Review of “The Gathering” by Sovereign Grace Music

Back in August I had the joy of attending the Sovereign Grace WorshipGod conference, and a highlight for me was when they recorded a live album one of the evenings. I’m always desperate for new, good, solid, congregational songs for corporate worship, and I remember thinking to myself during the recording “I can’t wait to do that one… and that one… and that one too…” You get the point.

The album was released a few weeks ago and here are my thoughts on each of the songs.

There is One Reason
I liked this one a lot when we sang it at the conference. Too often, upbeat/celebrative songs sacrifice lyrical integrity and biblical truth. The lyrics of this song are solid, biblical, and Trinitarian. As often happens, you hear the song in a different way when you try to introduce it to your congregation. My congregation struggled with the melody, and I found myself getting mixed up on the chorus (i.e. I kept singing “Christ the Lord, our Son, the Savior” but it should be “Christ our Lord, the Son, our Savior”) since it was all going by a bit quickly! I think this one depends on where your congregation is. The key of A is the best for the verses and keeps the chorus from hitting an E regularly, but it does hang out around a D a lot on the chorus.

Greater Than We Can Imagine
Great song. We’ve sung this in our church for a couple of years (it was first released on Sovereign Grace’s Psalms album) and it’s a solid, biblical (based on Psalm 145), celebrative, singable song of praise. The recorded key of G is much more comfortable for congregations than the first recorded version which was in B.

Come Praise and Glorify
Excellent song. It took 3 or 4 times for my church to get the hang of it, but I think we’ve finally gotten it. I love how each verse is full of different reasons why we should praise God, leading up to the chorus declaring “to the praise of your glory, to the praise of your mercy and grace… you are the God who saves”. The key of Bb helps this song sit in the right range.

Shine Into Our Night
Beautiful lyrics: “Jesus Christ, shine into our night, drive our dark away, till your glory fills our eyes”. A beautiful melody which is accessible and congregational without being predictable. We’ve sung this song twice at my church and I’ve had many people ask me for the lyrics and where to download it. The key of E is perfect. But then again, I do love the key of E.

Have Mercy on Me
A prayer of confession without an assurance of pardon is missing the good news of the Gospel. This song gets it right. “Have mercy on me…” followed by the assurance that Jesus was given “to make atonement for wrongs I have done” and that “there’s forgiveness with you, God”. It’s a good song, a good confession, and full of good news.

Now Why This Fear
I can’t wait to teach this song to my church. This might be my favorite of them all. Really, really good.

Isaiah 53
I love the groove of this song. And I love the lyrics. So I don’t know why I don’t love the song, but I don’t. I think the main reason is that I know it would be a challenge for my congregation to get into it. Maybe yours would be different!

Generous King
One of the other highlights of the conference for me was standing in the back during the closing session and singing this song while holding my two-year old daughter in my arms. That was the first time since she had been born that I had held her during a time of worship (I’m usually the one leading!). What a gift to sing of his “mercies unending, and love never failing”. This is a great song. The octave jump on the bridge might be tough for some congregations, but I really like it. We haven’t tried it yet at my church.

When You Move
I don’t often hear songs of pleading for God to “come and move” that are this biblically saturated and God-centered. This is a great song/prayer for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives and minds “with the radiance of Christ”. It’s specific, solid, and singable. I like it.

Your Words of Life and Show Us Christ
Two great songs to add to your church’s repertoire for preparing for and/or responding to the preaching of God’s word. Too many worship leaders don’t see that as their job or their concern, and that’s a shame. If we really believe that the bible is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) then we shouldn’t see the preaching of the word as competition. These songs help the congregation articulate a longing to encounter God in his living word.

All I Have is Christ
I used to have a hard time with this song, since I had a fairly straight-laced Christian upbringing, and the verses are from the perspective of someone who “once was lost in darkest night…” and “ran (a) hell-bound race”. I didn’t think that described me. Then I read Ephesians 2 and was hit in the head when Paul said “…you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” That meant me. Yes, indeed, I once was lost in darkest night and thought I knew the way. “Alleluia! All I have is Christ”. This is a great song, and the refrain of every person who has come to put their trust in Jesus Christ.

We Hunger and Thirst
A good song to sing during communion. I’m not crazy about the bridge, not because I think it’s bad, but because I think it could be better.

Lift High the Cross
This album has the highest number of songs I could see really “clicking” my congregation of any other album in recent memory. Having said that, this particular song is not one of them. I really want to like it. And I think I like the pre-chorus and the chorus. But every album has to have at least one song you don’t like, and this is it for me.

As You Go
A great song to close a service, as we “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom…” (Colossians 3:16) to go into the world, “in the grace of Christ… in the power of the Spirit” to bring God glory. The lyrics are full of great, biblical exhortations, the melody is really singable, and the key of A is just right.

This is an excellent album, full of congregational, biblical, God-glorifying songs. The musicianship is fantastic, and the arrangements will give you and your team some great new ideas for how to approach songs in a fresh way without being showy. Out of the 15 songs, I could envision using 12 or 13 at my church. If you’ve ever owned any other worship albums, you’ll know that that number is usually unthinkable. Not so with “The Gathering”. It is a gift to worship leaders and their churches.

Get it at the Sovereign Grace store.

4 thoughts on “Review of “The Gathering” by Sovereign Grace Music

  1. Matt Hoppe December 7, 2011 / 3:56 pm

    Thanks for test driving it, Jamie.

  2. William Chong (@wchong) December 8, 2011 / 4:32 pm

    So far we’ve sung “Come Praise and Glorify” congregationally. Found it really helpful to pair it up with the corresponding verses in Ephesians 1 verse 1 = v3-6; verse 2 = v7-12; verse 3 = v13-14; the choruses echo Paul’s words, “To the praise of His glorious grace!”

    Have also used “We Hunger and Thirst” during the Lord’s Table, which has helped people to better understand the significance of communion.

    Our church band doesn’t have as many contemporary band instruments though, so some of the really nice ones you’ve pointed out we may have to wait till later to try out. Thanks for sharing!

  3. ATC December 20, 2011 / 1:30 pm

    Interesting to read through as I listen to it for the first time.

    Thanks,

    ATC, Bristol.

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