Can worship songs like "Amazing Grace" analyze God's fundamental attributes?
That's the question National Community Church (NCC) hopes to answer with The God Anthology Live, a new praise album that tackles Christ's traits one at a time. Released on iTunes and GodAnthology.com tomorrow, the disc finds the famous "Theater Church" wrestling with God's essence through live music at D.C.'s Lincoln Theatre.
"We wanted to see God with bigger eyes through this album and realize that even then, we've only begun to scratch the surface," said Kurtis Parks, NCC's worship coordinator and a vocalist/guitarist on the album. "When we seek him and desire to know him, we find out who we are and what we are called to do."
Parks said The God Anthology Live was launched by the success of NCC's summer 2011 sermon series "The God Anthology." The anthology spent nine weeks navigating God's characteristics, he said, using Scripture as a map for people to come closer to Christ.
The traits NCC pastors taught about, he said, were mystery, holiness, faithfulness, wrath, sovereignty, mercy, beauty, jealousy and love. The subsequent praise music album, he concluded, contains one song concerning each of these elements present in God.
"If we want to worship God we need to know the God we're worshipping," said Heather Zempel, NCC's discipleship pastor, in a video on GodAnthology.com. "Otherwise, we run the risk of worshipping a god of our own creation, or worse, a god created in our own image. It needs to be less and less about us and more and more about God."
Parks said he drew from NCC's pool of seven locations within the D.C. metro area for other musicians to help finish the project. Recruiting 12 other musicians, the group's diverse lineup eventually included singers, guitarists, drummers, synth players and even a DJ.
Stephanie Modder, one such musician, said that transforming God's essence into song was a challenging experience. Citing the song "Mystery" as an example, she said the songwriting process enriched their learning about the Lord.
"On this side of eternity we're going to keep asking questions and wondering why," the singer and guitarist said in a video on GodAnthology.com. "Having all the question marks answered isn't really to our benefit. Christ is where it begins and ends. The unknown is actually really wonderful."
Parks said that performing music about God's Gospel had helped him refine his thoughts on Jesus. As he put more songs on tape, he said he took a second look at his assumptions about Christ.
"Often times we think of God as a bigger and better version of us," Parks said. "If we compare him to us, we're not even close. When you look at the holiness of God, he's in a class all by himself."
Parks added that taking part in the project felt natural given his extensive work in Nashville's music scene. A veteran solo artist, he said he also played in a rock band called The Season. Despite releasing nine albums on his own, his favorite output remains his work for NCC's music ministry.
"I've never been more excited about doing a record than I have for this one," he said. "This has been a dream of mine since I became involved in worship at age 14. I hope this gives us a sound to go with our ministry's voice."