‘The Lyrics Flesh Out Why Jesus Is the Answer to Every Challenging Situation’
LifeZette talked with Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Music, whose new album, 'Prayers of the Saints Live,' will lift the faithful's hearts
Bob Kauflin has never been more comfortable than when he’s sitting behind a piano and using his voice, heart, and hands to return praise to God — something this dedicated musical leader has done for over 40 years. Whether he’s leading a handful of worshippers in a local church setting or thousands of pastors at a national conference, this man’s goal is the same: He aims to make much of our amazing God.
After graduating with a degree in piano performance from Temple University in Philadelphia, Kauflin traveled with the popular Christian group GLAD as a songwriter, speaker and arranger.
But in 1984, he stepped away from GLAD to pursue local church ministry.
Then, in 1997 — after a dozen years of pastoring — he moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he connected with the Sovereign Grace family of churches. Soon after, he became director of Sovereign Grace Music, a Christian music label that is enriching churches around the world with dynamic, theologically minded music.
On Friday, November 17, Sovereign Grace Music releases a new worship album entitled "Prayers of the Saints Live." LifeZette talked with Kauflin about the new album, the excitement of recording live — and what local churches can do to improve their own worship services.
Question: How did Sovereign Grace Music get its start? Was it a natural offshoot of the local church's worship?
Answer: Sovereign Grace Music emerged from songs we were writing for our family of churches that reflected the teaching we were receiving. We started by mailing out cassettes — if anyone remembers what those are. We graduated to CDs, and eventually built www.sovereigngracemusic.org, which now carries album information, charts, translations, videos, Scripture indexes, and training resources.
Q: Sovereign Grace Music is known for its consistent combination of sound doctrine and heart-stirring music. How do you maintain the same vitality and spirit album after album?
A: It's not that easy! With the increased number of worship albums coming out now, the bar continues to rise. For this last album, we looked at 170 songs — from which we chose 15. What motivates us is knowing that the glories of God in Christ are inexhaustible, and there will never be enough songs to fully communicate His worthiness. So we write more!
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish with this new album, "Prayers of the Saints Live"? Did you have a theme in mind?
A: That title, "Prayers of the Saints Live," is taken from a phrase that occurs in Revelation 5:8 and 8:4. It refers to the prayers of God's people asking Him to vindicate His name, save His people, and bring judgment on the evil forces that oppose Him. It sums up what it means to live between the first and second comings of Christ.
One day God will right every wrong — but we're not home yet. So we tried to write songs that were appropriate for this era — not only of adoration, but confession, lament, longing and anticipation. We're hoping to give churches more theologically driven, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered songs that touch on those themes.
Q: What makes a live album so special, as opposed to a traditional studio recording? Were there any hidden challenges or blessings along the way?
A: A live album enables you to hear what the songs you're recording sound like in a live environment. None of the vocals were overdubbed, so you're hearing basically what was recorded live. It was a blessing preparing for the album knowing we were going to be playing the songs in the way we hope churches will be playing and singing them. We worked hard to write melodies that would be appealing, memorable, and accessible.
Q: Do you have a favorite track on the new album?
A: That's a difficult question to answer! I think this is one of the best albums we've recorded. The first song we taught at my church, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, is, "O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer." It's a modern hymn with a fantastic melody. The lyrics flesh out why Jesus is the answer to every challenging situation we face. Our church loves this song and I think God will use it and the other songs on the album to encourage many people.
"We want to live for God's glory. May it be so!"
Q: What is your message for today's churches that want to worship better?
A: "Worship" is meant to be our lives — not simply our songs. But when it comes to singing, let the word of God fill, fuel, and govern your corporate worship and you'll see fewer conflicts about musical style. At the end of the day, God won't ask us if we had the music right, but whether we had the Gospel right. Another thing to remember is that worship is our response to God's revelation of Himself through the Bible and through Jesus — not something we come up with on our own.
No worship leader, musical arrangement, "anointed" song, or new technology can "get us" to God or "bring Him down" to us. Everyone who trusts in Jesus as the only Savior can now draw near to God and enjoy His presence, power, love, and protection. The songs we sing are meant to remind us of these truths in such a way that our hearts are affected — and we want to live for God's glory. May it be so!
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 18 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.