A month ago I heard about a free CD give away of Sovereign Grace's "Worship God Live" but there were some conditions: you must 1) be a pastor or worship leader, 2) have a regular blog, and 3) post a review by June 15th. Today is June 15th so here is my review.
For those unfamiliar with this CD, you can check it out here. You can download lyrics and listen to samples. The Sovereign Grace website says this about the CD:
Worship God Live is the latest live recording from Sovereign Grace Music, capturing two evenings in February 2005 at Covenant Life Church. Featuring worship leaders Bob Kauflin and Pat Sczebel, this CD includes 14 new songs from two generations of songwriters – Bob Kauflin, Mark Altrogge, Stephen Altrogge, Steve & Vikki Cook, Pat Sczebel, Jonathan Baird, Ryan Baird, Adam Sacks, and Rich Dalmas.
The songs range in style, but are all congregationally oriented. Two of the songs features lyrics from Isaac Watts ("O God Our Help in Ages Past") and William Cowper ("God Moves") in current arrangements from Mark Altrogge and Bob Kauflin, respectively.
My overall evaluation is that the music took a while to connect with but the lyrics are so God-exalting and Cross-centered that I found myself listening to it over and over and liking it more and more. How different Sovereign Grace Music is compared with other contemporary Christian music which focuses so much on the unholy trinity: "Me, Myself, and I" and on only one aspect of God's attributes: His love. In contrast, Worship God Live begins with the greatness and majesty of God "How Majestic is Your name…You are awesome in Your glory." Of course, that's what all worship songs should proclaim. The distinction of Sovereign Grace is not only to point to the awesomeness of God in celebratory worship, but in pointing to the utter depravity of man. In "How Majestic", the second stanza goes, "You are awesome in Your glory, We are sinful and impure, How can we approach the Holy, Who will not one sin endure, Yet You sent Your Son to die, His blood has paid the price, For all my sin." AMEN! This is the gospel. In another song, "Foul sinners clothed in white"(Endless Praises), "Dead in transgressions and sins, Without God, Without hope in this world, Then the glorious light of Your gospel broke in…" (You Are the Way).
Foul sinners we, Glorious Savior He be. That's my line, but that's what these songs proclaim. If you want to be told how great you are and how much potential you have, these songs are not for you. You can go listen to Joel O'Steen preach. However, if you don't mind singing songs that highlight our sinfulness in order to truly highlight God's rich and glorious mercy for sinners, then these songs are for you.
Actually, though our sinfulness is highlighted in one sense, it is not dwelt on to focus on our failings, but as an expression of sheer gratitude to the God who saves us from the wrath that we deserve. "Your blood has washed washed my sin, Jesus, thank You; The Father's wrath completely satisfied, Jesus, thank you, Once Your enemy, Now seated at Your table, Jesus thank You." (Jesus, Thank You).
The CD was recorded in a Live Worship at Covenant Life Church in Maryland. I have heard John Piper say of this church, "They are the most grateful people I know." I have been to the church and I would have to concur. That gratitude for God's grace is evident in this CD.
I must say, that not everyone will like the music. When I first listened to it, I didn't like it that much. I didn't find the songs "catchy" and couldn't see myself singing it at church. However, the more I listened to the words, the music grew on me.
One final thing, the CD is an example of corporate worship – worship in the first person plural – "we". There are a few songs with "I" – "I will trust You forever…" (Count It All Joy), "The mystery of the cross, I cannot comprehend" (Jesus, Thank You), etc. But you don't have the repetition of "I will worship, I will praise you, I will give you all my heart…" (not a real song, but I hope you know what I mean.) The focus is expressing together the greatness and mercy of God and the Gospel, and thereby experiencing together the greatness and the mercy of God in the Gospel.
Two of the dangers of "contemporary" worship music are 1) shallow or bad theology and 2) focus on individualistic intimacy (focus on me and my lover, God). Worship God Live avoids both of these dangers and presents to us Worship Songs that are God-exalting, Cross-centered, celebratory and humble, corporate and personal.