matter? While they can’t draw concrete conclusions about the theological impact just yet, it’s clear that these few megachurches and associated artists have significantly shaped the song repertoire in many Christian congregations.
This also seems to confirm concerns raised by local church songwriters who feel they may struggle to gain popularity without support from these specific churches. Worship Leader Research’s next phase of research will focus on surveying over 400 worship leaders from various denominations and styles to further explore attitudes towards song sources and other related topics.