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CCLI Top 100 + Beyond Project

By Diana Sanchez-Bushong and Nelson Cowan

Stock hymnal and bible on back of pew

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing God’s praise in the assembly of the faithful!
2Let Israel celebrate its maker;
let Zion’s children rejoice in their king!
3Let them praise God’s name with dance;
let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre!

-Psalm 149:1-3 (CEB)

As Christians, we are exhorted to sing a new song to the Lord, rejoicing in God’s name, singing and celebrating with our voices and the instruments at our disposal. For decades, the contemporary worship genre has provided us new songs to sing in our United Methodist congregations. In 2015, Discipleship Ministries launched the CCLI Top 100 project, which meticulously and thoughtfully evaluated the top 100 most-sung worship songs in the United States. We published this resource in 2015, 2016, and 2017, offering comments and recommendations related to theology, language, and performance practice.

While the CCLI Top 100 list is a valuable guide for song selection in the contemporary worship genre, our United Methodist theological witness and social principles implore us to understand that representation matters. Toward that end, we must note that the CCLI Top 100 lists do not often feature: (a) Black, Latinx, and Asian artists/songs, (b) independent artists and small record labels, (c) the “global song” genre, (d) women songwriters, and (e) songs outside the theological scope of evangelicalism. At Discipleship Ministries, we celebrate contemporary worship songs, but we also want to encourage our pastors and worship leaders to curate this genre of worship both thoughtfully and expansively.

Building upon the success of this project in years past, the 2020 “CCLI Top 100 + Beyond Project” will traverse new terrain. Discipleship Ministries has assembled a diverse team of eleven United Methodist and pan-Methodist pastors, theologians, and contemporary worship practitioners who will not only evaluate the latest CCLI Top 100 songs, but will supplement this list by evaluating and recommending other contemporary worship songs that more accurately reflect the richness of our United Methodist connection. This vetting team represents the diversity of our denomination; each member has a strong facility with contemporary congregational song (including Contemporary Praise and Worship Music, Contemporary Gospel Music, Global Song, and other genres/forms of contemporary song).

Each recommended song that our team vets will include a narrative evaluation. We will evaluate each song for its compatibility with our Wesleyan theological heritage, and our United Methodist principles for inclusive and expansive language. We will then offer tips and suggestions related to performance practice. You can read more about our evaluative guidelines here. In addition to linking the original arrangement of the song, our list will also feature one or more alternate contextual arrangements (when available). For example, the number one song on the CCLI Top 100 list for 2020 is “Build My Life” by Pat Barrett. To go along with this original arrangement, we will supplement it with the contemporary gospel stylings of Bri Babineaux, as well as an acoustic version that is more accessible for beginning worship bands. We want the songs we put forward to work for your ministry context.

Our list of recommended songs will be published in December 2020.

CCLI Top 100 + Beyond – Vetting Team

Troi Aragon-Buchanan

Troi Aragon-Buchanan was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a musical family. After spending time living in Nashville, Tennessee, his family settled in Saint Augustine, Florida, where Troi finished school, met and eventually married his partner, Karina, and began his work in vocational ministry with Campus to City Wesley Foundation (CCW). After working for CCW and doing ministry in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church for six years, Troi and his family (Karina and their two cats) moved back to Atlanta, where he currently works as the worship director at Eastside United Methodist Church.

Nelson Cowan (Project Manager)

Rev. Nelson Cowan, Ph.D., is the pastor of First United Methodist Church in High Springs, Florida. Dr. Cowan earned his Ph.D. in liturgical studies from Boston University, and he teaches worship, church history, and preaching for the United Methodist Course of Study Program. Having served as a contemporary worship leader for many years, he was a member of the CCLI Top 100 vetting team (2015-2018), the United Methodist Church’s Hymnal Revision Committee, and now serves as the project manager for the CCLI Top 100 + Beyond Project.

Jeremy Hearn

Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, Jeremy has experience working in both the country and Christian music industries in Nashville, Tennessee, and he served as founding worship leader for Wells Branch Community Church, a church plant in Austin, Texas. Jeremy currently serves as Eleven20 Worship Leader for First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, Florida, and Worship Leader for The Point, a Thursday evening worship service at St. Pete First United Methodist Church in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Jeremy is also co-founder and chairperson of The Institute for Modern Worship, a new initiative sponsored by the Office of Connectional and Justice Ministries within the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Jackson Henry

Rev. Jackson Henry serves as Director of Music Ministries at Franklin First United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He is a deacon in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. From 2015-2018, Jackson was a member of the CCLI Top 100 Vetting Project team at Discipleship Ministries, where he also served as Director of Music Ministries during that time.

La’Quentin Jenkins

La'Quentin Jenkins is a worship leader, an emerging Black sacred music scholar, and a recent M.Div. graduate of Garrett Evangelical-Theological Seminary. Originally from Sumter, South Carolina, he currently lives in Evanston, Illinois, where he serves as a worship leader and assistant music coordinator at The Cathedral of Grace: St. John A.M.E in Aurora.

Gerald Liu

Gerald C. Liu is Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching at Princeton Theological School. An ordained United Methodist elder of the Mississippi Annual Conference, he also serves as a Minister in Residence at the Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in Manhattan. He is the son of culturally Buddhist immigrants from Taiwan, and he is the author of Music and the Generosity of God (Palgrave, 2017).

Monya Logan

Monya Davis Logan is the Minister of Worship and Arts at St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. "But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth . . . God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24). “This pandemic that we are experiencing now is reminding me that we worship an audience of one, God. I believe the CCLI Top 100 + Beyond project will help us lead others to worship the audience of one, God.”

Anna Moon

Music and worship are important to Rev. Anna Moon, as she studied voice, taught music in public schools for ten years, and served as a choir director and contemporary worship leader in various settings. She earned an M.Div. with a concentration in worship, theology, and arts from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. An ordained elder in the Michigan Area, she currently serves as an associate pastor at Korean United Methodist Church of Metro-Detroit, pastoring an English-speaking congregation called TroyHope since 2016.

Lydia Muñoz

Rev. Lydia E. Muñoz, DMin (ABD), is an ordained elder in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church, serving in the Philadelphia area (Swarthmore UMC). Lydia has been involved in worship and worship design for more than twenty years, particularly in crosscultural/multicultural and global settings. She collaborated in the 2013 World Council of Churches writing team in South Korea and in two of the General Conference worship teams in 2012 and 2016 with her re-arrangement of "God of Grace and God of Glory.”

Diana Sanchez-Bushong

Diana Sanchez-Bushong is the Director of Music Ministries at Discipleship Ministries. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master’s Degree in Music in Choral Conducting from Southern Methodist University, a Master’s of Sacred Music Degree from Perkins School of Theology at SMU and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin. She worked with the Hymnal Revision Committee that developed The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, and committees that developed The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992, and Mil Voces para Celebrar, 1996, an official United Methodist hymnal for Spanish-speaking churches. She was the volume editor of The Hymns of the United Methodist Hymnal (Abingdon,1989) and the author of Your Ministry of Planning and Leading Hymn Festivals (Discipleship Resources, 1990). She has written extensively in music in worship and hymnody, including an article in the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology titled “Latin American Hymnody, USA.” Dr. Sanchez-Bushong also teaches the course “Cultos de Adoracíon y los Sacramentos” at the Course of Study School for pastors each summer at Perkins School of Theology. She is an adjunct professor at the College of Theology and Christian Ministry at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Debbie Wong

Debbie Wong hails from the sunny island of Singapore, although she has lived nearly half her life outside it, in the US and UK. Debbie is a musician and worship leader, and she has been actively involved in worship ministry since 2004. She has led and taught worship across Asia and in the United States, in a variety of settings from traditional to blended to contemporary to charismatic, in settings small to large, in countries where Christians risk their lives by gathering and in countries where Christians exercise great freedom to worship. Currently pursuing a Doctor of Theology at Duke Divinity School with a focus on contemporary worship, she seeks to combine the best resources from the church and the academy as a worship scholar for the church and a worship leader in the academy.

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