In high school my pastor challenged our Sunday school class to purify our minds by only consuming Christ-exalting music, books, entertainment, etc. for an entire week, using Philippians 4:8 as a guideline. It wasn’t a legalistic rule, but rather an optional challenge to set our minds on things above. This challenge made a huge impact on my walk with God and has since helped me discern what I want to listen to, watch, and read.
However, I know firsthand how aggravating it can be if the only avenue you’re getting Christian music through is the radio because, like any station, it can be repetitive. So, to encourage you in your pursuit of good Christian music that’s diverse in subject, genre, and musical composition, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite songs I listened to in 2019, many of which you won’t hear at all on Christian radio.
Few of them were released this very year, but I hope you will find some fresh music to add to your playlist. They are from different artists, genres, and places, but they all praise Jesus Christ, our King.
1. “Christ Is Mine Forevermore” – CityAlight
I was introduced to this song early this year at church. In a day when many churchgoers simply listen as an audience instead of joining in worship as a congregation, the depth of this modern hymn has many people singing unto the Lord with heart. It was a really beautiful moment to see God’s people rejoice in Him. That’s the heart of CityAlight, to sing biblically-rich doctrine in a simple way that’s accessible for every congregation, aiding true worship instead of perpetuating the cancer of entertainment guised as worship. From their website:
“The sound of a church singing has preceded almost every great revival in church history. The church is God’s witness and representative on earth. Is there any wonder that a tremendous power comes about when the representative voice of God in the earth is singing.”CityAlight
2. “Closer Than a Brother” – Josh Garrels
I would describe Garrels’ style as a lovely pairing of historic doctrine with new indie/folk sound. He is hands-down my favorite artist on this list, though his songs aren’t meant for congregational singing. This particular song tells of the intimate friendship Christians can have with Jesus, inspired by Proverbs 18:24. This year Christ has indeed been closer to me than anyone.
3. “God Is” – Kanye West
I had to put at least one song from Kanye’s “Jesus Is King” album on here because as someone who’s had many gospel conversations and seen little fruit, I found this entire album radically encouraging. God is still in the business of saving sinners – Hallelujah! The quality of music isn’t phenomenal, but the testimony certainly is.
4. “My Worth Is Not In What I Own” – Keith & Kristyn Getty
The depth and breadth of this modern hymn far surpass that of any contemporary self-help song slyly cloaked as “Christian.” On the contrary, this song takes a biblically balanced approach to identity, acknowledging the true nature of our worth:
“Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross”
Keith and Kristyn Getty are passionate about the Church singing in spirit and truth, not only with musical excellence but with hearts on fire for God. They wrote a book about it and I highly recommend it!
5. “Where Were You?” – Ghost Ship
This song is one of the rawest on the list. It’s based on Job 38-42 and stays close to the text. It begs the age-old question, “Where were you, God, when bad things happened?” Well, God answers by rebuking Job for questioning His authority, while reminding Job of God’s might and power. In the end, Job responds in humility, “Although I had no right to ask, my God knelt and answered me.”
6. “Psalm 34 (Taste and See)” – Shane & Shane
From a young age, my parents have had my siblings and I learn psalms and Scripture songs. It’s a wonderful way to commit God’s word to memory and bless Him with our worship. While this song isn’t an exact recitation, it puts the psalm to music beautifully and compellingly. “Let us bless the LORD every day and night; never-ending praise. May our incense rise!”
7. “O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer” – Sovereign Grace Music
This is one of those songs that leaves you struck by just how lovely our God is. The lyrics are as poetic as they are tangible, anchored with doctrine we cling to through the storms of life. It tells of the beauty of Christ, our sure foundation, and the gospel – His death, burial, and resurrection.
“O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer
Greatest treasure of my longing soul
My God, like You there is no other
True delight is found in You alone
Your grace, a well too deep to fathom
Your love exceeds the heavens’ reach
Your truth, a fount of perfect wisdom
My highest good and my unending need”
8. “O Church Arise” – Keith & Kristyn Getty
This song is the triumphant battle cry the Church needs for a time such as this. Written with the full armor of God from Ephesians 6 in mind, it’s sung with the heart of an Irish battle song. It’s wonderful as a Sunday morning congregational hymn and reminds the saints of the war we’re in.
9. “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” – Matt Boswell
Our church’s song leader introduced this modern hymn to our congregation after attending the 2019 Sing! conference. It discusses the wonder of Jesus and the gospel, from the incarnation to the resurrection. Give it a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P_QFZ8eRMs
10. “His Mercy is More” – Shane and Shane
The LORD saved my father this year after a lifetime of sitting under sound gospel preaching, while secretly enslaved to sin. This song brings tears to his 65-year old eyes, as it does most of our family. Though he was dead in his trespasses and sins, God, who is rich in mercy, made him alive together with Christ so that in the coming ages God might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2). As the song declares, so do we: “Our sins, they are many, His mercy is more!”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:8-9
Bonus: “All Glory Be To Christ” – Kings Kaleidoscope
This song has come to mind over and over again with the approach of 2020. Simple, Christ-centered lyrics set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” it’s the perfect song to ring in the new year, and especially the new decade. This is my hope for my life: that all of it bring glory to Christ.