For most worship leaders, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all of the new albums, EPs, books, resources, and articles that are out there. I try to stay current, but by the time I’ve been able to fully listen to a new album a few times, I’ve almost missed its sequel!
I thought I would share some of the new resources that I’m aware of, which I’ve found helpful either on a personal and/or ministry level.
Paul Baloche – Your Mercy
I’ve been listening to Paul Baloche since way before his “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” days. Way back then, he had something resembling a mullet, wore really cool sweaters, and was already cranking out really singable and congregationally accessible songs. And somehow, while his look, sound, and ministry location has changed (from Texas to New York City), he’s still the same gifted and humble guy, and one of the most grounded worship leaders around. I’ve never met him, but I’ve long admired him. And I’ve really been enjoying his newest album, “Your Mercy”. The very first song, a musical setting of Psalm 92, is just so refreshing. And while I haven’t listened to the rest of it enough times to figure out which ones might work congregationally, I’ve been really blessed by the simplicity, creativity, and depth of the lyrics and musical arrangements. Well done, Paul.
Prestonwood Worship – Songs of the People
The last time I checked, Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas has about 452,894 members. Give or take. It’s a mega-mega church, and their worship mnistry (led for the last year by another worship veteran Michael Neale) mixes band, choir, orchestra, singers, new songs, and old songs. And while they employ many of the mega-church worship elements that, if unchecked, might lend themselves to a culture of performancism, I’ve been impressed by their obvious heart to encourage congregational singing and participation, and to clearly exalt Jesus and proclaim the Gospel. Their new live album, “Songs of the People” is really good. I haven’t used any of the songs at my church yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 or 3 find their way into the rotation over the next year. Most worship leaders will agree that 2 or 3 usable songs off of a new worship album is an incredible feat. Some of my favorite songs are “Grace So Marvelous”, “Let the Redeemed” (I can’t WAIT to do this one at my church with choir and band), “Our Story Our Song”, and “Your Love is Our Favorite Song”.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Mike McGraff at Coresound Pads asking me to check out their “Deluxe Bundle” (full disclosure: he gave me a free download). To be perfectly honest, I was a bit suspicious at first. What was the heart behind this product? What was the marketing like? Were these “pads” going to be treated like the perfect solution to any worship leading problem, the one-size-fits-all bandaid for dead space in a worship set, or a technological substitute for the Holy Spirit? Now that I’ve worked with these pads for a few weeks (granted, in my office, or underneath a few of the testimony videos we’ve created at my church), I’m very happy to report that the heart behind Coresound Pads really is simply to help worship leaders who want a pad sound, but either don’t have the personnel to play it, or the equipment to create it, or both. Their goal is simply to provide worship leaders/worship teams with high quality pad sounds (guitar sky, orchestral strings, organ drone, warm serene, subtle sweet, and rich sparkle), and their heart is in the right place. These are good sounding pads, and if you’re need of this sound for your services, then I would recommend you purchase them from Coresound Pads. If you buy either the standard bundle or deluxe bundle, you can use the promo code ESAVE10 and get $10.00 off your order.
The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams – Zac Hicks
Zac Hicks is one smart dude. He’s a prolific writer, keen theologian, astute liturgist, thoughtful leader, skilled musician, and pastoral worship leader. We’ve struck up a friendship over the last several years, and I’ve benefited from his ministry. He has a new book out called The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams and after reading through the first chapter, I can enthusiastically say that Zac has done the Church a great service in the writing of this book. This book is not filled with fluff or filler. It’s wonderfully dense, footnoted, thought-through, carefully laid out, and a good mixture of philosophy, principles, practicalities, and pastoral precepts. A worship leader who reads this book will be a better worship leader because of it.
In God We Trust – Stephen Miller
Stephen Miller is out with a new EP, and I’ve enjoyed having this on in my car and/or on some runs. Whenever I listen to Stephen’s music, he points me to the truth of who God is, and what God has done for me in Jesus Christ. His music is consistently rich in content, and refreshingly gospel-saturated. This EP has 4 songs on it (one of which also appears on the aforementioned live album from Prestonwood, where Stephen is now one of the worship pastors).
Facing a Task Unfinished – Keith and Kristyn Getty
This new album by the Gettys is full of wonderful, singable, congregational, theologically rich songs. At my church we’re singing “He Will Hold Me Fast” and it’s been one of the best additions to our repertoire in months. I hope to use “The Lord Is My Salvation” soon, and the new arrangement of “Let The Earth Resound” makes we want to give this older song a new turn at my church as well. The Gettys are always so reliably solid, and this album is no exception.
1000 Tongues – Vertical Church Band
Finding good upbeat songs is always a challenge for me. This new song from Vertical Church Band‘s new album has really gone well at my church. The recorded key of G sits a bit high in the chorus and bridge, so we’ve done it in F. It works as an opener or as a closer. I like it musically and lyrically. The second verse is particularly strong: “And we have found our anthem / At the cross where sin is slain / Gathered under one name / Where every chain is broken / And every sorrow swept away / Gathered under one name”. This a good upbeat song that’s singable, not too-full of clichés, Christ-centered, and fresh. It’s the strongest song on the album.
God’s Highway – Sandra McCracken
Last on my list, but CERTAINLY not least, I’ve really enjoyed Sandra McCracken’s newest album, “God’s Highway”. This is a collection of deep, meaningful, thoughtful, and well-crafted songs. One of my favorite things about Sandra is her total lack of pretense. She is who she is. She sings and she writes from her heart. She doesn’t hide her songs behind complicated layers of over-arranging or over-production. The message of the songs is able to stand on its own. She points to Jesus, and she consistently and sweetly helps paint a picture of a faithful God who’s worthy of our praise and trust in every season.