I’m very, very excited about this collaborative project from the folks at The Journey Church in St. Louis. First off, I’m excited to see more projects like this–whole albums centered around books of the Bible. We saw this with the Gospel Coalition’s wonderful Luke album and with Sovereign Grace’s killer Romans album. And now we’ve got some Ephesians-based material! Beauty!
The production on this album is polished and inspiring. To my ear, many of the songs are not only singable but recorded in singable keys (which is an admirable practice that I don’t even adhere to!). Musically, what I love most is its diversity. Volume 1 is colored in a nice pop-rock style, and Volume 2 takes a different turn with some very swanky sounds (nice job, Russ Mohr and Taylor Webb!). “Wondrous Love” is the classic folk hymn “What Wondrous Love is This” is set in a spanky blues-gospel style. “A Son of God” is a kind of soulful gospel swing with some nice horn parts, and “Now in Christ” is a more straight up R&B tune. It’s nice to hear a worship album that helps to stretch the sonic palate of evangelical worship music. I admire the artists’ ability to traverse so many different styles with integrity and artistry. I should also mention that they embody the spirit of Ephesians’ message by making it so collaborative a project. They illustrate what it means to be “the Church” (a major theme in Ephesians) by having so many different vocalists and musicians involved in the project.
This album is off the charts when it comes to Grade-A theology. First, I must mention the intentional structure. Stephen Miller has talked about Gospel-shaped worship structure in his fabulous book, Worship Leaders: We Are Not Rock Stars (check out my very favorable review here), and it’s encouraging to see worship leaders and songwriters take their thinking so seriously and to apply what they believe in in such tangible ways. Check out the structure:
1. To Praise Your Glory – Call to Worship
2. The Love of God – Song of Adoration
3. Wars Within – Song of Confession
4. As Your Own – Song of Assurance
5. To Him Who is Able – Song of Mission
6. Wondrous Love – Call to Worship
7. A Son of God – Song of Adoration
8. Anchor Our Hearts – Song of Confession
9. In Our Place – Song of Assurance
10. Now in Christ – Song of Mission
Wonderful, powerfully shaping gospel structure, through and through. …And then there are the songs. One of my favorite songs, “To Praise Your Glory” is full of lofty yet tangible theology about God’s glory. It sings:
With grace and peace You’ve welcomed us
To bless Your name, O God of Love
And in Your will, predestined us
Before the world to praise Your glory
Our highest praise cannot contain
The glory of Your holy name
With all we are we will proclaim
Jesus the name above all names
I stand by previous statements when I say that fast, more energetic call-to-worship-type songs are the hardest to write. This is a great one. Another great song moves into the important territory of the theology of adoption, which is surprisingly hard to find in both old hymns and new music:
I lie down and rest, ’cause I work no longer
I breathe in, refreshed no more soiled in disgrace
I look up at Him to whom I am kneeling
And I see delight there in my Father’s face
I’m a son of God, and love is my freedom
And can ask anything of my Father the King
I’m an heir, I’m adopted, and my Brother is Jesus
I’m a Son of God and my soul is at peace
Wow! I’ve never heard a song quite like this. “Sonship” and “Daughtership” is an underserved facet of the gospel in worship music, and I’m glad The Journey Collective is pointing it out.
Really, all the songs on this album commend themselves to us as Christians and to the Church as meaningful additions to our sung vocabulary of praise.