A new study suggests four megachurches in the US have a monopoly on the highest-rating worship songs, amongst criticisms that many of the top tunes sound very similar.
Researchers collated the most popular worship songs to appear in the Top 25 lists for CCLI and PraiseCharts between 2010 and 2020 - a total of 38 songs - to find the same big players appearing time and time again.
According to the study - completed by worship musicians and professors from a range of Christian universities and colleges across the US - 36 of the 38 most sung worship songs were produced by musicians with ties to Bethel Community Church in California, Elevation in North Carolina, Hillsong and Passion City Church, a megachurch in Atlanta that hosts a range of conferences welcoming thousands of people.
25 of the songs were produced by those churches directly, and the remaining 11 were produced by musicians with significant associations to them.
North Polat and Phil Wickham were the only two artists to break into the top 25 independently, securing one spot each.
A paper produced following the research reads: “If you have ever felt like most worship music sounds the same, it may be because the worship music you are most likely to hear in many churches is written by just a handful of songwriters from a handful of churches.”
Ongoing research by Shannan Baker, a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor University, will focus on the lyrics used in the most popular songs.
Although her work is not due to be published yet, she says she has already noticed a significant trend.
“A lot of it is, what is God doing for me now? And what has God promised to do for me in the future?” she said.
Leah Payne, professor of American religious history at Portland Seminary in Oregon, isn’t surprised by the results, and says they represent a growing trend within American Christianity. She suggests these megachurches don’t just have a monopoly on worship music, but on worshippers in general.
She said: “The fact that the worship music of megachurches has a bigger share of the worship market corresponds to the practice of worshippers.”
The 2020 Faith Communities Today survey found that about 70 per cent of worshippers attend the top 10 per cent of churches.