I met Paul Baloche about ten years ago when we were both part of a panel at the GMA (Gospel Music Association) week. We actually met back in 1985, although I didn’t find out about it until 1998. Paul had just become a Christian and Rita had persuaded him to attend a Christian conference in the Philadelphia area where some guy was teaching a session on writing songs for worship. That guy happened to be me. I’ve joked with Paul that I should probably be getting a cut of his royalties since what he learned at that seminar has probably been a key part of his success all these years…
Paul is a humble man. We’ve talked about the unfortunate ending to “Above All,” the song he co-wrote with Lenny LeBlanc, which ends, “He took the fall and thought of me above all.” Paul had no idea people would take the last line to mean that Jesus thought of us more than his Father’s glory. Paul’s humility is also demonstrated in the number of songs on this CD (and the last) that he co-wrote with others. Paul has written his own songs for years, but in an effort to grow in his content, he’s teamed up with people like Brenton Brown, Kathryn Scott, Matt Redman, and Graham Kendrick.
In any case, I wanted to make you aware of his latest offering, Our God Saves. Paul has been seeking to be more intentional about the theology and Gospel-centeredness of the songs he writes. It’s evident from this project that he’s succeeding. Paul is writing more substantive contemporary songs with very singable melodies. A few of my favorites:
Rock of Ages You Will Stand (co-written with Brenton Brown) — Starting with lines from the hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock” by Edward Mote, Paul inserts lines that remind us “Great is Your faithfulness, great is Your love, O God.” The chorus proclaims, “Rock of ages, You will stand, our foundation ’til the end; Never failing, God unchanging, Rock of ages, You will stand.”
Only True God (co-written with Kathryn Scott) — A reflective song in 6/8 that explores the wonder of the Trinity. Here’s verse 1 and the chorus:
Beyond us, God within us
Revealed, yet we see in part
Transcendent, but so near us
The mystery dwelling within our hearts
Father, Spirit, Son, only true God
Exalted three in one, only true God.
Unfortunately this song leads directly into a spontaneous prayer by someone who has exemplary passion but questionable theology. (I share more on this in the comments section below.)
I Cling to the Cross (co-written with Matt Redman) — One of the many songs on this CD that simply but effectively focuses on the glories of God expressed through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. “I cling to the cross and everything it means, I know it’s the only hope there is for saving me.”
You Gave Your Life Away (co-written with Kathryn Scott) — A beautiful reflective meditation on Christ’s humility in giving his life away for us. “You gave, You gave Your life away for me, Your grace has broken every chain, My sins are gone, my debt’s been paid, You gave, You gave Your life away for me.” This would make an excellent song during the Lord’s Supper. Or any time, for that matter.
Praise (co-written with Brenton Brown) — A contagiously joyful song that deals with creation’s song of praise as it yearns for Christ’s return (Rom. 8:19).
Great Redeemer — A simple but effective song that extols the Savior. Verse 2 contains a use of the word “embrace” that I wouldn’t find problematic:
I long to see my Savior’s face, to gaze upon His beauty
To lose myself in His embrace, at last behold His glory
The Lamb of God Who died for me has made my sin His own
And bore my shame upon the cross, I worship Him alone.
While the word “embrace” can carry sensual overtones, the verse also talks about substitutionary atonement (1 Pet. 2:24) and the imputation of our sin to Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), so those associations are minimized.
Paul also includes an up tempo rendition of How Great Thou Art. Nice. Thirteen songs in all. I downloaded the CD from ITunes and it included a full color, digital booklet with lyrics, chords and guitar fingerings. All for $9.99. Really nice. Or you can order the CD here. In a day when there are plenty of modern worship CD’s with great music and weak content, Our God Saves is a welcome change.
Thanks for your graciousness in your honesty about the last line of that song (I talked about it in a message last Sunday), and particularly in the way you have affirmed Paul in his work. You are modelling the grace and mercy of God.
WorshipMatters has benn of great value for me over the last couple of years. As a theology student, worship leader and reformed christian, your writing and reviews are of great help.
Thanks for the input on Paul’s record. His couple last records are favorite of mine, but I didn’t know about his efforts to write songs with better theology.
I’m from Brazil, so forgive me for any misspells or grammar mistakes.
The prayer that you referred to after “Only True God” is one of my favorite parts of the album! I find it to be refreshingly passionate and genuine. I’m wondering what, in your opinion, is questionable about the theology of it and also why you encourage us to skip it? God touches me deeply every time I hear it and I can’t imagine that blessing being just for me!
Thank you for all you do!
Since the T4G conference in 2006 I have been reading your blog and then after attending WorshipGod 06, we begin using the music from Sovereign Grace in our church. I just wanted to say that the one thing I appreciate and hope I can learn to emulate is your ability to stand firm in your convictions and remain humble about it. The more I read your blog and listen to sermons them more convicted I become of having a prideful attitude particularly when trying to relay strong theological convictions. I really think you embody the phrase “humble orthodoxy”, and just wanted to say thanks for being an example of this.
This comment isn’t directly related to the post, but a phrase in the post jumped off the screen and made me think about it.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on the prayer on Paul’s CD. I have no doubt that the gentleman who prayed was passionate and genuine. That’s why I said that his passion was exemplary. How our churches would change if more leaders prayed with this kind of engagement and emotion! And I’m not surprised that you were affected. I was too.
But when I listened closely to what was being prayed, I thought the prayer was confusing. I wasn’t sure what he meant when he said, “We speak to the open skies,” a phrase he repeated. Also, speaking “freedom of emotions” and “freedom of the dance” seemed to imply that if tears weren’t flowing and feet weren’t moving that God wasn’t really showing up. I found the reference to God being the God of Elijah who consumes the sacrifice confusing as well. He asked God to come so that the fire would be found within the bosom of those singing. God’s fire or our fire? I’m not sure. He prayed that the church wouldn’t be a nice, pretty, well-organized church, but that the power of God would come down. That pits being organized against living by the power of God. And then there are three yells at the end, and I wasn’t sure what I was responding to.
I know my prayers aren’t always clear and understandable, and are often less passionate. But we have the responsibility as leaders to do more than inspire people with our passion. We want to inspire them with biblical faithfulness as well. Public prayer is one a significant way we can impart both enthusiasm and biblical truth to the people we serve.
Having said all that, I believe this man’s heart was to ask God to stir up people’s hearts to worship him with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and he knew they needed God’s power to do that. So for that reason, I took the line out of the post that recommended skipping that track.
Thanks for your encouragement.
Thanks for your kind and gracious words. May we all grow clearer and firmer in our biblical convictions and more gentle in the way we present them.
One of the things that I like about Paul Baloche is a website he runs – http://www.leadworship.com/
The stuff that he’s got on there really seems to speak to his motives as an artist.
Bob, thank you for the post on the new Baloche album. I just checked out the tracks on i-tunes and it is very refreshing to hear a more intentional focus on Christ and all that he is for us and what he has done in our place! I think when lyrics are clear and gospel centered, you can’t go wrong. Which leads me into asking your opinion on the Hillsong repertoire. I just picked up the LIVE album, and there are a few gems worth recommending for congregational use, but the others are questionable. Your thoughts on their lyrics, music, etc.?
You asked about the Hillsong repertoire. I haven’t listened to all of the LIVE album yet, but have listened through at least five Hillsongs projects. I have more thoughts that I’ll be able to share here. At some point I may do a post on this.
As I see it, here are the upsides. Their music is generally engaging, contemporary, energetic, and moving. They desire to serve others with their music. They love and are committed to the local church. They do much to help the poor. The few folks I’ve met are humble servants (Steve McPherson, Reuben Morgan). In other words, Hillsong is more than the songs they produce.
Because of that, I think there are downsides to Hillsong, which include the Hillsong music culture and content of their songs. The songs are typically presented in an all-out rock concert format, where emotional experiences can be just as much a matter of lights, sounds, and programming as what we’re singing. Their theology can be unclear, man-centered (all about OUR actions and passion), and lean towards the “prosperity” gospel. Thankfully, I think the writers are starting to emphasize themes that reflect a more serious understanding of what God has done for us in Christ. But for the most part, I still find certain lines vague, tending towards a self-focus, and unhelpful.
We’ve realized that promoting Hillsong music at our church can expose the church to the larger culture of Hillsong. For that reason, we’ve been slow to introduce Hillsong songs, and when we have, we’ve usually decided there are better songs out there that touch on the same themes.
Hope that’s helpful. Feel free to follow up.
Bob, I don’t know. I have personally been singing and leading Baloche tunes for a long time; not many have influenced my soul more than his. I’ve never met the man, probably never will, but from a distance his songs were always in my heart (not so much my head).
Sovereign Grace has during the last 5 years taught me more about sound theology, and my need for it, than my first 25 years of Christian faith. But, I have also watched evidences of sinful arrogant behavior rise to the surface in my life. I became quick to discount “others” and their music and style because it didn’t closely match what I began to experience; it wasn’t like mine so it must be wrong. I have sat for hours picking apart songs and sermons and prayers looking for traces of error, and it’s now as if I can’t sit in church without my radar turned on. And you know, sometimes I wish I could turn it off.
I know that I am a Christian with a charismatic reformed influence and theology…and yes, I am “more at home” in that style of worship experience; but I feel smitten with a charge to be careful now not to insulate myself, and in doing so, remove myself from the very gracious influences that God used to orient me toward him. It feels wrong when I do it, and I ask myself “at the end of the day” how does it all really matter?
Bob, when my life is over, here, will the Savior love me more or less because my songs and the songs I sang were not of a particular variety or style or (dare I say it) brand of theology?
Surely we need to be careful with songs that do not glorify God, but honestly, when Christ died, he did die for me, and his dying for me glorified God deeply…because having died for me I now live to glorify my Savior. I never had a hard time with the last line of the song, maybe He did think of me (us).
Bob, and to all of you, God bless you, and thank you for your great works and contributions to the Body of Christ. I’m not much, believe me, but I do personally struggle with how quickly I can scrutinize someone else’s work…even discount it…and try to change them…and assimilate them into (The Correct Way) to do things.
Lord, help me when I do this…
I think it all comes down to setting right standards. Testing is a very biblical practice. 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves…”, Revelation 2:2, “you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false”, I Corinthians 3:13, “the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” As leaders, the last verse ought to challenge each of us to constantly test and make sure the songs we sing pass. My struggle is that I often try to make my own standard rather than allowing God’s Word to guide me in this endeavor. Paul Baloche, Bob Kauflin, Brenton Brown, Kathryn Scott, Matt Redman, and Graham Kendrick (as gifted as they all are) would all agree that they do not set the standard. It is much higher than any of us could imagine on our own. I’d encourage you and me to keep testing as one day I Corinthians 3:13 will come to pass.
If I’ve missed the mark here, please feel free to correct…
Thanks for your thoughts and your honesty. You hit on some important distinctions.
The gaining of knowledge has one end – to magnify the glory of Jesus Christ. Where discernment leads me to be critical and quick to judge, when it makes me think I’m closer to God because of it, when I start to think of it as some kind of work that merits God’s special favor, then I’m doing more than discerning – I’m being proud.
If singing songs with sound theology leads me to sinful arrogant behavior, I’m deceived. That doesn’t mean the theology is wrong. It just shows that my motivations are sinful. But we shouldn’t respond by tossing out biblical truth. We should apply it.
You mentioned the worship experiences that oriented you towards God. God, in his mercy, uses all kinds of experiences, events, and happenings to draw us to himself and make us more aware of what he’s done for us in Christ. I should know. But experiences aren’t what God calls us to pursue. He calls us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Without losing a fervent zeal for his grace and presence, we’re to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Col. 3:16). That means singing songs that are biblically faithful and that help us grow in our love for and obedience to God’s Word.
You asked if the Savior would love us more or less because “my songs and the songs I sang were not of a particular variety or style or (dare I say it) brand of theology?” No. But that’s not why we sing – so that Jesus will love us more. We sing so WE can love HIM more. And to do that, we need to sing songs that help us know him for who he really is, songs that help us remember what he’s done and what it means, and songs that help us teach and admonish one another.
God forbid that singing songs that more accurately reflect God’s Word should lead to pride in our hearts. But that’s why the Gospel is so precious. Even as we grow in our understanding of God’s truth, Jesus will ever be the one who perfects all our offerings of praise. And that’s both humbling and amazing.
Just for the sake of clarity, the prayer after “Only True God”, he actually says, “not *just* to be a pretty, well organized church…”. In your comment you left out the *just* and I think that completely changes the context and intention of that section of prayer. I don’t believe he was devaluing organization, but saying that organization has no power or purpose without God’s presence.
Thanks for the clarification. You’re absolutely right, and I don’t think the gentleman who prayed was saying that an organized church is bad. BTW, I didn’t intentionally leave the “just” out of my comment, just forgot it. He also said, “We don’t ‘just’ want to sing songs, we want to lift up God,” which is a great thing to pray.
I’m sure your interpretation of the prayer on “Our God Saves” has earned much more criticism than you intended. as a fellow worship pastor i have some input that i hope comes across with love and truth, but also in hopes of understanding what i believe to be a great example of the lost art of encouraging and provoking prayer. This album, and especially this prayer, have been an oasis of hope for my wife and i of what a worship ministry could be while we work to improve our own ministry.
first, the man praying says “we speak THE open skies” (not “TO the open skies”). i believe this is a reference to the fact that God “opened the skies” after Elijah’s prayer and let the rain fall again after three and a half years of “closed skies” leading to drought and famine. could it be that he is imploring God to bring a spiritual rain?
for freedom of emotions and of the dance, i believe he is trying to provoke the freedom King David experienced as the ark entered Jerusalem. after all 2 corinthians 3:17 tells us where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
i do not share your question of whose fire would be found in our bosoms. I’m not sure i understand how asking the God who consumes the sacrifice (with fire) to come down so that the very same fire would be found in us leads to a question of the origin of the fire. surely it is our Father’s fire he is praying for, is it not?
finally, i agree with whomever it is saying this prayer in asking that we are not “just a nice, pretty, well organized church.” i am sure that you are painfully aware of places and people that are pretty and well organized, yet spiritually starved and devoid of any relationship with God. to me, this is the largest statement of the prayer. the story of Elijah organizing the altar has often been used as an illustration to insist how important organization of the body is, yet many times the point of the story, the fact that God brought fire against all odds, is often left out or minimized. perhaps this man is reminding us of what God did that day outside of having a “just a nice, pretty, well organized” altar.
Thank you for your time. Blessings upon you, your home, and your ministry!
I was actually horrified when I first heard the Prayer, I thought it was Paul Baloche himself. Unbelievable. Good thing I found your blog and got clarification.
It was very uncomfortable to hear that kind of prayer shouted at the bookstore. It really sounded irreverent. The part about the church, the word ‘pretty’ sounded like ‘bloody’. I thought it was from some obscure CD that I would never buy. Imagine my shock when I heard it again at home as I played the new Our God Saves CD.
I completely agree with Bob, it is of questionable theology for all the reasons that he had stated. I’m afraid there is no excuse.
I hope next time this kind of thing can be avoided or at least better edited? It’s easy for me to skip it in my playlist, but there are so many people in all parts of the world who can only play it with a CD player.
I’m a great fan of Integrity Music and grew up with it in Indonesia. My prayer is that it will always stand on the integrity of the Bible and not compromise.
Grace and peace of our Lord be with you, Bob.
Dear Bob –
I just stumbled across this website and I was so hurt to read your comments on The Prayer on Paul Baloche’s CD. In fact, the only reason why I was even directed to this your site was because I was searching to find out who in fact was the one praying the Prayer. I’ve never listened to Paul’s album, I stream Christian music and the station I listen to consistently plays The Prayer and the song Hallelujah to our King which it leads into it.
Like Jessica, an earlier commenter, I absolutely love the Prayer – even more so than the song it leads into. In my opinion, there is a strong annointing and presence of God on that prayer. Every time I hear it I feel the presence of God filling the place where I am. I believe that for you to say that it’s “unfortunate” that the Prayer is included on the CD is definitely an affront to the man who was praying, Paul Baloche and more importantly to God, the One for whom the prayer was intended in the first place.
The comment posted by “Pastor Z” was written far more eloquently and diplomatically than I ever could. I know we are all entitled to our own opinions and interpretations, but it just hurt me to the core even to read how Henry, another commenter said that this needed to be edited and reiterated that it did contain questionable theology and we needed to see how it could be avoided in the future. Should we indeed be editing one’s heartfelt cry and passion to the God who we are encouraged to “pour out our hearts towards him?” (Psalm 62:8). I think not.
We need the presence of God in our “nice, pretty, well organized church.” I just left a church where I attended all of my life – born, raised, baptized, led worship, was pastoral assistant, youth director… you name it – I did it – because it turned into a “nice, pretty, well organized church” where the presence of God was seemingly squashed like a mosquito to a fly swatter. The Prayer is what we all need to be praying – complete with its passion, intensity and heartfelt cries at the end. It’s only my humble opinion but I think it is prayers like these which touch the heart and throne room of God.
hey guys am from uganda tho’ am not in uganda right now but the guy who made the prayer on the Our God saves album is a ugandan pastor, i wont say he has language problem, he is a good english speaker, and to let you know english is our national language but this is his website if you want to know more about him.
all know about him is that he is not only a pastor but an anti-HIV/AIDS activists.
anyway check our his website.
lastly i want to say that all the comments here should bring about learning new things, personally i think prayer is something very important that comes from the heart so it should make meaning to the you who is saying it, and if you are doing it publicly it should make meaning to those listening straight on, so no rare terminologies and so on so not be so sophisticate in the form of explaining some verses like Gary, the 12th post, i understand what Gary is trying to say but someone is not expected to think about it like that if you make a prayer for me, i should be able to understand it straight on and then imprint it in the heart. i hope you guys get what i mean. my prayers personally are slow bse i get the words from ma heart with all the meaning.
thanx for the posts
Thanks for leaving your comment. It’s truly encouraging to see how God is using Martin to promote a sacred view of sex while also seeking to help those with HIV/AIDS in practical ways. Martin is showing through his life that Jesus came to do more than build a “nice” church made up of “nice” people.
Surprised you didn’t mention the song “Hallelujah to our King.” I had to give that song a shout out because we use it as a worship song and one morning my four year old son actually woke up singing the chorus at the top of his lungs. That was one of those priceless moments. It’s still his favorite song.
BTW, I was at a Integrity Song Writers Retreat years ago and I remember Paul Baloche and Brian Doerkson talking about that infamous line in Above All during a workshop. That was also the first time I ever saw you and the first time I ever heard of Sovereign Grace! You gave each of us a free copy of your hymns CD, which I still enjoy. Thanks!
“Our God Saves” is a great CD!
Paul Baloche gets better with every CD. I have to force myself to listen to other artists so that I’ll be diversified. His songs are timeless and do nothing less than cause us to draw nearer to God and walk away from a song, changed.
His newest CD “Glorious” is just as great if not better. What? … you never heard all the songs on “Glorious”?
Anyway, I wanted to interject my thoughts about what has been said about “The Prayer”. Too many people are nitpicking peoples prayers. Everywhere you go you’ll hear a questionable prayer, you just have to live with it.
I do understand that we have to be careful about what and how we pray, especially in front of or with other people.
I personally think “The Prayer” on Paul’s “Our God Saves” CD is awesome and the song that ensues brings a person into high praise.
We’ll be praising Him forever in heaven and “The Prayer” and “Hallelujah To My King” together is very good practice!
Lastly, thank you so much Bob for your hard work and such a great website. I never really knew about it until I googled “The Prayer” and found the above article. I can tell right now that I’ve got to take time and use the great resources your site provides. Thank you sir!
Thanks for your comments and encouragement, Allan!
thanks for your review. I have always loved Great Redeemer since I first heard it several years ago, in 2013 i started to lead worship in our local church but only this week I have planned to put it on the list. somebody gave me your book worship matters. Im still praying to start reading it. blessings
Thanks so much, Richard!