At Christ Church Mayfair, we’ve had a wonderful time recording our second EP, Making All Things New. I’d love to tell you about it, but first, a very important question:
Did you know that your walk with Jesus is being shaped significantly by singing in church?
Theologian Gordon Fee is reported to have said: “show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” That’s because what we sing in church – for better or worse – is often the thing that helps shape people’s walk with Jesus, how they think about engaging with God. Singing together is spiritual formation.
Singing is spiritual formation because it allows the gospel to dwell richly in our hearts and minds (Colossians 3:16). As we sing the truth about Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, the Holy Spirit of God is transforming us into the likeness of Christ:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18
When we gather as church, God’s Holy Spirit is powerfully present with us through His word. As we minister the truth of the gospel to one another (through reading and proclaiming God’s word, sharing the Lord’s Supper, singing the gospel together, etc.), The Spirit is making us more like Jesus.
And music has that ability to make things memorable, which means we carry the truth of the gospel into our week. The Spirit keeps on bringing the gospel to bear in our lives as we go away from Sunday gatherings humming tunes carrying gospel truths! Singing together is spiritual formation.
What do you expect from singing together with your church family? We can expect God to work powerfully amongst us: enlarging our view of God, convicting us of sin, giving rise to faith, prizing hearts from idols, saving souls from Hell (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), building us up for mission. What better reason could we need to gather together with prayerful, expectant hearts?
That is the vision that drove us to record a collection of singable, gospel-centred songs for congregations to sing. Our aim has been to let the gospel of Christ dwell richly in the hearts of church communities so that God might build His people up, transforming them to be like Jesus.
We had an amazing time coming up with creative ideas to help the gospel truth in the songs dwell richly in all who hear them. We’re thrilled with the result, and we hope the great time we had comes across on the recording.
This really is an EP for local church congregations – our own church family at CCM, Co-Mission as a network, and the church more broadly in the UK and beyond. We’ve tried to maintain the tension throughout between creating something that people will love to listen to, and something that’s repeatable in the local church. We agreed that if church music teams come away from listening to the EP saying “I really want to lead that song, and I think our church will love to sing it too” – then that was a win!
The idea of “undistracting excellence” has been a guiding principle for us, and continues to be each Sunday as we gather at CCM. John Piper coined the phrase, trying to encapsulate what it means to give our very best to leading music (and anything in church) in a way that points to Christ and not to ourselves. We hope and pray our EP achieves this.
As well as some brand-new songs, we included a couple that we’ve enjoyed singing together in church, all written and recorded by CCM-ers past and present.
Among them are Creator God, a hymn written for Revive 2017, and a re-working of an old hymn by John Newton called Day of Judgement. Newton was a pastor who understood the impact singing the gospel could have in people’s lives. He was a busy man – pastoring his flock in Olney, Buckinghamshire, and preaching several times a week. But still he would carve out a whole day each week to write a hymn to bring out the theme of his Sunday sermon and drive it deeply into the hearts of his congregation. We don’t sing much about judgement today (because it’s uncomfortable? Because our musical style pushes us to joy rather than lament? Bigger questions for another time). But we desperately need songs that teach us the whole counsel of God, and help us mourn our sin so that we can truly rejoice in God’s abundant grace. We hope this song will help re-introduce a much-needed theme into gathered worship in local churches.
We’re thankful to the Lord that in our first month on Spotify we reached over 13,000 plays! Our prayer is that this will translate into churches being built up to live passionate lives of worship in response to the gospel.
We hope all the churches in Co-Mission love listening to the EP. And perhaps there might be one or two that your church is served by in times of singing together. And we pray that, as we gather in our churches, we’ll prayerfully expect God to be working among us through His word and by His Spirit to make us more like His Son Jesus as we sing together.