CCLI Top Songs – How Great is our God

CCLI Logo(note:  today’s post is a part of the “Watercooler Wednesday” collaboration on Arts & Culture at Randy Elrod’s place)

Hey Everyone,

On Monday, August 12 I created a blog entry called “What Makes A Great Worship Song”.  Thanks for your ongoing comments on what you think makes a worship song “great” and for giving your list of songs that will forever be in your “treasure chest” of songs that are meaningful to you.

Over the next week or two, I’d like for us to come together here on the blog and discuss some of the “Top Worship Songs” according to the most recent, February 2008 CCLI Survey.

CCLI Top 25 Songs

CCLI Top 25 Songs

#1:  “How Great is our God”
by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, and Ed Cash

This is the top song, the most reported song in the United States.  I have to admit, I agree.  This is one of those amazing songs.  Let’s talk about why.


Yes – not necessarily in Chris Tomlin’s key, but definitely singable.  I dropped it down to the Key of (A) in my recording of this song (checkout my version of “How Great is our God” from the Worship Under the Stars CD on iTunes)


Not a doctrinal thesis by any means, which may be why it’s so beloved.  It’s a simple declaration of God’s greatness.  And it’s written in such a way where we (the people) are singing it … both unto God, and to one another.  (speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, right?)


Poetic, descriptive, beautiful.  Contrasts and imagery that really captivate our thoughts as we sing.


I believe simplicity is important for a song to be “great”.  The melodic line is easy to sing, easy to remember.  It’s not full of syncopations … “The Godhead, Three in One” in Verse 2 is, in my opinion, perhaps the trickiest rhythm to grasp in the entire song.


Another critical component of a great song.  How accessible is this to be used by people?  I don’t mean “can you buy it in a store”?.  I mean … can most people play this?  Can it be done with a huge praise band?  Can it be done with just an acoustic guitar in a small group?  Can it be done easily on a piano during personal worship?

The answer is YES, YES, YES.

Let’s face it, there are some songs that NEED a full band, horns, or other instruments to “make it”.  “How Great is our God” is not one of those songs.

Singable?  Theology?  Lyrics?  Simplicity?  Accessibility?
What are YOUR thoughts?

Song #2 coming up tomorrow.


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Fred McKinnon is a Pianist/Composer from St. Simons Island, GA. Checkout the full BIO for more information and a complete bio. Worship Interludes Podcast - This podcast features instrumentals for prayer, meditation, soaking worship, relaxation, study music, and rest. Visit the Podcast page to listen or subscribe. Follow on Social MediaFacebookYouTubeInstagramTwitter

18 comments on “CCLI Top Songs – How Great is our God

  1. Alastair says:

    I don’t like ‘How Great Is Our God’ to be honest. I can’t fault the words, but the verse melody near puts me to sleep – and that’s when I’m leading it. Just give me the chorus from it and I’ll spin it off another song or two instead.

    Alastairs last blog post..So You Want To Be In A Church Band?

  2. Alastair says:

    Another thing – I don’t know how accurate that CCLI top worship song list is. How is it compiled? The list is always about 2-3 years behind what I’ve been singing in (various) churches.

    Alastairs last blog post..So You Want To Be In A Church Band?

  3. Daddy says:

    As a pastor, I love it when our praise and worship team lead us in this song! I have also observed that the corporate church seems to really join in.

  4. Rob Petrini says:

    Coming from Australia, I never heard of Chris Tomlin until I came here… Hillsong dominated all we did (along with Parachute Band and Planetshakers)… In essence I agree with everything you said Fred. It’s not a song I would sit around at home and listen to… but it is anthemic, and can be powerful in a church worship setting (many times leading I have had goosebumps from the reaction of our people singing the song)…

    Alastair.. I think the list is based on the number of downloads over the past few years.. I agree with you, there are a number of songs (especially recently) that musically knock the pants off it… but you can’t deny the impact of this song… regardless of whether it puts you to sleep or not (there a number of psalms that can put me to sleep also… but does that mean they should be denied their place in the Bible?).

    Rob Petrinis last blog post..Core Mission…

  5. Fred says:

    Hey Guys –
    Actually, the results are from the rolling survey that CCLI does with churches. If you are a CCLI member, you have (or you will) be notified of a 6-month survey period where you have to log EVERYTHING related to copy/usage activity. It used to be in a big paperback thing you mailed in – now, you do it every week in an online site for reporting purposes … and based on your church’s congregation size, it’s logged with certain demographics and reporting factors.

    As a published songwriter who receives a royalty check from CCLI twice per year (for myself, and for writers that my company publishes), it’s very interesting to see the “usage” stats – how many single credits, arrangement credits, projection credits, recording credits, etc.

    For the Kingdom,
    Fred McKinnon

  6. Mike says:

    But does that really reflect who’s singing what? If I don’t need to make any new copies of it, I don’t need to report it…

    Anyway, I just got our set list for this week. (We rotate song selection responsibilities.) And this one is on the list! Fred, you must be a prophet.

    I like this song. Echoing Rob, I don’t listen to it a lot. (but it is on my mp3 player) but I love it at service. I especially like that “Sing with me…” lyric. I mean, is that perfect for a worship leader to be singing, or what? And it can be played a variety of ways as well, with different dynamics. A cappella in the chorus. Drum lift. Big crescendo at the end. Quiet acoustic guitar. Full band. Works every time…

  7. it’s a keeper… our church loves it.

    i like this new series you’ve got going. 🙂

    mandythompsons last blog post..i’ve been guested

  8. Audra Krell says:

    I think How Great is Our God is right where it should be in the number one spot. It’s my personal number one. One of the first times I heard it, a man that I respect very much was worshiping in a way I had never seen him do it before. He was just completely sold out to God at that moment. The first notes make my eyes well up and I’m anything but a crier. Everything you list about the song is true and then there’s something more. The truest and most pure annointing on that song,I don’t experience these things with any other song, and I’m a musician.

    Audra Krells last blog post..Watercooler Wednesday (No Tropic Thunder)

  9. Fred says:

    Thanks for stopping by – you raise an interesting point … sometimes, there is just an “anointing” … a “mantle” … on a song . I think “Healer” is that song right now. You can’t describe it, you can’t manufacture it … it’s just the hand of God, and His favor, is on a song. I absolutely think that has something to do w/ a song like this.

    For the Kingdom,
    Fred McKinnon

  10. Alastair says:

    With you on ‘Healer’ Fred.

    Alastairs last blog – Josh Wilson

  11. Rob Petrini says:

    Amen on “Healer”

    Rob Petrinis last blog post..Core Mission…

  12. Russ says:

    Personally, I don’t like this song. I enjoy hearing an entire congregation belt it out though. Because for me it’s not about THIS song in particular but about the hearts of worship that seem to just explode with song when this song is led.

    It’s a good song, I just don’t dig it personally.

  13. Alistair: I agree with you; CCLI needs to publish a companion list of “breaking” new worship songs. Their database gives them access to all kinds of trends happening and it would be nice if they would share more. Not every good worship composition is used widely enough to break into the Top 25, so it’s nice to know what else is out there. Their lists from other countries are somewhat helpful.

    BTW, if anybody’s reading this in Small Churchland, there’s a nice visual accompaniment DVD to “How Great Is Our God” out there. The company making these has only done a couple of worship songs; they also have two dozen performance songs.

  14. Erin KT says:

    I like your new series. Interesting to hear your prospective

  15. Michiel says:


    How great… has been translated to Dutch for us to sing it in our own language and I love it… On the other hand: the verses are a bit boring, I have to agree on that one with Alastair. The verses are just to slow… I think the chorus and bridge are very powerful. This is one of the songs our congregation really seem to pick up. Stayer, definitely.

    I’m not sure on Healer, though. There’s been quite a buzz surrounding that song, but to be honest – I think Desert Song deserve pretty much the same attention. Healer: singable? Ehm… I’ve listened to the song over and over again, but I really can’t remember the first few lines… 😉

  16. Paul J. says:

    If I can parse the song a little bit…I think one of the things that connects with the congregation is simply the second line of the chorus that begins with “Sing with me…”.
    I’ve noticed that point of the song is where our congregation seems to “connect”.

  17. Paul J: Is that parsing the song or exegeting the song?

    Paul Wilkinsons last blog post..The Gods Aren’t Angry

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