5 Recent Christian Albums Worth Hearing

Writing a blog post about one’s favorite recent Christian albums feels a little bit like writing about the best brands of VCRs for 2015. I’m aware that most people nowadays simply stream their music from Pandora, Amazon, Spotify, or some other service. It is increasingly rare to purchase an album from your favorite artist – or some newly discovered one – and savor it fully.

However, I was one of those kids who used to buy new cassettes, and later CDs, and play them on repeat until I got bored of them or had to replace them. I would grab the liner notes (another sad casualty of our digital age) and eagerly read them while I listened to the songs.

Like many people, my enthusiasm for discovering new music took a hiatus while my children were small, mostly because there was precious little time or quiet space to actually listen to music. I’ve always been a fan of artists whose lyrics are more contemplative and thought-provoking – Rich Mullins is my all-time favorite artist – so identifying music I love requires more concentration and space than I had when there were babies and toddlers at home.

This year, though, I have found or rediscovered a number of artists whose recent albums have deeply impacted me. Here are five new-ish Christian albums that I recommend: 

Burning_EdgeAndrew Peterson, The Burning Edge of Dawn

This is hands-down my favorite album of 2015. From the first song to the last, Peterson weaves a story of loss and redemption, pain and healing, and death and resurrection. I’ve listened to it on repeat for several weeks now, and continue to find it deeply moving. Songs like “We Will Survive,” “The Rain Keeps Falling,” and “My One Safe Place” speak poignantly of the joy and sorrow that often permeate one’s middle years of life. Like an Old Testament prophet, Peterson always manages to shine a beacon of hope through the middle of life’s darkness. The title song, “The Dark Before the Dawn,” fits perfectly with “The Sower’s Song,” which concludes the record. Both speak of the power of God to bring life from death, and both are beautiful descriptions of Christ’s return and coming kingdom. This album is highly recommended.

Garrels_homeJosh Garrels, Home

I’ll admit that, for me at least, Garrels was an acquired taste. His vocal stylings sometimes make his lyrics difficult to understand unless you listen very carefully. But it’s worth the work. Garrels uses imagery throughout this album that is tied closely to the story of the prodigal son, one of my favorite biblical parables about grace. Even the title of the album reflects the theme. My favorite track is “At the Table,” a heart-breaking tune about the return of the prodigal: “Come on home, home to Me, and I will hold you in My arms, and joyful be; There will always, always be a place for you at My table, return to Me.”

needtobreatheNeedtoBreathe, Rivers in the Wasteland

If you listen to Christian radio, you’ve heard NeedtoBreathe. Their upbeat style of Southern rock is fun to listen to, even when you can’t understand what they’re singing about. That said, it’s worth taking the time to hear the lyrics, as well, because they are thought-provoking and well-crafted. These songs are about finding purpose and real community in a world that sometimes feels meaningless and isolated. Not to mention that “Brother,” probably the biggest radio hit on the album, is my kids’ favorite tune right now. If you want to get your family dancing in the kitchen, give this one a try.

unfettered_ross_kingRoss King, Unfettered

In the spirit of full disclosure, I know Ross, since he has led worship at my church periodically for the past couple of decades. He’s a rare songwriter, one who seems able to move with skill between writing worship albums and singer-songwriter projects like this one. His most recent album is his best to date. My favorite song is “What Kind of Person,” in which he identifies with the sins of various biblical characters and then ponders why Jesus died and rose again “to save the kind of person that I have always been.” Ross centers on the person and character of Jesus, along with the hope that knowing Him brings in the midst of loss and trial.

sara_grovesSara Groves, Floodplain

Like Josh Garrels, Groves has been an acquired taste for me, and I don’t think I really “got it” until this brand new release. Her themes revolve around the concept that sometimes the line between pain and hope is fairly thin. “Some hearts are built on the floodplain,” she says, meaning that some people see the waters of doubt and fear rise regularly, but that they can also see the Lord plant hope and character and love in the midst of those struggles. I admit that I’ve only listened to this one through twice so far, but it’s already a new favorite. Perhaps the most poignant track is “My Dream,” in which she relates her grandfather’s story of falling asleep each night for years to the image of Jesus standing in his driveway, welcoming him home, not angry but running to greet him in the midst of his doubt and fear. Be prepared to cry if you buy this one.

There you are! Five albums I hope you’ll enjoy. Happy listening! Also, are there others you’d recommend? Feel free to include them in the comments below. 

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Reflecting on the Legacy of Rich Mullins

I first encountered the music of Rich Mullins as a kid, when my younger brother got a tape of his album Pictures in the Sky. Although I wasn’t initially drawn toward Mullins’ musical style, I — like many — took notice when “Awesome God” became a smash hit.

However, it wasn’t until the release of The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 2 that I became a real fan. “Sometimes by Step” was a beautifully written song about faith in the midst of struggle and doubt. I connected with that song and that album deeply. The release of A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band was the clincher for me: from that point on, Rich Mullins was far and away my favorite musician. I attended his concerts, bought everything he released, and even purchased his music videos.

When I had a chance to coordinate and promote a Christian concert during my sophomore year at A&M, I knew immediately that we had to bring Rich to our campus. That’s how, in April 1996, this star-struck kid found himself riding in Mullins’ Jeep, on our way to eat together at The Black-Eyed Pea. We ate with a group of roughly 15 students. During the few hours we spent together, I found that his personality off-stage was essentially what I had seen on-stage. First, he was friendly. He went around the table and asked every one of us about our studies, our home towns, and our favorite music. Second, he had an offbeat but charming sense of humor. To be honest, he told some mildly off-color jokes. He seemed to enjoy lightly teasing and shocking our religious sensibilities. Third, he was as talented from up close as he was from far away. I stood in the wings of the stage that night and watched in awe as he played the piano, guitar, and hammered dulcimer with near virtuoso skill. At times, his fellow musician Mitch McVicker stood off-stage, and he was clearly just as surprised and in awe as I was. The depth of his songs, the power of his preaching, and the skill of his playing were simply unmatched in Christian music.

I’m still unaware of any Christian musician who writes or plays like Rich did. I’m also unaware of any Christian musician who better captured in song the “reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” When I listen to his music, I feel like I’m getting a small glimpse behind the veil of God’s love and power. It’s as if Rich knew something about God that I don’t, and was kind enough to let me in on it for the duration of a 3-5 minute song.

I provide all of this background as context for my evaluation of the new movie Ragamuffin, based on Rich’s life. (In case you don’t know, Rich Mullins died in a car wreck in 1997, at the age of 41). The film is currently being screened at churches and small venues across the country.

It’s clear the filmmakers had a single underlying goal, to demonstrate how radically the unconditional love of God transformed Rich Mullins. They were also determined to show that God can use broken vessels. Rich’s father is portrayed as a difficult man, a farmer who worked hard but struggled to express tenderness and love to his children. Because of this deficiency and other early rejections in his life, Rich struggled throughout his life with loneliness, anger, and even alcoholism. Despite those struggles — and in part because of them — he wrote unbelievably powerful songs that changed lives like mine.

Here’s what the film does well: Rich is portrayed as an ordinary guy who was effective primarily because of God’s hand on his life. None of his sins or struggles diminished the very real presence of God’s Spirit in his music and life. I found myself in tears at one point during the film, when Rich comes to terms with the deficiencies of his earthly father and accepts the unconditional love of his heavenly Father.

Here’s what I think the film did wrong: Rich is often portrayed as a man without grace, kindness or humor. (So is his father, but that’s beyond the scope of this post). If I lacked my previous familiarity with his life and music, I would have walked away with a negative impression of the man. It has taken me a few days to process what I felt and thought during the film, especially since it centered on one of my heroes. However, I think the filmmakers, in an attempt to avoid “sainting” Rich, have erred too far in the other direction. There were a few moments of kindness and light in the film, but they were too few and far between.

There are clearly good reasons why even Rich’s close friends and family consistently talked about him with a sort of reverence, why they followed him across the country and back to play with him and listen to him. He inspired loyalty and trust, and I would have been interested to learn more about exactly why he inspired those feelings in people. There was a depth to his life and writing that the film could have emphasized better.

All that to say, if you are a fan of Rich and his music, this is worth viewing, if only because it provides a different perspective. If you are unfamiliar with him, I’d recommend getting to know him a bit first. Listen to both of his compilation albums (Songs and Songs 2, the titles of which give you a bit of perspective on his sense of humor). Find a copy of Here in America, and watch the concert and interview DVDs. You’ll see a bit of a different man than the one portrayed in the film. Then, if you want to learn a bit more about his struggles and how God prevailed through them, find a screening near you and watch the movie.

Artists and poets like Rich are often quite complex and difficult to understand. The challenge we face is learning to appreciate them for who they are, without canonizing or demonizing them. Watching this movie and thinking about it has been a good exercise for me in learning those skills.

And whatever you do, go buy his albums and listen to them if you want to encounter the love and power of an awesome God.

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What Your Worship Leader Wants You to Know

I was a church worship leader for ten years. During that time, I led the music at several different churches and organizations. I loved the job. When we’re worshipping, we’re simply telling God how great He is and thanking Him for all he’s done. It was a privilege to help Christ’s people do that well.

I often noticed, though, that people didn’t show up on Sunday morning prepared for worship. It’s hard to blame them. Sometimes I wasn’t prepared either. Sunday morning is often a blur, a frantic rush to get out of bed, get dressed, dress the kids, argue with your spouse, speed to church, look for a parking spot, and hurriedly plop down in the pew. Add to that our modern over-emphasis on public speaking and you have a perfect recipe for the neglect (and perhaps even abuse) of corporate singing.

So how can you make the most of the corporate singing time at your church? How can you turn your mind and heart toward the worship of God during those few critical moments?

Here are a few things your worship leader would say if your pastor would ever let him preach a sermon:

1.   Prepare. On Saturday night or Sunday morning, spend a few minutes before God preparing your heart and mind to worship. It will be busy and crazy while you’re getting ready to go on Sunday. So prepare ahead time. Pray that God will give you an attitude of internal peace and worship in the midst of external pandemonium.

2.  Arrive on time. This might sound a bit harsh, but if you can get to church ten minutes late, you can get there on time. Plan for the unexpected — the parking might be full, the room might be crowded, you might hit traffic. My guess is that you plan like that on school days or work days. You can do it for church days as well. That will leave you time to sit down and quiet your mind and your heart before the songs begin.

4.  Don’t consider it the “warm-up” for the sermon. Singing does prepare you to hear from God’s Word. But it’s much more than a prelude. It’s a chance for you and your fellow Christians to sincerely focus on God. To actively participate in the service. To say to God what you hopefully feel about Him all week. So take it seriously. Don’t chat at the back of the room, spend the first three songs filling up your coffee, or look at your watch in eager anticipation of the sermon.

3. Sing. Seriously. Open your mouth and sing the songs. You don’t have to sing louder than everybody in the room. And there are appropriate times to be quiet and reflect on the lyrics. But if you never sing, you’re probably not getting the point of corporate worship. It’s not a concert designed for the worship leader to show you his skills. The idea is that we’re all worshipping God together…by singing (Psalm 47:6-7).

4. Reflect. Think about what you’re singing. In some cases the lyrics are excellent descriptions of God’s character and work in history. In some cases not so much. Either way, you’ll learn a great deal by paying attention to what you’re singing. And just like prayer, worship requires that we know what we’re saying to God.

5. Remember it’s not about your preferences.  A wise older man who faithfully attended our young-ish church would tell me occasionally that our music wasn’t really his speed. “But it’s not about what I like,” he would say. “It’s about connecting these students to Jesus. I can tolerate the noise if it helps them to understand the Gospel.” Amen. One of the beautiful things about corporate worship: it can remove us from thinking about ourselves and help us to focus on God and others. If we allow for it.

6. Finally, remember that it’s corporate worship. That means you aren’t supposed to completely tune out everybody else in the room. It’s really not just about you and God. You and God are there, but there are other people there as well. Be conscious of those who are singing around you. What can you do to help them worship more effectively? How can you take joy in hearing them sing to the Lord? How do the lyrics point to a common and shared faith rather than merely an individual faith? If worship were simply private, we’d just stay at home and crank up Spotify. It’s intended to draw us closer to Jesus as a group and as individuals.

What ideas or concerns do you have about corporate worship? Do you agree/disagree with my suggestions here? 

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Worship Pastor or Rock Star?

I vividly remember the first time I led worship in front of a large crowd. The group I had led for five years suddenly grew dramatically, from 150 college students to more than 500 (obviously not because of me, since I wasn’t doing anything differently from before). To some that seems like a huge crowd, and to others it probably sounds small.

At the time, it was just enough people to make me feel like a minor celebrity. For the first time, people in my relatively small town began to recognize me outside the walls of church. They sometimes commented on how “awesome” I was, or mentioned that they were “star struck,” and other such nonsense. Nonsense or not, the comments had a way of inflating my ego.

There is something seductive about public praise, even in small doses. I’ve never experienced anything close to true fame, but I can only imagine the challenges it must pose to a person’s walk with God. How do you stay humble when those around you constantly praise you? How do you serve like Jesus did when others are constantly serving you?

Christians rightly criticize how our American obsession with fame has crept into the church. We have celebrity worship leaders, celebrity pastors, and celebrity authors. At times spiritual maturity takes a back seat to talent, and Christ-like leadership becomes less important than public visibility.

Fame in and of itself is not evil, though. Some people are famous for very good reasons. The Bible tells us of Solomon, who became famous because of the exceptional wisdom God had given him. Solomon’s fame brought glory to God, at least in the early years of his reign. It is possible for godly men and women to faithfully represent God in the public arena.

I’ve spent time with a few well-known Christian musicians, and most of the ones I’ve met are humble and gracious. There are exceptions to the rule, but I don’t think the majority are power-hungry, greedy, or egomaniacal. When they pursue their ministry faithfully, they can benefit the church a great deal. They provide songs for us to use in corporate worship, and they provide role models for young men and women who need leadership.

On the other hand, I’ve met a few young musicians who are seeking fame, and who allow that goal to supersede their desire for spiritual maturity. Most of them burn out or experience major moral failures before anybody really learns their name. The depth of their character is not sufficient to support the burden of their ministry, so they flame out quickly.

The most damaging ones are the fakers, the ones who somehow manage to achieve Christian fame even though they have gaping character flaws. They usually climb to the top with assistance from enablers, people who overlook their character flaws because they stand to benefit from the celebrity’s talent. I recently read a book written by Clay Crosse, a Christian musician from the 1990s who now admits that he was much more concerned with public adulation than with ministry. His friends and associates had no problem providing him with pornography to fuel his sinful habit.

Another example is the sad story of Mike Warnke, who achieved fame as a Christian comedian and musician by lying about his own personal testimony. Dozens of people knew his story was false, but never stepped forward to set the record straight. The public moral failures of such men and women inflict damage to Christ’s reputation around the world.

So how should we approach the issue of fame in Christian circles? With extreme caution. For those who are starting out in ministry (musical or otherwise), examine your motives. If you’re pursuing it in order to make a name for yourself, you should know that you’re on a dangerous path. If you crave the limelight and are pursuing Christian fame, it’s best to choose a different line of work than Christian ministry.

However, I don’t think we should condemn every “celebrity” worship pastor. While they can’t replace local worship pastors, I think they serve a different but important role. Most worship pastors have so much going on that songwriting is at the bottom of the priority list. Even if they have time for it, many of them aren’t gifted for it. In addition, I think there’s a valid place for those who serve the body of Christ at large through their exceptional musical gifting, just as there is a place for pastors like Billy Graham who don’t serve any particular church but instead the church as a whole.

Finally, I think as “fans” we need to evaluate our own relationships with our favorite Christian celebrities. Do we think about them or revere them more than we do Jesus? Have they become idols? To what degree should we be caught up in consumerism and a culture of constant entertainment, even if the entertainment is Christian in nature? Tough questions, but ones we must evaluate as followers of Christ.

What do you think about the concept of Christian celebrity, particularly in the realm of music? How should we relate to it as disciples of Jesus Christ?

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Why Christian Music Needs Break-Up Songs

Many years ago, while I was at a Rich Mullins concert, he made a comment that stuck with me for some reason. He had just released his album Songs, which was a greatest hits collection with one or two new tunes thrown in for good measure. One of the new songs was called We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are. Rich explained that he wrote the song about a romantic break-up. It was a beautiful ballad about human frailty and the grace it requires to navigate relationships well. In the process of talking about the song, he made this comment: “I decided that Christian radio needs a few more good break-up songs, so I wrote one for them.” The audience chuckled at what was clearly a tongue-in-cheek comment. In retrospect, though, I think there is a deeper truth behind his comment that merits exploring.

Why does Christian music need break-up songs (and songs about other personal disasters, big and small)?

First, Christians are not immune to the slings and arrows of everyday life. And I think our art — music, literature, movies, etc. — ought to reflect this. Relational awkwardness and pain invaded the lives of men like Paul, David, and Moses. Why should we be immune? In fact, the Scripture even promises persecution and suffering to those who follow Christ (2 Tim 3:12). Christian art has the potential to reflect the realities of life in a sinful and broken world and to provide a biblical and redemptive perspective on those realities.

It just so happened that when I first heard the song I had recently experienced a difficult break-up of my own, in need of some relationship coaching. I felt relieved and even vindicated to know that my favorite musician understood my pain and could offer me some encouragement. I’m not saying that Christian artists should be Debbie Downers who sing angry and bitter songs all day. But neither should they pretend that the Christian life is a constant barrel of laughs. The Christian life is joyful because we have Jesus, not because we never experience pain. That’s a critical distinction to make.

Second, we need artists who consider suffering from a counter-cultural perspective. We live in a culture that values pleasure over character. Instead of growing through our pain, we run away from it. Entire theological systems are built around the idea that Christians should be healthy, happy, and rich. Thoughtful Christian artists can speak the truth in a way that impacts the mind and the heart. Specifically, they can remind us that both our culture and prosperity theology are wrong in their understanding of suffering.

Finally, suffering is transformative if we view it biblically. See, for example, Hebrews 12:4-13 and James 1:2-4. We certainly learn God’s character through praise songs, happy songs, and love songs. But we learn a great deal about Jesus when we suffer. And artists who write biblical songs about suffering do the church a great service. In fact, music and art can be tools God uses in the process of making us more like Jesus.

When I listened to Mullins’s song, I was reminded how necessary it was for me to rely upon God’s grace and kindness in a difficult time in my own life. I was challenged to practice humility and forgiveness as well. Those disciplines have continued to serve me well in suffering as an adult, and I think a well-written song at the right time helped begin the process of growth for me.

So if you’re an artist, consider writing songs that express the full range of human emotion and experience, not simply the happy ones.

If you’re a civilian like me, consider listening to music that challenges you rather than music that simply entertains you. (On a related note, the song “Blessings” by Laura Story is one of the better treatments of suffering that I’ve heard on Christian radio).

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Christian Music (Part 2): Michael W. Smith

OK, I’m going to date myself a bit with this one. I realize that for many of my younger readers, Michael W. Smith’s music is what their moms listen to in the minivan.

Believe it or not, the style and genre of his music has evolved over the years — some would say it has matured, others would say it’s gone beyond mature to just plain old.  I guess perspective is everything. Keep in mind that he’s 53 years old. For many of you college students, he is quite literally older than your own parents.

I know all of that, but still have to include him as a major influence on me in my earlier  years. The first contemporary Christian album I ever received was Michael W. Smith Project, released in 1983 (actually, it was a cassette tape, not technically an album). It contained the perennial Christian favorite “Friends,” which was literally the campfire anthem for millions of youth-group kids. What struck me about the album at the time was his mixture of classical and pop piano (I was taking piano lessons in those days from a man who believed that pop music was a stain on the face of the planet — if it wasn’t classical it was evil trash). In addition, Smith’s songwriting and somewhat edgy voice appealed to me. That album was certified gold (500,000 copies sold), which was virtually unheard of for Christian albums in those days.

But it wasn’t until he released The Big Picture, his third studio album, that I was hooked on his music. The Big Picture came out in 1986, and it was a masterfully written album that managed to sound contemporary and relevant without being imitative. It sounds a bit dated now, but still pretty good for something released nearly 25 years ago. It addressed head-on issues that were very important to kids my age, like dating, future dreams, and even depression and suicide. Frankly, Sandi Patty just wasn’t doing that for us (if you don’t know who she is, don’t worry too much about it — she was the “mom” music of my day).

The album i2 (EYE) followed The Big Picture, and was enormously popular with the song and video Secret Ambition. By this time I wanted to BE Michael W. Smith one day.  I virtually wore out that cassette (no, I still didn’t have a CD player yet), and even bought the piano songbook. I have to admit (somewhat sheepishly) that I even had a taller-than-life-size poster of MWS on my wall in my room.

From Michael W. Smith I learned that Christian music could speak powerfully to the challenges and dreams of Christian teens and young adults. I also learned that Christian music did not need to be second-string or cheesy — again, I know that it probably sounds cheesy in retrospect, but at the time it was very cutting-edge for the market. He carefully crafted his songs and brought high production quality to everything he did. It was very empowering for Christian kids who wanted something other than our parents’ stuff to listen to, but who still wanted something consistent with our belief in Christ.

I also first began to learn to sing and play piano at the same time with Smith’s songs. The fact that I led worship at various churches for more than a decade is largely due to the influence of MWS on my musical development.

If you are not familiar with his older stuff, check out i2 (EYE) first.

Oh yeah — he’s one of the only artists I know of (Christian or otherwise) who has done THREE Christmas albums.  The first one (just called Christmas) is the best.

Christian Music (Part 1): Rich Mullins

Wow! It’s been a month since I last posted…the time has flown.

For some time I have been wanting to write a series of posts about the Christian music that has influenced me the most throughout my life. I was a church worship leader for about ten years and have always loved music, especially when it leads me to greater understanding and worship of Jesus.

For me, any discussion of influential Christian music would have to begin with Rich Mullins (for his iTunes page, click this link: <a href=”http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/rich-mullins/id1504452?uo=4″ target=”itunes_store”>Rich Mullins</a>).

These days Rich Mullins is mostly remembered for his tragic 1997 death in a car accident, as well as for the fact that he was a bit of a radical.  He gave away most of the royalties from his tape and CD sales and for a while chose to live on a Navajo reservation in order to teach music to impoverished children. He was well-known, even in life, for saying exactly what he was thinking, even if it was unpopular or offensive. At times this was endearing, and at other times it bordered on inappropriate.

(Toward the end of his life I was involved in promoting a Rich Mullins concert at Texas A&M, and was privileged to eat one meal with him. When he found out that several members of our organization were Baptist, he told us that you should always bring two Baptists with you when you go fishing.  “Because if you only bring one, he’ll drink all your beer.” I’m not sure if the Baptist students were amused.)

What is often forgotten in the discussion of his life is that Mullins was one of the most skilled pop musicians of his generation. Those who are only familiar with his praise songs, like “Awesome God” and “Step by Step” ought to go back and listen to a more extensive sampling of his music. Mullins played several instruments prodigiously, including the piano, guitar, and hammered dulcimer. You would be hard-pressed to find a modern pop artist who had his skill on the piano. As a songwriter, he was second to none in the Christian market, and probably in the pop market as well.

Here, in my opinion, are his two best albums:

A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band (1993) — Hands down one of the best Christian albums to date. Every song has its own unique contribution, but the album sounds remarkably consistent as well. The band is tight and the songs are so well-written. Here in America is a beautiful song that places the love of Israel’s God squarely in the context of 20th century America. My favorite song, The Color Green is less known — it’s a praise song based upon the imaginary observations of a monk returning from morning prayers (Be praised for all your tenderness, by these works of your hands//suns that rise and rains that fall to bless, and bring to life your land//look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that you have made//blue for the sky and the color green//that fills these fields with praise). Creed, Peace, Hold Me Jesus, and Land of My Sojourn are other notable songs to check out.

The World as Best as I Remember It, Vol. 2 — Volume 1 is also excellent, but he stepped it up considerably with this one. Hello Old Friends feels like you are sitting in his living room hearing his heart for presenting the Gospel through music. Sometimes by Step is of course a praise music classic by now, one of the first ones I learned when leading worship. Growing Young is perhaps the most poignant song on the album, a wonderful retelling of the Prodigal Son. For quirky but meaningful songs, listen to The Maker of Noses and What Susan Said.

From Mullins’ music I learned that complex spirituality can be expressed fairly well through 3-5 minute songs, if the writer and the artist take the time to know Jesus and think carefully about how to communicate truth about Him. (My older brother and I spent 45 minutes one day, Bibles in hand, decoding Jacob and 2 Women — I don’t think there are many contemporary artists that require Bible knowledge in order to understand them.) He had a rare skill, and honestly I don’t know if today’s Christian radio would accept an artist like Mullins — he asked tough questions and gave tough answers.  The deepest problems of life were not usually wrapped up by the song’s bridge.

If you are looking, though, for challenging music to move toward worship, but also toward thoughtful consideration of your Savior, I would recommend giving some of his old stuff a spin.  For an introduction to his music, check out the album simply titled Songs.