In 2008, Sovereign Grace Music ran a print ad that announced we were hoping to release a “Gospel Project” that winter.
Ten years later, we’re finally making good on that promise. Better late than never, I guess.
On Thursday night, February 28, eight Sovereign Grace folks were at Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, FL, led by H.B. Charles, Jr., recording a live project with their 120 voice choir, ably directed by Joe Pace. The album includes 5 previously recorded Sovereign Grace Music songs, 2 songs from Shiloh, and 4 songs written or co-written for this album.
So what is Sovereign Grace doing recording an album with Shiloh Church?
For the past 30+ years, Sovereign Grace Music has been seeking to produce songs for local churches that are theologically driven, gospel-centered, and musically engaging.
It’s that last phrase that can be elusive. “Musically engaging” for whites may not be that moving for African-Americans. Or Hispanics. Or Chinese. Or people from many other ethnic or racial backgrounds.
Fortunately, in today’s over-connected world, music styles can transcend cultures and blend together. Simple or catchy melodies have a way of making their way across ethnic and national
But people regularly ask me if I know of any congregational songs that resonate with
My typical answer is, “Some. But not enough.”
As I’ve talked to African-American brothers and sisters about the need for such songs, I’ve wondered if we one day we might partner with a church or ministry to produce an album.
Allan Bynoe, from East Point Church near Atlanta, has been a good friend over the years and was an early adapter of Sovereign Grace songs for his church. Aaron and Tiffany Johnson, leaders of Doxa, the music team from Epiphany Fellowship, also helped flesh out some new sounds for songs from Sovereign Grace and others.
But a few years ago, my son, Devon, happened to meet H.B. Charles, Jr. at a conference they were both participating in. They clicked immediately. And he learned that H.B. was taking songs he heard at conferences and introducing them to Shiloh.
A little later, Devon suggested we ask H.B. if his church might want to record a project with us. That seemed like a good partnership for a number of reasons.
H.B. is devoted to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, preaches the gospel consistently and passionately, and is building a local church around those priorities. He was already wanting to see his church sing more doctrinally-rich songs and he was doing something about it. Furthermore, Joe Pace, who leads the music at Shiloh’s Orange Park campus, is closely connected with H.B. and shares his heart. He’s also been in gospel music for decades. On top of all of that, we’ve had a growing affection for these men and what God is doing through them.
So, we emailed Joe and H.B. to ask if they wanted to do a joint project. Their response was an enthusiastic “Yes!” They saw the value in a gospel album that was more congregational than artist driven. We saw the value in putting a little “seasoning salt” on our music.
After working through a variety of details, the dream became a reality this past Thursday.
Going into this project we wanted not only to record an
Sovereign Grace Music tends (although not exclusively) to value intentional, theologically driven, cohesive lyrics. Gospel music tends (although not exclusively) to use fewer words with more passionate music that stirs the emotions. How do those two fit together?
To find out, we held a
These conversations would never have been possible apart from the humility Paul talks about in
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
We experienced that humility repeatedly at Shiloh. Here are just a few examples:
- H.B. graciously allowed us to use their building, choir, and staff to record the album.
- Joe Pace stretched the choir by having them sing songs with more words than normal.
- They let us edit two songs lyrically and took our suggestions.
- The musicians, who were superb and a joy to work with, received ways they might serve the congregation more effectively. They even let me play on a couple of songs (although I’m still figuring out what some of the chords were).
- The choir rehearsed 10 times over two months in addition to their regular weekly rehearsals.
That’s a lot of Christ-exalting humility on display. I pray they saw something similar in us. I know we learned a ton from the choir’s joy, their enthusiastic engagement with God as they sing, the skill of the musicians, the love and generosity of everyone we met, a commitment to God’s Word and the gospel, and their genuine embracing of some white folks who want to glorify Jesus with them! And I’ve come to know Joe better as a passionate Christ-follower, a brilliant musician, a faithful pastor, and a friend.
We don’t know exactly how God is going to use this album. But we pray the music and lyrics will cause us to see Jesus as more glorious, gracious,
Most of all, we pray this album reminds us that God’s praise extends far beyond our little corner of the field. And that when God sent his Son to redeem a people for his glory, he didn’t specify what kind of music we should use. Only that we should sing loud, to the Lamb, and together (Ps. 33:3; Ps. 47:1; Rev. 5:9-13). And that’s what we did last Thursday night.
Lord willing, the album, called Behold Our God, will be out sometime in late summer or early fall. We’d appreciate your prayers in the meantime!
I’ve been searching for and praying about something like this for a really long time! Praise the Lord that He gives creativity and unity among believers, no matter their background!
Hi All. How can I be sure to get the album, please. Jillena Cunningham. Perth, Western Australia.
Hey, Jill! The album will be available digitally throughout the world.
This is fantastic news!
Really grateful and excited for this, all the way from Nigeria! God bless you all for what you’re doing to resource the local church with great music.
I’m getting breakfast and I see your blog. When you mentioned this aspiration to me when Beth and I visited your family in 2007, I immediately thought, “does Bob know any black people in music who could authenticate such a task?” Praise God, you do! We have done Joe Pace’s songs at New City Fellowship ever since “We Worship You” with Fred Hammond in 1999. I love everything about this story, but mostly the humility of taking your success and submitting it to African American brothers and sisters’ authority. I look forward to this release.
James, you have traveled these paths long before us and I”m grateful for your example! There’s no question that the most rewarding and satisfying part of this process has been getting to know our brothers and sisters at Shiloh. Like I said in the post, better late than never!
Very interested to see and hear the outcome. This needs to be replicated in South Africa with the humility and commitments reflected here
This is very heartwarming. I love this and looking forward to the album release . A fan in Nigeria
I am a member of Shiloh Church! The musical recording was so GOD exalting. We talked about it all the way home and at Church on Sunday. Truly amazing!
Rena, I’m so glad that you were able to make the recording! We absolutely LOVED being with you all, celebrating the glory of our Savior together! Hope to visit again before too long!
Had the great honor and pleasure of meeting the Sovereign Grace team and singing on this project. Praise our great God who supercedes all boundaries! May his name continue to be glorified through this endeavor!
Melanie, I’m so glad you were able to be a part of the recording! Thanks for all the sacrifices you made! It was such a joy getting to know and serve with you all, and I can’t wait to hear the final product!
Greetings Brother in the Name of Christ.
I am from Kenya, and i truly love your music especially how they so rich with doctrine and the gospel. I am happy to know that such a project has been done, and truly, All praise be to our God for providing such an door of ministry.
I would that you came to Africa, (Kenya,SA,Nigeria) to do such a project with us, and especially for a “Worship Conference or just anything” to teach music here.Truly your music, Keith and Kristy Getty, CityAlight et al. are needed in this generation where Worship is not gospel-centered,Christ-exalting(Africa Context).
Thank you for your encouraging words, Denis. I thank God our music and the music of others is serving you!
I’m very excited about this album. What’s the best way to ensure that I’m notified when it is released?
Matt, thanks for your enthusiasm! I’ll post about it on this blog, so you could subscribe. Or you can just follow me (@bkauflin)or Sovereign Grace Music (@sovgracemusic) on Twitter or Instagram. Thanks so much!
The experience of Africans in the American area of the diaspora began as a harrowing one. For years, vocal expressions of thoughts and concepts were dangerous for people of color in America. Open reprisals, beatings or even death were the rewards meted out for such behavior. Adapting to their reality, Black folk learned to use subterfuge in their songs to protect themselves from the aforementioned. Or, they simply left a thing unsaid, trusting that the community at large would get the idea on a soul level.
One of the beautiful things about our culture, in my opinion, is that God was gracious enough to meet us there, honoring us with His presence while weaving a rich tapestry of hymns and songs that resonate even to this day with theological significance and simplicity.
The recording was wonderful, due in no small part to the fact that Soverign Grace brought enhancement to an already complete and intact genre of music, not a missing piece to an inferior one.
Dion, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I couldn’t agree more! It was a pure joy to be part of the collaboration, all of us learning from each other, seeking to serve congregations more biblically and effectively for the glory of our Savior.