There’s no denying that current events in the world have led to a very divisive climate. Our culture in the west has seen increasing polarization for years. It’s been my conviction and the conviction of a lot of others that we, in the church should be dependent on God now more than ever. And while the culture is divided against itself, the community of God (if we really are the community of God) has the chance to stand out as a unified body. But how do we do we keep this vital and reconciling link with God and each-other? Believe it or not, the songs we sing have a big impact on our outlook and our practices. Songs speak of what we believe.
Below are a few of my suggestions for unifying worship songs. These songs are meant to take a group of people singing and point us toward a greater reality, the unifying and reconciling power of Christ. As a bonus, I tried to pick a few songs from different streams: CCM, gospel and hymns. There are so many songs that can be unifying, here are a few of my suggestions…
1. All To Us – Chris Tomlin
A creedal type of song, “All to Us” declares that the glory of Christ is the central focus, even the very passion of the church. The song addresses Jesus as our “precious cornerstone”, a reference Ephesians 2:19-22…
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”Ephesians 2:19-22
If you don’t know this already, a cornerstone is the biggest block in a building. It lines up where all the other bricks go. What Paul is getting at here is that we, being put onto a strong foundation, line up according our example, Jesus Christ. As far as a unifying message, it doesn’t get much clearer, it’s a statement that the church is unified upon the foundation of Christ. As a plus, it’s very singable.
2. Atmosphere Shift – Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson is a relatively new worship writer with a background in the modern gospel style. If you haven’t heard of him you should definitely check him out. There’s a certain very approachable aspect to his songs that I think can be felt whether you are more into gospel or CCM. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see more of Phil Thompson in the near future.
Atmosphere shift recalls the imagery from Pentecost in Acts 2. Personally, it was not lost on me that our recent discussions and protests around the issues of race started right around the celebration of Pentecost this year. For the early church, the city of Jerusalem (and the rest of the world) needed an intervention from the Holy Spirit to initiate a change of heart. This song is prayer for the Holy Spirit to act again. It is unifying around that desire for the Spirit of God to breathe on us once again and shift the atmosphere for the advancement of the gospel.
3. Hosanna (Be Lifted Higher) – Israel Houghton
I was not familiar with this song until a few African worship leaders brought it in for a chapel service at my seminary. I looked up the chords to help the band learn it and realized it was an African American gospel song that had found its way into the international context. And it’s not hard to see why. Hosanna is simple, yet profound enough to really transcend cultures. Since then, this song has been in my back pocket to use as a bridge or a tag.
The proclamation of this song is “let our king be lifted up” and let me tell you, it is awesome to hear people from many different cultures come together to sing that.
4. How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin
Now I hear you worship leaders out there possibly thinking that this song is worn out. While, we on the platform can tire of songs much more quickly. I don’t think, on a global scale that this song has ever lost momentum. Similar to the last song I mentioned, “How Great Is Our God” is a proclamation of our worship to the Lord of Lord’s. If there is any indication of this song’s unifying power, it’s probably the wide range of multilingual versions out there. Just think about how many times this song has been translated for yet another context where God’s people are worshiping. Yet everywhere it is sung, this song encourages the worshiping heart to be thankful to God for all his goodness.
5. Revelation Song
Revelation is not only a peek at what is to come, it’s also a peek behind the veil of what’s happening now. The book is all about worship. It is all of creation, all humanity and the host of heaven in a unifying chorus singing to the lamb of God.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”Revelation 7:9
It’s not hard to see why this song has a unifying effect. The image of Revelation can be reflected here and now by a diverse body of God’s community worshiping Him all around the globe!
Like I said, these are just a few of my suggestions. I’ll come back with more in Part II. But what about you? Do you have any worship songs that you have found to have a unifying power for your congregation? Leave them in the comments…