Album Review :
Bethel Live - For the Sake of the World
- 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 & Jenn Johnson)
- Who You Are (Jenn Johnson)
- Forgiven (Brian Johnson)
- In Your Light (Jeremy Riddle)
- Freedom (William Matthews)
- Closer (Stephanie Frizzell-Gretzinger)
- This is What You Do (William Matthews)
- For the Sake of the World (Brian Johnson)
Residing in Redding, California; Bethel Church have been able to provide listeners around the world with heartfelt melodies and poignant worship songs full of vibrancy, life and passion for the past 4 or 5 years, with top-selling albums like Be Lifted High and Here is Love. With their music ministry releasing albums under the artist title ‘Bethel Live’; worship leaders Brian Johnson and his wife Jenn, Jeremy Riddle, William Matthews and Stephanie Frizzell-Gretzinger have made an album full of rich lyrical moments of surrender and powerful poignant places of worship and praise as we soak in the anthems, reflective songs and spontaneous prayers in the latest album, For the Sake of the World. As we are reminded by worship pastor Brian Johnson (son of well-known pastor Bill Johnson) that ‘…there’s a culture that’s contagious within the songs and within the worship in the live moments…’, we are able to understand that live albums capture a worshipful atmosphere, transferring and translating some of the worshipful experience onto a CD or digital download for listeners to soak themselves into. For the Sake of the World is able to encapsulate 13 songs of powerful worship to place this worship movement as one of the most passionate and poetically relevant for young people today (along with Passion and Jesus Culture); giving a daily reminder that God is ‘…this passion in my heart, this stirring in my soul, to see the nations bow, for all the world to know…’ (‘For the Sake of the World’).
‘For The Sake of the World’ is the last song on the album, and is one of the most powerful on it. The first radio single off an album full of spontaneous worship and powerful proclamations, Brian Johnson powerfully reminds listeners that it was Christ that died and rose again for the world, and that as believers in Him, we must call it our mission to witness to those who we know are desperate for His love, that as we pray for Christ to come fill us up with His presence, it must be with the world in mind, that as we become equipped and full of God’s unending love, it is only natural of us to overflow it to those we meet, as we long for the day when ‘…every knee to bow down, for every heart to believe, for every voice to cry out…’ A stirring guitar solo creating a space for free worship, this seven minute track is my favourite song off the album, providing us with the motivation and the encouragement to be Christ’s love and light to the world as we focus upon the people that need it the most- the hurting, the hopeless, the shameful, broken and lonely. Full of intense enthusiasm from both Brian and his wife Jenn Johnson (on backing vocals), this anthemic melody is destined to become a classic song as ‘Mighty to Save’ has been for Hillsong. Well done Bethel for this riveting final track that sums up what the album stands for as a whole!
Singing in a total of 8 tracks (inclusive of the title track) between them, husband and wife Brian and Jenn Johnson, responsible for creating great reflective ballads like ‘God I Look To You’, ‘Love Came Down’, ‘One Thing Remains’ and ‘Be Lifted High’; offer us these new melodies on the record, and though many of them are between the lengths of 5-10 minutes, the worshipful atmosphere and the intense passion of both Brian and Jenn have given listeners a great avenue of praise, with length not being a problem for myself (who has always seemed sceptical of longer songs, unsure about whether it would drag out for more than necessary). On For the Sake of the World however, I am able to just relax and immerse myself in the tracks, a reminder of Christ’s unending love and salvation poured over us. With many songs that will be destined for churches in the near future, Brian offers up ‘To Our God’ as the opening track, a declaration of Christians coming together to proclaim ‘…to our God we lift up one voice, singing hallelujah…’ This string-emphasised track complete with eerie keyboards with themes similar to the bridge of Hillsong’s ‘You’ll Come’ and how God breathes on dry bones and they come to life, breaking the shackles and chains in the process, Brian gives God the exaltation through this rousing anthem that comes to a crescendo as he sings out the words ‘…make His praise glorious, glorious…’ Brian also sings the song ‘You Have Won Me’, a melody also on Bethel: The Loft Sessions released in January 2012, an electric guitar-driven anthem offering love and praise to Christ as a way of thanks to Him for showing ‘…me grace, You’ve lifted my shame, drawn me with loving kindness…’ With a singing style similar to Matt Redman in this particular track, ‘You Have Won Me’ speaks of the prize we are able to receive- a relationship with God Himself as we continue to be transformed by the inside out, understanding and delving deeper into His presence. Well done Brian for these two heartfelt melodies!
Jeremy Riddle’s contribution to modern worship has been massive, with huge anthems ‘Furious’ and ‘One Thing Remains’ from his latest studio album Furious leading to some of the most popular melodies of the 21st century. Also a major influence in Bethel albums, his addition of both ‘This is Amazing Grace’ and ‘In Your Light’ creates a space for intimate worship as he provides two songs on the album. ‘This is Amazing Grace’ starts acoustically and moves to a full guitar and drum powerful anthemic build, and ‘In Your Light’ reminds me of a dance melody similar to Delirious?’s ‘The Happy Song’, where I just can’t keep the good news I have about Christ to myself- so I just let it out, with singing and dancing if necessary. The piano focus of this track as well as the subdued acoustic nature of ‘This is Amazing Grace’, a great reminder of the grace we freely receive from Christ as we declare that ‘…You would take my place, that You would bear my cross; You would lay down Your life that I would be set free…’ As we declare through the fast tempo song of ‘In Your Light’ that ‘…You’ve turned my tears of sadness into such joy and gladness, my heart can’t keep it in…’ along with the piano focused and light electric guitar music, we are able to soak in the truths of our God, and that because of His sacrifice and our salvation, we can dance freely before our King. Well done Jeremy for these humble songs of healing and transformation.
Ever since hearing ‘Come To Me’ on Bethel’s The Loft Sessions, I’ve always been intrigued to hear Jenn Johnson’s songs, and on For the Sake of the World, she offers up 2 strikingly musically different melodies, yet both equally lyrically poignant, as Jenn reminds us that ‘…Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the power, Yours is the glory, forever, amen…’ (‘Our Father’). With a modern musical interpretation to the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father’ is a slow ballad with an eerie guitar reverbing sound at strategic points in the song. Starting off slow and moving into a crescendo as Jenn declares God’s power and goodness, I am gladly swept away in the song’s emotion as I allow it to minister and remind me that God is indeed my Father and my protector and provider. ‘Who You Are’ is written in a modern hymn-like way (with a similar feel as Keith Getty’s ‘In Christ Alone’) and as Jenn gives a hauntingly soothing assurance that ‘…Jesus, friend above all friends laid down Your life that I might live…’, we are met with the encouraging truth that ‘…it’s who You are…’, that all the promises and qualities that were said about Jesus is and forever will be truth- reminding us that all the doubt that we so often feel ought to be just cast at Jesus’ feet as we step fully in confidence with Christ in us, motivating us to follow Him the rest of our days.
Worship leaders William Matthews and Stephanie Frizzell-Gretzinger also provide some moving songs of heartfelt worship and devotion on For the Sake of The World, with William offering two in ‘This is What You Do’ and ‘Freedom’, and Stephanie providing the tranquil song ‘Closer’. Originally an acoustic upbeat hand-clapping riveting declaratory song on The Loft Sessions, ‘This is What You Do’ is an anthem of how God makes our lives so much better, that ‘…this is what You do, You make me come alive…’, sustaining our life and giving it in abundance; and ‘Freedom’ provides hope in the upbeat guitar driven dance anthem as William shouts out that ‘…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom…’ Stephanie’s hopeful song of intimacy between Christ and creation is one of my favourites on the album, that amidst the rising electric guitars and big drum beats, the mood of longing as we cry out for God to pull us closer to Him is enough to declare this track to be one of my favourites on For the Sake of the World. Well done William and Stephanie for such humble and compelling tracks.
Overall: With such stellar live albums past (Here is Love, Be Lifted High), Bethel’s latest live worship offering is one to certainly purchase if you have loved their previous work. Though I thought that their last album The Loft Sessions felt a little overproduced, For the Sake of the World is a great reflection of the worship group’s calibre as I find myself worshipping along to certain global favourites ‘For the Sake of the World’ and ‘Our Father’. With such poignancy and hopeful encouragement, I am able to relax in the understanding that ‘…I am forgiven at the foot of the cross; I am accepted by the power of Your love…’ (‘Forgiven’). From reflective melodies to high-energy anthems, Bethel’s latest album is a great purchase for fans of Passion, Jesus Culture, or for those who just love a great modern worship album. Well done Bethel for such a motivating and inspiring album.
RIYL: Passion, One Sonic Society, Jesus Culture, Hillsong UNITED