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Saturday
Mar122011

Review of Here For You, by Passion

Passion, Here For You (sixsteps/Sparrow)
Released: March 8, 2011

I remember when I heard my first Passion record—Passion 98—in high school.  It was fresh and different.  Little did I know at the time that I was listening to a mile-marker in the short history of contemporary worship.  Passion and Delirious are the pivot-point on which “contemporary worship” swung to “modern worship.”  Thirteen years later, much has changed, and much has stayed the same.  Many of the same faces and voices that were emerging in 1998 (Tomlin, Crowder, Hall, Redman) are now household names in contemporary Christian music.  Those twenty-somethings who were more raw emotion and energy have matured into thirty-somethings who have added a bit more depth to their passion.  Here For You clearly shows that Passion still dominates the modern worship scene.

SUMMARY

Passion always produces great albums.  To my ear and heart, this is not a hallmark album, however.  Musically, it is a typical modern worship album (this is not a criticism).  Textually, there are a few small surprises, but nothing jumps out that has not been previously recorded.  Awakening (2010) had a few outstanding songs (e.g. “You Alone Can Rescue”).  This album doesn’t seem to carry the same kind of stardom.  The songs I would most likely incorporate into worship are: “All to Us” (see my review of Tomlin’s album for comments on this song) and “Spirit Fall.”

Repeats from other albums and projects include: Crowder Band’s “Shadows,” from their Church Music, Stanfill’s “Forever Reign” from Hillsong’s A Beautiful Exchange, and “All to Us,” from Tomlin’s And if Our God is For Us.

MUSICALITY

The production, as always, is great.  The album is filled, with few exceptions, with the typical instrumentation: flowy keys, electric guitars, light acoustics, big drums, and crowd noise.  “All My Fountains” is a nice sonic departure from the standard tones and sounds of modern worship.  It is more earthy and vigorously acoustic rhythm reminiscent of late 90s Dave Matthews.  Christy Nockels (“Carry Your Name”) really does have a golden voice…the finest in Passion’s arsenal.

Perhaps the most novel aspect of Here For You is the introduction of rap into Passion’s recordings.  Lecrae appears on “Shadows,” with David Crowder, and on the bonus track of “Our God,” with Chris Tomlin.  With others, I’m appreciative of the incorporation of other genres, and especially from brothers and sisters who have an equal claim to the history of American church music—the African American tradition.  Some may disagree, but I believe rap is very much rooted in a combination of blues and the sing-song/shouting style of traditional black gospel preaching.  However, as many have noted, rap is a hard medium for congregational music.  It is effective as a preaching medium, and in a responsorial format (e.g. a verse plus a congregational refrain), but it is certainly something for congregations to listen to, not participate in.  Still, it’s a welcome addition to Passion’s albums specifically and worship generally.  Perhaps it is another small sign that racial bridges can be and are being broken down in and around worship.  Praise God for that!

THEOLOGICAL CONTENT

With this album, we see yet more cross-pollination between Hillsong worship and Passion worship.  “Set Free” is co-written by Redman, Tomlin, Ingram, and Ben Fielding.  Stanfill leads Hillsong’s “Forever Reign.”  There is also a little nod toward the hymn tradition on this record.  The chorus of “Lord, I Need You” very briefly touches on the text and melodic line of the 1872 hymn by Annie Hawks, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  I’m also excited to see the maturation of the songwriters with texts which “sound” like the expression of the biblical Psalms.  Kristian Stanfill’s “Always” is a weaving of several psalms (like 121 and 130) which give voice to lament in worship.

Some songs on the album, such as “Lord, I Need You,” “Carry Your Name,” and “Constant,” are deeply gospel-centered and Christ-saturated.  The text of  “Lord, I Need You” is doubly praiseworthy because it highlights Christ’s righteousness, not our own triumph, the latter being a nagging theme sometimes found in modern worship:

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Likewise, I appreciate the opening line of Crowder’s “Sometimes”:

Sometimes every one of us feels
Like we’ll never be healed
Sometimes

Modern worship needs to rest in these moments of lamentation more often, like the Psalms do.  The song carries quite a progression that one often doesn’t see in one hymn:

It begins in individual lamentation:

Sometimes every one of us aches
Like we’ll never be saved
Sometimes

It progresses to hope:

When we’ve given up
Let Your healing come
When there’s nothing left
Let Your healing come
Til we’re rising up
Let Your healing come

It moves to adoration:

It’s Your love that we adore
It’s like a sea without a shore
We’re lost in You
We’re lost in You

It moves to consecration and mission:

Where You go, we will follow
Oh, God send me

“All My Fountains” is an interesting expansion on that phrase taken from an under-appreciated psalm (Psalm 87), an eschatological song about the children of Zion and the joy of being in the protection and presence of God.  Knowing the psalm gives great context for the joy of “All My Fountains”:

He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you, city of God...
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
 and the Most High himself will establish her.”

The LORD will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”

As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”   (Psalm 87 [NIV])

The first three songs are calls to worship, songs of exaltation.  “Symphony” lifts the eyes similar to the opening lines of “How Great is Our God,” with its Psalm 19-like first verse:

Shining wonders, fields of splendor
How they sing Your symphony
The deepest oceans, rising mountains
How they sing Your symphony

There is a strong emphasis throughout the album (which is typical of modern worship) of finding God’s special manifestation in the moment of musical worship.  “Waiting Here for You” sings,

And we’re desperate for Your presence
All we need is You

“All My Fountains” cries,

Come on, rain down on us,
Rain down on us, Lord

It has always been a part of the modern worship ethos to seek God’s special manifestation in the moment of singing.  Many worship songs ask for that very thing, saying something like, “as we sing, come meet us here.”  I wonder, with such a heavy emphasis on the presence of God in music, whether modern worship has steered us away from seeing how the presence of God is also (and perhaps better) manifested in other elements of worship like the Lord’s Table.  A gentle reminder to those of us who love and appreciate the vitality of modern worship is that the Scriptures testify and the history of the Church’s worship corroborates the reality that God chooses to manifest Himself most acutely in the Lord’s Supper, not in singing.  But, unfortunately, modern worship movements like Passion have been at least a small step removed from corporate worship of the local church, acting more like parachurch worship movements than core expressions of Christ’s church (interesting sidenote: Passion City Church has launched as a Passion-offshoot in Atlanta). While I’m all for encouraging generations to gather, be inspired, and rise up for ministry (Passion is a movement targeting the specific demographic of college and young adults), I wonder whether Passion’s influence on the Church has at least in a small way led evangelicalism more toward missing what uniquely happens in worship when we celebrate the sacrament together.

It is encouraging to see the theological jab in “Spirit Fall.”  Often times, simple songs of the Spirit are nebulous and do not highlight the roles that the Spirit plays.  Here, we have a very specific call for the Holy Spirit to act:

Oh, come
Magnify the Son
Savior of the world
The hope for everyone

The Spirit’s job isn’t just to give us goosebumps and overlay an emotional blanket on our hearts during worship.  The Spirit has come to bear witness to the Son, to herald the gospel, and to illumine Christ to us.  To my mind, this is what gives this simple song some uniqueness in the modern worship expression.  Personally, I am not usually drawn to more experiential songs, but this one attracts me because of its theological angle.

“Set Free” is an exciting song intended to get bodies moving:

And we’ll dance, dance
Dance in Your freedom
Oh, Your glorious freedom
Forevermore, forevermore

Perhaps because it’s more of a “dance” number than a “sing” number, the text-writing is a bit more loose.  I often encourage worship leaders to hold up as a criterion for song-selection the idea of logical cohesion (see my article “How I Choose Songs for Corporate Worship”).  Where is the point at which words and phrases move from being “impressionistic” to random?  I wonder whether “Set Free” teeters on this tipping point:

Joy, joy, unspeakable joy
Hope like never before
You came for us
You are our freedom

Love, love, unshakeable love
We shall over come, we will never give up
We lift a shout, we lift a shout
Everyone singing

Come on, come on now, we’ve got a new song
Come on, come on now, a song of liberty
Let the world hear heaven’s melody
This is the shout of the hearts You’ve set free

There is a conceptual glue which holds these statements together, certainly, but the text is awfully loose.  I’m not totally against it, but I want to continually raise the question that many do not: Should we not pause to ponder the fact that, while standing in the rich history of hundreds of years of Christian worship, we are the first to express words in this way, so loosely hung together?

I’m also interested in discussing the phrase, “dance in your freedom.”  For as popular a phrase as this is in modern worship, there aren’t many Scriptural parallels to it.  In the Bible, certainly there is dancing.  And a major theme of the gospel certainly is freedom.  And yet if you do a Bible Gateway search of the words and phrases, “dance freedom,” “dancing freedom,” and “dance free,” at least in the NIV, no matches are found.  Where did this phrase and idea get so popular for modern worship?  Does it have its roots in David’s naked, “undignified” worship?  Is it an attempt to encourage that attitude of heart?  It is not at all bad to strive for bodily freedom in worship; God deserves our all.  Dancing is an expression of worship, of course.  But where did we come up with this phrase, and what is its meaning and purpose?  I simply want to question its prevalence in our modern hymnody. 

Because of Passion's incredible influence over evangelical worship (in many ways, they are trend-setters) they must be open to scrutiny and questions like those above.  Still, Here For You contains nothing off-course theologically, and will no doubt leave a positive mark on the landscape of modern worship.

Thursday
Feb172011

Review of Aftermath by Hillsong United

Hillsong United, Aftermath (Sparrow)
Released: February 15, 2011

Within the “imprints” of the Hillsong brand (Hillsong, United, Live, and Kids), it is United which propels their style and artistry forward.  In the case of Aftermath, their movement is a retro-progression (different from a retrogression) into 80s sounds and styles.  This album is atypical of what has come before in that it feels much less like a “worship album."  The backing choir, congregational sound, and crowd noise are absent—it’s only solo voices and faint BGVs.  There are no arena sounds and reverberant air.  It is a clean, tight, studio album that appears to have been recorded on three different continents.  I have no doubt that, because this is not an “arena worship” recording, there will be many Hillsong United fans at least initially disappointed.  But this should not take away from the fact that Aftermath is a fabulous sonic feast, expanding our United palette with fresh tastes from the not-so-distant past.

REVIEW SUMMARY

If you are looking for new material for congregational singing, you’ve come to the wrong place.  With some exception (e.g. “Rhythms of Grace”), though United undoubtedly uses these songs in their worship contexts, the melodic complexity of these songs lend themselves to performance-material rather than lifting voices in corporate worship.  That said, Aftermath is still a well-produced, musical, and artistic achievement.  Furthermore, the album is Christ-centered and God-exalting in its texts, though it suffers a bit from theological imprecision and scattered logical flow.  If United’s goal was to provide the Church with more worship songs, I would say that previous albums (e.g. Tear Down the Walls / Across the Earth and All of the Above) have done a better job at accomplishing that end.  If their goal was to artistically stretch themselves and their listener-ship musically, they have succeeded greatly.  No song stands out as one I would enthusiastically recommend for congregational worship, but many songs could be fitting.

MUSICALITY

The best way I can describe the unity of styles on this album is with the label “neo-80s space galactica punk.”  It is as if Talking Heads, Enya, Green Day, and the creators of Tron all got together in a collaborative project.  From Cars-like moog intros (“Light Will Shine”), to Top Gun-ish airy keys and staccato bass lines (“Nova”), to programming and legato lines mixed with Enya-style vocals (“Bones”), to pumping, tremolo synths (“Search My Heart”), United appears to be jumping on the 80s retro bandwagon that pop, rock, and hip-hop artists alike have been exploring as of late.  United seems to be stepping off their penchant toward heavy tom-work in the drumming.  “Rhythms of Grace” is a great example of this, where, at about the 3:20-marker, the drummer has chosen a creative, unorthodox, indie-style beat.

Track six, “b.e. (interlude),” gives a shout-out to Hillsong Live’s “Beautiful Exchange,” with the haunting choir in the background, singing,

Holy are You, God
Holy is Your Name
With everything I’ve got
My heart will sing, how I love You

Joel Houston, as Executive Producer and songwriter/co-songwriter for many of the tracks, is extremely talented and creative.  This project seems to reveal that Houston was challenging himself with something different.  This album is an enjoyable listen, with authentic artistry in the musicality and production from top to bottom.

THEOLOGICAL CONTENT

That Brooke (Fraser) Ligertwood had very little involvement with the album (the credits indicate that she sang BGVs) shows, especially in the songwriting.  Ligertwood, especially in recent years, has provided a bit more biblical depth and theological reflection in her material.  Aftermath has no “standout” song, textually speaking, which parallels the depth of “Desert Song” (Ligertwood) or “You Hold Me Now” (Morgan/Crocker) from United’s previous album, Tear Down the Walls / Across the Earth (read my review of that album here)That said, Aftermath is beautifully Christ- and Gospel-centered.  The unifying theme and song of the album, “Aftermath,” is a rich metaphor for how the Gospel reaches sinners in the beautiful mess of the incarnation of Christ:

The skies lay low where You are
On the earth You rest Your feet
Yet the hands that cradle the stars
Are the hands that bled for me
In a moment of glorious surrender
You were broken for all the world to see
Lifted out of the ashes
I am found in the aftermath

“Aftermath” implies that an important and decisive battle took place, yet the battle was not clean.  This is a wonderful picture of the cross—the deepest love possible poured out, combined with the greatest injustice that ever took place.  The cross is simultaneously a place of healing and a place of wreckage.  “Aftermath” gathers all those concepts into one word filled with rich imagery, which is quite remarkable. 

Especially against the backdrop of historic Christian hymnody and the biblical Psalms, United’s texts continue their general trend of being more “impressionistic” as opposed to logically coherent.  Take, for instance, the opening verse and pre-chorus of “Go”:

In the Father there is freedom
There is hope in the Name that is Jesus
Lay your life down, give it all now
We are found in the love of the Saviour
We’ve come alive in You
Set free to show the truth
Our lives will never be the same

There isn’t much that helps these statements hang together in a logical progression, which ends up seeming more like mere emoting than making any cohesive statement in the song.  The same song also exhibits the triumphalism that some have rightly criticized in the past:

We’re giving it all away, away
We’re giving it all to go Your way
We are sold out to Your calling

Certainly we need to make room for consecration.  We should sing statements of commitment, even whole-hearted commitment.  But I have dialogued with not a few folks who are weary of singing such words when they know that their sinful, broken hearts feel very inauthentic when such lyrics are sung.  I admit myself that, much of the time, I don’t feel sold out to God’s calling; I don’t give it all to go God’s way.  Such triumphal lyrics need to be administered in careful dosages, set in the context of Gospel-response and consecration as opposed to an “I’m trying, God! I can do it!” mentality.  I’m not saying that this is what United has done or that this was the songwriter’s intent, but I am saying that too much of this can either drive people away or lead them to false senses of their own spiritual power and moral success.  “Like an Avalanche” is a good counter-example to that issue of triumphalism, displaying consecration as Gospel-borne response:

Trading Your righteousness for shame
Despite all my pride and foolish ways…
Oh, take my life
Take all that I am
With all that I am I will love You

One other concern on the album is with some “Trinitarian confusion” in the song “Father” (I mention this issue in my article on my criteria for choosing worship songs.)  A problem exists in evangelical worship that shows up more than we’d like to admit.  There are times when our prayers or our songs can speak to or of one member of the Trinity about works or characteristics that really are attributed to another member.  In “Father,” the following is sung:

Father
Let heaven and earth collide in the endless wonder
Of Your love upon the cross

The collision of heaven and earth is most precisely a reference to the incarnation of Jesus, God the Son, the second member of the Trinity.  Furthermore, though the Father’s love was certainly present at the cross, “Your love upon the cross” is a phrase one would expect to be singing to God the Son.  But the whole chorus begins with the vocative, “Father,” indicating that what follows is addressed to Him.  Hillsong has an incredible international platform, and because of that, they must be aware that they have the privilege of teaching and conveying both spirituality and theology to a broad swath of the Church catholic.  Theological precision should be a high-priority analytical grid that they perpetually apply to their new material.  The scope of their influence demands it.

I thank God for Hillsong United.  Like never before, more tribes, tongues, and nations are unified in worship in ways previously unthinkable.  God is using them to stir hearts, to promote justice, and to form people into the image and likeness of Christ.  May God bear fruit for His kingdom through Aftermath.

Monday
Oct252010

Review of Yahweh, by Hillsong Chapel

Tomorrow Hillsong releases a new arm in their brand: “Hillsong Chapel.”  The album, Yahweh, is the first of more to come in this “product line.”  Here’s the description from worshiptogether.com:

Hillsong Chapel is an intimate and devotional collection of Hillsong songs by the Hillsong Live team.  Recorded live in the Hillsong Chapel in March 2010, “Yahweh” is the first installment in this organic contemplative expression of praise and worship.

Comprised of 13 congregational songs carefully rearranged to be more intimate, this project is perfect for smaller gatherings and will help resource smaller congregations with the favourites from Hillsong Live and Hillsong United.  It is also ideal for your own personal devotional and meditative times of worship.

So it sounds like Hillsong’s objective is to counterbalance their epic, arena-rock sound with something more intimate.  If you’re looking for new Hillsong material, you won’t find it here.  All their songs are repeats from previous records.  However, there is one thing valuable and unique about this album for worship leaders to note.  I often hear from musicians trying to incorporate and play Hillsong material in their churches that the arrangements are too dense, and the average band can’t live up to the gusto of Hillsong drumming and electric guitars.  There’s a beauty and musicality in what Hillsong can accomplish, but I agree that commoners like us feel inadequate when trying to achieve the dynamic, intense, and ethereal prowess of the Aussies. 

Yahweh provides a peak into a more “realistic,” average modern worship instrumental sound.  The recordings sound pretty raw, which makes me think that, unlike Hillsong main, United, and Live, there isn’t as much overdubbing going on after the live recording on this album.  I hear rough vocal harmonies, stronger presence of acoustics in the mix, and perhaps some slight rhythmic imprecision.  The fact that these are all known, previously recorded songs actually makes the aforementioned “imperfections” more remarkable.  Here we have the Hillsong artists themselves showing us how their own music can be done differently.  And that’s valuable.

Here’s the track listing:

1. Hosanna
2. You’ll Come
3. Run
4. The Time Has Come
5. Savior King
6. Yahweh
7. Came to My Rescue
8. Stronger
9. This is Our God
10. You Hold Me Now
11. From the Inside Out
12. Mighty to Save
13. Salvation is Here

An observation: One big clue that they’re trying to market this primarily to an American audience is that they’ve changed the spelling of their famous song from “Saviour King” to “Savior King.”

Many cynics will view this as a marketing ploy…a way to make more money.  And perhaps there’s truth in that.  I don’t know how much behind-the-scenes processing went on for this album, but its rawness tells me that they did not pour the time and energy here that they have poured into other projects.  Still, that’s obviously part of the goal—more raw, more intimate.  However, as I said above, because Hillsong is pulling back the curtain a bit and showing themselves in a stripped-down fashion that more churches and congregants can identify with, I still find this album (and this new “brand”) valuable.

Finally, notice the descriptors, particularly, "devotional," "organic," and "contemplative."  There's something here.  They're acknowledging that the albums and music they've produced thus far don't lend themselves much to being described with the above adjectives.  They're acknowleding, perhaps, a lack of earthiness and meditative reverence.  Interestingly, however, the change toward that end does not come textually, but instrumentally through song-arrangements.  They're doing the same songs, but they are attempting them in more "devotional," "organic," and "contemplative" ways.  Have they achieved these ends?  Or is there a need for a wider breadth of textual content? 

A move toward answering this question could involve comparing the textual repertoire of Hillsong songs to that of, for example, 1800s English hymnody.  Do we find in Hillsong the spread of jubilance to confession, praise to lament, joy to languish, pleasure to pain, that we do in the Christian songwriters of the 19th century?  It's worth reflection.  If Hillsong is interested in diversifying its portfolio, perhaps the next step would be more songs that fall along the lines of "Desert Song"...a beautiful hymn of lament.

Wednesday
Aug042010

Hillsong vs. Getty: A Contrast in Melody-Writing

Circulating through many of my favorite worship blogs is the distillation of Keith Getty’s presentation on songwriting at the National Worship Leaders Conference.  It is getting widespread press for good reason—Getty’s insights are golden.  With particular regards to melody-writing, Getty had to say:

“To write strong melodies remember that folk melody has to be passed on orally (aurally). I try to write songs that can be sung with no written music. I imitate Irish folk melody, with a great deal of contour, of rise and fall.”

When I first heard Getty talk about this in January at the Calvin Symposium on Christian Worship, my mind was immediately flooded with the modern worship songs which don’t live up to this criterion and yet seem to still gain momentum in churches.  Of particular prominence in my mind was the material of Hillsong and Hillsong United.  Many of their songs’ melodies would fall flat without their music.  And, though filled with melodic leaps, I would not characterize their vocal lines as having “a great deal of contour, of rise and fall”…at least in the way that I understand Getty to mean it.

When I hear the melodies of Getty, I am always struck by their melismatic richness and flowing elegance.  They are “easy on the voice.”  They rise and fall step-wise with minimal intervallic gaps.  Leaps, when they happen, are intentional and cautiously used (“In Christ Alone” would be a perfect example of this).  Such melodies certainly stir the senses and move the heart.  They arouse the more elegant folk sensibilities in me.  To describe them in a nutshell: Getty’s melodies express through refined artistic beauty.

When I hear the melodies of Hillsong, I am always struck by their emotional immediacy and speech-like, colloquial accessibility.  There is something more basic and instinctual in me that resonates with the stuttering rhythms and jolting intervals that characterize the melodies of Hillsong (for an example of this, listen to “Freedom is Here”).   Their melodies arouse the more earthy, “tribal” sensibilities in me.  To describe them in a nutshell: Hillsong’s melodies express through raw human emotion.

Must these worlds be at odds?  Some say yes.  My more intelligent and analytical friends would be quick to (correctly) point out that the melodies of Getty will stand the test of time while those of Hillsong won’t.  In their minds, it would logically follow that, for that reason, one should favor Getty.  But, while my classical training and artistic sensibilities agree with this, on an existential level I can honestly say that something basic to my humanness would go unexpressed if all I sang were the refined, lyrical melodies of Getty.  Folk-influenced melodies pull back some of the emotive punch I would want to express in my musical worship unto God.  Sometimes, with Hillsong melodies, they come close to being shouts barely bound by pitch and key…and any honest reading of the Psalms shows that Scripture affirms this type of raw emotion.

I’ve noted that my more artsy friends have been quick to dismiss much of the Hillsong repertoire because it lacks melodic and musical sophistication, so they say.  They consider it poor songwriting.  But I wonder whether their criteria are formed in an artistic bubble such that they can’t see the obvious evidence: Hillsong’s music is sought after and passionately sung by (I would speculate) millions of people globally (yes, even in non-Western countries…check out their “I Heart Revolution” DVD).  Hear me out.  This is not as simple as an it’s-popular-so-we-should-do-it argument.  It has more to do with how the rhythms and contours of the melodies (wedded, of course, with the texts) tap into something deep in the human spirit (check out Sarah Mac’s post saying this very thing). 

Let me put it another way.  As I think about the complex faculties that make up my humanness, I can make this observation: With Getty’s music, my brain sings; with Hillsong’s music, my gut sings.  Again, I am talking about melody, not text.  When I hear/sing these melodies, different faculties in me are stirred emotionally.  With Getty, my refined, cerebral emotion is stimulated.  With Hillsong, my basic, instinctual emotion is stimulated.

Here’s where this all gets intensely personal for me.  I’ve been planning and visioneering our second hymns album (which we’ll begin production on in January 2011, Lord-willing), and I’m settling on a songwriting and production approach which mirrors much more what Hillsong is doing from a musical standpoint.  My hope is to make hymns palatable to Hillsong junkies and modern worship exclusivists.  More than that, I’m excited to move into uncharted waters in the convergence of old hymns to modern music—not only am I writing hymn-tunes which are “contemporary” and accompanied by rock band instrumentation, I am writing them in a contemporary style that many think is impossible (or foolish) to wed with such texts.  The people-pleasing side of me (which I need to repent of) knows that I will not be looked upon favorably by the hymns movement guys and gals I so respect and admire, because they tend to fall in line with Getty’s melody-writing philosophies (not to say that their albums and production all sound the same, because they don’t).  So perhaps my above reflections are an attempt to justify the musical validity not just of Hillsong but of my own new risky endeavor.

What’s frustrating to me is that I don’t hear anyone talking about this kind of thing.  Just as there have been worship wars between traditional and modern music sentimentalities, so I’m witnessing mounting polarities between mainstream modern worship and the modern hymns movement types.  I desperately want the camps to come together, mainly so that the latter can speak into the former.  But right now, there’s a lot of critical rhetoric out there from the hymns movement folks without any counterbalancing of encouragement and appreciation.  The hymns movement is reacting to mainstream modern worship prophetically (which is not without merit), but they need to couple that with a pastoral approach, as well.

I’ll conclude with a fictional encounter that illustrates my fear: While having coffee with some leading figure in the hymns movement, I ask them “So what do you think of Hillsong?”  They either respond with, “Hill-Who?” or “I don’t listen to that trash.”

Monday
Mar152010

Review of Passion's New Worship Album, Awakening

Passion, Awakening (2010, Various Artists)

In my opinion, the Passion folks have drawn the clearest line of demarcation between the stylistic eras of “contemporary worship” (80s and 90s) and “modern worship” (late 90s to the present).  I remember when Passion ’98 hit the scene.  The songs felt fresh, youthful, and different from its predecessors, and from that time forward, we watched the blossoming of the solo careers of these Passion artists (Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder, Charlie Hall, etc.) as well as the arrival of even newer waves of modern worship (e.g. Hillsong United).  This most recent album of Passion’s shows stylistic and textual progression from their 1998 starting point.

OVERALL SUMMARY

Worth getting it?  If you’re buying this album for personal edification, get it.  You will be encouraged.  If you’re a worship leader looking for congregational material, save money and just buy the few songs worth evaluating (see the song-by-song analysis below).

Songs I would most likely end up using in worship: “You Alone Can Rescue” (Redman), “Our God” (Tomlin).

Accessibility: As usual, their sung keys favor tenors and altos (singing in nearly the same vocal range), alienating the bass and soprano vocal range.  But good worship leaders should have the musical ability to re-set these songs in accessible keys (and if they don’t, they should think about getting some musical training or else choosing a different vocation…because they’re not serving the church well when they lead these songs in the recorded keys).  Once the songs are set in congregation-friendly keys, the majority of them are accessible and singable for most congregations.

Theological depth: Passion still cannot stand up to the great hymns of the faith, but the longer they’re around the more their songs progress to being God-centered rather than human-centered, with a stronger gospel focus.  There is still a lack of substantive reflection on one major part of the Christian experience—suffering.  Where one of my friends had described the texts and styles coming from Hillsong United as “adolescent,” I would comparatively describe this latest collection from Passion a bit more mature (20s, early 30s?) with some deeper songs that push the average upward.  Whether they know it or not, the Passion folks still reflect a charismatic/Pentecostal theological perspective in the way they choose to express, experience, and request God’s presence. 

Musicality: As always, superb.  I would characterize the style as modern, yet conservative, with a slight edge.  They are not as experimental with rhythm, electric guitar work, synth sounds, and song structure as, say, Hillsong United, but they aren’t remaining stuck in the same stylistic forms that they were using on the previous albums (I keep comparing them to Hillsong United, so it’s worth pointing out that United actually made it on this album).  Musically, Tomlin’s “Our God” is enjoyable to me, especially for its bridge and musical interlude (see below).  The album is well-produced and polished, as always, and they’ve included more of the congregational “sound” (background voices) than in previous albums.  Probably because of the influence of Hillsong United, there are more congregational “whoa’s” (I don’t know what else to call them); they appear on several tracks.  I personally like this (to me they serve the biblical function of “shout of praise”) but I know that it seems to many in the church like pointless, rock-concert frivolity.  Still, could congregational “whoa’s” be the new version of call-and-response antiphonal singing?  Ancient-future, baby!

SONG-BY-SONG ANALYSIS

Awakening
It’s great to see two heavy-hitting worship songwriters (Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan) team up!  Here are the first two verses and chorus:

(V1) In our hearts Lord in this nation awakening
Holy Spirit we desire awakening

(V2) In Your presence in Your power awakening
For this moment in this hour awakening

(C) For You and You alone awake my soul
Awake my soul and sing
For the world You love Your will be done
Let Your will be done in me

This is a nice, simple call to worship song, with a gradual build into a surprisingly powerful second half.  Its theme comes from psalms like Psalm 57: “Awake, my soul!”, and it’s therefore a wonderful reminder that, left to ourselves, we are spiritually lethargic (dead, even) and need our soul awakened by an outside Force (in the non Starwarsian sense).  Later, there are hints of the gospel and expressions of the desire for not just subjective, individual “awakening,” but world-awakening:

Like the rising sun that shines…
From the darkness comes a light…
Like the rising sun that shines…
Only You can raise a life…

In our hearts, Lord
In the nations, awakening

While I don’t have anything against this song, it personally doesn’t “do” anything for me.  It might for others.  I’m open to using it, but it’s not top on my list.

Say, Say
This is one of those pump-you-up songs.  To me, it seems filled with loosely connected Christian-ese clichés. The chorus:

Say, say
Say you believe it
Sing for the whole world to hear it
We know, and we declare it

Jesus is King
Sing loud, sing like you mean it
We know, and we declare it
Jesus is King

(yelled) “Say, say!”

For me, there’s too much hype and not enough substance to offer it to my congregation.  If songs are going to pump you up, their rockin’ musical backdrop needs to be accompanied by some pretty strong gospel-reflection—God’s true Pump.  Without it, we’re just a deflated spiritual corpse, rotting “from the inside out” ;).  “Jesus is King” serves as a gospel-reflection, but it’s just too nebulous…not enough meat on the bones.

Our God
Here’s a mid-tempo song that really has a rockin’, Coldplay-influenced bridge section.  I dig it!  It focuses on God’s power in both performing miracles and saving sinners.  Its chorus is general, but exalting:

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer
Awesome in power
Our God, our God

The bridge is empowering to the believer:

And if our God is for us
Then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us
Then who could stand against?

In a Hillsong-style eighth-note banging build, it climaxes in a beautiful, powerful instrumental section that would be fun for bands to play and musically fits the triumph of the text.  Though this song is rather loose and generic in its reflection, it is transcendent enough, and it musically floats my boat.  It’s on my radar, but I’m not chomping at the bit to introduce this one.  It is my second favorite song on the album.

How He Loves
Though I’ve used this song before, I don’t personally feel it’s good for corporate worship.  I’ll explain why in a future post.  It’s a great personal worship song, and this particular version is a bit more stripped down and raw than some other recorded renditions…which I appreciate.

Healing is in Your Hands
Christy Nockels has an incredible voice.  I wish I had half her ability.  It is versatile and very expressive.  It’s difficult to teach women to sing like this.  This song focuses on the wideness of God’s love for us and the healing the gospel brings.  It verges on performance-song because of its upper range and held notes in the chorus.  The song doesn’t jump out at me, though, for congregational use.

King of Heaven (Isaiah 61)
This is an interesting, up-beat, eschatologically-oriented song.  I’m appreciative that this song, like Brooke Fraser’s “Hosanna,” is bringing attention in corporate worship to the second advent of Christ and the implications for the church’s present mission.  We need more songs along these lines: 

(C1) We’ll sing the gospel to the poor
We’ll go to comfort those who mourn
You’ll put together what’s been torn
King of Heaven

For the simple reason that other songs with a view toward justice and the eschaton do a better job of being cohesive in message and implications (e.g. “Hosanna,” our “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” or Tim Hughes’ “God of Justice”), I’m inclined not to add this to my regular rotation of worship songs.

You Alone Can Rescue
THIS IS THE BEST SONG ON THE ALBUM.  This is from Matt Redman’s We Shall Not Be Shaken, which I reviewed over half a year ago.  When I wrote that review, this song was on the top of my favorites for corporate worship, but I ended up shelving it.  Its re-appearance on Awakening has renewed my zeal to use it.  It is God-centered, Christocentric, and soaked in the gospel.  The bridge moves me to tears.  I love this song.  It has “soli Deo gloria” written all over it.  Here it is, in its entirety:

(V1) Who O Lord could save themselves
Their own soul could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your grace is deeper still

(V2) You O Lord have made a way
The great divide You healed
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes Your love goes further still

(C) And You alone can rescue
You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

(B) We lift up our eyes, lift up our eyes
You're the giver of life

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is
Here’s the chorus:

We know where the Spirit of the Lord is
(Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty)
We know living in Your freedom
(Living in Your freedom we see Your glory)
We know where the Spirit of the Lord is
(Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty)
We're Yours and Yours is the kingdom (We are Yours)
Yours is the kingdom (Yours is the kingdom)

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m personally growing weary of modern worship songs that speak in nebulous terms about “freedom.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for true, Christ-bought, biblical freedom, but I get the sense more often than not in modern worship that when freedom-language is used, it gets truncated into an I’m-free-to-express-myself-however-I-want kind of vibe.  It seems to me that Paul’s phrase in 2 Corinthians 3:17 (from which the chorus of this song comes) gets abused in the context of worship.  Paul’s discussion of “freedom” in the larger context of that book and chapter involves a freedom to directly approach God the Father…but it’s not really addressing the context of corporate worship.  It’s speaking more personally, and even missionally.  Paul’s point seems to be that because God has so deeply reconciled us to Himself (He allows us full access to His presence!), we have a resulting ministry of reconciliation to deliver to the broken world.  The concept of being “free” in a corporate worship seems quite ancillary to the thrust of the passage.  Of course it is true that approaching the Father directly through Christ very much speaks to what is involved in the corporate worship experience for Christians, but this is NOT what Paul is addressing.  In summary, then, I don’t believe that this song is in theological error, but it is perpetuating an application, which, because of its frequency of “air time” in modern worship, might lead people to believe that the central thrust of the passage is worship.  This happens sometimes when short phrases from the Bible are quoted and re-quoted in worship songs…they take a life of their own and can confuse the Bible-reader about what that quote is truly talking about in its Scriptural context.

Where I see the concept of freedom abused in modern worship is in giving license to “express yourself how you want to.”  I’m not against this outright, but it does cater to American individualism, and, when encouraged in the corporate worship setting, lessens the corporate idea of worship and heightens individual experience.  Instead of corporate worship, “freedom” often produces a bunch of isolated worshipers, having a one-on-one experience with God…those worshipers just happen to be standing by several others who are also having a similar God-encounter. 

So despite the fact that this song rocks my face off, and despite the fact that it has a very cool antiphonal call-and-response between men and women in the chorus, I probably wouldn’t use this song in corporate worship.  Though perhaps I’ll change on that if someone convinces me I’m out to lunch (or buys me lunch).

Rise and Sing
Another pump-up song.  Fee really rocks this one out, complete with the aforementioned responsorial congregational “whoa’s.”  Stylistically, it’s punk-ish.  See the above thoughts on “Say, Say,” because they apply here, too.

Like a Lion
I like the musical themes in this song.  It’s beginning is reflective and helpfully preparatory (and it reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight”…a plus).  Its text is unique.  It reflects on the explosive love of our God, residing in our hearts like a lion. 

(V1) Let love explode and bring the dead to life
A love so bold to see a revolution somehow

(C) My God's not dead, He's surely alive
And He's living on the inside roaring like a lion

(V2) Let hope arise and make the darkness hide
My faith is dead I need a resurrection somehow

(Pre-C) Now I'm lost in Your freedom
Oh this world I'll overcome

(B) Let heaven roar and fire fall
Come shake the ground with the sound of revival
Let heaven roar and fire fall
Come shake the ground with the sound of revival

My problem with this song is that I’m not sure what it means.  It seems quite internal and subjective.  Biblically, God’s Lion-like qualities are for external purposes—dominating, ruling, conquering.  Of course all those things happen inside of us, but it seems that other biblical metaphors take over in those discussions.  Furthermore, “My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive, and He’s living on the inside” sounds a lot like the very subjective hymn line that does absolutely nothing for defending the faith:

You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart!

(And just when you thought I had nothing bad to say about hymns!)  When you make a claim, “My God’s not dead,” you are entering the world of apologetics.  It is a response to Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous atheistic quip.  Unfortunately, like the line from “He Lives,” this song’s answer is subjective.  Of course my personal experience of God’s indwelling presence is enough to convince me of His existence, but it would not be how I would choose to respond to someone defending atheism.  It would most likely fit in a cumulative case of other more rational arguments.  I know I’m rabbit-trailing here, but I’m convinced that worship leaders are like dieticians, and whatever they feed their flock will shape the health of the people’s souls.  This song just doesn’t have enough to commend it for me to overlook the odd non-apologetic it contains.

With Everything

Wow!  Hillsong United on a Passion album!  Two worlds collide!  Is this some kind of modern worship monopoly--a centralization of power, seeking to overthrow all lesser contenders?  Are they threatened by the ever-growing influence of the hymns movement to the point of needing to rally the troops?  I wish…and I jest.  I like this song.  It is powerful and moving, even if a bit disjointed.  It ends with congregational “whoa’s,” the high note being a held-out G# (!).  It caps off the album with a sense of unceasing worship.  A friend who attended Passion 2010 told me that United was surprised by the congregational mass who kept singing the “whoa’s,” and the band was joyfully “forced” back into building the song up again.  It must have been powerful to worship with such eager participants. 

 

For Christ and His Church,
Zac

 



Tuesday
Aug252009

Review of Matt Redman's new album, We Shall Not Be Shaken

We Shall Not Be Shaken Matt Redman, We Shall Not Be Shaken (August, 2009) Summary My recommendation is that worship leaders and worshipers alike should buy this album.  My three favorite songs, which I hope to use at my church, are “You Alone Can Rescue,” “How Great is Your Faithfulness,” and “Remembrance.” Overall Comments I must say I’ve been following Redman for a long time—since the late 90s.  His early albums were great. In the 2000s, Where Angels Fear to Tread was a powerful album for me, mostly because, well before it became famous, “Blessed Be Your Name” became a heart-song of mine as God took my wife and me through the valley of the shadow of death.  After Angels came Beautiful News, and I must admit that I was disappointed in it.  My expectations were probably too high, but too many songs seemed either unsingable, too bland, or attempting too much chordally/musically.  We Shall Not Be Shaken is, in my mind, a few large leaps back up “great worship album” hill. As I’ve said about every album Redman has put out, We Shall Not Be Shaken shows Redman to be a worship leader who actually reads His Bible.  His songs, while existential, are filled with Bible quotes, Scriptural allusion, and theological depth.  In this respect, he seems to be getting better with every subsequent album. The production on this album is great…better than previous collections.  There is a nice sonic variety within the pop/rock genre.  Electric guitars aren’t monochromatic.  Some songs are piano-driven rather than guitar-driven.  There are U2 and Coldplay overtones here and there, and I’m hearing a more noticeable use of sampling/programming/looping than what has been on previous albums.  There are more mid- and up-tempo songs (which, personally, I find harder to write [with any substance] than slower songs).  Redman’s voice has never been a flashy one.  In many ways, I view him as the Rich Mullins of modern worship, in the sense that his recordings are admired not because he’s a virtuoso vocalist but because he writes incredible texts.  And there’s something refreshing about a “straight up” vocalist every once in a while.  You can tell Redman is a worship leader rather than a performer.  (I like Brenton Brown’s recordings for a lot of those same reasons.) Gospel-Centered, and God-Centered I praise Redman and this album chiefly for its gospel-centeredness.  Too many worship songs ignore the gospel, probably because the whole concept of gospel-as-entrance-ticket (but not as our ongoing source of sustenance and sanctification) is still pretty prevalent in evangelicalism.  So, that Redman continually points to the life and work of Christ, and that he roots our worship in God’s finished work in Jesus, are necessary correctives/emphases for mainstream evangelical worship.  The album is a gospel-centered album. I also applaud Redman and this album for its God-centeredness.  There’s a lot of “You” and much less of “me.”  And any time there is “me,” it’s always set in the context of “You.”  Song after song exalts God’s greatness, faithfulness, and enduring love.  As John Witvliet has pointed out about the Psalms, Redman grounds praise in God’s attributes and His deeds.  Worship is not a mere mystical encounter with the force of the Divine, it is a recounting of the works of God in history, ushering forth an overflow of praise.  Bravo, Mr. Redman!  The title track, “We Shall Not Be Shaken,” repeats a mantra similar those used by Hillsong United lyricists: We shall, we shall not be shaken. But, unlike the self-triumphalism one sometimes finds in the texts of modern worship songs, Redman points back to the reason that we are not shaken: For You are, You are never changing. Our triumph is grounded in Christ’s.  I appreciate that Redman makes that explicit, because when it’s not, it has a subtle way of educating our congregations to be boastful in ourselves or to think that we’ve got the spiritual fortitude to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  The theme of God’s triumph and what that means for us reverberates throughout many tracks on the album—our glory is only great as it is derivative of God’s. Even in Redman’s communion song, “Remembrance,” where it speaks of our remembrance leading us into worship, Redman is quick to point out: By Your mercy we come to Your table By Your grace, You are making us faithful What a great line! We’re only faithful because God made us so.  More God, less me.  Amen!  “Remembrance” is a great song for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (not enough modern worship songs are written for this sacred, vital act of Christian worship!).  Redman seems, too, to be stretching his theological boundaries, coming from the charismatic side of evangelicalism.  Probably more implicit than explicit, there are overtones of Christ’s real presence in the sacrament, in climactic lines such as: Lord Jesus, come in glory. One can understand this line from a Zwinglian, purely symbolic perspective by saying that Redman is just referring to how the table points to the wedding feast and that the request for Jesus to “come in glory,” is a longing for Jesus to come in the eschaton.  However, I think the context shows that Redman intended for this request to be a desired reality in the moment of Holy Communion.  In this instance, Redman sounds more Reformed than Pentecostal...though I'm definitely willing to admit to biased lenses.  So, for Redman, it seems that this song goes further than its title…communion is more than remembrance.  It is an encounter with the living Christ—albeit mysterious and veiled in the “how’s.”  An aside to this song:  I love the opening programming on “Remembrance;” it reminds me of some Radiohead song I can’t quite recall right now (I think it’s on Kid A). The Three Best Songs on the Album I have three favorites on the album, which I will not rank, because they are too fresh.  They’re merely in order of appearance.  The first is “You Alone Can Rescue.”  It’s a slow to mid-tempo song with a nice dynamic contrast.  The lyrics are singable and attainable.  I love it for its high view of God’s work in our salvation: all God, no me. The second favorite is “How Great is Your Faithfulness.”  It’s an accessible song in a steady, mid-tempo 6/8 beat.  It’s got a splendidly climactic chorus (the recorded key is probably a bit high for congregations…I’d probably set it in G at church).  Though he doesn’t mention the word “covenant,” the song is filled with covenantal overtones.  It points to God’s promises, His unfailing love and justice, His steadfast, unwavering will.  I love it! The third favorite is the aforementioned “Remembrance,” mostly because it puts a celebrative spin on Holy Communion (while still engendering reverence) and because I find myself in agreement with its apparent stance on the presence of Christ in communion (see above). Other Comments “For Your Glory” is a nice song to encourage dancing in congregations (still tough for me to encourage in my congregation whose history has engendered a lot of stiffness!).  It’s a 120-ish bpm up-tempo number.  Its chorus is grounded in the famous Psalm often used in Advent, Psalm 24: “Lift up your heads, O you gates, be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” “My Hope” is exciting for me personally because Redman has set an old hymn (“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”) to a new melody.  He’s replaced the standard chorus with a different one, equally beautiful, while a bit more personal.  The music in this song is epically exquisite—piano and strings.  With an interesting interplay of key-structure: verses are in G-minor and the choruses are in G-major (with a V of vi used to transition from minor to major).  Redman only uses two verses from the original hymn, but it would be easy to incorporate all the verses of Edward Mote’s original text.  The album ends on this song, which is a soft and beautiful “period” given to a beautiful set of songs. One Note, One Minor Error Don’t confuse “The More We See” with a song Redman sings that was hot on Christian radio a few months back, called, “King of Wonders,” which has the ending line, “the more we see the more we love You.”  This “The More We See” is a different song.  I don’t think it’s close to being the best on the album, but I wanted to point it out to any who might think that they’re getting “King of Wonders” when they’re not. There’s an error in the iTunes digital booklet.  The lyrics to “We Shall Not Be Shaken” were duplicated under “Through it All”…no doubt an editorial cutting and pasting issue.  Fortunately (and this isn’t always the case on recordings), the vocals are sung, EQ-ed, and mixed in such a way that the text is clearly audible and understandable.

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Friday
Jun052009

Album Review of Tear Down the Walls / Across the Earth by Hillsong United

hillsong-unitedHillsong United, Across the Earth: Tear Down the Walls (May 2009)

It’s been a pleasure to buy a copy of United’s latest work.  I’ve been processing it, listening to it in my car, and dialoguing with a few friends about it.  I’ve been looking on United’s site and reading some posts to get some context for its creation.  Thank you, Hillsong United, for another beautiful offering to our Father in heaven.

I would like to review the album with some positive comments and then some constructive feedback.  Hopefully it will bless the Church and worship leaders to be discerning about the songs they utilize in their worship services.

Positive Feedback:

What I love, more than anything else about Hillsong and Hillsong United recordings is their attempt to aurally capture the corporate worship setting.  The lead vocals are always very tucked, and one hears easily the swell of many voices (whether choir or congregation) coupled with lots of verb to give it that “in-house” feel (I know many of them are actually in-house and the reverb is actual house acoustics).  I also appreciate that they have an arsenal of different lead singers, helping play down the notion of a “celebrity frontman.”  Not every church has the resources to have multiple worship leaders and lead singers, but it’s a blessing when they do.

The musical production is outstanding.  It’s the unique, “signature” Hillsong sound, with creative electric guitar and synth work.  The electric guitar/synth line (at least that’s what I think it is) on the opening track has that beautiful tension of familiarity and uniqueness (oh, so enjoyable).

The album title is creative in its double-entendre, and therefore it’s a powerful umbrella to encapsulate a powerful album.

The best song on the album: “Desert Song.”  As a person who, even at a young age, has had to endure some heavy suffering, I have a tender spot in my heart for any song whose theme is, basically, “even when God has ordained suffering for me, yet I will praise Him.”  "Desert Song" does this.  More than that, "Desert Song" has a unique, yet singable melody and chord structure, and has a nice flow and movement.  We will be using "Desert Song" at our church.

Another great song: “Soon.”  The church needs more songs that focus on the eschaton.  We get so caught up in the now, and yet Christ’s resurrection and down payment of the Holy Spirit has sealed for us a future that we need to be continually aware of.  “Soon” does this.  Among modern worship songs, it is rare in its second-coming focus.  It’s a sweet, beautiful song.

(It’s interesting that the two songs I most like are sung by Brooke Fraser.  I can’t find who wrote these songs [come on Hillsong, don’t make it this hard], but my hunch is that she wrote these two.  Why?  She wrote “Hosanna,” which is full of biblical allusion and theological reflection.  And these two song seem to come from a similar mind.  In general, I find Fraser’s writing a cut above the other Hillsong lyricists.)

Constructive Criticism:

An overall observation of much of United’s material, across their many wonderful albums, is that their lyrics tend to be disjointed (logical coherence is one of my criteria for choosing worship songs...see my article on criteria).  From line to line, I sometimes have a hard time making the immediate logical connection.  I understand that some songs are intentionally “impressionistic” (such is the case with the hymn on our album, “Light After Darkness,” by Frances Ridley Havergal), but when it happens for much of the material, I have to pause and ask the question of how healthy it is for churches to speak to God with such hiccupped communication.  For instance, here’s verse 2 of “Freedom is Here:”

And everything comes alive
 In my life as we lift You higher Let Your freedom arise
 In our lives as we lift You up
 Sing it out
            Sing it out
 Your freedom is here

One CAN discern logical connection with all these phrases, but it’s just a bit haphazard and stream-of-consciousness.  Historically, that type of writing hasn’t made for strong and lasting worship songs.

Another overall observation of Hillsong United (and this may be more of an underlying theological difference between Assembly of God / Charistmatic theology and my convictions) is that they tend to be triumphalistic in their lyrics.   For instance in “More than Anything”:

Because I’ve seen Your light You bring my world to life I’m coming after Your love

(PRE CHORUS) I’m not shaken I’m not letting go

As I’ve said about “Mighty to Save,” I just can’t in good conscience before God sing the Pre Chorus lyrics sincerely.  Because I know, no matter HOW far I’m down the journey of sanctification, I still have times where I AM shaken.  I still do have times where I slip and DO let go.  I can’t claim that kind of triumph.  It should be my ideal, but I can’t sing them honestly.

In general, Hillsong United could stand to have more biblical depth (with exception being the writing of Fraser, as noted above).  There’s nothing wrong with experiential lyrics, but United often teeters on being experiential to a fault, to the neglect of other things.  Thinking of worship from a congregational nourishment perspective, I wonder how nourished the United congregations are.  I know they’re inspired and even transformed by fresh waves of the Spirit, but are they nourished?  Is the intellectual side of their faith being nurtured?  Are their heads engaged AS MUCH AS their hearts? 

(I Head Revolution…I Brain Revolution…that would be a cool graphic)

 

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