In one sense, every album we produce is a “gospel” album. We’re serious about enabling the word of Christ to dwell in people richly through our songs (Col. 3:16). So we make sure that every project contains the glorious truths and implications of the perfect life, substitutionary sacrifice, and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But “gospel” can also describe a musical style, and that’s what makes this recording unique.
As I’ve talked to African-American brothers and sisters about the need for songs more reflective of their roots, I’ve wondered if one day we might partner with a church or ministry to produce an album.
Allan Bynoe, from East Point Church near Atlanta, has been a good friend over the years and was an early adopter of Sovereign Grace songs for his church. Aaron and Tiffany Johnson, leaders of the Epiphany Fellowship music team, Doxa, also helped flesh out some new sounds for songs from Sovereign Grace and others.
But a few years ago, my son, Devon, happened to meet H.B. Charles, Jr. at a conference they were both participating in. They clicked immediately and he learned that H.B. was taking songs he heard at conferences and introducing them to his church Shiloh Baptist in Jacksonville.
A little later, Devon suggested we ask H.B. if his church might want to record a project with us. That seemed like a good partnership for a number of reasons.
H.B. is devoted to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, preaches the gospel consistently and passionately, and is building a local church around those priorities. He was already wanting to see his church sing more doctrinally-rich songs and he was doing something about it. Furthermore, Joe Pace, who now pastors Shiloh’s Orange Park campus, shares H.B.’s heart. Joe has also been in gospel music for decades. On top of all of that, we’ve had a growing affection for these men and what God is doing through them.
So, we emailed Joe and H.B. to ask if they wanted to do a joint project. Their response was an enthusiastic “Yes!” They saw the value in a gospel album that was more congregational than artist-driven. We saw the value in putting a little “seasoning salt” on our music.
The actual recording took place on Thursday night, February 28, 2019. Eight Sovereign Grace folks were at Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, FL, recording a live project with their 120 voice choir, ably directed by Joe Pace. The album includes 5 previously recorded Sovereign Grace Music songs (Behold Our God, O Great God, He is Our God, The Gospel Song, All I Have is Christ), 2 songs from Shiloh writers, and 4 songs written or co-written for this album.
We don’t know exactly how God is going to use this project and the videos we’ll be posting on YouTube. But we pray those listening to and singing these songs will experience the same joy we did in making it. We pray churches will be able to envision a more diverse congregation, united in the gospel. We pray the music and lyrics will cause us to see Jesus as more glorious, gracious, and satisfying than we had before.
Most of all, we pray this album reminds us that God’s praise extends far beyond our little corner of the field. And that when God sent his Son to redeem a people for his glory, he didn’t specify what kind of music we should use. Only that we should sing loud, to the Lamb, and together (Ps. 33:3; Ps. 47:1; Rev. 5:9-13).