Album Review :
John Ball - Found Among the Broken

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Artist: John Ball

Album: Found Among the Broken

Label: None (released independently)

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Reviewer: Eric Pettersson

Tracklisting

  1. Home
  2. Can You Feel
  3. Are You Mine
  4. Found Among the Broken
  5. How I Know
  6. Who Can Oppose
  7. Haiti (Be My Hope)

Let’s be honest. Most of us are pretty dissatisfied with the current state of worship music. It’s cheesy, it’s formulaic, it’s predictable, and it’s just not all that profound. So when a Christian rocker with a heartfelt voice like The Starting Line’s Kenny Vasoli, plodding drum beats like The Early November, and lush guitars like Cool Hand Luke or Deas Vail comes around with some independently-released worship tunes, my ears are cautiously perked. Will John Ball be one of the voices needed to raise the musical and theological bar on our worship music, or will Found Among the Broken just be more of the same noise to be lumped into the repetition of songs?

I can answer the music question with a definite yes. I first played this record in the background while getting some work done and didn’t realize it was worship-oriented until the very end of my second time through. When the music alone didn’t immediately clue me in to the worship nature of the record, I knew this could be something really good. John Ball’s voice is strong but emotional, and his songs are full of feeling. He plays with a passion that can be heard through his energy and melody.

I picked up on some spiritual themes earlier, but the song that made me realize this is a worship album was “Who Can Oppose.” This song sings of being worn down by the world and looking to God for strength. It starts slow, with a simple and soft guitar, but at the four minute mark builds into a triumphal burst of joy, repeating the lines “If You’re for me, then whom shall I fear? Who then can oppose me?” You may recognize these words from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and other parts of the track come straight from the Psalms (and maybe Isaiah?).

The real message of this release is that we worship a living God who is Lord of all, a God who is with us when we suffer and a God who redeems the lost and the broken. As Ball sings on the title track, “You’re not the god this world has made You. You are tangible and real.” The song goes on to talk about how God uses the lowly things of this world and gives us hope for both this life and the next one. Other songs talk about doubt and struggle in life, showing a vulnerability we all need in worship. The songs cry to God in these times of trouble, and they always emphasize God’s goodness, strength, and grace.

The only part that bothers me is in the chorus of “How I Know,” which says, “Lord if I speak my doubt, may you shut my mouth. Open up my eyes, and I’ll see you’re good.” I believe speaking doubt is one of the most important ways we can grow in our faith. If we do not have to struggle through the darkness and questions of doubt, we lose a rich opportunity to seek the truth and find God. Suppressing doubt can only lead to insincerity or fanaticism. Ball is clearly not advocating either, but the line is still problematic.

Overall: John Ball’s energetic and emotional rock is a good step musically for today’s worship songs. His emphasis on the sovereignty and goodness of God are a perfect complement to his even greater emphasis on hope and redemption. This is not only the sort of worship music that I can use to communicate with God, it is also the sort that our readers will actually enjoy listening to.

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