Release Date: October 2nd 2012
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
Bethel Music- For The Sake Of The World (Amazon mp3/Tunes)
Is this the year of the live worship band/movement albums? I think so! With albums from Desperation Band, Worth Dying For, Passion, Hillsong UNITED, Hillsong LIVE, Planetshakers, Vertical Worship Church, Brenton Brown, and Israel Houghton and New Breed; be prepared to throw another worship experience on the proverbial fire, with Bethel Live releasing For The Sake Of The World , the follow up to The Loft Sessions. With such strong releases musically and lyrically already released in this past year though, it’s hard to see Bethel topping the effort of the aforementioned names. However, this 78 minute free flowing and sometimes spontaneous worship experience is the Redding, California church at its best, and one of my favourite live albums this year, one that I am very blessed and touched by. With new songs from Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, William Matthews and Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger; For The Sake Of The World is a must for fans of impacting and powerful worship music!
Being the senior worship pastors of Bethel Church, it’s no surprise that Brian Johnson and his wife Jenn lead just over half the songs on this musically diverse and lyrically profound vertical worship experience. Collectively leading 8 tracks, inclusive of spontaneous moments, the worship leaders who brought clear fan favourites “God I Look To You”, “Be Lifted High”, “Love Came Down”, “Come To Me”, and “One Thing Remains”; are back again, this time with a fresher sound than ever before. Despite most song lengths being in excess of 5 minutes, and sometimes nearly 10; Brian and Jenn have constantly displayed a vibrant energy that has me singing along on every song, and being transported into a place of worship with God, where nothing else matters except soaking in God’s presence. “To Our God” speaks about bringing to God our best efforts and everything to Him. Co-written with Jeremy Riddle, lyrically this slow tempo guitar based track, has elements of Hillsong’s “You’ll Come” lyrically in the second verse; and builds to a rousing and anthemic crescendo that leaves me wanting more from this passionate worship movement. In the middle, Brian and the team spontaneously sing the bridge, creating a chilling atmosphere that is truly magical, with the words ‘…make His praise glorious, glorious…’ giving my goose-bumps! Brian also leads the worship ballad and potential single “You Have Won Me”, previously on their previous album The Loft Sessions. Singing about how Jesus has defeated every chain and set us free by dying on the cross and rising from the dead ‘…You have broken every chain with love and mercy, You have triumphed over death and You are worthy of glory and praise…’; Brain has crafted a worship song fit for the Sunday morning service, and once again, I can lift my hands in worship and sing along with this talented worship team.
Speaking about forgiveness; and how we are already accepted by Jesus, as His blood has covered all of our mistakes and faults, in the present, past and future; Brian’s uplifting song “Forgiven” is another highlight. Overtly singing about the gospel in the chorus ‘…I am forgiven at the foot of the cross, I am accepted, by the power of Your love, my every stain is washed away…’, this no holds barred track with plenty of conviction, has me in awe and repeatedly thanking Jesus for the sacrifice of Himself. What a fantastic song, which thematically brings me to “For The Sake Of The World”, the album’s first single and album closer. A piano-centred track with plenty of instruments in a stirring build-up that ends as an all- out free worship experience; this declaration and prayer of surrender to Jesus asks Him to burn a fire in us so that the people we encounter will know His name ‘…for the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me, light a flame in my soul, for every eye to see…’; and musically and lyrically is Bethel at its best, with guitar work like Stu G, and unbridled and unrestrained passion and energy! Brian surely knows how to worship, and is one of my favourite worshippers, this year at least!
Brian’s wife Jenn also contributes a few songs on this album as well. “Our Father”, also made into a live music video, is based on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), and this reimaging of this sacred prayer flows well with the slower pace and nice build-up of this simple lyrical track. While at halfway, it seems the song has ended, the ‘spontaneous’ part starts, as Jenn cries out ‘…Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the power, Yours is the glory, forever, amen…’; and I am once again swept away in worship again. “Who You Are” is also sung by Jenn; this contemplative track winning my heart and soul as one of my favourites from the album. Playing out like a modern day hymn, Jenn skillfully describes the matchless qualities of Jesus, then sings ‘…It’s who You are…’, implying that Jesus is who He says He is, and will never change, and is constant. An eternal truth that I will gladly proclaim over and over, Jenn’s passionate vocals and well written lyrics have created an anthem for the ages! The bridge of ‘…holy, holy, Lord of all…worthy, worthy, Lord of all…’ is another pleasant arrangement to my ear, as I cry out in unison as well to Jesus! A couple of spontaneous songs “Everything To You”, and “I Really Love You” are also included on the track list; as Brian and Jenn take pages out of Kim Walker-Smith’s studio album, with great success. Even though sometimes I am skeptical of spontaneous tracks on albums, wondering if some are ‘rehearsed’ or not; Jenn and Brian have professionally disguised these tracks amongst the verse/chorus/verse songs, and they have fit in perfectly, with these tracks providing great space for us to commune with God, not worrying about words to sing, or which songs were coming next. Well done Brian and Jenn, you enthusiasm is infectious!
Jeremy Riddle, writer of “Furious”, “Sweetly Broken” and “You Are Good”, chimes in with two tracks of his own on this smorgasbord of worshipful praise tracks to Jesus. “This Is Amazing Grace” starts of acoustically, and is another gospel central song, with Jeremy clearly defining grace and love ‘…that You would take my place, that You would bear my cross; You would lay down Your life that I would be set free, Jesus I sing of all that You’ve done to me…’; and fervently gives glory and thanks to the God who has saved us and gave us new life. With a stirring and poignant guitar solo and spontaneous worship in the middle of the mesmerizing track, Jeremy adds that special and different dimension into Bethel Church; also evident in “In Your Light”. This upbeat piano happy go lucky, dance anthem is one that could make it on the radio airwaves. Singing about how Jesus has turned our life inside out, and into a joyful and amazing life that is more vibrant than before, Jeremy’s energetic cry of thanks is similar thematically to “The Happy Song” by Delirious?, especially in the chorus ‘…You’ve turned my tears of sadness into such joy and gladness, my heart can’t keep it in, I’m shouting, shouting…’. Already a workout song, when I was writing these words about it, my feet were tapping the whole way through the 4 minute length- it’s great to have a high tempo vertical worship song once in a while!
The remainder 3 tracks are sung by William Matthews and Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger. “Freedom” starts out with a strumming of an acoustic guitar and a pulsating drum beat, as Williams declares our freedom in Christ, and that ‘…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, every chain is broken through You, Jesus…’. Once again another upbeat track to complement “In Your Light”, this acoustic type track features hand claps and a captivating banjo. Well done William for keep worship music fresh, as this type of music reminds me of Rend Collective Experiment. William also sings of “This Is What You Do”, again a song featured from The Loft Sessions. Written by Matt Stinton and Jeremy Riddle, William makes use of the electric guitar and uses his Parachute Band and Chris McClarney like voice to create a well recorded, powerful and impacting version, that though is a tad faster than the original version, is fun and well thought out- this version is as good in its own right; and when Williams proclaims ‘…You make me come alive…’ I can’t help but agree. Jesus does make our lives brighter! Steffany finishes proceedings with the beautifully sung “Closer”, the ballad where we were met with a prayer to ‘…know Your heart…pull me a little closer…’. With Steffany sounding similar to Kim Walker Smith; this declaration of appreciation, as we sing out how great Jesus’ love is for us; we are forever thankful that we are alive, and that Jesus has us in the palm of His hands. What a near flawless album, that will forever be in my top worship albums for a long time!
After what I thought was the underwhelming The Loft Sessions, Bethel are back recording at their best; and through this sublime and professional recording, For The Sake Of The World is one of the best worship albums this year. If you are a fan of Passion, Hillsong, Desperation Band, and other worship movements; you’ll love Bethel Church’s latest effort. Well done Brian, Jenn, Jeremy, William and Steffany! Dove Award for Worship album is sure to be crowded with plenty of albums on the short list in my opinion, for nominees at least, and Bethel definitely deserves their place as well!
- To Our God (Brian Johnson)
- Our Father (Jenn Johnson)
- Everything To You (Spontaneous) (Jenn Johnson)
- This is Amazing Grace (Jeremy Riddle)
- You Have Won Me (Brian Johnson)
- I Really Love You (Spontaneous) (Brian and Jenn Johnson)
- Who You Are (Jenn Johnson)
- Forgiven (Brian Johnson)
- In Your Light (Jeremy Riddle)
- Freedom (William Matthews)
- Closer (Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger)
- This is What You Do (William Matthews)
- For The Sake of the World (Brian Johnson)
Favourite Tracks: To Our God, This Is Amazing Grace, You Have Won Me, Who You Are, In Your Light, Closer, For The Sake Of The World