Favorite Songs of Worship 2014: A Half Yearly Review

Michael W. Smith

It's already 6 months into the year of 2014.  During these few months, we have received a passel of worship albums.  And worship teams and leaders have had been hard at work in crafting songs to be used for the worship of our great God.  As a way of serving the church in introducing new worship songs for the church, we at Hallels are humbled to present 10 of our favorites.  

Though subjectivity is inevitably a factor, we try to be as objective as possible.  Here are our criteria:  first, in order for a song to be qualified, it must be a song released for the first time between January and June of 2014.   Second, the song needs to be God-centered and it needs to able to be sung within the context of a local church.  Third, only songs that were submitted to are concerned.  To this regard we thank all artists, recording companies and publicists for thinking about us.

10. "Mercy" - Passion featuring Matt Redman from Passion's "Take It All"

Why have churches warmly embraced Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons" in the last couple of years?  Other than its indelible hook, the song is one of those thoughtful structured song where it speaks of our need to worship God from the beginning of each day to the ending of our final days and beyond.  "Mercy," likewise follows suit, the song tightly traces our need for God's mercy from our sinful rebellion tot the Cross expressed through the bread and wine.  This is the theology of the Cross made palatable and may I add, hummable.  

9.  "We Sing Hallelujah" - Cindy Cruse Ratcliff from Cindy Cruse Ratcliff's "Heaven Raining Down"

For years, Cindy Cruse Ratcliff has shared the stage with Joel Osteen and Israel Houghton in leading one of America's largest churches, Lakewood Church, in worship.  Though written by Jonathan Thulin, "We Sing Hallelujah" expresses Ratcliff's heart where she longs for people "of every nation, of every language" to worship God.  This 90s-styled worship anthem ought to be the heart's cry of every worship leader each and every Sunday morning. 

8. "Forever"  -- Kari Jobe from Kari Jobe's "Majestic" 

In our age of twitting and instant text message, poetry has long been a thing of the past.  This is sadly reflected in our worship too.  So, who can we blame when we have to sing "I need you Jesus, I love you Jesus..." 16 times on repeat in church?  Kari Jobe's "Forever" is here to resource the church to think with greater depth and dimension on the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The opening line: "the moon and stars they wept/the morning sun was dead/the Savior of the world was fallen" itself presents so much food for thought. 

7. "Prayer" - Chanel from Chanel's "Trin-i-tee 5:7 According to Chanel"

When you are lost for words, when you are "at faith's lowest point" as Chanel puts it, worship is what you can do.  "Prayer" is the perfect song to sing to our Creator.  Listen especially to Chanels (the former member of Trin-i.tee 5:7) breathy pauses as she scurries to collect her emotions after each emotional plea.  Chanel doesn't sound real; she is real in the way she pours out her heart and soul on what is arguably a masterpiece of prayer set to music.

6.  "This is My Father's World" - Mark Schultz from Mark Schultz's "Hymns"

Hymns have sadly often taken a backseat when it comes to new worship songs.  Not so with Mark Schultz.  This multiple Dove Award winner surprised us this year by releasing an album full of hymns.  One of the album's most tender moments is his take of "This is My Father's World."  Delivered like a lullaby from a father to a child, it's as if God our Father is singing to us trembling in our fears, "Don't worry, this is still my world, I'm still in control."  Worship leaders would do well to approach this hymn from such a vantage point. 

5. "Made For Worship" - Planetshakers from Planetshakers' "Endless Praise"

Returning back to our raison detre of living, we are indeed "made for worship."  Other than the angular elevation of notes from the verse to the chorus that may be challenging for most congregational singing, this is a stellar worship ballad that builds up to a climatic aplomb.

4.  "The Love of Jesus" - Elevation Worship Featuring Darlene Zschech from Elevation Worship's "Only King Forever" 

The matriarch of Hillsong Darlene Zschech adds her Midras touch to what is easily the best worship ballad on Elevation Worship's latest release.  Worship leaders may want to pay attention to how Zschech pulls the crowd into the song with her subtle control of her voice. You don't have to shout to lead worship but you need to be able to convey passion and emotions.  And notice how she gets the team to repeat the chorus of the song towards the end as a way of maximising the worship atmosphere without sounding tedious or repetitive.    

3. "It Is Well"  -- Bethel Music from Bethel Music's "You Make Me Brave"

Though "It is Well" is not precisely the old Joseph M. Scriven hymn, it does utilizes the chorus to augment this newly written piano ballad.  Everything about "It is Well" gives us goose bumps: from Kristene DiMarco's breathy vocals to her sensitivity to know when to transit from her softer whispers into her explosive growls to the song's gorgeous declaration of trust in God, this song excels on every level.  

2.  "Heaven in Me" - Darlene Zschech from the Soundtrack "Heaven is a Real Place"

Recorded a week before she began chemotherapy for her breast cancer, you can sense the serenity in Darlene Zschech's voice as she sings about the joy of taking refuge in Christ at the eve of her storm.  This is faith; listening to Zschech sing is a ministry in itself.  

1. "Sovereign Over Us"  -- Michael W. Smith from Michael W. Smith's "Sovereign"  

Though Michael W. Smith is not the first to tackle "Sovereign Over Us" (its co-writer Aaron Keyes was the first), Smith has named his latest record "Sovereign" after this song.  Every twist and turn of this song's lyrics is deeply soaked in Scripture with lots of insightful truths about how we are to respond to suffering.  By leading this song in worship, worship leaders are not only getting the congregation to worship but this song contains a sermon in itself that is nothing short of staggering and heart wrenching.

Tags : Favorite Songs of Worship Darlene Zschech Michael W. Smith Elevation Worship Kari Jobe Cindy Cruse Ratcliff Chanel passion Matt Redman Mark Schultz Planetshakers bethel music

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