Meandering through the Musical Maze, chapter 2

In my last post, I discussed the criteria I use when evaluating potential songs for corporate worship.  Today I want to disclose some of the ministries that most consistently produce music that falls within these criteria.  While I may not be in total agreement on every fine point of doctrine with these folks, they each have a high view of God, the Scriptures, and the Gospel which is seen clearly in the music they write.

Sovereign Grace Music.  The music division of Sovereign Grace Ministries (formerly PDI) is constantly producing gospel-rich, biblically-solid, and culturally relevant music for churches.  Their stated mission is as follows:

“We are committed to developing a biblical understanding of worship, and to producing songs that exalt God’s Word, works, and worthiness.  Because God’s glory is too great to be confined to any one style or culture, we seek to draw from the rich heritage of the past while utilizing the best musical ideas and technology of the present.  Moreover, each song we release is designed to be faithful to Scripture and musically suitable for use within the local church.”

Sovereign Grace Ministries was founded by pastor and author, C.J. Mahaney.  His long-time ministry partner, Bob Kauflin, is the primary worship leader and songwriter featured in their music.  They have done a great service to the church by producing a plethora of rich, Christ-centered music over the last two decades.  Some of their songs that we have used include:  “Not to Us,” “The Gospel Song,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” “Be Praised in All the Earth,” “I Will Glory in My Redeemer,” “Your Great Renown,” as well as re-written versions of “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” and “Fairest Lord Jesus.”

On their website they have many CDs available for purchase and sheet music offered for free download.

Getty Music.  This is the ministry of Irish composers, Keith and Kristyn Getty.  Their mission is “to revive the art of hymnody for a new generation.”  From their website:

“There are two reasons we write modern hymns.  First, it is to help teach the faith.  What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it’s so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us.  The second reason is to try and create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future.”

The 100+ “modern hymns” they have written are a real gift to the church today.  These are the types of songs the church will likely be singing until the Lord returns.  Their music provides that rare combination of well-crafted lyrics and simplicity of melody that gives them their enduring quality.  Some of the songs we have sung include:  “In Christ Alone,” “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” “Speak, O Lord,” “See What a Morning,” “Father, We Have Sinned,” and “Let the Earth Resound.”

Their website has CDs, songbooks, and down-loadable sheet music available for purchase.  Their latest CD, “In Christ Alone,” has been recently made available in many Christian bookstores in the U.S.

Indelible Grace Music.  This is the worship ministry that grew out of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), a college ministry connected to the PCA.  Their main emphasis is on writing contemporary melodies to old hymns.

“Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace . . . We want to be a voice calling our generation back to something rich and solid and beyond the fluff and the trendy.  We want to remind God’s people that thinking and worship are not mutually exclusive, and that not everything worth knowing happened in the last three years.  We want to invite the Church to appreciate her heritage without idolizing it.  We want to open up a world of passion and truth and make it more than just an archaic curiosity for the religiously sentimental.”

Songs we use include modern versions of:  “Sovereign Grace O’er Sin Abounding,” “A Debtor to Mercy Alone,” “Whate’re My God Ordains Is Right,” “From the Depths of Woe,” “Jesus, I, My Cross Have Taken,”  “Come Ye Sinners,” and “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”

Their website has some great articles on worship as well as their free downloadable hymnbook.  They also have CDs available for purchase.

Other Resources:

cyberhymnal.organ extensive online database of hymns.  It is searchable by title, tune, topic, composer, or meter.  The audio samples are quite annoying, but there is no comparable “one-stop-shopping” place for hymns out there.  We have found a number of great texts here that we have written updated tunes for.

grassrootsmusic.comhelpful online store to find new and indie artists.  They have many mp3 samples available to hear new groups.

worshipmatters.comBob Kauflin’s weblog on worship.  Great resource for insight and discussion on worship-related issues.

songselect.coma resource from CCLI for churches and worship leaders.  You can search the massive database of registered songs, hear samples, see lyrics, and get chord sheets and lead sheets in the key of your choosing.  This site is comprehensive, and therefore a mixed bag.  Some songs that pop up in searches are ridiculously flawed theologically.  But I have found a number of great tunes here as well.

Grace Hymns topically arranged hymnal of older, biblically-rich texts.  There are no musical scores provided for the hymns, only the meters.  We generally just use a more familiar tune with the same meter or write our own melody for the unknown texts.

Worship Leader Magazine/Song Discoveryvaluable resource to know what is going on in worship leading and song-writing.  Sort of the “Christianity Today” or worship leading.  You won’t agree with too much of what you read, but you at least know what trends are out there.  The Song Discovery CDs contain new worship songs from a variety of sources.  Most don’t fit well within my criteria, but there are those occasional gems on there that pleasantly surprise me.

I certainly don’t limit my song-searching to these resources, they have just proven to be the most consistent suppliers of good congregational worship music.  If you have any other good resources for worship leading I would be very interested to hear of them.

*UPDATE – Reformed Praise is another great modern hymn-writing group.  I became familiar with this ministry a few years ago while the founder, David Ward, was a student at SBTS.  They have since overhauled the website and have made their music more easily accesible.  I had kind of forgotten about Reformed Praise and lost it from my favorites menu when my computer crashed last year.  So thanks for the reminder, Stomps


About wordpictures

My name is Justin Culbertson. I am extremely happily married and the father of 4. We reside in Fayetteville, GA, where I help shepherd Berachah Bible Church. I am best described as John Newton described himself: ""I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not even what I hope to be. But, by the Cross of Christ, I am not what I was."
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2 Responses to Meandering through the Musical Maze, chapter 2

  1. Hey, Justin! Some great helps here for music selection for worship services.

    You might be aware of this site as well, but thought I might throw it your way just in case. There are some good songs on here (some cheesy tunes as well, but…) that might be useful and the theology of the lyrics are fantastic. I think that the offerings there will only get stronger as the site continues to grow.

    Good to see you blogging again. Thanks for your contribution!


  2. wordpictures says:

    Thanks for the addition, Richard. I had actually forgotten about that site. I ordered their cd when it first came out, but haven’t really kept up with the ministry. They have since overhauled their site and it looks good and more helpful. Anyways, thanks for the contribution.

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