Faithlife Corporation has crunched the numbers of almost 750,000 church services in 2021, to identify the top Christian worship songs and sermon topics of 2021.
Faithlife is the maker of Logos Bible Software, along with Faithlife Proclaim Software – used for church worship – and Faithlife Sermons – used for sermons.
In its 2021 annual report on Top Songs & Sermons, Faithlife reported that churches used their worship software to sing more than 7,600 songs over 3 million times in 2021.
Top worship songs
The most popular worship song in 2021 was “Build My Life” by Pat Barrett, which was also the top song in 2019 and the second most popular in 2020. “Way Maker” by Sinach – 2020’s top song – was the second most popular this year, followed by “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons & Daughters.
The top 10 worship songs in 2021 were:
1. “Build My Life,” Pat Barrett (2016), up 1 from 2020
2. “Way Maker,” Sinach (2015), down 1
3. “Great Are You Lord,” All Sons & Daughters (2012), down 1
4. “Goodness of God,” Bethel Music/Jenn Johnson (2018), up 10
5. “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” Matt Redman (2011), down 2
6. “How Great Is Our God,” Chris Tomlin (2004), up 1
7. “This Is Amazing Grace,” Phil Wickham (2012), down 2
8. “What a Beautiful Name,” Hillsong Worship (2016), down 2
9. “Graves into Gardens,” Elevation Worship/Brandon Lake (2019), new to top songs
10. “In Christ Alone,” Stuart Townend, Keith Getty (2001), down 1
The top 10 songs were, on average, 8.6 years old.
Coming in just outside the Top 10 at number 13 was “How Great Thou Art” – a hymn based on a Swedish traditional melody and a poem written by Carl Boberg (1859–1940) in Mönsterås, Sweden, in 1885. After being translated into German, and then into Russian, “How Great Thou Art” was translated into English (from Russian) by English missionary Stuart K. Hine in 1949. Hine also added two original verses of his own.
It is Hine’s 1949 version that is still being sung today via Faithlife Proclaim Software today. Its presence in this year’s Top 20 increased the “average age” of Top 20 songs to 11.2 years.
There were three other hymns or re-tuned hymns in the Top 20 – “Lord I Need You” at #14, “Amazing Grace [My Chains Are Gone]” at #16, and “Cornerstone” at #17 – evidence that hymns still play an important part in the worship of many churches.
Sermon topic trends
Faithlife also looked at more than 91,000 sermons that were posted to their online platform sermons.faithlife.com in 2021. This online service allows pastors to publish a sermon from Logos Bible Software, Proclaim Church Presentation Software, or directly on the Faithlife Sermons website.
Approximately 75 per cent of the sermons published to Faithlife Sermons in 2021 included topic tags created by the author that described an idea, person, or theological concept covered. The most common topics in 2021 were similar to those in 2020, including God, Jesus, love, power, faith, and glory.
However, there were several topics with a drastic increase in popularity compared to 2020.
1. Eschatology/resurrection (six times more popular)
2. Grace (four times more popular)
3. Family and children
Faithlife says, “These topics demonstrate the internal and external tensions many churches are facing. Torn between fear, hope, and simply surviving, preachers dedicated many of their sermons to helping their congregations understand how Scripture applied to their struggles.”
Top Bible passages
This became even more apparent when the organisation looked at the top trending Bible passages from 2021.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (3:14–21) was the top trender, increasing by 26 per cent from 2020: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17.6-19 was second on the list of trending passages. Third, was Christ answering Philip (John 14:8–21). Fourth, Peterʼs Sermon and the growth of the church (Acts 2:14–39, 40–47). And fifth, Paul’s “be strong in grace” message to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:1–13)
However, the passages used most in 2021 sermons are all from the New Testament and are some of the most well-known passages overall:
1. John 3:16
2. Matthew 28:18–20
3. Ephesians 2:8
4. Acts 1:8
5. John 1:1
6. John 14:6
7. Romans 5:8
8. Galatians 5:22–23
9. Philippians 2:8
10. Romans 12:1
The most used Old Testament passage was Isaiah 9:6 – a verse that prophesies Christ’s birth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Faithlife reports, “While there arenʼt many surprises in the 10 most used verses, we discovered that, of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, 29,321 verses were referred to in at least one sermon in 2021 (94%).
“The following chart shows how much each book of the Bible was used in sermons in 2021.”