Recommended Songwriters and Hymns from the Twenty-First Century

I have often talked about the issues of church music; in fact, some may think it is the only thing I can talk about!  The debate in the church should never be old versus new, contemporary against tradition, but rather about what honours the Lord.  Thus, although we like traditional hymns, we also are really blessed by contemporary hymns.  Today, Ryan and I aim to list some modern songwriters whom we believe are truly God-honouring.

Firstly, we must acknowledge that this is not an exhaustive list and that there are plenty of writers out there that we have not come across who also present some amazing truths.  This list contains some God-honouring and contemporary examples.

Keith and Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend

You may recognise these writers for their famous hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ or ‘Power of the Cross’.  They are all talented musicians and writers that have given the church several fantastic new songs and hymns for us to sing in our congregations.  For the Getty’s in particular, congregational worship has been on their hearts for years and has culminated in the annual Sing conference, where they encourage new hymns to be written.  Combining Irish folk with worship they provide a strong emphasis on artistry which provides a great example of how we can use our gifts to glorify God.

So, below, I have put three of their most recent hymns that could be played, but please do note that they have produced such a great number of hymns it has been hard to narrow it down!  Please do look at their stuff in more detail:

I Will Wait for you (Psalm 130)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eJUqY_6tqo

It is so important for us as the Church to sing the Psalms and this hymn does just that.  The words are incredible and remind us to call to the Lord in our troubles, to rely on the word and to give him the praise.

Christ our Hope in Life and Death

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OibIi1rz7mw

This is their most recent hymn at the time of  writing.  Written by a number of people, the hymn outlines what (or who) should be the basis of our Hope.  It breaks it down and gives us a clear answer: Christ is!  It is a fantastic hymn that reminds us that we need not fear Death, as we will be with Him forevermore!

Come People of the Risen King

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxn8cT4BrPg

This is a call to worship, a great one to start Sunday worship with.  It tells us to lift our eyes to Him, to Rejoice as one people.  It is a simple tune to learn and we would thoroughly recommend it.

Townend is another gifted writer and musician who has written alongside the Getty’s on a number of hymns, such as In Christ Alone, By Faith and so forth.  His own work includes many favourites such as How Deep the Fathers Love and The Lord’s my Shepherd.  But he has also written his own hymns…

How good it is to sing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8bn2sM97A8

Townend’s most recent albums have generally been more personal stories, but examples like ‘How good it is to sing’ show us that he still writes for the congregation and with power bridging individual reflection with congregational praise.  This song is based on Psalm 147 and reminds us to extol the Lord.

Andrew Peterson

Perhaps one of the lesser known modern songwriters is Andrew Peterson.  His work tended to focus on biblical stories such as the Passover Feast, but he recently wrote an amazing hymn called ‘Is He Worthy?’

Is He Worthy?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMWrAqMWhWs

This hymn is based on the book of Revelation and reminds us that Christ is worthy to be slain for our sins.  That He is worthy is take our sins upon Himself and die for us and to ransom us to Himself.  It is an incredible hymn that requires the congregation to really get involved!  He is certainly one to look out for in the future.

Matt Redman et al

Redman is an interesting case for me to write about.  His most recent work had an admirable aim, to get Jesus back into our songs.  But some of the writers he chose to write with left me very disappointed.  Nonetheless, some of his older works are certainly worth singing in your church.

10,000 reasons (Bless the Lord oh My Soul)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

Probably one of the best hymns written in the twenty-first century, the hymn really is powerful, with the last verse based on the last hymn Charles Wesley ever wrote.  I think it is such a treasure and should certainly be considered for your church’s set list.

Blessed be Your Name

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWKehsOXu8

Another great song by Redman that includes the line, ‘You Give and take Away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name’.  A powerful song for those in difficult situations.

Abide with me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=476_PgSf2jQ

This song is based off an old hymn and is well written and extremely powerful.  We certainly recommend listening to it, even if you do not want to in church.

Redman has written many other great songs like ‘You Alone Can Rescue’ and ‘Never Once’.  All are worth a listen.

There are other writers with a similar style to Redman, such as Chris Tomlin and Phil Wickham who could be used in church.  Tomlin’s ‘Amazing Grace’ and Wickham’s ‘This is Amazing Grace’ are two very popular song.  Wickham has certainly written a good song in ‘Living Hope’ which you could check out for your Sunday services.

City Alight

City Alight is the music ministry of St Paul’s Church, an Anglican Church based at Castle Hill in Sydney, Australia. Their aim is simple: to provide biblically rich lyrics and simple melodies. Made up of fifteen songwriters from St Paul’s, they have been recording since 2014.

Only a Holy God

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HSdeeCm8_g

From the title track of their 2016 album Only a Holy God, this song has simple yet powerful lyrics with great encouragement for the heart and helps us glorify and direct our praises to Him. A clear indicator that simplicity does not have to come at the expense of biblical truth.

Yet not I but through Christ in me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwc2d1Xt8gM

The title track of their 2018 EP Yet not I but through Christ in Me indicates how our hearts and minds should be focused on Jesus Christ and in turn displays the centrality of the Cross in our walk-in faith.

Sovereign Grace

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Sovereign Grace Music have been releasing contemporary worship music since the 1980s, directed by worship leader Bob Kauflin, who is aided by a number of songwriters and pastors from Sovereign Grace Church. Hailing from a church of neo-charismatic and evangelical orientation, Sovereign Grace continue to produce songs that are both animated yet grounded in biblical doctrine. Their music is a staple in many reformed and evangelical churches worldwide. Sovereign Grace offer a wide range of powerful hymns which not only impart key doctrinal understanding but also provide words of encouragement for congregants. However these two recent stand outs I would highly recommend.

O Lord My Rock and My Redeemer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpELMk4-3n8

Firstly ‘O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer’ from their live album Prayers of the Saints (2017).  This particular hymn focuses on justification and forgiveness, resurrection, the triumph of Christ, assurance, confessions, dependence on God, desire for Christ/God, love for God/Christ, suffering/grief and victory in Christ.

How Vast the Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgjFgP1ZOvo

Secondly is ‘How Vast the Love’ from their most recent album Glorious Christ (2020). The song focuses on the themes of the love and mercy of God, atonement, justification, forgiveness and reconciliation, assurance, hope and perseverance.

All Creatures of our God and King

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUZD0hgtSgE

Sovereign Grace also offer a range of contemporary renditions of tradition hymns. One such example being ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’, featured in the aforementioned Prayers of the Saints.

Matt Boswell and Matt Papa

Another contemporary writer is Texan worship pastor and singer-songwriter Matt Boswell. He founded corporate worship ministry called Doxology and Theology and has a particular interest in writing modern hymns. Boswell frequently continues to collaborate with North Carolinian singer Matt Papa. Why are they all called Matt?! Both have written a number of hymns including ‘Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery’ and ‘Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor’ which feature on the recent compilation His Mercy is More: The Hymns of Matt Boswell and Matt Papa (2019).

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-xQDm-KZw8

Themes in “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery,” include justification, God’s providence/sovereignty and the centrality of the Cross.

Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9aZaOBy8Y8

‘Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor’ focuses on the theme of perseverance and sanctification in which we come to see God’s eternal glory.  These hymns are not only biblically and doctrinally rich but also offer simple folk-like melodies which are easily accessible and can be used in a range of different settings.

Honourable mentions

God the Uncreated One

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rswH9CSyWHk

Jesus is Mine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeUII5l0gTI

Praise to the Lord (Joyful, Joyful) by Shane and Shane

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRdB93JaHLo

Do look out for old hymns redone!

Conclusion

We have, in this article, provided examples of a wide range of worship music stretching from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.  We hope this range of hymns and songs can help you grow in your knowledge and love of the Lord.

We both love our traditional hymns, but the church does need to keep equipping itself with new songs as the Psalms command us (Psalm 34 and 40 are just two examples); we have provided an extensive but not exhaustive list of good, God-honouring music which we pray will bless the Church for years to come.

The Christian Bubble

2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Corinthians 11:18-19

For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.   For there must also be heresies among you, that the approved ones may be revealed among you

I want to address an issue which I believe is quite a common occurrence amongst young Christians. I have been at university for seven years now and this post comes from observance over the seven years, but particularly I have felt the need to write this in the last few months.

We love to be around people who are like us; young, idealistic, fun and above all Christian. After all, in that environment we don’t have to address any issues such as drinking alcohol (there is no pressure to drink) or ideas which we find different from ours. We find our safe space.

Safe spaces are great; they allow us to find people who agree with us, who won’t challenge what we say. Or so we think. I believe that we often change ourselves to fit in. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I often find that young Christians seem to almost be identical in what they listen to, what they enjoy, and the way they talk. It is all a bit weird.

I will be the first to say it; I’m not really your average young Christian. I have never found it easy to be around young Christians, and there are many reasons for that. That isn’t saying I haven’t found friends amongst young Christians, I can think of a few great guys who have been an absolute blessing to me. But I do think these cliques do not help. After all, I’m stubborn and won’t change my ways because other people don’t like it. I don’t fit into the stereotypical young Christian trope and I’m ok with that. I’m actually grateful for it. It means that for one, the focus goes to the Word, and the Lord. My Christian friends don’t make me fit a system but just want me to love the Word and Him and that is great.

You won’t find me around these guys all the time (most of them don’t even live where I live anyway). I love to spend time with non-Christians.; in fact, most of my friends aren’t believers and, as Christians, aren’t we meant to live in the world? I know Ryle argued otherwise, but I honestly believe we can play a big role in people’s lives.

And this comes to my problem with these cliques and bubbles. Apart from the fact I think they turn you into a generic young Christian (I mean literally its weird), they keep your light hidden. They water down your doctrine. I just think of the typical university Christian Union. Most treat the CU like a social club, a place to hang out, and have little interaction with non-Christians. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t get any other impression. I have often heard the expression that the CU is a ‘home away from home’, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our churches are our homes; the CU is not a church. The ‘bubble’ means that rather than an evangelical centre and mission field, the society becomes a safe space; where they sing happy things that make them feel good, rather than sharing the love and light of Jesus Christ. Rather than standing firm in the faith, the doctrine is watered down so there are no disagreements. It is not wrong to create strong friendships in this environment, far from it, having close Christian friends is vital, but rather these friendships being a product of our labour, it is what we seek first and only.

It creates an isolating atmosphere. I know a few people know who do not go to CU because they do not fit in. If you are Reformed like myself, then I feel the CU is difficult, and personally for me, it became a no-go place. You feel as though you have to be one of them and that is just wrong. The cliques on the outside make you feel as though you miss out, that you are not part of them. If you just want to meet one of them, you find that you can’t because the rest of the clique say no or what not. Christians shouldn’t be like this. We should be accepting people, loving people, and not staying within our comfort zones.

It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. Our churches, our societies should never be unwelcoming. Yet they are, because we prefer the safe space, rather than what is right. We water down our theology and doctrine to fit in. We keep our light hidden. Christians, we ought not to be in bubbles and in cliques. We need to be radical, be adventuresome and be courageous.

What About Climate Change?

The Netflix documentary ‘Our Planet’, has helped re-energise another generation of climate change warriors. Along with the formation of Extinction Rebellion and the prolific use of social media, it’s not surprising that “single-use” was the most popular word of 2018 . But how should Christians respond to the climate change debate? 

It saddens me having to preface this but firstly ignorance and denial cannot be our position. Climate change is happening regardless of how unhappy we are with the direction media or political extremists are taking the conversation. We as Christians must engage with the climate change debate with the limitless compassion of Christ and the gospel clarity that defines us as his people. Where there is pain, suffering, injustice and decay, all symptoms of a fallen world, we as Christians are commanded to speak into the mess and point people towards the gospel (Matt 5:16, John 17:15-18). Climate change along with the cultural climate we’re in, provides an opportunity to showcase our God-given role as responsible stewards and perform this duty with Christ’s kingdom in mind. 

However, the term ‘stewardship’ is a complex one to unravel as the concept is never explicitly explained in Scripture. It’s absence doesn’t deny it’s relevance just requires more careful thinking. 

In Genesis 1 God places Adam and Eve in a Garden named Eden. He commands them to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens”. Here, God establishes humanity to be divinely appointed to rule over creation. So where can we infer stewardship from and how does this inform our decisions today in the heat of the climate change debate? I wish to argue that stewardship is the process by which we implement our dominion. Although God has made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings” and given “dominion over the works of your hands”, we are to enact this rulership with wise, servant-hearted integrity. Firstly, Dominion was given as a human mandate at the start of creation. It is not solely the church’s responsibility nor should individual Christian’s take this upon themselves. Our ‘go forth and multiply’ mandate is given in Matthew 28, to bring new life into the Kingdom. Secondly, we must understand how sin has affected this role of dominion. Exploitation has become synonymous with Dominion yet that is not how it was intended. Systems of abuse, cycles of decay and entire industries built on the suffering of others are not in harmony of a Christian agenda and therefore we should step away from such practices. As “mirrors or carriers of Christ to others” we cannot employ methods of harm and abuse towards the environment, instead Christ-like Justice and Dominion must be exercised over all of Creation. Therefore, thirdly, we are to imitate Christ in how we exercise our Dominion over creation. If “for by him all things were created” then Christ is King over the melting glaciers, empty forests and dying wildlife and groans with his creation as it bears the scars of the fall. He is sovereign, therefore, we don’t despair yet he is our example and look how he feeds the birds and dresses the lilies. Who are we to despise creation if this is how our King cares for it? 

Limitless Compassion

Changes in the global environment are, if not to ourselves yet, reaching crisis level. Lives have been lost, species made extinct and vast swaths of natural habitat destroyed. Our society rightly is appalled by such horrors and we can respond with compassion to their upset. Listening, therefore, is crucial. Be informed of what is happening and be ready to change. If your waste disposal is putting wildlife at risk, reduce your plastic pollution. It may require humility to accept advice from those you don’t whole-heartedly agree with. Being informed and responding graciously with the facts put in front of us, save us from the stigma of Christians being uninterested or ignorant of the world around them. With a clear grasp of the conversation surrounding climate change, we then have a stronger position to lead the fight to protect our planet. Surely having Christian environmentalists, scientists, social activists, educators, campaigners, politicians at the forefront of this discussion will be beneficial for everyone. Not only can we imitate Christ in servant-hearted dominion but we can also by explaining to people why we do what we do, point them to the full message of the gospel.

Gospel Clarity

The panic that fuels much of the Extinction Rebellion propaganda, appears to echo apocalyptic prophecy. However the End Times will look, the Christian can rest assured that God is entirely in control and mankind will not be able to predict when the end of the earth will be. If we begin to despair and lose our faith in God, we have lost our gospel clarity. Similarly, we must be wary of falling into incorrect thinking that says we can truly save the world. Having gospel clarity about who saves the world and God as creator, should affect how we interact with the world, will keep us from doubting God’s sovereignty or developing a saviour complex. Therefore, we should “stir one another up to love and good works”, not only pointing each other towards our eternal hope but also encouraging each other to be more active in our love, respect and appreciation of God’s world. 

Finally, as we reorganise what we mean by gospel clarity, let’s recognise how our fellow humans are being affected by climate change. Natural disasters strip entire communities of their livelihood, overpopulation that leads to not enough food being distributed where it’s needed, drought, famine, floods, wars over natural resources – these are all events that will affect our planet’s most vulnerable people groups first. Forget saving the turtles by banning plastic straws, or reducing your carbon footprint by cycling to work – people’s lives are at risk because of climate change. A radical care for people is an imperative for the Christian primarily because they are made by God and are valuable in their essence but, secondly because their souls are eternal. How we adapt our lifestyles, our treatment of animals, engagement in social justice, must all be centred around a Biblical perspective of ourselves and those around us. The finite details of how that will look depending on our context and stage of life but servant-hearted dominion will seek to rescue humanity from danger and point them towards their saviour.

On a more practical side one may ask questions regarding zero-waste living and how this equates with Christian hospitality, how does our faith inform our diet (aka should we all be vegan?), can adoption be an avenue Christians take in reference to overpopulation and how, if there is a class bias within this whole debate, are Christians perpetuating this? At least I think those may be interesting! If you have any thoughts, please comment below or if you disagree with everything I’ve said, still comment! 

Further references

https://arocha.org.uk/

https://www.plantwise.org/about/ 

https://ruthvalerio.net/ 

https://www.ourplanet.com/en/ 

https://www.tearfund.org/ 

https://justloveuk.com/about-us/vision

https://www.thejusticeconference.co.uk/

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/

https://knowtheorigin.com/blogs/ktotalks

https://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/05/pentagon-climate-change-impacts-threat-multipliers-could-enable-terrorism