A few Sundays ago, I led worship at my home church. One of the songs we sang was Before the Throne of God Above. I’m posting an audio of what we did because I wanted to make a number of points with it. Feel free to listen as you read.
1. Introducing You to the Song: Even though “Before the Throne of God Above” has been recorded by Sonic Flood, Selah, Promise Keepers, Lou Fellingham (from Phatfish), Sojourn Church, GLAD, Shane and Shane, Matt Papa, and possibly others, you might not have heard it yet. So I wanted you to hear it. The lyrics, by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1923), are a brilliant combination of Gospel-centered theology with personal application, set to a beautiful and timeless melody written by Vikki Cook, a good friend and part of a Sovereign Grace church in Orlando, Florida.
When I first heard “Before the Throne of God Above,” it was one of a number of songs that Vikki and her husband, Steve, had been working on, and I was listening to their demo. As soon as it finished I thought, “This song is a classic. The church could be singing this a hundred years from now.”
2. Pursuing Musical Variety: On this particular Sunday we stripped down the band and went for a simpler musical accompaniment. We used a (mostly) acoustic band, with a grand piano, two acoustic guitars, an electric bass, and two percussionists. There was no drum set, electric guitar, extra solo instruments, synthesizer, or choir. Overall, it went pretty well. One of our goals in using different bands is to help the church understand that corporate worship isn’t dependent on a particular sound, a specific musical accompaniment, or a solitary musical style.
3. Song Flow and Using Instrumentals: Occasionally we’ll use an extended musical interlude as a bridge between songs. I thought it would work this morning because most people knew the song being played, and it gave us time to reflect on all we had been singing. Dave Campbell served us well with his nylon string rendition. This was the flow:
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (first verse)
Come Now, Almighty King (an adapted version of “Come Thou, Almighty King)
The Name of Jesus (Aaron Shust)
What a Savior (my son’s adaptation of the Phillip Bliss hymn “Hallelujah, What a Savior”)
You Are My King (Billy Foote)
Before the Throne of God Above (you can listen to another version here)
The first song led directly into the second. After singing “Come Now, Almighty King” I shared that we had gathered to glorify Jesus Christ and all he did to accomplish our salvation. It’s something that requires God’s help, which is what we had just asked for in the previous song. I then reminded the church that we can never exalt, praise, worship, or trust Jesus too much. Then we taught The Name of Jesus, which reflects on how the Father is delighted when we give glory to the Savior. We followed that up with “What a Savior,” and celebrated again Christ’s magnificent work of redemption that rescued “guilty, vile, and helpless” sinners. That led into a reflective “You Are My King,” after which I wanted to take one more song to spell out the specifics of how Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice has changed our lives.
3. Using Phrases to Focus Attention: I’ve written before on speaking or singing brief comments to help think more intentionally about the lyrics we’re singing. This song contains a few spots when I do that. I never assume that everyone is completely locked into the meaning of the words, no matter how mature the group or how rich the song. So I’ll occasionally share one-line comments that hopefully encourage people to focus on the meaning more than the music.
4. Trying to Grow in Humility: I debated posting the actual audio track because the mix isn’t always the best, we aren’t as tight as I had hoped, and we’re not always singing in tune. So another reason to share this is just to continue to pursue humility, and to encourage those of you who think that no one else struggles with the problems you do.
5. Clear up Some Confusion: Writing a song that sounds “timeless” is a mixed blessing. On the bright side, there’s a good chance that it will survive the changing winds of popular taste and be used by congregations for decades. On the down side, people can assume that the person who composed it is dead and the lyrics and melody are public domain.
That’s what’s happened recently on not one, but two CDs. We received word that Matt Papa and Chris Orr had released a hymns CD with Before the Throne of God Above on it, only crediting the lyricist, Charitie Lees Bancroft. Then Shane and Shane released their Pages CD, also including Before the Throne of God Above. Only this time Shane Barnard added a chorus and didn’t mention Vikki either.
After a little research I got Shane Everett’s cell phone number and called him to find out what had happened. Turns out that a worship leader in his church had used the song. He was so affected that he asked him where it had come from. “I dunno. I think it’s just an old hymn.” He was half right.
I’m happy to say that I also talked to Matt Papa as well, and everything’s been resolved in both situations. Vikki will receive credit for the tune on future printings of both CDs. But I wondered how many other people might hear Before the Throne of God Above and think the melody was written in the18th century.
Since I know that Vikki would never bring this to anyone’s attention, I wanted to do a post on it to clear up confusion. Hence the lengthy title of this post. I’m just trying to spread the word.
More importantly, I’m trying to spread the words that are found in this song:
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Charitie Lees Bancroft, 1863
Thank you so much for posting this. It was encouraging to me in many ways.
1. It is a great song and always a joy to listen to.
2. Your example of interjecting phrases to help focus the worshiper was very helpful.
3. Letting us hear your worship team when it wasn’t perfect gives me hope when we aren’t perfect. I really appreciate your humility in this.
First, I think you are right in saying that the church will be singing this song for a thousand years. The truth and passion wrapped in its melody is God-breathed, powerful and personal at the same time.
Second, thanks for publicly commending Vikki and giving appropriate recognition for her talent and contribution!
GLAD did it too! :)
I really appreciated reading this post this morning regarding the song, “Before the Throne of God Above”. Just a couple of weeks ago I had chosen this song to do for the offertory with a group of eight I had put together. We used the ZOE Group’s acapella arrangement, and it is so beautiful. There was a wonderful response to it. I hope to teach it to the congregation.
Thanks for pointing out that GLAD did a version as well. I added them in the post.
I was the one who arranged it, so you’d think I might remember it. Probably an age thing.
I led our congregation in this song this Sunday! What a great song. Thanks to the Lord for Vikki’s brilliant melody, Bancroft’s terrific lyrics, and your thoughtful post.
Thanks for this great post, Bob. It’s great to hear some “non-perfect” mixes of “successful” (I don’t know a better word…but you know what I mean, I hope) music ministries.
It’s funny that you mention that people didn’t know where this came from. I have just been introducing several Sovereign Grace songs to our church (our pastor particularly loves the kids CD, and Jesus Thank You) and one day we were talking about modern classics. He knew that the song was from an old hymn but with a new melody, but he didn’t know where it came from. I said, “Hey, that’s a Sovereign Grace song too!” He was like, “No way!” It was kind of humorous.
Thanks, as always, for great music and great content.
This has been my favorite song since I first heard it at the 2007 Desiring God Ntl Conference. It gets me every time. I bought the song on iTunes after carfeully choosing which of the 20 options I wanted. I LOVE this guy’s rendition. It’s well done, but without lots of extras. The only added thing is an instrumental verse with an accordian (or something) playing the melody. I was planning on giving him props, but I don’t want to get anyone in trouble with copyright stuff. Anyway, Bob, I like the version you posted, and I like that it’s raw.
It was hearing this song, maybe 7 years ago now, at a Bethlehem Conference for Pastors that first put me in touch with SGM. What a blessing! That has led to us singing MANY more songs of like character, depth and beauty.
I have tried over the years to find out more about Charitee Lees Bancroft – but to no avail. Once in a while I like to describe something of the hymnwriter’s times, reason for writing or other works when we sing an older hymn (even to such a fine new melody). Have you been able to discover anything about her?
Lastly, isn’t it wonderful that we don’t generally hear when we are out of tune while we are live? It is the curse of recordings! Anyway, I think you guys sounded great on the clip – to the glory of God! Thanks a lot for sharing it.
I am so thankful for people and groups like Vikki Cook, Keith Getty, Sovereign Grace, and Indelible Grace who are writing timeless songs and melodies. Recently, I was listening to Keith and Kristyn Getty’s cd before a meeting and a gentleman remarked to me, “People just don’t write songs like that anymore.” It was my joy to let him know that people ARE writing songs like that, and that there isn’t a specific era that has the corner market on great songs exalting Christ’s work in saving us. Thanks for your thoughts and letting us hear a portion of your Sunday meeting.
I love this song. Such timeless truth. Such a singable melody.
This song has become an anthem for my church. The people regularly request it.I also love the Gary Rhodes arrangement of it out of the easter musical-Jesus, Son of God from Genevox. It has a bridge taken from Henry Purcell with a great brass arrangement. Thanks for your constant encouragement. God blesses me so much through your ministry. In Him, Paul Hayes
That song has been such a blessing to me over the last couple of years in helping to remember some vital gospel truths.
At the Village Church, Michael Bleecker did a pretty cool version that’s on their website:
Michael Bleecker – Before The Throne Of God Above
Sojourn’s release of before the throne also credited only the lyricist…
seems like Vikki could be making some royalties off of all these recordings of her melody.
also, Dave Hunt’s arrangement is quite nice. it’s on his “Shattered” CD, available on iTunes
I had the privilege of being at CLC that Sunday morning. What a great service! The acoustic treatment was very very nice. BTTOGA really is a wonderful song; I have shared the lyrics with several people who were struggling with condemnation.
Thanks for sharing the audio! That is a great example of humility.
Yes, we (Sojourn) fell prey to the same error when we recorded it on “Before The Throne.” Sojourn Worship Arts pastor Mike Cosper has taken care of it, and all subsequent pressings of the disc following the original run contain proper notes and copyright info.
It’s a special song and an amazing melody — so singable, so easily married to the text, and yeah, timeless. While not sounding dated at all, it is such a seamless blend of text and music that it’s all too easy to assume that the tune is original to the text.
The full name of the lyricist (from cyberhymnal.org) is Charitie de Cheney Lees Smith Bancroft. She was born in the county of Dublin, Ireland, in 1841. She married Arthur Bancroft in 1869. She published a collection of hymns in 1867 under her maiden name. Not a lot, but that’s what I came up with. I’m glad she wrote “Before the Throne,” though!
For the record, I have not recorded the song nor forgotten to mention Vikki’s role, so rest at ease tonight Vikki :) (For if I had, tens of twenties of people would be enjoying your melody with no monetary remuneration headed your way).
Thanks for your post Bob. And thanks for stepping in on Vikki’s behalf in a truthful, humble way so as to honor her and her hard work. It was also great to hear the recording. I actually assumed it would sound like that before I listened to it. Studios and post production exists for a reason—they actually do stuff. So I would NOT be the least embarrassed or ashamed of the quality. Real people in a real church redeemed by the real blood of Christ exalting in His work—I think God would smile on that at least as much as a clean studio version. I’m ALL for excellence. But thankfully, Christ died for His bride the church, which happens to NOT be the recording studio (even if the bride does show up to lay down a track or two) :)
BTW, I did not mean to imply that it displayed humility because of the quality of the singing! It actually sounded quite lovely, not “un-excellent” at all! 8^)
i am SO THANKFUL that you decided to let us share in this worship time with all of you!! i believe our God is glorified when we choose to show others a less-than-perfect (whatever that is) side of ourselves. your post truly ministered to my soul today as well as instructed me in a couple of areas.
thanks bob for a wonderful post – i hope you can do more of these “multimedia” lessons/encouragements as it allows us to hear what you are talking about more richly. although i would never want you to be bashing/criticizing others’ performances, perhaps sharing other examples of how things work (or don’t work when it doesn’t insult others) will give us all a better understanding of the profound yet practical examples you continue to share.
I have never used the song “The Name of Jesus.” How did it go for you that day? Have you used again? If so, how has it gone? By the way, we really enjoy Devon’s “What a Savior.”
Aaron Shust’s The Name of Jesus went well. We’ve done it about three times now. It’s a tad on the “sing-songy” side, but that can be minimized by a good arrangement. Besides, the words are outstanding.
I tried opening up the file a couple of times this past week and kept receiving a message saying “Error Opening File”. Would you happen to have any solutions?
Any computer gurus out there know how to fix this problem?
What a glorious, objective song this is,
The streaming audio is back up and working again. Sorry about the inconvenience.
I would like to submit a religious/spiritual article, what is proper email address to submit it to.
You can reach me through the “contact me” tab above.
I encourage you to listen to this song as sung by Huw Priday, welch tenor. It is available on itunes. Well worth the time and the cost to download. Thanks and God bless you,
I have loved this song from the first time I heard it….the lyrics so RICH with spiritual truths…..the melody almost Celtic and hymn-like. QUESTION: Never noticed before, but my exchange student said that this melody was almost identical to “Colors of the Wind” from the movie Pocahontas. Does anyone know if Vikki Cook says anything about taking her inspiration from this song at all??? That question has been NAGGING at me ever since I heard the comment. Hope someone has an answer.
Tammy, any connection between Colors of the Wind and Before the Throne is purely coincidental.
drum sets made by pearl are nice sounding and tough too`”.
The Haven Quartet did a FANTASTIC version of this on their project _Days of Elijah_. Go find it.
I have heard the Jeff Berry band do this song on Pandora (“Power of the Cross” station) and have always liked it. We have a worship band (drums, piano, keyboard, bass guitar and electric…and choir) that plays on Sundays but we had our youth band play this Sunday night for a back to school service. They led the congregation in this song with just an acousitc and a piano. First of all, the simplicity and beauty of the guitar, piano and the congregation signing was almost shocking. On top of that, the awesome lyrics had me at points in the song not being able to sing. So many things going on inside…awe, joy, love, repentance. I think sometimes we try to “package” the Gospel with so much stuff that the beauty of it gets lost. He is a wonderful Savior!!!
Does anyone know the exact singer’s name(Female) Before The Throne The Praise and Worship singers? Her voice is great and would like to get more songs of hers.