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!