Why I like the worship music of CityAlight

A recent output of fresh worship music has been recorded by an Australian group called CityAlight. Their repertoire may or may not have shown up in your church, but if not, it should. Their three recordings – Yours Alone(2014), Only a Holy God (2016), and Yet Not I (2018) – are full of rich, singer-friendly, congregational songs. Here’s 5 reasons why I like CityAlight:

  • Rich, gospel-centered lyrics. I value lyrics above all when it comes to music that is intended to be sung to God in worship. Unfortunately, the over-stereotyped, but sometimes-accurate description of modern worship is simple lyrics, repeated often. I must confess I’ve been guilty sometimes of promoting this. But with song writers like the Gettys and now CityAlight, we can sing lyrics like these:
Who else could rescue me
from my failing
Who else would offer His only Son
Who else invites me to call Him Father
Only a Holy God
Only my Holy God!
Come and behold Him
The One and the Only
Cry out, sing holy
Forever a Holy God
Come and worship the Holy God

Maybe it’s their Anglican roots, but there’s a hymn-like richness there. In an interview with Tim Challies, representatives of the band said, “The vision of CityAlight is to write songs with biblically rich lyrics and simple melodies for the Christian church to sing.”

  • Songs in singable keys. I wish more worship leaders would understand that we don’t all have the range of a Chris Tomlin. With the exception of a couple of songs on the first album, 90% of CityAlight’s songs are in vocal ranges that are comfortable for the average person to sing.
  • Vocals that don’t draw attention. Don’t get me wrong; the singers in CityAlight are great. But you don’t go away from listening with the thought that the vocals are the center. No vocal embellishment (that honestly, sometimes seems like showing off), but simply sticking to the melody for the most part. With CityAlight, the mix is such that you get a good exposure of the crowd singing along. It comes across as singing with the church, not for the church.
  • Speaking of melody, catchy tunes! It’s much easier to learn and sing along when the tune has some character to it, with changes in pitch that match the flow of thought. It’s because of this that these recordings are sing-along-able!
  • Variety of music. There are up-tempo hand-clappers, thoughtful and meditative ballads, soaring and anthemic hymns. The variety keeps me coming back again and again to supplement my personal times of worship.

The irony is that for the explosion of worship music available, there’s been less actual worship. To enhance your worship, I invite you to check out CityAlight (available wherever music is bought or streamed). If you’re a worship leader, you would do well to emulate their practices.

Question to consider: What practices help you the most in your worship of our Holy God?

Preaching depth to a shallow generation, part 1

Deep part 1

It began in late April 1998.  It ended 8 years, 7 months and 28 days later, on Christmas Eve 2006.

It is John Piper’s sermon series on Romans, presented to his church during Sunday services.  225 messages.

Romans is probably my favorite book in the Bible, and I have been listening off and on to this remarkable series, especially his treatment of chapters 5-9.  I have repeatedly been amazed at Piper’s willingness to tackle tough theological issues and go deep into the text, sometimes spending three or four weeks on a particular passage.

But there’s something even more amazing.

His church let him do it.

A generation accustomed to the shallow end

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” –2 Timothy 4:3-4

It’s been well documented that “content” has been in decline all across the spectrum of our culture. As E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has pointed out in his book The Knowledge Deficit, “Disparagement of factual knowledge as found in books has been a strong current in American thought since the time of Emerson.” (p.9)

Unfortunately, this “disparagement of factual knowledge” is not exclusive to the mainstream; it has also infected the church. The modern church by and large has become a purveyor of practical principles and applications with a few Bible verses tacked on (from whichever translation or paraphrase says it just the right way) to give them credence. Some pastors have come to embrace the cultural disdain for content by discarding even the attempt to teach doctrine from the pulpit.

Thus, my amazement that Piper’s church stuck around for over 8½ years of deep, theological teaching from Romans. Many an elder board would have asked him to “tone it down,” or worse, asked him to leave and then counseled the next pastor to “keep it simple” or “be more practical.”  To be fair, Piper himself addresses this from time to time by intentionally bringing his current text to bear on the practical implications for the Christian life, or by frequently tying it to how it fits with the great “Therefore” of Romans 12. But he never shies from the hard truths of his text, even when there’s not an immediate “application.”

As a result, what we have in this archive of sermons is a true gift to the Church at large. Whether you agree or disagree with Piper’s theology is beside the point.  What he created there was not only a blessing for his congregation, but also a platform of influence to Christians everywhere.

May more pastors have the desire and the courage to go deep and take their flock with them.  And may many more congregations demand it.

[In subsequent parts of this series, I’ll examine the common approaches churches take on this matter, and how God uses his Word in our lives. Stay tuned.]