The Christian music industry is obsessed with worship. Every year, a myriad of worship projects jump head-first into the fray. Studio projects are becoming passé while church bands promoting new material live are turning into the norm. Adding their voice to the crowd is The Church Vessel with their sophomore release, The Outcome. Shorter than some live albums usually run, this project centers around themes of liberty brought about by Christ, but is plagued by songs and music that fail to stand out and are hampered by some questionable lyrics.
About half the songs here are good and could work well in multiple contexts. Opener "You Are" is fun, catchy, and infectious. "Home" stretches into more poetic territory, while "My Yes" offers a contemplative prayer of submission to God. "Traded" works as a passionate reflection on what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. "It Is Finished" also does this, but that phrase is overused and may need to be retired for a while. Overall, The Church Vessel shows much potential and mature songwriting that mostly avoids clichés.
The main problem with The Outcome lies with the way some of its lyrics were written, in particular the high emphasis the band places on worship. Consider this lyric from the title track: "When we worship/Walls crumble down and chains break/When we worship/Mountains are thrown to the sea". The whole emphasis of the track is about the healing found in God's presence, specifically "when we worship". It sounds good on the surface, until you ask yourself if it's biblical. Add in this line from "Highest Praise": "Freedom is falling/Where praise is rising." Again, it seems innocuous at first, but something feels off about it. Between the two songs, it feels like there is a "worship of worship" going on here. In other words, praise and worship is given a level of power that the Bible doesn't seem to grant it. Worship is important in the Bible, and even in the form of singing songs. But that doesn't mean that miracles will happen or that anything will happen. Sometimes we just praise God because we want to. Faith is what casts mountains into seas, not worship. Faith in the living Christ is what brings freedom, not worship. Worship is an expression of gratitude and praise, not a demand for something awesome to happen. The Church Vessel, quite unintentionally, seems to be making an idol out of the worship experience.
Of course, they're not alone in accidentally giving the act of worship a higher place; other bands fall into the trap and the industry eats it up. Christians eat it up! This may seem like nitpicking or reading into the words something not intended. But the Bible calls us to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1), and if we worship with an unengaged mind, we may be declaring things we don't mean--in old hymns and modern hits. In spite of personal disagreements, however, The Church Vessel still delivers a promising album. Some rough edges could be shaved and some theology clarified, but otherwise lovers of live worship albums should find something to enjoy here.- Review date: 9/13/18, written by John Underdown of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: DREAM Records
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