The Songs That Changed The Way We Worship Incorporated in 1987, Integrity Music is celebrating 25 years of music and ministry and we look at the stories behind some of the biggest worship songs released since.
Israel Houghton: "The first time I heard 'Trading My Sorrows,' I just remember thinking this song will be sung pretty much forever. We have been doing that song non-stop for 12 years; we sing it every night."
Every song has a story, and worship chorus are no different. Since May 1987, Integrity Music has been consistently instrumental in transforming the way we worship by releasing some of the biggest worship songs we know. On June 26th, the label will celebrate 25 years of music and ministry with a landmark anniversary double-CD and bonus DVD, 25 Songs That Changed The Way We Worship. The collection features the original songs by the leaders that have helped shape the sound of worship over the last 25 years, including “Open The Eyes of My Heart,” “Give Thanks,” “Shout to the Lord,” “Ancient of Days,” “Trading My Sorrows,” “Revelation Song,” “How He Loves” and 18 more.
In addition to the 25-song double-CD, the bonus DVD features 17 videos, including three Spanish-language songs and a special “25 Years of Worship” interview segment with multiple artists sharing how they have been impacted by these songs.
“The first time I heard ‘Trading My Sorrows,’ I just remember thinking this song will be sung pretty much forever,” says Israel Houghton. “We have been doing that song non-stop for 12 years; we sing it every night.”
“I’ll never forget. Late one night, somebody had given me an Integrity CD, and Darlene Zschech started to sing ‘Shout To The Lord.’ For me as a woman, to feel so alone in the industry, I felt like Darlene was hope,” remembers Rita Springer. “I think she set a bar for female artists and female worship songwriters to really just forget about what holds you back.”
“When I was first leading worship, ‘There’s None Like You,’ was one of the great songs to go to because it was so simple, yet so beautiful, so powerful,” says Glenn Packiam.
“‘Open The Eyes Of My Heart’ was one that we sang over and over again,” adds Leslie Jordan (All Sons & Daughters). “As a young person of 15-16-17, to be able to sing those words, open the eyes of my heart because I want to see you. I remember that being so powerful for me. I wanted to see God for myself.”
Below, we take an extended look at some of the biggest songs from the new collection and share the stories behind them.
"Open The Eyes Of My Heart" performed by Paul Baloche
Writer: Paul Baloche
While leading worship one morning, the phrase "Open the eyes of my heart" popped into Paul Baloche’s mind. "I’d heard a pastor pray that a couple of years before and I had written it in my journal," recalls Paul. "Later, I looked into Ephesians 1:18 and spent some time there, praying that."
So as Paul was leading, he sang out, "Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord. Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see You’." He wasn’t sure of how the rest of the song came, other than that he was thinking about Isaiah, "Lord, to see You high and lifted up." Thankfully, Paul’s sound technician was recording the service and captured the moment. "It just felt like the sincere prayer of our hearts at that moment," Paul remembers.
"Give Thanks" performed by Don Moen
Writer: Henry Smith
In 1978, a young seminary graduate named Henry Smith was struggling to find work and coming to terms with a degenerative eye condition that would eventually leave him legally blind. Despite those hardships, Henry found hope in 2 Corinthians 8:9 and penned "Give Thanks," one of the most beloved songs of our time. And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’; Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’ because of what the Lord has done.
Years later, a young worship leader named Don Moen would record Henry’s song, helping to carry it around the world. Today, you can hum "Give Thanks" at almost any church in the world, no matter the country or the language, and someone will recognize this simple song of thanksgiving and trust.
"Above All" performed by Lenny LeBlanc
Writers: Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc
Paul Baloche didn’t start out to "write" a song when the words to "Above All" came to him. He was just spending time alone, worshiping the Lord. But as he meditated on Jesus, the words poured out. "Lord, you are above all kingdoms, above all thrones, above all the wonders the world has ever known." Paul struggled for over a year to write a chorus that fit the verses. But it wasn’t until he sat down with friend Lenny LeBlanc that the song began to fully take shape.
Lenny suggested, "Crucified, laid behind a stone… like a rose trampled on the ground…" and suddenly they realized that something wonderful was coming together. By the time they had written "You took the fall and thought of me… above all," they were in tears.
"I Exalt Thee" performed by Pete Sanchez
Writer: Pete Sanchez
As a young husband and father, Pete Sanchez was seeking guidance and studying the Psalms. While meditating on Psalm 97:9, he was struck by the beauty and power of the verse, "For thou, Lord are high above all the earth." Wanting to capture this praise in song, he went to the piano and began writing. But he couldn't seem to finish it.
For well over a year, he struggled to complete the song but just couldn’t find the right words. Then, out of the blue, the chorus came to him. This simple song of praise, and personal cry from a worshiper’s heart, is now sung by believers around the world.
"Be Magnified" performed by Randy Rothwell
Writer: Lynn DeShazo
One morning in late 1990, Lynn DeShazo picked up her guitar, strummed a chord and sang, "I Have Made You too small in my eyes, O Lord, forgive me," the opening lyric to her beloved song "Be Magnified." Though startled and not sure of where the words came from, Lynn immediately realized that she had stumbled upon something special. She finished writing the song in early ’91 and began sharing it with churches.
People responded immediately to this song of praise that flowed from a broken and contrite spirit. I have leaned on the wisdom of men. O Lord, forgive me.
"Shout to the Lord" performed by Darlene Zschech
Writer: Darlene Zschech
Some of the most moving songs of praise are often birthed from times of despair. Such was the case with "Shout to the Lord." While going through a difficult time and desperate for the peace of God, Darlene Zschech sat down at her old piano, the same one she’d had since she was five years old. She turned to Psalm 96, and without setting out to do so, she penned one of the Church’s most well-known praise songs in about 20 minutes.
Though she had been writing songs since she her teens, Darlene never considered herself a songwriter. And it was with trepidation that she shared the song with her church. But the response was immediate and the song quickly traveled around the globe, giving believers new words to express their hearts to God.
"God Will Make A Way" performed by Don Moen
Writer: Don Moen
After learning that his young nephew was killed in a car accident, Don Moen searched for some way to help bring comfort to his grieving family even as he struggled with his own sorrow. While reading Isaiah 43, he asked God to give him something that would bring hope to the family in the middle of a hopeless situation. As he prayed, the words for "God Will Make A Way," came to mind. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me.
For a while, that song remained a private message for his family. But slowly, he began sharing it with others and soon found that it was a message for the whole church. A message to cling to when "there seems to be no way."
"There Is None Like You" performed by Lenny LeBlanc
Writer: Lenny LeBlanc
In the late 80s, Lenny LeBlanc, formerly of the hit-making duo LeBlanc & Carr known for their pop single "Falling," began writing songs for his local church. He also began recording with Integrity Music. While working on the album Pure Heart, Lenny found himself on a deadline to pen new songs for the project.
Ordinarily when writing, Lenny says he would play the piano, humming along to stir up ideas. But one morning, as he sat down to work through the process, he immediately started singing the words "there is none like you." Lenny took a break from writing, mulling over this new song and wondering if he might be on to something. When he went back to the studio and began playing it again, the weight of the words hit him. Lenny recalls weeping, not only because of the lyrics, but also in thankfulness that God had given him the song.
"I Worship You Almighty God" performed by Leann Albrecht
Writer: Sondra Corbett-Wood
As a young woman, Sondra Corbett-Wood was living in Dallas, Texas, attending Christ For The Nations Institute and playing and singing with CFNI’s music ministry. Before a service, Sondra went to the music room to pray and spend time alone with the Lord. She remembers sensing that God was so present, so close. And as she opened her mouth to sing, the words "I worship you, Almighty God, there is none like you," just tumbled out.
Following school, Sondra went through a season where she drifted away from the spiritual foundation of her life. Devastated and broken, she returned to her home in Kentucky where her church family loved her and helped her find restoration. Though difficult, Sondra feels that experience taught her an even deeper appreciation for God’s presence and the depths of His grace.
"Awesome In This Place" performed by Kent Henry
Writer: David Billington
As I come into Your presence, Past the gates of praise… Some songs are so simple, yet so rich in vertical expression. David Billington’s "Awesome In This Place," which was featured on the album The Secret Place with worship leader Kent Henry, is one of those songs.
The song draws from Psalm 22:3, which tells us that God is enthroned on our praises. And now, thanks to Jesus, we are no longer dependent on the high priest who enters the outer court on our behalf with a sacrifice. Rather, we may now enter His courts with a sacrifice of praise and behold our God "face to face."
"Ancient of Days" performed by Ron Kenoly
Writers: Jamie Harvill and Gary Sadler
As writers Jamie Harville and Gary Sadler were working in a converted studio at Jamie’s house, they were inspired by the description of God as the "Ancient of Days" from Daniel 7:22. Gary had already decided upon the title for the song and a basic verse melody, and Jamie had been listening to a South African artist who inspired him to pursue the ethnic drum patterns in the song.
Following the song’s completion in 1991, it was featured on a live recording by Ron Kenoly. Jamie remembers being at the recording with his family and parents and seeing the look of pride and wonder on his mother’s face as they performed the song, a memory he’ll never forget. He knew at that moment that his music lessons had paid off and a songwriting career had begun.
"Days of Elijah" performed by Robin Mark
Writer: Robin Mark
In late 1994, Robin Mark watched a recap of the year’s news stories, including the horrific Rwandan genocide, and was struck by despair over the state of the world. As he prayed, he felt assurance that God was very much in control. But he also sensed that we are living in a season that would require Christians to be filled with integrity, taking a stand for God as Elijah had. Drawing from the Old Testament, he examined the virtues and attitudes we would need in such days - - Righteousness, Justice, Revival, Unity, Worship and Praise.
"It is in essence a song of hope for the Church and the world in times of great trial," says Robin. "The chorus is the ultimate declaration of hope – Christ’s return."
"Hosanna" performed by Paul Baloche
Writer: Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown
Paul Baloche says the song "Hosanna" was birthed while he and fellow songwriter Brenton Brown were thinking about Palm Sunday. They visualized Jesus seated upon a donkey, entering Jerusalem as the crowds cast down their cloaks and branches before him, shouting "Hosanna."
Paul said they meditated on this tableau compared with our own sense of excitement and expectancy as we enter into worship. Like the crowd that day in Jerusalem, we come before the Lord, crying "Hosanna" as we celebrate our Savior, the One who is "worthy of all our praises."
"Friend of God" performed by Lakewood Church
Writers: Israel Houghton and Michael Gungor
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. – James 2:23
Cowriter Israel Houghton has said that "Friend of God" is a song that has deeply impacted him. Recalling the writing process with Michael Gungor, Israel says they were "blown away" as the lyrics hit them.
"It’s one thing for us to call God our ‘friend,’" says Israel. "But when you are singing, ‘He calls me friend,’ and you begin to really understand how He sees you… that’s powerful."
"Love The Lord" performed by Lincoln Brewster
Writer: Lincoln Brewster
At the suggestion of a friend, Lincoln Brewster decided to write some songs inspired by the corresponding scriptures from Pastor Rick Warren’s "40 Days of Purpose" sermons. Lincoln began with the topic of worship and drew directly from Luke 10:27,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…"
Though at first he wasn’t sure of the strength of the song, he played it for his church and discovered that people connected immediately. So he began playing the song whenever he was on tour or visiting other churches and the reaction was the same. "It’s simple, it’s memorable… it’s truth," said Lincoln.
"Your Name" performed by Paul Baloche
Writer: Paul Baloche and Glenn Packiam
While visiting New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Paul Baloche suggested that he and Glenn Packiam, a songwriter and associate pastor at New Life, connect for a writing session. "There really wasn’t a place for us to meet except in the nursery," recalls Glenn. So, there they sat in the nursery, with a beautiful view of the mountains but with the very present smell of a church nursery.
Glenn shared with Paul a message that he’d given recently that was drawn from Psalm 65 about rediscovering awe and living in wonder. Then the two worshiped for a while. Glenn read the scripture and almost immediately, the song poured out. Though that was the first time the two had written together, it was the beginning of many writing sessions that would birth numerous new songs for the Church.
"Lord Have Mercy" performed by Eoghan Heaslip
Writer: Steve Merkel
Before the Berlin Wall came down, Steve Merkel spent time in Poland ministering with Catholic believers. It was a season that opened his heart to the beauty of liturgy and the richness of our shared faith. When he returned home, he often led worship at his local charismatic church on Sundays and at Catholic services during the week. Along the way, it became clear to Steve that both streams needed the other. So while working on a liturgical worship album for Integrity Music in the late 90's, Steve was inspired to write a "Kyrie for the Common Man."
"I dropped the bucket down into the well of my life and truly documented the things for which I needed the mercy of the Lord," says Steve. "‘Lord Have Mercy’ became the musical setting formed from the prayers that came up from that well."
"Healer" performed by Kari Jobe
Writer: Mike Gugliemucci
So many great worship songs are simply declarations of truth, lyrics that cause us to sing God’s promises over ourselves. The song "Healer" is one of these. Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus "bore our transgressions… the punishment for our peace was upon him and by his stripes we are healed."
"Healer" touches on the core of what we are promised through relationship with Christ. Not only does singing these truths touch our spirits, they are a witness to others. Jesus you’re all I need… Nothing is impossible for you.
"Today Is The Day" performed by Lincoln Brewster
Writer: Paul Baloche and Lincoln Brewster
Following a music conference at his church in California, Lincoln Brewster invited friend Paul Baloche to stay over so that the two could spend some time writing. The following morning as they lingered over breakfast in the Brewster’s kitchen, Lincoln reminded Paul of a verse, I’m casting my cares aside, I’m leaving my past behind, that Paul had shared with him years earlier as they were working on another song.
"I loved this verse… I always liked that thought process and those lyrics and the melody," recalls Lincoln who suggested they use it to craft a new version of the classic song, "This Is The Day." The result is an up-tempo reminder to live in the present, trusting the sovereignty of God.
"I Am Free" performed by New Life Worship
Writer: Jon Egan
For years, Jon Egan struggled with anxiety and depression. After a particularly difficult struggle with anxiety over his ability to lead worship, he found himself once again asking God for freedom from fear. But this time, he distinctly heard God tell him, "You are free… look to the cross and open your eyes." Jon recalls hearing God tell him to quit focusing on his fears and instead focus on who He said Jon was, not who Jon thought he was.
As this truth settled into Jon’s spirit, he picked up his guitar and decided that rather than singing about how he wanted to be free, he would instead declare the truth that he IS free!
"Trading My Sorrows" performed by Darrell Evans
Writer: Darrell Evans
The inspiration for "Trading My Sorrows" came to Darrell Evans as his band played softly during a time of prayer at his church. As people came to the altar, Darrell thought about what we bring to the cross and what we leave with in exchange. And he sang out: "I'm trading my sorrow, I'm trading my shame. I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord." Darrell says his band began to play along. And though the moment had begun as a somber one, the music took on a celebratory feel as the worshipers were overcome with joy as they too sang out about this divine exchange.
Darrell later took those initial lyrics and, inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 and Psalm 30:5, he finished the song.
"You Are Good" performed by Lakewood Church
Writer: Israel Houghton
Born to an unwed teenage mother whose parents had urged her to have an abortion, Israel Houghton could easily have become a statistic, but for the goodness of God.
Eight months into her pregnancy and abandoned by her family, Israel’s mother met Jesus on a street corner when a complete stranger walked up to her and shared the Gospel. That "chance" encounter radically changed his mother’s life and his own. So when Israel penned "You Are Good," drawing from Psalm 100, he did so from a very personal place. He knows the radical goodness, love and mercy of God.
"Revelation Song" performed by Gateway Worship
Writer: Jennie Lee Riddle
Jennie Lee Riddle traces the inspiration for "Revelation Song" back to the classic Gerrit Gustafson song "I Hear Angels." Jennie loved the picture of heavenly worship in Gerrit’s song and for years sang it over her children as a lullaby. One day, while caring for her son and thinking about that imagery, she asked the Holy Spirit to help her write a song that painted a picture of creation worshiping around the throne.
Recalling Ezekiel 1:26-28 and Revelation 4, Jennie put her son down to play and picked up the guitar she had only just learned to play. And out poured the words, "Clothed in rainbows of living color, flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder." Jennie shared the song with her local church and from there it quickly spread to the global Church.
"My Savior Lives" performed by New Life Worship
Writers: Jon Egan & Glenn Packiam
While teaching about collaboration at a songwriters’ retreat, Jon Egan and Glenn Packiam discovered that they each had a section of a song that was incomplete. So Jon and Glenn, who are close friends and co-workers at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, began the work of putting the two sections together. Rarely is a song written in such a fashion. It seemed that God was burning the same message in each of their hearts, a persuasive testament to the strength of a team.
"How He Loves" performed by John Mark McMillan
Writer: John Mark McMillan
In November of 2002, while in a Jacksonville, Florida, to record a new album, John Mark McMillan received word that one of his closest childhood friends had died following a car accident. John Mark was devastated.
"I had pages of dialogue with God in the days that followed, some angry, mostly confused, but also I wrote a lot of songs," he says.
The first song from that season, much of it written the day after the accident, was the song "How He Loves." John Mark says the song was every bit a "tribute to a friend, a cry for understanding, and the worship that resulted from it all."
Posted June 22, 2012 | Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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