"In a Little While," the newest release from Sovereign Grace Ministries is now available for download or purchase. It features the songs and vocal talents of my good friends, Mark and Stephen Altrogge (pronounced al-TROAG-ee). Most of the songs are intended for congregational worship.
Mark, Stephen’s dad, is best known for his songs, "I Stand in Awe," and "Forever Grateful," but he’s written around 200 worship songs over the past two decades. I’ve had the privilege of working with him up close, and have grown to respect and appreciate him deeply. Here are a few reasons why:
Mark is humble. Even though he writes better songs than most people I’m aware of, Mark runs every song he writes by me and Steve Cook (another great songwriter and friend) for our thoughts and input. He asks his family for their thoughts as well. In twenty years, I’ve never seen him respond proudly, harshly, or abruptly to our comments. He always tries out an idea, even if he doesn’t agree with it initially. Oh, that every songwriter who received feedback responded like Mark!
Mark is a hard worker. I’m regularly challenged by the time Mark gives to song writing, collecting ideas, revising songs, and producing CD’s. In fact, he’s produced seven CD’s of Scripture memory songs, called Hide the Word, in his "spare time." And he’s done all this while effectively caring for the people of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, as their senior pastor. Did I mention he’s an exceptional artist as well? This guy works like no one I know. And the fruit is obvious.
Mark is a godly husband and father. Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four children, all who reflect Mark’s love for the Savior and his church. The most recent demonstration of his influence is this CD. Stephen has the same passions that Mark does – God’s glory, the Gospel, and the church. And he writes songs like his dad, too. Biblical truth combined with creative and engaging music.
Mark loves the Gospel. Like few songwriters I know, Mark expounds, explains, celebrates, emphasizes, and draws our attention to the display of God’s glory in the cross of Christ. He finds ways in his songs to connect Christ’s atoning work with creation, God’s sovereignty, holiness, joy, our suffering, and our successes.
I could go on to say much more. Mark is one of the funniest guys I know, he is a loyal friend, and he deeply cares for the church of Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s such a joy to commend this CD to you. And what gives me even greater joy is to let you know that Stephen is very much like his dad. I asked Mark and Stephen a few questions about the project.
What were the highlights of doing a CD with your dad/son?
Mark: What can I say? Driving together to Gaithersburg, listening to and discussing music on the way down, getting to go into a professional studio (at Sovereign Grace Ministries) with our friends, Bo Lotinsky (executive producer of the album), and Sal Oliveri (Producer, who produced Valley of Vision and Savior), and Dave Mackenzie, and doing something that we both enjoy so much – singing and recording. Giving one another suggestions while recording, mocking each other, etc. The whole thing was a highlight. There can be no greater blessing for a Christian parent than seeing his child follow the Lord, but it’s a double blessing when he enjoys something you enjoy so much, like music. Is our God a lavish God, or what?
Stephen: Making a CD with my dad was an absolute blast! God is very kind to give us the shared pleasure of music. We had tunes blaring on the way down, we were immersed in music for four straight days, and now we have the pleasure of listening to the finished product. All this resulted in a deeper friendship and stronger ties between us. Plus, there was a lot of pure fun during the whole process. Being significantly younger than my dad, I had countless opportunities to mock him for being out of touch. But he always took it well, and he dished it out pretty well too. The producer (Sal Oliveri) has a great sense of humor as well and made the recording process both fun and relaxing. I hope that someday I can do another project with my dad. After all (and I truly mean this), he is my hero.
Can you share how writing a particular song affected you?
Mark: My daughter Beth had heard the hymn "Whate’er My God Ordains is Right" quoted in a message. She has suffered from migraines for years and God has used this trial in her life to build a deepening trust in his wise, loving, sovereign plan for her life. She said the message and this hymn really encouraged her. I’d never heard the hymn before, and when I read the lyrics, I was deeply affected by the trust in our sovereign God which this hymn expresses. From time to time, in the process of working on the song and recording it, God has brought me to tears by the truth it expresses.
Stephen: The song "I Will Cast My Cares" is particularly meaningful to me. I wanted to write a song that would capture both our desperate need for God and God’s ability to sustain us through trials. In his kindness, God gave me lyrics that would describe both sides of the coin. We are weak, fragile creatures who are easily overwhelmed by our circumstances. Yet God lifts us up in the midst of trials. When we’re burdened beyond our strength, Jesus carries the weight. Thus we can joyfully say, "I will cast my cares on You!"
How do you hope God will use these songs in the lives of churches and individuals?
Mark: I am hoping that God will glorify himself by using these songs to impart truth about himself which will encourage, edify and stir the affections of his people for him. I pray that this album results in many people delighting in God and encountering him in worship. I also hope that God will use several of the songs in particular to strengthen saints who are suffering.
Stephen: My desire is to see people’s hearts stirred with love for God and a deeper passion for His glory. My hope is that as people sing and listen to these songs, they will find themselves gripped by God’s truth and moved to praise Him. I also desire to see churches served by these songs, and to see the saints equipped to live a life that pleases and honors God. And I hope that people just enjoy the music as a gift from God!
It’s a joy to recommend these men and this CD to you. By the way, Tim Challies posted an interview with Mark and Stephen as well. It’s worth reading. Better yet, check out the CD. You can also download free guitar charts and lead sheets.