Call To Worship
Awesome God: 908
The year was 1995, and the scene was the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. A great crowd had gathered for the opening of the Gospel Music Association’s annual convention. The performers were in their best apparel, and this was to be an evening of the finest of the worship songs. Each person on the program presented his or her musical offering accompanied by beautiful lighting and orchestra accompaniment with all of the bells and whistles at their disposal.
After several performances, the lights were dimmed, and a man walked quietly onto the stage and took his place at the piano. A choir stood behind him dressed in matching outfits. As the lights were going up, Rich Mullins, began to play – some thought somewhat prematurely. He was dressed in scruffy jeans and a flannel shirt and was unshaven. He scarcely looked up from the piano. He was presenting his signature song, “Awesome God.” The music ceased; the lights went down, and Rich Mullins slipped away – out of the building. Such was the man.
Let me assure you, before I go any further, that I do not have the facts surrounding the writing of Rich Mullins’ song, “Awesome God.” Rich died Sept. 19, 1997, in a tragic highway accident, on Interstate 39, near Peoria, Illinois, before I could get the story directly from him. However, my brief summary of Mullins’ life is the story behind his song. His contributions to the singing of Christians compelled me to write his story.
Richard Wayne Mullins was born into a Quaker home in 1955, in a small community near Richmond, Indiana. His parents, John and Neva Mullins recognized that he showed a tremendous music ability early in life. Those things were told to me by Rich’s mother. His Uncle, Richard Mullins, loaned him the money to make his first album.
He attended the Cincinnati Bible College, and while there formed a band called Zion, which played local engagements. Of course, he later became a major recording artist and formed a band to tour with him. He called the group The Ragamuffin Band.
He spent his money for causes that benefited poor children. He lived the last two years of his life on the Navajo Indian Reservation near the Arizona/New Mexico border, working with poor Native Americans. He believed music was the language of the soul and wanted to give this gift to the children. During the first year he lived in a tiny house trailer on the reservation. He then moved into a small multi-sided structure, which he himself built.
He could have lived sumptuously during the latter years of his life, however, he only allowed himself the average yearly wage for a man in the United States. The balance of his money went to a foundation to help children. His mother told me she is making sure the money he left goes to the causes he loved so dearly.
He Is Exalted: 928
Twila Paris (1958 – ), the author of this song, made her first recording, “Little Twila Paris”, when she was only 4 years old. As she grew older, she began to ask questions about God’s will for her life. She knew she could sing, but she wondered if this was really what God wanted her to do.
After high school, she joined a Youth With A Mission drama and music team. As the group toured the country, her singing was very well received. But she continued questioning. She says, “I had to come to the place where I was able to say, ‘God, if You don’t want me to have a career in music, that’s okay.’” She examined her priorities, and determined that Christ had to be exalted in everything she wrote or sang.
Twila felt God wanted her to emphasize worship, praise, and missions. And that is exactly what she did in this song.
Twila Paris became a Contemporary Christian Music singer-songwriter, author, and pianist. Since 1980, Twila has released 22 albums, amassed 33 number one Christian Radio singles, and was named the Gospel Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year 3 years in a row. Many of her earlier songs are found in church hymnals or otherwise sung in church settings. She was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in May 2015.
She now lives in northwest Arkansas.
Welcome and Opening Prayer
He’s My King: 219
A song which praises Christ as our King is “He’s My King” (#12 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #173 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by James Rowe (1865-1933). An immigrant to the United States from England, he was a prolific author of gospel songs, best known probably for his words to “Love Lifted Me.” The tune was composed by James David Vaughan, who was born in Giles County, TN, near Lawrence County, on Dec. 14, 1864. After studying at the Ruebush Kieffer Normal School, he became a music publisher, composer, and compiler of gospel songs in shaped notation. Beginning in 1890 through 1911, he produced gospel songs and songbooks under his own name, the first of which was Gospel Chimes. This song, “He’s My King,” was first published in his 1911 Hallelujah Voices.
In 1891, Vaughan originated the idea of the male gospel quartet with his brothers Charles, John, and Will and in 1910 went on the road with the Southern Gospel Quartet to promote his songbooks. This move was highly successful and his sales doubled the next year, to 60,000 volumes. After working as a teacher, he eventually moved to Lawrenceburg, TN, where in 1911 he founded the Vaughan School of Music and in 1912 he established the J. D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company, which by 1964 had issued 105 collections of music, mostly for gospel singing conventions. This firm also sponsored singing schools and music normals to train singing school teachers, as well as publishing a trade journal, Vaughan’s Musical Visitor.
In 1921 Vaughan expanded his business by opening Vaughan Phonograph Records, and in 1928 he built the first radio station in Tennessee, which was for the purpose of broadcasting his music. Later he opened branch offices in Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. The manager of the Jacksonville, TX, branch, Virgil O. Stamps, would eventually help to form the Stamps-Baxter Music Company. Another of Vaughan’s collaborations with Rowe that is found in many of our books is “God Holds the Future in His Hands.” Vaughan provided both words and music for a song, “I Need The Prayers,” that is found in Special Sacred Selections and Church Gospel Songs and Hymns. Some of our books have other songs which have music by him such as, “Just One Way to the Gate” and “I Feel Like Travelling On.” He died in Lawrenceburg on Feb. 9, 1941.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use among churches of Christ, “He’s My King” appeared in the 1944 Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by Will W. Slater; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise, all edited by Alton H. Howard, and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song expresses glory and honor to Jesus Christ as our King.
Oft we come together: 511
Worship services serve a great purpose in the life of Christ’s church. They are for worship. They are for encouragement. They are for learning. They are for teaching. They are for support. They are for help. They are for prayer. They are for many, many things. This hymn reminds us that the things we do when we come together are all a part of worship and praise of God.
It is a really nice reminder of worship time together. Singing, praying, giving back to the Lord from the many resources He has given us stewardship over, and taking communion together (the bread and the cup) – each of these parts of worship help us to be closer to our Lord and to encourage each other.
As I was writing this, I was humming this song quietly to myself. Within just a few moments, the girls had started singing it along with my humming. So we sang it together a couple of times. They all commented on the thought of this song. One to definitely keep around.
Here is a video of a congregation singing it, though it never actually showed the people. Still, a nice congregational singing of a good hymn? Always a joy for me.
Praise The Lord: 531
The author of the original German text is Joachim Neander (1650-1680), who studied theology in Bremen. His life was cut short by tuberculosis. His text first appeared in A und Ω Glaub-und Liebesübung in 1680.
Neander was a Calvinist schoolmaster who was influenced by the pietist theologians Philipp Spener (1635-1705) and Johann Jakob Schütz (1640-1690), the latter also a hymnwriter. In 1674, Neander became the rector of the Latin School at Düsseldorf, a Calvinist German Reformed institution.
In a curious historical coincidence, Joachim Neander’s move to Düsseldorf placed him in a region of Germany now called Neandertal or sometimes “the Neander Valley” where nearly 200 years after Neander’s untimely death the skull of the first example of Homo neanderthalensis was discovered in 1856 by workers in a limestone quarry named Neandershöhle (Neander’s Hollow) after pastor Joachim Neander. “Neander” is the Greek translation of the family name “Neumann”, both of which mean “new man.” Pastor Neander is said to have loved the natural beauty of this valley named for his family and it inspired many of his hymns.
For example, selected stanzas from the following hymn, “Heaven and Earth, and Sea, and Air,” published in German in 1680 as “Himmel, Erde, Luft und Meer” and translated by Catherine Winkworth, may well reflect the splendor that Neander found in one of his many walks in this region:
Bring Christ Your Broken Life: 67
A hymn which encourages those who are feeble and sore broken to find all their desire in the Lord is “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” (#322 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960). He has provided words for many songs that we sing, including “O To Be Like Thee,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Living For Jesus,” and “Only In Thee.” The tune (Jonesboro or Broken Life) was composed by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). Leon Sanderson, son of the composer, commented, “As to ‘Bring Christ Your Broken Life,’ the music was written first and then my dad asked Mr. Chisholm to write the words for it. No subject was given in this particular case and he chose to write the text that now appears as ‘Bring Christ Your Broken Life.’ The tune had just come to my dad’s mind, so he put it down and also harmonized it.” The song was first published in the 1935 Christian Hymns for Every Purpose in Worship, edited by Sanderson and put out by the Gospel Advocate Co.
Other collaborations between Chisholm, a Methodist, and Sanderson, a gospel preacher, include “A New Creature” and “Be With Me Lord.” Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, in addition to Christian Hymns (No. 1), “Bring Christ Your Broken Life” appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3, also edited by Sanderson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1975 supplement to 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This song is a pleading invitation for lost souls to come to Jesus for help.