RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 21, 2011
Charlotte, North Carolina should never be the same – Elevation Church has put its mark on it. Considered one of the most up-and-coming in America, the church has grown from a handful of families in 2006 to its present heights of over 10,000 members. For The Honor marks the beginning of a new journey for the church – their first national release – the start of something new for the group of young worship leaders.
The start of the album is promising. “Exalted One” is the best of rock-meets-praise, compromising on neither message nor music. The sounds of modern worship- tight rhythms, palpable bass lines, crashing drums- make the opener a great arena-filling anthem. Whilst “The Lord is My Rock/ God You Lifted Me Out” continues in similar vein to the opener, the title track begins at a more sedate pace before crescendoing into a majestic chorus. It is fantastic, a true moment of worship and one of the highest points on the album.
For Pastor Steven Furtick, leading worship is merely an extension of his role at the pulpit. He plays a key part in leading the dynamic group of worship leaders, collaborating and corroborating with them throughout the entire song-writing process. For Elevation Worship, their songs are ways of creatively reaching out to the world around them, a novel way to minister to the congregation at large. Therefore each song attempts to make a statement. Some are obvious; “Let Your Kingdom Reign” is self-explanatory, whilst others require deeper listening.
Lyrically, amongst best tracks on For The Honor are the aforementioned title track, “Give Me Faith” and “Give My Life to You”. “Give Me Faith” is a candid song about needing faith to walk on with God, recognising that we are weak but our God is able. The poetic “Give My Life to You” has a powerful bridge which declares “Jesus Christ, take our lives/ We won’t waste another day”.
A worship album without covers is a special treat. While I may be guilty of stereotyping, worship groups from large churches like to copy worship groups from other large churches. Whilst imitation may be the best form of flattery, variety is the spice of life. Clichés aside, I’m always happy when treated to a whole album of songs that I’ve never heard before. Elevation Worship should be congratulated for taking the time to pen, arrange and orchestrate original songs.
The biggest potential issue with For The Honor is the spoken word track “The Gospel”. It’s a feature of all live albums – a little pep talk, a rallying cry or testimony thrown in somewhere to up the authenticity points. These bitesize inspirational sermons are not uncommon; I enjoy hearing the artist expound upon what God has been speaking to them. But my concern arises in the hasty ‘prayer of salvation’ that Furtick initiates. I don’t doubt that his motive is sincere, however some may worry that Furtick says sounds too much like “easy believism”.
The only other failing of For The Honor: the Deluxe Edition is its length. Although broken into two discs, in one sitting, it is a long listen. The momentum flags a little in the middle where the songs can lose their distinctive features. It is too easy to zone out with little to hold your attention. However, one does not have to listen to the 17 tracks in sequence and each track does have something to offer the discerning listener.
If you don’t like the genre, For The Honor is not going to change your mind. It sounds too similar to the stuff Gateway, Hillsong and Bethel (and many others) regularly put out. This is not a criticism: Wade Joye, Mack Brock, Chris Brown and London Gatch are talented leaders. But it’s not a ringing endorsement either: they still have work to do if they want to shape the music world on a similar scale to their work in Charlotte, NC.
Nevertheless, For The Honor is a decent debut album and has its great moments. It is not a small beginning. If their church records are anything to go by, six years from now, they will definitely be doing wonderful things.