I remember the first time I heard Steven Curtis Chapman. A sophomore in college, & very new to the faith, my newly-found spiritual mentor it turned out was a huge fan. The CCM polish of his early work wasn’t my taste at the time, but I recognized his talent. However, a few years later another friend gifted me a copy of Signs of Life & I was caught off-guard by the depth of the songwriting, & intricacy of the acoustic work.
“Surely that’s not Steven playing,” I thought to myself… but I loved the disc.
Two years ago I caught him live – with only his acoustic guitar – during a showcase at the Experience Conference, and let me just say: that was definitely him playing! Not only is he a consistently solid songwriter, but probably one of the best acoustic guitarists in the industry! This new worship offering strongly showcases both of those skills.
Worship & Believe, Chapman’s first ever collection of songs intended for corporate use, is one of his more consistent releases – a solid listen even if you aren’t a worship pastor looking for new songs for your church. Well balanced between vertical & horizontal songs – some, like “We Believe” are actually a mix of both praise, & confessional.
The first highlight is also the most obvious song for church use. “One True God” is simultaneously simple, yet structurally creative, particularly with its lyrical phrasing. Co-written with Chris Tomlin & Matt Redman, & featuring Tomlin on co-vocals, the song is easy to sing, & simple enough to reproduce with an average church team, but a fresh lyrical & sonic take on a classic theme. This one deserves to be sung!
“Hallelujah, You are Good,” co-written with Matt Maher, stands first & foremost on it’s powerful lyrics. I would guess that most churches would find it a fitting special, as opposed to a regular corporate number, but that has it’s place as well. Many will find healing here – it’s what I call a “cryer”.
For those who are taken with Steven’s impressive finger-style guitar work, “Sing for You” is another highlight. The arrangement is magnificent, with subtle surprises at every turn. Though the chorus may be quick to catch on for broader church use, the song is perfect for personal praise, & a delightful listen. Oh, and well that choir of voices joins in, & Steven jumps up into the sky – WHOA!
For the most part, on Worship & Believe even the most complex arrangements are still primarily organic, performed by real instruments, & given room to breath – the details are in there. An audiophile could probably identify what type of piano or guitar is used on each track, due to the clarity & detail of the production. Even on “The Body” where a synth carries the melodic hook during the turnaround, it doesn’t sound programed but played, & is balanced by organic instrumentation in good measure.
The album’s only downfall is that many of the song titles are similar to other popular worship songs, which might make CCLI reporting confusing. Overall, I would sit this somewhere close behind my two favorite SCC favorites, Signs of Life & This Moment. Though not likely his career-defining release, it’s well worth owning, & “One True God” is an obvious stand-out corporate pick for church use – I can’t wait to lead that one, myself!
Shannon Lewis is “The Worship Community Guy“. Passionate about helping others respond to God, & training people who are passionate about the same, Shannon also blogs at SaintLewisMusic, where you can grab his free eBook, UNSEASONED: How to see Godly Growth in an Inexperienced Worship Team.