Category Archives: Song recommendation

Five new songs to cultivate a mission-minded church

Recently a friend asked me if there were any good congregational songs that specifically focus on global missions. In God’s timing, the music team at SMBC have just finished serving at our biennial Missions Conference. (The theme was “A Heart for the Lost”, we were challenged with six talks by Tim Chester from the book of Isaiah, and cross-cultural workers and mobilisers from restricted countries shared their experiences living and serving among unreached people groups.)

We’ve been hearing song recommendations from other places too. For example, in our home church one of our pastors has also been introducing songs to help us reflect on world mission, alongside the prayer updates we receive. We’re about to commission a new family this Sunday as they seek to share Christ with the Warlpiri people in Central Australia.

I’ve also been reflecting on how, as John Piper puts it, “missions exist because worship doesn’t”. In one sense, we sing praises, longing for others around the world to join in. Also, in one of Tim Chester’s talks, we were reminded that the cross is worth the nations (Isaiah 49:6), and it’s too small a thing to be concerned only about our own people, church or area. The cross of Christ deserves the nations.

So here’s a couple of songs that help to remind us of our purpose in God’s mission.


Facing A Task Unfinished (We Go To All The World) – Frank Houghton, Keith & Kristyn Getty

Frank Houghton wrote this hymn (originally titled “A hymn for the forward movement”) for an annual gathering of China Inland Mission (now OMF) missionaries. Keith Getty comments:

“Frank Houghton understood this and in response to great turmoil in China, turned to writing hymns to encourage those who were witnessing martyrdom around them. ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’ provided inspiration to a generation of missionaries when it was first written, and it urges us on still, even as we also live amid persecution and martyrdom, both at home and around the world today. Into these situations the call of Christ and His Kingdom is our only hope. His gospel is the window of light pouring into the darkened corners of this world. He is the good news we must sing and bring.”

The Gettys updated the hymn with a simple chorus:

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

You can view the lyrics and grab sheet music here.


We Will Declare Your Glory – Rob Smith

Rob Smith (Theology and Music Ministry Lecturer at SMBC, Emu Music songwriter) wrote this song as part of SMBC’s Centenary commemorations in 2016. It’s fairly easy to pick up, and has several challenging lines:

Martyrs and missionaries answering your call
Ready to sacrifice giving up all
We are yours
Trusting in Jesus despising the shame
There is salvation in no other name
We are yours
Ransomed to serve
As we long for our Saviour’s return

The last verse even includes a mention of Ezekiel 36:22 as we declare: “Not for our sakes but the sake of Your holy name”.

You can read the lyrics here, and grab the sheet music here.


Across the Streets – Mike Begbie, Rob Smith, Troy Munns

Mike Begbie is a former SMBC and Moore College student who co-wrote this song with Rob Smith and Troy Munns. I like the clear challenge in the words, and how it grounds a call to go “across the streets” and “across the oceans” in the heart of the Father and his desire that all of the nations be saved. There’s a mix of the triumphant and simple: “We will go”, with the acknowledgement that “Though fearful and trembling, we go remembering the gospel is mighty to save.”

My favourite is part is where the bridge paints a picture of God’s Harvest:

The time has come lift up your eyes
The harvest fields are shining shining
The time has come let us arise
For Heaven’s judge is soon returning

The song is rhythmically driven and consistently off the beat, so you’ll have to work hard at making your arrangement not sound like an out-of-control polka (Mike has a tutorial video here).

You can get the lyrics here, and get the sheet music here.


May the Peoples Praise You – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Here’s another excellent one by the Gettys. I like how the motivation for mission here is not guilt or achievement, but God’s ownership of us and a growing mercy for those who haven’t heard the gospel:

All the earth is Yours and all within
Each harvest is Your own
And from Your hand we give to You
To make Christ known

May the seeds of mercy grow in us
For those who have not heard
May songs of praise build lives of grace
To spread Your Word

The chorus is catchy too, and a reflection on Psalm 67:4:

May the peoples praise You
Let the nations be glad
All Your blessing comes
That we may praise
May praise the Name of Jesus

You can read the lyrics and grab the sheet music here.


For Your Glory – Leeland Mooring

I first heard this one off an Asialink mission mobilisation video. The words are virtually lifted from the refrain in cricketer-turned-missionary CT Studd’s well-known poem, “Only one life“:

We have only one life
And it soon will pass
And only what’s done
For Christ will last
Jesus, You can use me Lord

Riches and houses
Cars and lands
Will all pass away
But my life will stand
Jesus, You can use me Lord

For Your glory
For Your glory
For Your glory
You can use me Lord

It’s neat to think that all these years later, CT Studd’s words are being heard again by a new generation of Jesus followers.

You can grab the words and music here.

OK, over to you: are there any other songs that help to fire you up to partner in God’s mission for the world?

Reflections on the modern hymn In Christ Alone

(This article was first published in the NZ Baptist Magazine website: http://www.baptistmag.org.nz/discipleship/in-christ-alone/).


When was the last time you remember singing about God’s wrath? If the modern hymn “In Christ Alone” is in your playlist, then it was probably more recently that you realised.

“In Christ Alone” was the first hymn that writers Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty produced together, and to this day, it remains their most well known. Since its release in 2001, “In Christ Alone” has been referred to as “surely the worship song of the century so far.” The song has been covered by scores of artists including Owl City, David Archuleta, and Natalie Grant, and has been translated into several different languages.

 

The hymn takes a linear approach in unfolding the gospel narrative (the life, death, and resurrection of Christ). The first verse introduces Christ as solid ground, a cornerstone that we can find safety and refuge in. In the same way that stonemasons in biblical times relied on the precise placement of a cornerstone to set the foundation for every other stone, Christ promises to be “a cornerstone chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:6) that we can rest every triumph and tragedy upon.

The second verse invites us to gaze at the wonder of the incarnation—the fullness of God in human form—before zooming into the life and death of Jesus. Despised and rejected by the people he came to save, the Messiah willingly poured himself out during the drama of the cross, where gruesome death and sacrificial love satisfied God’s righteous anger that our sins deserve (Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:9).

The third verse begins with gloom of the tomb, but gives way to unabashed celebration of the risen Christ. The melody climaxes alongside triumphant news: Jesus is alive, victorious over death! We can now have the confidence to claim him as our own! The resurrection proves that sin’s death grip no longer remains: “…for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Powerful stories demand a response. In the final verse, we are invited to sing our reaction to the good news of Jesus. His unmatched power provides assurance that guilt need not plague us, death need not scare us, and hell can never take us: there simply is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). With King Jesus in command of our destiny, we stand with confidence, awaiting the day we finally meet him face-to-face.

Just as a diamond’s brilliance and sparkle depends on the number and placement of its many facets, God’s beauty shines most brightly in light of his many facets. In 2013, one of these aspects came under scrutiny when the American Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song voted to exclude “In Christ Alone” from its hymnal, in light of the words in verse two, which speak about God’s wrath being satisfied. The decision attracted media interest and sparked a firestorm of controversy. There was much wrath about God’s wrath: some criticised the hymn writers for not allowing a change to the lyrics, while others accused the hymn committee of holding an unbiblical view of God.

Talk about God’s wrath brings unsettling images to the minds of 21st century Kiwis. We rightly reject caricatures of God having the uncontrollable anger of Jake “The Muss” from Once Were Warriors, or spewing forth hateful words at protest marches. Yet God’s wrath—revealed in the Bible—means God was willing to confront the cancer of sin hollowing out his beloved image-bearers, and Christ was willing to absorb the consequences of this cancer in our place. Without it, God’s love becomes saccharine and ill-equipped to respond to the horrors of human sin; whether anti-Semitic violence, or our own Samaritan blind spots; whether selfish exploitation of workers, or our own self-absorbed materialism.

That’s why when we sing about the wrath of God, we actually sing about ourselves: sinners in need of the rescue that Jesus willingly offers on the cross. To minimise any one of God’s attributes from our vocabulary is to rob ourselves of the full brilliance of God’s beauty, and to make Christ’s sacrifice less costly.

“In Christ Alone” depicts a God not made in our own image, but as he presents himself in the Biblical story: beyond us yet with us; holy yet gracious; angry yet loving; just yet merciful. And all of it is worth singing about.

 

Five laments your church could sing this week

“What can miserable Christians sing?”

A couple of years ago, pastor and church historian Carl Trueman posed this question in an article. He was reflecting on contemporary worship music and its limited ability to lament. Cries of pain are largely absent from our gathered worship vocabulary, and so in the wake of a terror attack, or terminal cancer, or the loss of a child, we find ourselves mute.

Here’s five songs, written or arranged in the last decade or so, that could help you or your church to cry out in lament.

1. Though You Slay Me (Shane and Shane)

(Lyrics / Sheet Music)

I like this one because it’s raw and honest. For example:

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

The melody is easy to sing along with, and the chorus helps to turn our tears back to trust: “Though you slay me, yet I will trust you…”

2. Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul (Indelible Grace)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

This is one of our favourites from the folks at Indelible Grace. Anne Steele’s words give us permission to honestly say to God that sometimes, our hope is fainting, it’s hanging on by a thread. The guys at Capitol Hill Baptist use a different tune, though I prefer this one personally – there’s space to almost “sigh” after each line as we “breathe our sorrows” to the ear of sovereign grace.

3. Darkness – Psalm 88 (Matt Searles)

(LyricsSheet Music)

Matt Searles has been putting out some excellent settings of Psalms, and this is no exception. I like the easy to sing tune, and how it pretty much tracks with each line of Psalm 88.

4. Hide Away in the Love of Jesus (Sovereign Grace Music)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

We’ve sung this regularly at Howick Baptist. Each verse talks about a type of person that needs to hide away in the love of Jesus. The first verse in particular helps me put my tired and weak heart into the hands of Jesus:

Come, weary saints, though tired and weak
Hide away in the love of Jesus
Your strength will return by His quiet streams
Hide away in the love of Jesus

5. God Moves (William Cowper, arr. Bob Kauflin)

(Lyrics and Sheet Music)

Veteran worship leader and songwriter Bob Kauflin wrote this arrangement in response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Cowper’s words were written in the midst of terrible depression. The combination of text and tune has been good for our church to sing over the years:

So God we trust in You
O God we trust in You
When tears are great
And comforts few
We hope in mercies ever new
We trust in You

 


I’m really only scratching the surface here, so please feel free to suggest other laments. I’m particularly interested if you know of songs / psalm settings that are bold enough to stay with the singer in darkness (e.g. Psalm 88, which ends with “darkness my closest friend”).

It Is Well With My Soul

(This article was first published in the Baptist Magazine website: http://baptistmag.org.nz/discipleship/it-is-well-with-my-soul/).


“Saved alone”

These were the first two words that Anna Spafford telegrammed her husband, Horatio, after the ship that she and her four daughters were on sank in a shipwreck that claimed 232 lives – including their four daughters. In the small hours of November 22nd 1873, the transatlantic steamer Ville du Havre collided with another iron sailing vessel. Passengers tumbled and fell. There was darkness and confusion. Within two hours, the entire ship had perished beneath the waves.

As a grief-stricken Horatio sailed across the Atlantic to reunite with his wife in Europe, the ship’s captain called him aside and informed him that they were now passing over the place where the Ville du Havre went down. Overcome with grief, Horatio retired to his cabin and poured out the words which have become one of the church’s most beloved hymns, “It is Well with my Soul.”

The story behind this hymn is retold over and over again by preachers and hymn enthusiasts as an example of firm faith in God during difficult times.

Let’s take a closer look at the hymn…


 

Edify Conference – building the church in word and song – set list

It was a joy over the weekend to serve at the first Edify Conference, hosted at our home church (Howick Baptist). We had a great time opening the Word and considering the importance of what we do when we sing together as the gathered church.

Cheryl and I were in Sydney for Emu Music’s Word in Song Conference last year, and in 2011 got to attend the WorshipGod conference hosted by Bob Kauflin. And after talking about the idea of a music / gathered worship conference on and off for years, it was great to finally have a go at hosting one in NZ ourselves in partnership with Rowan Hilsden and the team at Auckland EV.

It was also neat to meet and get to know Greg Cooper, a songwriter and musician from Sydney who served on the Edify band on Friday night and led several workshops on Saturday. I personally learned a lot from observing and considering how skillfully he played the guitar – in a way that served the band and supported the church singing. I also loved his servant-hearted attitude and easy-going nature.

I enjoyed playing guitar and sing in the Edify bands – once on Friday with a full band, and again on Saturday morning with a stripped-back, acoustic team. It was good to have a go at modelling congregational church music for different contexts.

A few people asked for the songs we sang over the weekend, so here is the set list below:

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST:

 

FRIDAY: CONCERT / EVENING OF WORD AND SONG

SATURDAY: MAIN SESSION 2