New Music: The Porter’s Gate Worship Project
“I’ve been a worship leader for 20 years, serving the same meal every Sunday: four pop songs and a hymn. We realized that eating the same meal every week didn’t make us as healthy as we hoped to be.”
Those are the words of Aaron Niequist, leader of a Willow Creek community in Chicago, describing why he was motivated to become one of 60 musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from a diversity of cultures and Christian traditions to gather in New York City in June of 2017.
As is hinted at in his quote, this album is nothing like the latest releases from Hillsong, Elevation, or Jesus Culture—and that doesn’t make it better or worse. Instead, this group gathered to be in relationship, inspire one another, and create a collection of worship songs whose sounds and themes add to and diversify the songs we sing in worship.
Volume one of the project is entitled “Work Songs,” with a thematic focus on the Church’s responsibility to reach out into the world as the hands and feet of Christ, bearing the Good News of God’s love and mercy. Song titles include: “Little Things With Great Love”, “Establish the Work of Our Hands”, and “Christ Has No Body Now but Yours”. Clearly, these songs not only offer avenues for worship, but they teach and reinforce the role the Church is called to play.
Collaborators on the project include some names you might recognize like Audrey Assad, Aaron Keys, and Will Reagan (United Pursuit). It also includes people whose music you have likely heard or sang before like Stuart Townend (writer of “In Christ Alone”), Josh Garrels, and David Gungor (The Brilliance). It also introduces you to artists we probably should have heard of long before this but didn’t because of how homogenous the “modern worship” space has become.
Perhaps what I find most encouraging about the project is the diversity of folks who were involved. While their website does not include a full list of collaborators, just the participants highlighted on the album and on the about page include everyone from Evangelical worship leaders to Catholic artists to seminary faculty and staff.
In a world, both inside the Church and outside, marked by division and isolation, projects like these give me hope. They also indicate a desire to make this a recurring event, and hopefully the theological, cultural, and musical diversity will continue to be a cornerstone.
Again, I will reinforce that these songs do not sound like the worship music you hear on Christian radio or in the auditoriums of megachurches and mega-conferences. But that is the point. They are meant to offer something different.
Some of the songs may fit well within your worship service, and some may not. If your service is more traditional, blended, or acoustic, it will likely be easier to work them in. But I would encourage you to find one or two that you like and give them a try no matter what your style may be. This is also a great album for guided prayer or meditation time.
If you are interested in using the songs at your church or campus ministry, you can download the complete book of chords for free.