Phases of the Heart: A Philosophy of Worship Music, Part 4

Larry BruceWorship CornerLeave a Comment

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:10-12

For the last few months I have been taking readers behind the scenes to share the considerations I make when adding new music for worship. These considerations are a loose process that are as much about us as worshipers as they are about the songs themselves. Also recently I have taken the time to post all my past newsletter entries to our Redeemer website. To access these, visit This allows you to share or to revisit articles I may mention going forward. 

Following the emergence of what would become Contemporary Worship in the mid-1970s, a leader within the Vineyard church by the name of John Wimber began to classify songs for worship based on what he called “phases of the heart.” The premise is that we (average attenders of worship) enter worship unprepared for intimacy with God. Our songs, therefore, should reflect that journey that the heart embarks upon in worship.

More recently, Jeremy Riddle, a songwriter (“This is Amazing Grace,” “Sweetly Broken”) and worship leader, updated these Phases of the Heart to reflect what he has experienced. It is this model that I have adopted and use to categorize songs in our library. It is worth noting that our Contemporary worship services, even the 906 Praise do not conform to the worship style of churches like Riddle’s. However, evaluating songs according to these “phases” creates a framework that we can also work within and help define songs for worship. Essentially, if a song cannot fit into one of these categories, it doesn’t belong in worship.

Riddle’s adaptation is composed of four Phases of the Heart and are in this order: Songs of Invitation, Songs of Declaration, Songs of Response, and Songs for Encounter. Over the course of the next four months I will expand on each and demonstrate with songs in our library how this framework is used for worship at Redeemer.

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