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)
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
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
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
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.
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?
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)
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
‘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.
God the Uncreated One
Jesus is Mine
Praise to the Lord (Joyful, Joyful) by Shane and Shane
Do look out for old hymns redone!
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.