Pairing theologically rich lyrics with soaring melodies, Peoria, Illinois-based Grace Worship draws on its 150-year church history (Grace Presbyterian Church) to bring a multi-generational focus to Christ Be All. Releasing April 24 and available to preorder now from Grace Worship / The Fuel Music, this worship team's debut EP is centered on Jesus' prayer in John 17 for the body to be "one" and honors the rich heritage of Christian hymnody while incorporating modern anthemic choruses and pop hooks.
We are honored to chat with Grace Worship's leader and songwriter Kevin King for this exclusive interview.
Q: Thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourselves: who is Grace Worship?
Grace Worship is comprised of the artists and worshipers within our Worship Ministry here at Grace Presbyterian Church. Our vision is to be a family of worshipers serving to unite the church to treasure Jesus through theologically-rich and creatively-beautiful art.
Q: Your senior pastor Bryan Chapell is not only a great preacher and author, but he's also involved in song writing too! I noticed that he has co-written a few cuts on the new EP. Tell us about Bryan's involvement with the worship team.
Bryan has actually been song-writing long before Grace Worship came to be. He has written many hymns, some of which have also been turned into choral anthems by arrangers and composers (here's a link to one: https://www.beckenhorstpress.com/creation-hymn/). With Bryan's heart to continue modern hymnody, he was more than willing to be involved in the writing process.
Q: Bryan Chapell has written a book entitled "Christ-Centered Worship." What does Christ centered worship mean to you? How's this reflected in your new EP?
Christ-Centered Worship really runs through the veins of our worship ministry here at Grace and in Grace Worship. It is a cornerstone of our ministry to know, as Bryan would say, "The worship of God begins with God." Because of this, the worshiper is brought on a heart journey that responds to the grace of Christ. We want these heart postures to be expressed through our songs, which is why you'll have moments of adoration, confession, affirmation, thanksgiving, petition, etc. We desire to help shepherd the heart to behold Jesus and to give opportunity to the heart to enjoy this through the myriad of biblical expressions.
Q: I love how many of the songs on the new EP are very rich in theology, yet they are very singable. Why is theology important in song writing?
We desire to write songs that the church can sing. Before we began this project, we knew it was our heart to create content that would help unite the church to treasure Jesus. We know that worship music can easily be a device of division in our present culture, so we wanted to make intentional steps to allow for many meeting points within our music. Singability is one of those. If a song is not able to be sung by a congregation easily, you've quickly distanced yourself from a certain demographic of worshipers.
Q: As a songwriter, what are some ways you feed your own soul with the rich truths of God's Word?
This may seem unremarkable, but getting in the Word regularly is the most important thing I can do in my day. The Lord has brought me on a journey in the recent past to remember His word is not just for instructional consumption but for living and active communion. When I come to the Word, I've stopped looking for "nuggets of spiritual truth" and started enjoying Jesus. In addition to the Word, I love to journal my processing of the Word. This helps me to ask questions, be guided by the Spirit to understand, and to enjoy the intricacies of the greater narrative of scripture.
Other great resources would include sermon podcasts, stories that tell of God's grace (a phenomenal resource is the Story Team at Austin Stone Community Church www.storyteam.org), other creative authors (you can find our book recommendations at www.graceworship.com/development), and biblical-cultural discussion (This Cultural Moment podcast is highly recommended). I also make it a point to regularly listen to what is released musically. There are so many wonderful songwriters today and songs being written. God has truly blessed us with an abundance of avenues to have our souls lifted to Him.
Q: Let's talk about the new single "Christ Be All." Tell us some of your thoughts behind this song.
This song has been a joyful struggle to sing each time. I'll be honest, I have to continue to remind my soul that this is a good prayer because my flesh will propose the question, "Truly, am I supposed to be nothing?" It is then I have to remind myself that Christ "became nothing" (Phil 2:7) that God would be everything. I have the privilege to take up my cross that Christ would be everything. It is not that I am denying the image-bearing nature that God has given us uniquely as people.
What part of us "becomes nothing"? It is the first Adam within us that Christ will level to make way for the Second. The idea of this song came from Andrew Murray's Book "Humility." At the end of his book, he wrote a poem that eventually became the first verse of this song. I read the poem and just thought, "Wow! This needs to be a song!" To check out a video story of the song, you can click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0IMkTpdKNU&feature=emb_logo.
Q: I notice that some of the songs, particularly "Calvary's Anthem" and "Love of God," have that hymn-like quality to them. Why are new hymns important for the church to sing?
We intentionally included songs like these. We want to be artists that are both rooted and reaching, taking influence from and joining in with the songs that have been ministering to saints throughout generations, while also hearing the hearts of worshipers that God is inspiring today. When we read scripture, we are reading a meta-narrative story that spans millennia, and yet, it is all-connecting and all valuable. In fact, scripture becomes more beautiful to the reader when read through this connective lens. Would not the hymns and songs that Jesus has helped saints write through the ages also be aided by similar connection? It our privilege to arrange songs like these.
Q: What are your hopes for these new songs? How do you hope these songs would impact the lives of your listeners?
Our hope from the get-go has always been the same: to help people behold and treasure Jesus. After the release of "Christ Be All," my favorite thing to hear was pastors and worship leaders telling me they are going to lead "Christ Be All" in their congregations. I felt utterly humbled and unworthy. My prayer for this project has been that Jesus would open doors that are helpful for us and the church to walk through and close those that would be unhelpful. We want to create content that allows the hearts of generations to unite in praise to God, and we also want to do that with healthy, worshiping hearts.