In this post, I’m going to make some recommendations for CDs and songwriters that I respect and appreciate.
Good worship songs are hard to find. When I was first learning to lead worship with Campus Crusade for Christ, I was given this hint for choosing songs: they had to be (1) singable, (2) playable, meaning that you had to be able to play it on the guitar, and (3) have good content.
But worship music is becoming more and more sophisticated and worship leaders are discovering that people have a high threshold for musical complexity in worship music. This is great, because you can only go so far with 3 guitar chords.
Let me begin with a disclaimer: the recommendations in this post are not exhaustive, but they are road ready, having been tested on my own congregation. Every worship set is like a meal: you need to have the main course, but also veggies and possibly dessert. This list is the Prime Rib.
1. Valley of Vision, Sovereign Grace Music. Bar none, this is the best worship CD that I have heard in 10 years. I’m not kidding. Sovereign Grace is committed to theological depth in their songs, but the music flat out rocks. We’ve sung many of these in my church, such as Let Your Kingdom Come, It Was Your Grace, Heavenly Father Beautiful Son, and more on the way. If you are hard pressed to find good musical expressions of the trinity, check out Heavenly Father Beautiful Son on I-tunes.
2. Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. I don’t own any of their CDs, but I have led a few of their songs and they continue to feed the give-us-some-music-we-can-chew-on movement. Some of their best known songs are In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, and Beautiful Savior.
3. Red Mountain Church. I was first exposed to their music with their rewriting of the song Satisfied. I bought their CD, and was very happy with it. We also sing Jesus Cast a Look on Me and My Jesus I Love Thee at my church, They also do a great version of Depth of Mercy.
All the music above is great for theological content and meditation. This next list contains the vegetables. They’re good for you, and they taste good, but they’re not as meaty (I couldn’t resist) as the above
1. Matt Redman. He has too many songs to mention, but you know them. Probably best known among them is Blessed Be Your Name. Others include Let My Words Be Few, Nothing But the Blood, Let Everything that Has Breath, and more recently You Never Let Go. Generally speaking, every Redman CD will have about 2 or 3 songs that will be sung for years.
2. Chris Tomlin. I have more reservations about Tomlin than Redman, but when Tomlin is good, he’s really good. He didn’t necessarily write all of the great songs he records, but his CDs (especially more recent ones) are always a solid investment. At my church, we do How Great is Our God,Â Indescribable, Unchanging, Everlasting God, Holy is the Lord, and The Wonderful Cross.Â
The next few artists are the dessert: generally simple songs that have good things to say and can provide some levity to some of the more somber content of the music in the Prime Rib category.
1. Lincoln Brewster. I love this guy. I only own one of his CD’s, All to You…Live, but it is catchy and accessible for most contemporary congregations. His a truly a renaissance musician, being a phenomenal lead guitar player as well as exceptional vocalist. Not all of these songs are congregational, however. My favorite tracks are Majestic, All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises, Majestic, and Son of God. He also does a great version of Great is Thy Faithfulness.
2. Tim Hughes. Most of his songs are more in the personal category, but there are a few gems from him: Here I am to Worship, Beautiful One, You, and Whole World in His Hands.
3. Hillsongs. Mighty to Save is a great CD and is a regular go-to resource. Three songs on this CD are in the heavy-rotation at my church: At the Cross, Mighty to Save, and None But Jesus.
Some other honorable mentions are Fernando Ortega (cheesy recordings but great songs), Sojourn Community Church (their Christmas/Advent CD is incredible), Vineyard (definitely a mixed bag), and Robin Mark (Scottish!).
I’m sure there are many more great songs and CDs that I haven’t mentioned here, mostly because I can’t afford to buy everything that comes out. Neither can you, which is why this post will hopefully be helpful for anyone wanting to update their music.
If I were starting from scratch, here’s the CD’s that I would purchase:
1. Valley of Vision, by Sovereign Grace. Honestly, this is so good you need to pay double for it.
2. Mighty to Save, by Hillsongs. The three tracks listed above are worth the price of the CD.
3. All to You…Live, by Lincoln Brewster.
If you had these three CD’s, you’ve got a balanced assortment of music to start with.