The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Wanted: worship music

with 29 comments

Violin and Guitar, 1913Update, 12-8-08: Before you launch into this post, here’s an excerpt from a sermon that mentions something similar. You can see it in context here.

Can we look at our worship and come away with a sense that our group’s big thing is caring for humans who suffer? We’ve seen it in Jesus – nearly every single chapter, sooner or later, he’d get back to caring for human needs.  And now he’s used it to define ultimate success or failure.

Consider our songs of worship as a measure of what matters to us.  Here are some titles and first lines.  See if they reflect this passion for dishonored sufferers Jesus has been preaching about:

  1. “How beautiful!”
  2. “You are my hiding place.”
  3. “You are here, among us.”
  4. “Jesus, you are the one, gives me hope when the day is done.”
  5. I’m trading my sorrows.”
  6. “We want a new passion for Jesus – one that will burn in our hearts, like never before.”
  7. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord – I want to see you” [especially amusing, given today’s gospel story about how the good guys were the ones who served without seeing]
  8. “I’m here, to meet with you. Come and meet with me.”
  9. “Lord, I lift your name on high – Lord I love to sing your praises” [why?] “I’m so glad you’re in my life – I’m so glad you came to save us.”  [I’m so glad I work for Honeywell]
  10. “You-ou are, forever my friend.”
  11. “This is the air I breathe – your holy presence, living in me . . . and I’m lost without You.”

Nope. They’re about ooey-gooey with Jesus, as if no one else on earth existed.  And lest we get snobbish about modern Christian music, remember that that the songs in the hymnal are no more world-focused.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. [ I’m on my way to heav’n I know, so I’ll let others be.]

The inestimable delight of sensing God’s nearness that our music reflects is a wonderful thing.  But we skipped dinner and went straight for the dessert.  What’s going to happen with that kind of diet? […]

But wait – didn’t Jesus picture himself standing at the end of time dividing the gentiles sheep from goats based upon how they cared for wounded people?  Would you think that would at least appear somewhere in our hymnology?  What is up here?

Could it be that the church has become so ensconced in pushing its own theology that it no longer reflects the priorities of Jesus himself?

Now, the real post:

We live in a day more drenched with beautiful worship music than any in history. But I need some things I can’t find.

Two years ago, I began preaching through the Bible via the Revised Common Lectionary. Why? To allow the Bible’s priorities – assumedly, God’s – a greater role in shaping my preaching priorities. If something came up a lot (I reasoned), it was because it was in the Bible a lot. So it must be important to God.

I was surprised by what those things were. For instance:

– loving one another well (building the authenticity of the community of faith) came up all the time
– God’s preferential passion for people of little earthly influence was a constant hot topic
– Jesus Christ was much more the focus of the Bible than my preaching had previously reflected
– the ongoing transformation of the people of God was the sine qua non of evangelism.

So far, so good, this was exciting.

Then I’d go looking for worship music that reflected what I was finding in Scripture.

Bzzzt! Sorry, you chose the wrong door, there’s no prize behind that one!

For building the community of faith, we’ve sung The Servant Song a lot (enough to get gentle snickers from the worship band) because there wasn’t much else! We have plenty of paeans to the glories of our radically individualistic faith, but almost nada about how “we are being built together” or “Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness” (Eph. 4.6, The Message), or “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

For extolling Jesus’ passion for the poor, I found . . . ah . . . [imagine sound of thumping on empty barrel]. Yet Jesus insists that we serve him by serving them. It is a passion he lives and breathes – perhaps the one mentioned in Scripture more than any other – and can you think of a song or hymn that calls us to it?

As for songs that see us as a people getting better, becoming more attractive to those who can see Christ living through us – again, I’m stumped.

Weird, huh? Here is Jesus, living out these wonderful, radical, world-changing priorities . . . and those priorities are virtually invisible in the hymnology of his followers!

So, my plea: Help me out here.. Help me find worship music that tells of the longings of Jesus himself, that tells of the miraculous building of communities of love, that tells of the Master’s preferential passion for the dispossessed, that tells of the transformational reality of life together beneath the Cross, that tells of the Kingdom of God’s movement into our work and world. New or old, I’m game.

Whatcha got?

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  1. I know i’m super super late for this thread, lol, but i thought i’d add the song “If we are the body” by the casting crowns, beautiful song.


    August 3, 2011 at 8:16 pm

  2. Monte- hey bro just wanted to make a quick comment. I frequently end up in blogs like yours in search for new or different music to use in worship and more often then not what I come across is either bitter/divisive bloggers or what I like to call “drive by” Christians who like to knock some of the most well known worship artists splitting hairs over how they rhyme words and basically trash worship music that exists today without then stepping up to the plate and offering what is then “better” for us to worship with. And then cowardly closing comments so no one can retort. Seeing your blog pointing out something lacking but then actually seeking to fill the void is a breath of fresh air, maturity, and sense of responsibility. Thanks man. I am adding your blog to my favorites.


    July 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm

  3. I’m clearly very late to this discussion, but one song I’ve used that touches on the themes you’ve discussed is “Let My Life Be Like a Love Song” by Brenton Brown and Tom Slater.

    Ben Matthews

    October 1, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  4. What a coincidence! We sang a song at church yesterday at Cadrian’s dedication and I thought, “Monte would love this one! I’ve gotta remember to send it to him!” And look here! Colin JUST sent it to you, too! We sang, “God of Justice” by Tim Hughes. See you Saturday!!!

    Georgann Haeffner

    January 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

  5. Excellent tips, Colin! I’ll be checking these out! Thanks!


    January 17, 2009 at 2:38 pm

  6. Here’s a few more!

    GOD OF JUSTICE, Saviour to all
    Came to rescue the weak and the poor
    Chose to serve and not be served.
    Jesus, You have called us
    Freely we’ve received, now freely we will give.

    We must go
    Live to feed the hungry
    Stand beside the broken
    We must go.
    Stepping forward
    Keep us from just singing
    Move us into action, we must go.

    To act justly every day
    Loving mercy in every way
    Walking humbly before You God
    You have shown us, what You require,
    Freely we received, now freely we will give.

    We must go ..

    Fill us up and send us out
    Fill us up and send us out
    Fill us up and send us out Lord (repeat x4)
    Tim Hughes
    Copyright (c) 2005 Thankyou Music/Adm by songs
    excluding UK & Europe, adm by Used by permission.

    KING JESUS, I BELIEVE the words of life You breathe,
    You’ve spoken promises, a guiding light for our feet.
    We fall down to our knees and weep with those who weep:
    Let justice flow upon this earth, a never failing stream.

    I’m thirsty, longing just to see Your kingdom come,
    Praying that today Your love is shown.
    I’m hungry for the will of God to be made known,
    Praying for the day of Your return.

    You have anointed us to bind the broken heart:
    Proclaim deliverance for those enslaved in the dark.
    You pour the oil of joy all over my despair.
    O Spirit of the Sovereign Lord, empower us once again.

    I’m thirsty, longing just to see Your kingdom come ….

    We pray, we pray, we seek Your face.
    We pray, and we seek Your face. Repeat.

    I’m thirsty, longing just to see Your kingdom come ….
    1402 Martyn Layzell
    Copyright © 2000 Thankyou Music

    That’s costly, outreaching
    Touching Your heart for the poor.
    The songs we sing as our offering
    Are more fragrant in Your presence
    If we live a life of love.

    And as we follow Your heart
    We are led to the lost.
    Finding there a place of praise
    No matter what the cost.
    So we will stand with the weak
    Give our most to the least
    Serving You with all we have
    Your kingdom God we seek

    Now I see what You command
    To be faithful and humble
    Putting selfish hopes aside.
    So change my heart that I may love
    My neighbour as my brother
    And to live a life of love.

    And as we follow Your heart
    We are led to the lost.
    Finding there a place of praise
    No matter what the cost.
    So we will stand with the weak
    Give our most to the least
    Serving You with all we have
    Your kingdom God we seek
    David Gate
    Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/Adm by songs excl. UK & Europe,
    adm by Kingsway Music. Used by permission.

    And he shall tell his friend,
    Husbands, wives and children
    Shall come following on.
    From house to house in families
    Shall more be gathered in,
    And lights will shine in every street,
    So warm and welcoming.

    Come on in and taste the new wine,
    The wine of the kingdom,
    The wine of the kingdom of God.
    Here is healing and forgiveness,
    The wine of the kingdom,
    The wine of the kingdom of God.

    Compassion of the Father
    Is ready now to flow,
    Through acts of love and mercy
    We must let it show.
    He turns now from His anger
    To show a smiling face,
    And longs that men should stand beneath
    The fountain of His grace.

    He longs to do much more than
    Our faith has yet allowed,
    To thrill us and surprise us
    With His sovereign power.
    Where darkness has been darkest
    The brightest light will shine,
    His invitation comes to us,
    It’s yours and it is mine.
    Graham Kendrick.
    439 Copyright © 1981 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music.

    It is a hymn of praise to You.
    Justice and mercy are its theme,
    And I will live it back to You.

    The kind of fast You’ve chosen, Lord,
    It must reach out
    To broken lives and to the poor:
    So change me, Lord.
    You’re Father where no father lives,
    And to the lonely You’re a friend.
    O Lord, You’re showing me what’s on Your heart.

    You’ve put a new song in my mouth.
    It is a hymn of praise to You.
    Justice and mercy are its theme,
    And I will live it back to You.

    Lord, I won’t bring an empty song;
    It’s meaningless
    Without compassion in my life,
    And holiness.
    I know You are the orphan’s hope,
    I know You are the widow’s song;
    O Lord, You’re showing me what’s on Your heart.

    You’ve put a new song in my mouth.
    It is a hymn of praise to You.
    Justice and mercy are its theme,
    And I will live it back to You.

    I know You are the orphan’s hope,
    I know You are the widow’s song;
    You’re Father where no father lives,
    And to the lonely You’re a friend.
    O Lord, You’re showing me what’s on Your heart.

    You’ve put a new song in my mouth.
    It is a hymn of praise to You.
    Justice and mercy are its theme,
    And I will live it back to You.
    1689 Matt Redman
    Copyright © 2000 Thankyou Music


    Colin Elliott

    January 17, 2009 at 11:16 am

  7. Terrific! I’ve sent you an email to find out how I might hear it. Thanks very much, Rick!


    December 11, 2008 at 7:48 pm

  8. ‘Empower Me Jesus’
    copyright 2007 R.Reiley

    Be kind be merciful
    Feed bodies and souls
    Don’t fear the madness that sometimes takes hold
    The greatest power you’ll know grows from within
    When you open your heart and let it flow in

    Empower me Jesus, embolden me Jesus
    Lift me up Jesus and help me believe
    Empower me Jesus, embolden me Jesus
    Enlighten me Jesus, help me follow your lead

    It’s not mine to judge others
    It’s not mine to condemn
    It’s not mine to drive nails
    Into somebody’s hands
    It is mine to be faithful
    Stand up right and see
    That I do unto others
    As you’ve done for me

    Rick Reiley

    December 11, 2008 at 6:53 am

    • Seriously, I was excited when I read the lyrics for this song and was wanting to use it since we are about to do a series on Service. However,I can not find this song online! A song never heard blesses no one :(


      July 7, 2010 at 10:48 pm

  9. “Mennonitey” HA! That’s funny.


    July 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  10. great, i liked going through the comments and reading the lyrics for some of the hymns/choruses. I myself am a Christian woman and am fond of worship songs.

    Monte says: Thanks, glowrs! Glad you enjoyed it, and please come by any time!


    March 19, 2008 at 4:57 am

  11. Hi, I have this old hymnal, if anyone would like lyrics to any song within, I can help out.

    Harmonia Sacra Being a Compilation Of Genuine Church Music Twelfth Edition by Joseph Funk And Sons The Principles Of Vocal Music 1867 Singers Glen Rockingham Co. VA. Published by Joseph Funk’s Sons, One of the most striking aspects of congregational singing in all but the conservative branches of the Mennonite churches is four-part singing. This was greatly facilitated in what eventually became the Mennonite Church (MC) by singing schools modeled by Joseph Funk, on those formed at the beginning of the 19th century in the eastern United States Funk published Genuine church music (1832; renamed Harmonia Sacra in 1851), for use in the singing schools.


    March 18, 2008 at 7:56 am

  12. I’m a Mennonite who found this blog because I was searching for info about the hymn “I Bind My Heart This Tide” . This is a beautiful hymn and one I’m planning on using with my choir during Lent. You should get yourself a Mennonite Hymnal (called Hymnal: A Worship Book copyright 1992 by Brethren Press). I think you’ll find a lot of what you are looking for in the pages of this hymnal.

    Monte Says: Sharon, thanks for the tip! You’re the second person who’s recommended this hymnal to me, so I’d better go do it!
    I live in a pretty Mennonitey area in Washington County, IA, so should be able to find one.

    Sharon Lehman

    January 9, 2008 at 1:49 pm

  13. One of my passions is worship. One of the last times I saw you was at a Robert Webber conference! How about this one:

    The Reconciliation Song CCLI# 1680497

    Verse 1
    Oh let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace
    And let us be
    A holy nation where pride
    And prejudice shall cease
    Let us speak the truth in love
    To the lost and least of these
    Let us serve the Lord in unity
    So others will believe
    Let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace

    Verse 2
    Oh let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace
    And let us build
    On one foundation ’til He comes
    And the wars of men shall cease
    Let us share the love of Jesus
    Without hypocrisy
    Let mercy and forgiveness
    Begin with you and me
    Let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace

    Misc 1
    Have we not one Father
    Have we not one faith
    Have we not one calling
    To become one holy race
    Oh let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace

    Verse 3
    And let us pray for restoration
    And seek the Lord together
    On our knees
    Let us keep our hearts from evil
    And cling to what is good
    Let us honor one another
    And love our brotherhood
    Let us be the generation
    Of reconciliation and peace


    Monte Says: I love this one, and would be glad to have a dozen like it! I’ve been razzed by musicians in years gone by for using it so much! Thanks! Know of any more? I’ve heard the Mennonites have some, but haven’t found them yet.


    September 18, 2007 at 4:25 pm

  14. Greetings
    I am a song writer of various genre of music but my forte is worship.

    At “Thy Chambers” Worshipful Prayer song (as an example) Also “El Elyon”, and scores of others represent my spirit life and anointing.
    If you need songs I am available.
    God bless you
    Joseph Luxum

    Monte Says: Thanks very much, Joe – I’ll be looking those up! I hope you read my sermon/post Unrespectable Jesus and ponder my difficulty: imagine finding songs to turn our hearts toward that main theme of Jesus life!

    Joe Luxum

    September 18, 2007 at 2:13 pm

  15. Ah, thanks for the tips. Nope, I’m not laughing. Creativity finds things where others dare not look.


    February 7, 2007 at 7:55 pm

  16. You know, you’re going to laugh at me, but you may want to think about “People Get Ready”…it’s an old gospel tune, but I know Curtis Mayfield and his old group used to sing it back in the 60’s.

    Also, I’ve heard a kickin’ version of “Amazing Grace” done to the tune of “The House Of The Rising Sun”. It’s very moving.


    February 7, 2007 at 3:26 pm

  17. Thanks, Patti! I think we have these in our books already, but I am grateful to know another source. Great to visit with you last Sunday!


    January 29, 2007 at 6:03 pm

  18. Hello Monte,
    I was looking at the site and found this and have a few to add to the list I pray that they may help us to sing a new song to glorify the Lord our God.
    I have the CDs for this music and the words, they are from the songs 4 worship CDs.

    You are My All in All
    Change My Heart Oh God
    He Who Began A Good Work
    More Precious Than Silver
    As The Deer
    Jesus, Name Above All Names
    Spirti of The Living God

    thanks for asking of us so that I could be of service.


    January 28, 2007 at 1:43 pm

  19. Thanks, Joshcan! Looks terrific!


    November 22, 2006 at 12:17 am

  20. Monte, I hope this ministry serves you. I’m a part of a campus ministry, thats a part of a church, thats a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries, whose worship is incredibly God-centered, Christ-exalting, evokative and scriptural. I saw your blogsite through a comment you made on the Manspeak blog.



    November 21, 2006 at 10:16 pm

  21. Thanks for these great tips, Rachel! Come back again!


    October 20, 2006 at 10:46 am

  22. I understand your frustration. Here are some songs I’ve found.

    Great songs about Christian Unity:
    They Will Know We are Christians (words & chords below)
    Bind Us Together (words below)
    We Are the Body of Christ(words below)
    The Bond of Love (We are one in the bond of Love)

    We are one in the Spirit
    We are one in the Lord
    We are one in the Spirit
    We are one in the Lord
    And we pray that all unity
    May one day be restored

    Chorus: C
    And they’ll know we are Christians
    Em Am
    By our love, By our love
    Em Am
    Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
    By our love

    We will walk with each other
    We will walk hand in hand
    We will walk with each other
    We will walk hand in hand
    And together we’ll spread the news
    That God is in our land


    All praise to the Father
    From whom all things come
    And all praise to Christ Jesus
    His only son
    And all praise to the Spirit
    Who makes us one

    Bind us together Lord, bind us together
    With cords that cannot be broken
    Bind us together Lord, bind us together, Lord
    Bind us together with love
    There is only one God, there is only one king
    There is only one body, that is why we can sing

    One heart, one Spirit
    One voice to praise you
    We are the body of Christ
    One goal, one vision
    to see You exalted
    We are the body of Christ
    And to this we give our lives, to see you glorified

    Songs about serving:
    Take My Life and Let it Be Consecrated Lord to Thee
    We are an offering (words below)

    We lift our voices, we lift our hands
    we lift our lives up to you, we are an offering
    Lord, use our voices
    Lord, use our hands
    Lord, use our lives, they are yours,
    We are an offering
    We are an offering
    All that we have, all that we are,
    all that we ever hope to be, we give to you, we give to you

    Hope these help! You can also use your regular songs and substitue “we” and “us” for “I” to shake things up a bit.
    God bless you!


    October 19, 2006 at 1:36 am

  23. Nancy and Amy – thanks for the tips! I’ll be checking these out!


    September 27, 2006 at 5:16 pm

  24. Here are a few other ideas

    Show Your Power by Kevin Prosch
    The Way of the Cross by Matt Redman
    Break Dividing Walls by David Ruis


    September 21, 2006 at 11:36 pm

  25. Humble King by Brenton Brown ccli song #2650388

    ‘Cos You are the God of the broken
    The friend of the weak
    You wash the feet of the weary
    Embrace the ones in need
    I want to be like You Jesus
    To have this heart in me

    You are the God of the humble
    You are the humble King

    Oh kneel me down again
    Here at Your feet
    Show me how much You love
    Oh Spirit be the star
    That leads me to
    The humble heart of love
    I see in You


    September 21, 2006 at 3:49 pm

  26. Check out a Mennonite Hymnal – This one is #411

    I Bind My Heart This Tide

    I bind my heart this tide to the Galilean’s side, to the wounds of Clavary, to the Chrsit who died for me.

    I bind my soul this day to the neighbor far away, and the stranger near at hand, in this town, and in this land.

    I bind my heart in thrall to the God, the Lord of all, to the God, the poor one’s friend, and athe Christ whom he did send.

    I bind myself to peace, to make strife and envy cease. God, knit thou sure the cord of my thralldom to my Lord.


    September 21, 2006 at 3:33 pm

  27. Hey, Monte,

    I’m a harpist, and I’ve been memorizing and learning to play the psalms using the psalm tones composed by Joseph Gelineau. Where else but the psalms do you find all of what you’re looking for? Well, I guess psalms do not speak specifically of the cross, but it is shadowed everywhere.

    GIA Publishing has a book that goes with the lectionary for Catholic Mass. (I don’t know if it’s at all in sync with the Protestant lectionary.) If you want to see it, let’s you and me and Bill get together, eh?


    September 21, 2006 at 8:57 am

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