Guest post by Joshua Smith, Director of Worship & Production
Did you know that Christ Church Global is in the music publishing business? We asked worship leader Joshua Smith about the most recent album of original worship songs, All Blessings Flow, which was released yesterday by Cities Apart as part of our Christ 100 fall stewardship emphasis.
What is Cities Apart?
Cities Apart is a worship songwriting ministry of Christ Church. In 2006, I was working in the Student Ministry here at CUMC, and I began writing songs together with one of our college interns, Mark Trussell. We shared a desire to provide the church with songs that expressed the depth of the Gospel through the richness of modern western folk rock. Through the vision of Christ Church Global, we’ve been able to release three extended play albums of music for Christ Church: Cities Apart, Mosaic and now All Blessings Flow.
The name Cities Apart has multiple layers of meaning: First, that God desires that the church be a city on a hill, set apart as a witness to His glory. Second, in one of his more famous works, St. Augustine paints a picture of two cities, the City of God and the City of Man. At the consummation of history, the former will overcome and sanctify the latter, and our hope is that these songs are a soundtrack to this part of the movement. Finally, these songs have been predominantly written and recorded between Memphis and Nashville, two historic music cities tied together in this case by our common love for the Lord, our music and each other.
Where did you get the name for the album?
All Blessings Flow is part of a line from the popular Christian hymn known as the Doxology, written by Thomas Ken in 1674. When you take just that phrase by itself, it sort of zooms in on this idea that blessings from God can’t be hoarded or locked away—they flow. God told Abraham that he was being blessed so that he could be a blessing to the world, and He does the same thing with us. The things God gives us are active and abundant, and they ought to be spilling out over other peoples’ lives. The idea of “paying it forward” is a deeply Christian concept and one that we’ve seen embodied very well in the members of Christ Church. We just want to celebrate that and encourage it further.
Tell us about the songs in this collection.
Each song corresponds to one of Christ Church’s five values: worship, care, share, grow and serve. Since Christ 100 is a celebration of our values, we thought we’d write some anthems that embodied those values for the congregation to sing and meditate on together in this season.
Lift Up Your Eyes
CUMC Value: Worship
This song came out of a writing retreat we did this summer with some members of our worship team. One of our former interns, Andrew Puccio, came with the chorus melody and a line that’s seen both in Isaiah 60 and Psalm 121 as an invocation to praise. Mark and I just loved it. We wanted to open the album by simply declaring the Gospel of Jesus and calling His people to worship Him.
Beautiful (Look Like You)
CUMC Value: Serve
This one takes the idea that we were made in the image of God and puts it to work. Jesus says in Matthew 5, at the opening of His Sermon on the Mount, that the peacemakers are blessed because they will be called sons of God. What He’s getting at there is that there’s a family resemblance between the Father and those who do His work. The song paints peacemaking as a grueling and gruesome affair, but one that nonetheless makes us beautiful, because when we’re serving others we end up looking like Him. The bridge reveals that the whole thing is a take off of Pastor Shane’s vision for Christ Church—“to Love Jesus and Love Like Jesus in the World.”
Make Us Holy
CUMC Value: Grow
Our tagline for the grow value is “Making disciples who make disciples.” One of the things we as a staff have been dwelling on is that you can’t reproduce in others what is not already in you, and so we’ve been praying a lot that God would continually make us and keep us holy, not merely for our sake, but also that we might glorify Him by having something to offer others. We believe that if God was able to make men from dust, then He can make holy men from sinners, and so we’re asking Him to work the miracle of ongoing sanctification in us.
Only By Your Grace
CUMC Value: Share
We’ll be doing this one the most frequently in our fall time worship services because of the share emphasis. It has the potential to be perhaps the most difficult to grasp in terms of the tension it represents. On the one hand the verses are a bold declaration, a vow almost, about how generous we intend to be as people of God. But then in the very next breath, the chorus acknowledges, echoing James, that every good and perfect gift flows from God’s grace. He alone is the source of light to the world, so it’s not really us at all, but Him being so incredibly generous. The work may be done through us, but it’s not really by us—it’s by His grace.
CUMC Value: Care
Because the Doxology was the inspiration for our title, we thought it would be the perfect song to help us represent our value of care. It was recorded live in the beautiful sanctuary at Christ Church with a handful of church members who were willing to stay after services one week and sing it for what felt like 47 times. We feel like it captured the essence of the community of faith—a diverse gathering of believers, selflessly joining together their offerings to form something so rich and beautiful for the benefit of others. That’s the point of the Christ 100 campaign.
Where can I get the album?
It’s available for download via most online stores, such as iTunes and Amazon, and physical copies will be available at Christ Church and out of my minivan beginning this Sunday. You can also see more info, including lyrics, at cumcmemphis.org/citiesapart.