Where Do Great Worship Songs Come From? With Dr. Ron Kenoly

It wasn’t too long ago that I had the immense privilege of spending some time with one of America’s most beloved worship leaders, Dr. Ron Kenoly. When my father surrendered his life to Christ in 1993, it was Dr. Ron’s worship music that quickly filled our house. We wore out our copies of “Lift Him Up” and “God is Able” during long car trips up to the lake house (“cottage” if you are Canadian or British).

Ron Kenoly’s worship music ushered in a fresh dimension in the modern worship music movement. Dr. Ron wasn’t the first to fuse R&B with praise and worship, but he certainly did a lot popularize it. His albums with Integrity Music became some of the most popular in their Hosanna! Music series and the sound and style of his brand of worship defined the genre in the 90’s.

Jubilant songs like “Ancient of Days”, “Sing Out” and “Mourning into Dancing” quickly became staples in the American church. After decades of choosing, leading and writing worship songs, I was interested to hear Dr. Ron’s take on where great worship songs come from. His response was insightful and is a brilliant blueprint for those who desire to write fresh songs of timeless truth for the local church.

Dr. Ron states that worship songs come in three different ways:

  1. Intellectual – Songs that come out of training/ability
  2. Inspirational – Songs that come out of life experiences
  3. Spiritual – Songs that come directly from heaven to your heart

He goes on to identify seven key characteristics of enduring worship songs:

  1. An anointed message – Scripture saturated, anchored in the Word of God
  2. Presented in proper context – Scripture-based lyrics have to be true to their original meaning
  3. Melodic intelligence – Crafted with dynamic beauty, variation, ebb and flow
  4. Hook lines and catch phrases – Memorable deposits that people can easily hide in their hearts
  5. Congregational singability – A musical range that can contain the masses of the people
  6. Arrangement potential – Framed with chords and instrumentation that’s interesting to the ear
  7. Cultural Integrity – Presented in a way that reflects the cultural music styles of those you lead

Of the characteristics he shares, which do you think are missing from worship music today?

I’d be interested to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

You can view this segment of my interview with Dr. Ron here:

Next Time: How to Create a Compelling Call To Worship


2 thoughts on “Where Do Great Worship Songs Come From? With Dr. Ron Kenoly

  1. There is far too much repetitive one chord playing for several measures! Boring!!!!! Also, it appears as if the minor key is the trend nowadays. In addition, where is the harmony?. When God created the universe everything is in harmony with each other, i.e., the solar system, life and moon cycles, seasons from year to year, number of months a mother carries a child, Finally, the pulpit has taken preeminence in the church instead of Almighty God. Pastors do not allow worship to occur. Consequently, we have praise songs and no worship where the believer encounters a holy God, realize as Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:5,”5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” When a believer encounters Almighty God in worship, he/she realizes that they are “undone” and are changed in His Presence from glory to glory! “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”


  2. Lillian Ching

    I have been I wish her leader as well as a pastor with my husband. We have served God for 50 years one of the things I looked for in worship or praise what’s the cross. Paul said we preach Christ and him crucified. Many songs are too much about me me me. Worship as well as preaching should be about Jesus Christ and him crucified. There are certain elements I have found both preaching in and leading worship that God loves.
    1. The work of the cross. (Any area…from arrest to resurrection)
    2. His Glory
    3. Evangelism
    Without these elements songs are flat. In the past many of the songs were pure scripture. That indicated the studying of the word by the songwriters. Whether it is music or studying… It is all the worship.


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